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Hines v. Roy

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 14, 2016

Fredrick Dewayne Hines, Plaintiff,
Tom Roy, et al., Defendants.


          STEVEN E. RAU, United States Magistrate Judge

         The above-captioned case comes before the undersigned on the following six motions: Defendants' First Motion to Dismiss; Hines's First Motion to Amend; Hines's Second Motion to Amend; Defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery; Hines's Motion to Appoint Counsel; and Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss.[1] This matter was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C) and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1 for a report and recommendation. For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends both Motions to Amend be denied and both Motions to Dismiss be granted.[2] Correspondingly, the Court denies as moot the Motion to Appoint Counsel and the Motion to Stay Discovery.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Hines is a prisoner at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights (“MCF-OPH”). See (Letter Dated Apr. 11, 2016) [Doc. No. 21]. Hines initiated this § 1983 action on February 12, 2016, against Tom Roy (“Roy”), the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections (“DOC”); and several employees of the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Stillwater (“MCF-Stillwater”): Steve Hammer (“Hammer”), the warden; Bruce Julson (“Julson”), a program director; Gloria Andreachi (“Andreachi”), a lieutenant; Jenny Carufel (“Carufel”), a lieutenant; Julie Ryan (“Ryan”), a case manager; Adam Murphy (“Murphy”), a sergeant; C. Cole (“Cole”), a registered nurse; Heidi Norvak (“Norvak”), a correctional officer; Kerri Livingston (“Livingston”), a correctional officer; and ten “unknown” officers.[3] (Original Compl. at 1, 3-5). When Hines filed his Original Complaint, he was incarcerated at MCF-Stillwater, but was later transferred to MCF-OPH. See (id. at 3); (Letter Dated Apr. 11, 2016). All events giving rise to this lawsuit arose at MCF-Stillwater.[4] See (Proposed Am. Compl. at 3).

         The primary thrust of Hines's claims is that correctional officers conspired to separate Hines from his legal work and interfered with his constitutional right of access to the courts.[5] See (Proposed Am. Compl. at 5-6). Hines alleges that on May 16, 2015, Rudesil provided him with the opportunity to shower. (Id. at 7). While Hines was in the shower, Murphy or Rudesil allowed “several unknown officers” access to Hines's cell.[6] (Id. at 7). Hines checked his trial transcript, “brief[, ] and addendum” and found that “several had been changed and records were added as well.”[7] (Id. at 8). Two inmates housed in the same wing reported observing officers enter the segregation wing through the back door and enter Hines's cell. (Id. at 9). Hines's attempts to address the events of May 16, 2015, with MCF-Stillwater through its grievance procedure and other methods, including directly contacting MCF offices and writing to various civil rights and legal organizations, were unsuccessful. See (id. at 9-11).

         On May 23, 2015, Hines experienced chest pains and MCF-Stillwater employees came to his cell to escort him to the medical unit. (Id. at 11). Hines insisted on bringing his legal work with him. (Id. at 11-12). Emergency personnel took Hines to a hospital for further examination, and Cole, Andreachi, and other correctional officers assured Hines that his legal work would be safe while he was at the hospital. (Id. at 12-13). Hines insisted, however, on being able to sign paperwork demonstrating that he was refusing further medical treatment if he could not take his legal work to the hospital. See (id. at 13). Eventually, Andreachi gave Hines permission to take his legal work with him after she searched it. (Id.). Andreachi told another MCF officer, Torboh, that if Hines “goes to surgery” she “want[s] that bag.” (Id. at 14). Torboh and another MCF-Stillwater correctional officer had a black bag with them when they escorted Hines to Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. (Id.). Hines alleges that Andreachi told several other MCF officers to obtain his legal work if he went into surgery. See (id. at 14-15).

         The following day, two unknown officers escorted Hines back to MCF-Stillwater. (Id. at 16). Hines alleges that upon arrival, yet another unknown officer separated him from his legal work. (Id. at 17). Shortly thereafter, the bag containing Hines's legal work was returned to Hines, but Hines noticed that his “bag ha[d] been opened” and the “knot on [the] bag was re-tied loose.” (Id. at 18). At this point, Hines heard “a large quantity of papers being ripped up” in the adjacent cell.[8] (Id.).

         Hines further alleges that on May 27, 2016, Murphy and Rudesil conspired to separate him from his legal work by telling him he had a doctor's appointment, psychology appointment, and attorney call. (Id. at 19-20). Hines declined to attend these appointments or answer his attorney's call because he did not want to be separated from his legal work. (Id.). Hines unsuccessfully attempted to address the events of May 16 and 23 with Roy and Hammer. See (id. at 20).

         Hines alleges that “soon after” he filed his grievances and this lawsuit, he became the target of harassment and retaliation as follows. First, Hines alleges that some Defendants began to “toss [his] food.”[9] (Id. at 21); see also (id. at 20).

