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Housman v. Jesson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 13, 2016

Steven Allan Housman and Russell Lynn Norton, Plaintiffs,
v.
Lucinda Jesson, Anne Barry, Nancy A. Johnston, Terrance K. Kneisel, Kevin D. Moser, Elizabeth J. Barbo, Scott G. Benoit, Susan L. Johnson, David Bornus, Jamie Jungers, Thane D. Murphy, Beth A. Virden, Diana E. Magaard, Ann Zimmerman, Brian S. Ninneman, and John and Jane Doe, in their individual and official capacities. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Steven Allan Housman and Russell Lynn Norton are civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (“MSOP”) and currently reside at a treatment facility in Moose Lake, Minnesota. (Compl. (Docket No. 1) at 1.) They bring this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for alleged violations of their constitutional rights. (Id.) According to Plaintiffs, on June 19, 2010, MSOP staff charged Plaintiffs with attempted escape from the treatment facility and transferred them to the Carlton County Jail where they spent approximately eight months in custody. (Id. at 11, 12.) After returning to the treatment facility on February 16, 2011, MSOP staff placed Plaintiffs in the treatment facility's Omega Unit for the next ten months. (Id.) Plaintiffs claim that their placement in the Omega Unit, and the treatment they received while there, violated their constitutional rights.

         A. Housman

         Housman alleges mistreatment in five ways. First, Housman claims that MSOP staff damaged or deprived him of some of his personal property. Specifically, Housman claims that he did not receive his prosthetic left leg for the first six months he stayed in the Omega Unit. (Id. at 11.) Because of this, Housman suffered from severe leg and back pain. (Id.) Housman does not specifically identify any other personal property MSOP staff damaged or deprived him of. (Id.) Second, Housman claims that MSOP staff sprayed him with tear gas by “turning the air off to the Omega Unit and the gas would come seeping in under the cell doors and through the air vents.” (Id.) Third, Housman claims that MSOP staff “punished” him by only allowing him 50 minutes of recreation time a day. (Id. at 12.) Fourth, Housman claims that MSOP staff “punished” him by having a guard escort him when he had appointments off the Omega Unit. (Id.) Fifth, Housman claims that MSOP staff “punished” him with 30 days of random room searches. (Id.) Housman claims that he suffered from stomach pain and headaches as a result of his stay in the Omega Unit. (Id.)

         B. Norton

         Norton alleges mistreatment in three ways. First, Norton claims that MSOP staff damaged or deprived him of some of his personal property, although Norton does not identify what property MSOP damaged or deprived him of. (Id. at 12-13.) Second, Norton claims that he “witnessed” other patients being “abused, ” often with tear gas. (Id. at 13.) Third, Norton claims that MSOP staff required a guard escort him when he had appointments off the Omega Unit. (Id.) Norton claims that he suffered from sleep trouble, stomach pain, headaches, and anxiety as a result of his stay in the Omega Unit. (Id.)

         C. Constitutional Claims and Relief Sought

         Plaintiffs do not specifically identify which of their constitutional rights MSOP staff violated based on these allegations. Rather, Plaintiffs generally state that their allegations amount to violations of “the United States Constitution Prohibition against Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Prohibition against Double Jeopardy, and denial of Plaintiff's Due Process rights.” (Id. at 2.) Liberally construed, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated their Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiffs also allege a conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985.

         Plaintiffs seek $5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages against Defendants in their individual capacities. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants in their official capacities in the form of permanently discontinuing the use of the Omega Unit. (Id. at 15.)

         D. Defendants

         Based on these alleged constitutional violations, Plaintiffs sued various MSOP and Minnesota Department of Human Services (“DHS”) officials in their official and individual capacities. (Id. at 2.) Several Defendants, however, no longer hold the positions in which they were sued. When a public officer who is a party in an official capacity ceases to hold office while the action is pending, the officer's successor is automatically substituted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d). Therefore, for purposes of this lawsuit, Emily Johnson Piper replaces Lucinda Jesson as DHS commissioner; Nancy Johnston replaces Anne Barry as DHS Deputy Commissioner; Shelby Richardson replaces Nancy Johnston as MSOP executive director; Steven Sayovitz replaces Terrance Kneisel as security program manager at MSOP's Moose Lake facility (“MSOP-ML”); Terrance Kneisel replaces Elizabeth Barbo as assistant facility director at MSOP-ML; Laurie Severson replaces Brian Ninneman as Unit Director of the Omega Unit; Ken Stewart replaces Jamie Jungers as assistant director of the Office of Special Investigations; and Rebecca Benson replaces Beth Virden as investigation specialist at MSOP-ML. In addition, the positions Susan Johnson, Diana Magaard, and Ann Zimmerman once held are presently vacant. Plaintiffs' official capacity claims against Jesson, Barry, Barbo, Ninneman, Jungers, Johnson, Magaard, and Zimmerman are therefore dismissed with prejudice.

         On September 1, 2016, the Minnesota Attorney General's Office filed a Motion to Dismiss on behalf of all Defendants in their official capacities and on behalf of Defendants Murphy, Moser, Ninneman, Magaard, Benoit, Johnson, and Kneisel in their individual capacities. These Defendants argue that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. As to the remaining Defendants in their individual capacities, Plaintiffs have not effectuated service. This Order serves as notice to Plaintiffs under Rule 4(m) that they have failed to effectuate service on ...


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