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Calgaro v. St. Louis County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 23, 2017

Anmarie Calgaro, Plaintiff,
v.
St. Louis County, Linnea Mirsch, Fairview Health Services, Park Nicollet Health Services, St. Louis County School District, Michael Johnson, and E.J.K.[1], Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Anmarie Calgaro's Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants St. Louis County's and Linnea Mirsch's Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings and Summary Judgment, and Defendants Park Nicollet Health Services', Fairview Health Services', St. Louis County School District's, Michael Johnson's, and E.J.K.'s Motions to Dismiss. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motions are granted and Calgaro's Motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         E.J.K. is a 17-year-old transgender youth who identifies as female. (Compl. (Docket No. 1) ¶¶ 18, 32, 104, Ex. C.) She will turn 18 in less than two months. (Id. ¶ 3.) Calgaro is E.J.K.'s biological mother and has sole physical and joint legal custody of E.J.K. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 44.)

         Sometime in 2015, E.J.K. moved out of Calgaro's home in St. Louis County, Minnesota and moved in with her biological father in St. Cloud. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 53.) Shortly thereafter, E.J.K. moved out of her father's home and began living with various family and friends. (Id. ¶ 53.) Since moving out of her father's home, E.J.K. has refused to move back in with Calgaro. (Id.) Calgaro claims that she has always offered a home to E.J.K. (Id. ¶ 50.)

         E.J.K. currently lives on her own in St. Louis County. (Id. ¶ 18.) She attends the Cherry School in the St. Louis County School District (the “School District”) and enrolled herself in post-secondary educational opportunities at a local college. (Id. ¶ 14.) On June 29, 2015, E.J.K. consulted a lawyer with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid who provided her with a letter that concluded she was legally emancipated under Minnesota law. (Compl. Ex. A.) E.J.K. has never obtained a court order of emancipation. (Id. ¶ 38.)

         Sometime before January 15, 2016, Park Nicollet and Fairview began providing E.J.K. with medical treatment for a gender transition to the female gender. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 12, Ex. C.) Calgaro alleges that St. Louis County is providing E.J.K. with general government assistance and paying for these medical services. (Id. ¶¶ 54, 102.) Sometime in 2016, Calgaro requested that Fairview and Park Nicollet provide her with E.J.K.'s medical records, but they refused. (Compl. ¶¶ 113, 114, 118.) Also in 2016, Calgaro requested that the School District allow her to participate in E.J.K.'s educational decisions and to have access to E.J.K.'s educational records, but the School District refused. (Id. ¶¶ 134, 135.)

         On November 16, 2016, Calgaro filed this lawsuit against seven Defendants: (1) St. Louis County; (2) Linnea Mirsch, individually and in her official capacity as Interim Director of St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services; (3) Fairview; (4) Park Nicollet; (5) the School District; (6) Michael Johnson, individually and in his official capacity as Principal of the Cherry School (“Principal Johnson”); and (7) E.J.K. (collectively, “Defendants”). Calgaro is suing Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly violating her Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights. Calgaro alleges that Defendants terminated her constitutionally protected parental rights without due process by determining E.J.K. emancipated without notifying her, providing E.J.K. with medical services and government assistance without Calgaro's consent, and refusing to provide Calgaro with E.J.K.'s medical, governmental, and educational records.

         Twelve days after filing a Complaint, Calgaro filed her Motion for Summary Judgment. Park Nicollet, Fairview, the School District, Principal Johnson, and E.J.K. each subsequently filed Motions to Dismiss. St. Louis County and Mirsch also filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and a Motion for Summary Judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Motions to Dismiss and the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 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)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A claim bears facial plausibility when it allows the Court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. When evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept factual allegations as true, Gomez v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 676 F.3d 655, 660 (8th Cir. 2012), but it need not give effect to those that simply assert legal conclusions, McAdams v. McCord, 584 F.3d 1111, 1113 (8th Cir. 2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are insufficient to support a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The same standard that applies to a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) applies to a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). Haney v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., L.L.C., 837 F.3d 918, 924 (8th Cir. 2016) (per curiam).

         1. Emancipation

         Throughout her 229-paragraph Complaint, Calgaro repeatedly alleges that Defendants “determined [E.J.K.] emancipated.” (See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 138.) This allegation is distracting for two reasons. First, Defendants legally cannot emancipate E.J.K. In Minnesota, emancipation is an act of the parent and need not be in writing or in express words. In re Fiihr, 184 N.W.2d 22, 25 (Minn. 1971) (citation omitted). “Whether a child has been emancipated must be determined largely upon the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case and is ordinarily a question for the jury.” Id. Calgaro does not dispute this. (See Compl. ¶ 40 (“Minnesota courts recognize that [E.J.K.] as a minor child is not emancipated until a state court decides the minor child [E.J.K.] is emancipated.”).) Calgaro also admits that E.J.K. has not obtained a court order of emancipation. (Id. ¶ 38.) Defendants therefore did not emancipate E.J.K. and Calgaro continues to have sole physical and joint legal custody of E.J.K. Second, even assuming Defendants determined E.J.K. emancipated-as the Court must do at this stage of the litigation-Defendants' emancipation determinations did not terminate Calgaro's parental rights. Only a court order can do so. Absent that, Calgaro's parental rights over E.J.K. remain intact. The Court will therefore not further entertain Calgaro's characterization of Defendants' actions as “determining E.J.K. emancipated, ” except when necessary to address one of Calgaro's claims against St. Louis County.

         2. Fairview and Park Nicollet

         To state a claim under § 1983, Calgaro must establish that Fairview and Park Nicollet deprived her of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that the deprivation was committed under color of state law. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49 (1999). Calgaro alleges that Fairview and Park Nicollet deprived her of her constitutionally protected parental rights without due process by providing E.J.K. with medical services without Calgaro's consent and refusing to provide Calgaro with E.J.K.'s medical records. (Compl. ¶¶ 11, 13, 188, 197.) Fairview and Park Nicollet argue that they cannot be held liable under § 1983 because they did not act under color of state law. Fairview and Park Nicollet are correct.

         “Section 1983 secures most constitutional rights from infringement by governments, not private parties.” Crumpley-Patterson v. Trinity Lutheran Hosp., 388 F.3d 588, 590 (8th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). But private parties may be held liable when they act under color of state law. Id. (citation omitted). A private party acts under color of state law when they are a “willful participant in joint activity with the ...


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