         Second, Livingston told Hines that he was moving to “A-East.”[10] (Id. at 22). Hines perceived this action “as a threat upon his life” because Andreachi runs that unit and she “could have easily had [Hines] stabbed or beaten to death, due to [his] status as a sex offender, as well as to stop the court from knowing and finding out the truth.” (Id.). Hines refused to move, and Livingston falsely wrote that Hines was “disorderly.”[11] (Id.).

         Third, on April 6, 2016, Hines was transferred to MCF-OPH, which he asserts was retaliatory for filing this lawsuit and “exposing the conspiracy and deliberate indifferences that were exhibited and invidious discrimination because Plaintiff was a sex offender standing up for his rights not to be discriminated against without equal protection of the laws.” (Id. at 22-23). Hines further alleges MCF-Stillwater retained his legal work, causing him to miss a deadline to appeal his re-sentencing. (Id. at 24). Although Hines states he was ultimately provided with his property on May 11 or 12, 2016, he “found several letters (religious) studies he had not been given nor knew if they had been sent at all some 1 yr. old.” (Id.). He also alleged that his “indigent envelopes” had all been confiscated, preventing him “from alerting [the] court.” (Id.).

         Finally, Hines alleges that several Defendants told inmates and other MCF-Stillwater staff that Hines was “a sex offender child molester, ” and referred to him by derogatory names reflecting that status. (Id. at 18). Hines alleges that this invoked a “prisoner's code” against sex offenders, which made Hines fear retaliation from other inmates, placing his “life in danger of being assaulted.” (Id. at 19). As a result, Hines alleges he did not shower, had to use anti-fungal cream, and lost weight and muscle tone. (Id. at 18-19).

         Hines alleges eight claims, some of which are duplicative: (1) conspiracy “to obstruct the due course of justice in a state court”; (2) “denying equal protection of the laws”; (3) depriving Hines of equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) “breach of duty to act and protect”; (5) “violating the federal prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment”; (6) violating Hines's Fourth Amendment “right to be secure in his papers”; (7) violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment; and (8) “retaliatory treatment.” (Id. at 2) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also (id. at 29-31) (identifying specific Defendants and claims against them).

         Hines seeks the following relief: an injunction ordering Roy to (1) “immediately arrange for [Hines] to be transferred to MCF-Moose Lake to participate in the court ordered MSOP treatment program”; (2) “remove Plaintiff from punitive segregation and place [Hines] in general population at MCF-Moose Lake with restoration of all rights and privileges”; and (3) “carry out the mandated order, without delay, for treatment, directed by such court recommended mand[a]tory order.” (Id. at 31). Hines also seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Defendants. (Id. at 31-32).

         B. Procedural Background

         As stated above, Hines initiated this lawsuit on February 12, 2016. (Original Compl.). Roy, Hammer, Julson, Andreachi, Carufel, Ryan, Murphy, and Norvak, in their official capacities, moved to dismiss the Original Complaint on May 10, 2016.[12] (First Mot. to Dismiss). Defendants argued that the Eleventh Amendment bars Hines's claims for damages; Hines cannot maintain a § 1983 cause of action against Defendants in their official capacities; and the federal court lacks the authority to grant much of the relief Hines seeks. See (Mem. in Supp. of First Mot. to Dismiss at 6-11).

         On June 3, 2016, the Court received Hines's First Motion to Amend. Although Hines did not attach a proposed amended complaint, he expressed his desire to clarify in what capacities Defendants were sued and add additional Defendants and factual allegations. See (First Mot. to Amend Compl.). On the same day, Hines also submitted a memorandum opposing Defendants' First Motion to Dismiss. (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp'n to First Mot. to Dismiss) [Doc. No. 48].

         Five days later, the Court received Hines's Second Motion to Amend. In this motion, Hines stated that he intended to dismiss claims against the DOC, as well as all claims for injunctive relief and claims for relief seeking criminal charges to be brought against certain Defendants. (Second Mot. to Amend Compl. at 1). Hines also sought to add Defendants and request a jury trial. (Id.). Hines attached a proposed amended complaint, in which he expands his allegations regarding the incidents of May 16, 23-24, and 27, 2016, as described above. (Proposed Am. Compl. at 1-21). Additionally, Hines alleges that he was retaliated against for filing grievances and this lawsuit. (Id. at 21-25).

         Defendants oppose Hines's Second Motion to Amend, arguing Hines failed to follow the Local Rules and his Proposed Amended Complaint is futile because under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), Hines cannot challenge the validity of his criminal conviction through a § 1983 suit.[13] (Defs.' Mem. Opposing Second Mot. to Amend) [Doc. No. 52 at 3-5]. Defendants also argue that the Court cannot grant the injunctive relief Hines requests and that the injunctive relief is not related to the claims in his Proposed Amended Complaint. (Id. at 5-6).

