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Garrison v. Minnesota Department of Revenue of State

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 7, 2017

Pete Garrison, Plaintiff,
v.
Minnesota Department of Revenue of the State of Minnesota; Linda Craigie, individually and in her capacity as Supervisor for the Out-of-State East Unit; Pam Evans, individually and in her capacity as Director of the Sales and Use Tax Division; and Kathy Zieminski, individually and in her capacity as Director of Human Resources, Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AS MODIFIED AND AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER

          WILHELMINA M. WRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the May 15, 2017 Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, (Dkt. 75), which recommends granting in part Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint and granting in part Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. Plaintiff objects to the R&R on several grounds. Plaintiff also appeals Magistrate Judge Bowbeer's April 25, 2017 Order striking as duplicative a later-filed motion for leave to amend the complaint and denying a hearing on that motion. (Dkt. 72.) For the reasons addressed below, the Court adopts the May 15, 2017 R&R as modified and affirms the April 25, 2017 Order.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant factual and procedural background is addressed in detail in the R&R and need not be repeated at length here. On August 24, 2016, Plaintiff Pete Garrison, an employee of Defendant Minnesota Department of Revenue (Department), filed a complaint against the Department and three Department employees in their individual and official capacities. Garrison's original complaint alleges (1) race discrimination and maintaining a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII); (2) violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); (3) violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; (4) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and (5) liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[1] Defendants moved to dismiss Garrison's complaint in its entirety.

         After the magistrate judge granted Defendants' motion to strike Garrison's first amended complaint as procedurally deficient, Garrison filed a motion on March 14, 2017, for leave to file a second amended complaint. (Dkt. 31.) The second amended complaint largely advances the same claims as the original complaint, but no longer asserts claims under the Fifth Amendment, the Rehabilitation Act, or the ADEA and states that Garrison's ADA claim is brought under Title II of the ADA. Defendants opposed the motion, arguing that the proposed second amended complaint does not cure the deficiencies outlined in Defendants' motion to dismiss the original complaint and that Defendants would be prejudiced by the delay. On April 7, 2017, Garrison filed his motion for leave to file the second amended complaint a second time, but included additional documents in support thereof. Garrison also requested a hearing, both to address the motion for leave and to address Defendants' motion to dismiss a second time. In an April 25, 2017 Order, the magistrate judge struck Garrison's duplicative motion and supporting documents and denied Garrison's request for a hearing.

         The magistrate judge issued an R&R on May 15, 2017, with respect to Defendants' motion to dismiss and Garrison's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. The R&R recommends granting in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the original complaint. Specifically, the R&R recommends (1) dismissing Garrison's Section 1983 claims against the Department and the named Defendants in their official capacities as barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity; (2) dismissing Garrison's Section 1983 procedural due process claims against the named Defendants in their individual capacities for failure to state a claim and on the basis of qualified immunity; (3) dismissing Garrison's Section 1983 equal protection claims against Defendants Pam Evans and Kathy Zieminski in their individual capacities for failure to state a claim; (4) dismissing Garrison's Title VII claims to the extent that those claims (a) are asserted against the named Defendants in their individual capacities, (b) are asserted against Evans and Zieminski in their official capacities, or (c) arise from alleged conduct that is time-barred because it occurred before November 9, 2013; (5) dismissing Garrison's claims under the ADEA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Title I of the ADA for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and (6) dismissing Garrison's claim under Title II of the ADA for failure to state a claim.

         The R&R also recommends granting in part Garrison's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, but only to the extent that the second amended complaint advances claims that are not subject to the foregoing recommended dismissals. In addition, the R&R recommends that, although Garrison's service of the original complaint was improper, the circumstances warrant permitting Garrison a limited 30-day period in which to properly serve the second amended complaint on Defendants.

         Garrison filed objections to certain aspects of the R&R. Garrison objects to (1) the R&R's recitation of certain facts, (2) the recommended dismissal of Garrison's Section 1983 equal protection claim against Evans in her individual capacity, (3) the recommended dismissal of Garrison's Section 1983 procedural due process claims against the named Defendants in their individual capacities, (4) the recommended dismissal of Garrison's Title VII race discrimination claim against Evans in her official capacity, (5) the R&R's failure to address Garrison's Title VII hostile-work-environment claim, and (6) the R&R's conclusion that Garrison improperly served the original complaint. Defendants did not object to the R&R. But in response to Garrison's objections, Defendants assert that this Court should adopt the R&R in full. Now pending before this Court are the R&R, Garrison's objections to the R&R, and Garrison's appeal of the magistrate judge's April 25, 2017 Order.

         ANALYSIS

         A party “may file and serve specific written objections to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations.” LR 72.2(b)(1). The district court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which a specific objection is made, and the district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3). The district court reviews for clear error those portions of an R&R to which no objections are made. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) 1983 advisory committee note; Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam).

         When reviewing an appeal of a magistrate judge's order on a nondispositive issue, the district court's standard of review is “extremely deferential.” Scott v. United States, 552 F.Supp.2d 917, 919 (D. Minn. 2008). A district court must consider timely objections to a magistrate judge's ruling on a nondispositive pretrial matter and shall modify or set aside any part of the magistrate judge's ruling that is either clearly erroneous or contrary to law. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); LR 72.2(a); Ferguson v. United States, 484 F.3d 1068, 1076 (8th Cir. 2007). A nondispositive ruling is clearly erroneous when, “although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States, 750 F.Supp.2d 1049, 1050 (D. Minn. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). A nondispositive ruling is contrary to law when it “fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         I. Garrison's Objections to the May 15, 2017 R&R

         Garrison objects to certain factual statements in the R&R, the recommended dismissal of several of Garrison's claims, the R&R's failure to address Garrison's Title VII hostile-work-environment claim, and the R&R's conclusion that Garrison improperly served the original complaint. The Court addresses each of these objections in turn.

         A. Garrison's Factual Objections

         Garrison first objects to certain aspects of the R&R's recitation of the procedural and factual background. In doing so, Garrison seeks to elaborate on or provide context to certain facts described in the R&R and to correct several alleged factual and typographical errors in the R&R. Even if Garrison's factual corrections and elaborations are true, they are immaterial to and do not alter the merit of the R&R's analysis and recommendations. Accordingly, the Court overrules Garrison's factual objections to the R&R.

         B. Garrison's Section 1983 Equal Protection Claims

         Garrison's objections to the R&R that pertain to his Section 1983 equal protection claims are limited to the recommended dismissal of those claims as to Evans in her individual capacity. The R&R recommends dismissing these claims because Garrison has not pleaded any direct involvement or personal responsibility of Evans in any alleged equal protection violation. Garrison's objections state, in a conclusory manner, that the proposed second amended complaint “lists numerous examples of Equal Protection ...


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