         In July 2016, Hines moved the Court to appoint counsel, and Defendants moved to stay discovery, which Hines opposed.[14] (Mot. to Appoint Counsel); (Mot. to Stay Disc.); (Mem. of Law in Opp'n of Defs.' Mot. to Stay Disc.) [Doc. No. 78]. Defendants also responded to Hines's First Motion to Amend Complaint, arguing the motion should be denied because Hines failed to follow the Local Rules and relying on their opposition to Hines's Second Motion to Amend. (Defs.' Mem. Opposing Pl.'s Mots. (Docs. 13, 27, 31, 47)) [Doc. No. 74 at 18] (“The DOC Defendants opposed [Hines's Second Motion to Amend] because it did not comply with the Court's rules and because amendment would be futile. To the extent the [First Motion to Amend] is considered separately, the Court should deny the motion because it does not comply with the Court's rules.” (citation omitted)).[15]

         On August 9, 2016, Defendants filed their Second Motion to Dismiss, again arguing Heck bars Hines's claims. (Defs.' Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, “Mem. in Supp. of Second Mot. to Dismiss”) [Doc. No. 98 at 6-8]. Defendants also argue Hines failed to state a claim for conspiracy to violate his civil rights, failed to state a claim based on access to the courts, cannot maintain an action based on violations of criminal statutes, and failed to state an equal protection claim. (Id. at 8-16). Defendants further argue that Hines's claims for monetary damages are prohibited. (Id. at 16-18). Finally, Defendants argue that the Court cannot award the injunctive relief Hines seeks and he has not alleged facts in support of his request for relief regarding retaliation and transfer. (Id. at 18-21). Hines responded, and Defendants filed a reply. (Mem. of Law in Opp'n of Second Mot. to Dismiss, “Resp. to Second Mot. to Dismiss”) [Doc. No. 106]; (Defs.' Reply Mem. of Law in Supp. of Second Mot. to Dismiss, “Reply”) [Doc. No. 111]. Although the Second Motion to Dismiss is directed toward Hines's Original Complaint, Defendants argue that Hines's Proposed Amended Complaint “similarly fails to state a cognizable claim upon which relief may be granted, for the same reasons as the [O]riginal [C]omplaint.” (Reply at 3 n.2).


         A. Motions to Dismiss and Motions to Amend

          First, the Court will address the procedural irregularities that accompany competing and overlapping Motions to Amend and Motions to Dismiss.

         The First Motion to Dismiss was filed on behalf of only the Defendants who had been served at that time. (Mem. in Supp. of First Mot. to Dismiss at 2). The Second Motion to Dismiss was filed on behalf of all individually named Defendants and specifically waived any remaining service issues. (Mem. in Supp. of Second Mot. to Dismiss at 1-2 n.4) (“In order to expedite the proceedings and because the marshals are attempting to serve the Defendants, the Defendants bringing this motion waive further service requirements and bring this motion in both their individual and official capacities.”). Arguably, the First Motion to Dismiss is moot because the Second Motion to Dismiss is filed on behalf of the same Defendants. The Court primarily refers to the arguments made in connection with the Second Motion to Dismiss, but nonetheless considers the arguments made in both Motions to Dismiss. Because both Motions to Dismiss address the Original Complaint, the Court will address the Motions to Dismiss first.

         Further, because Hines's Motions to Amend appear to be directed at curing the deficiencies identified in the First Motion to Dismiss, the Court considers whether Hines's Proposed Amended Complaint would alter the Court's analysis on the Motions to Dismiss.[16] See Besett v. Wadena County, Civ. No. 10-934 (JRT/LIB), 2010 WL 5439720, at *6 (D. Minn. Dec. 7, 2010) (Brisbois, Mag. J.) (“The Eighth Circuit has held that, as a procedural matter, it is plainly erroneous for a district court to grant a motion to dismiss, and then to deny a pending motion to amend as moot, without consideration of the merits of the motion to amend.”), adopted 2010 WL 5441937 (Dec. 28, 2010) (Tunheim, J.); see also Pure Country, Inc. v. Sigma Chi Fraternity, 312 F.3d 952, 956 (8th Cir. 2002) (“If anything, Pure Country's motion to amend the complaint rendered moot Sigma Chi's motion to dismiss the original complaint.”).

         The Court finds that the Motions to Dismiss should be granted. Further, because Hines's Proposed Amended Complaint would not save his claims from dismissal, the Court recommends his Motions to Amend be denied as futile.

         1. Legal Standards

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move the Court to dismiss a claim if, on the pleadings, a party has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Pro se pleadings must be construed liberally, but they “may not be merely conclusory: the complaint must allege facts, which if true, state a claim as a matter of law.” Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). A court accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true, and grants “reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Lind v. Midland Funding, L.L.C., 688 F.3d 402, 405 (8th Cir. 2012). Legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The factual allegations, however, “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Rule 15(a)(1) provides that a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course “21 days after serving it” or “if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.” “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “Unless there is a good reason for denial, such as undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility of the amendment, leave to amend should be granted.” Becker v. Univ. of Neb. at Omaha, 191 F.3d 904, 907-08 (8th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Denial of a motion for leave to amend on the basis of futility means the district court has reached the legal conclusion that the amended complaint could not withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 850 (8th Cir. 2010).

         2. ...

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