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Woolsey v. Benton County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 2, 2018

DENNIS-CRAIG WOOLSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BENTON COUNTY; PHILIP MILLER, County Attorney; CORY EISENSCHENK, County Sheriff's Office; JUDGE ROBERT RAUPP, 7th District Court Judge; SHERIFF TROY HECK, County Sheriff's Office; JOSEPHY SYLVAN MAYERS, City Attorney; and LINDA VANG, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services, Defendants.

          Dennis-Craig Woolsey, pro se plaintiff.

          Nigel H. Mendez, for defendants Benton County, Philip Miller, Cory Eisenschenk, and Sheriff Troy Heck.

          Stephen D. Melchionne, Assistant Attorney General, for defendants Judge Robert Raupp and Linda Vang.

          Joseph S. Mayers and Timothy R. Reuter, for defendant Joseph Mayers.

          ORDER

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Dennis-Craig Woolsey filed this action seeking damages and injunctive relief related to his state criminal prosecution for driving with a suspended driver's license. On October 18, 2017, Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the case be dismissed without prejudice. After an independent review of the files, records, and proceedings, the Court will dismiss the case without prejudice pursuant to the Younger abstention doctrine.

         BACKGROUND

         On December 8, 2016, Woolsey received a citation for driving with a suspended driver's license in Benton County. (Compl. ¶ 7, May 12, 2017, Docket 1.) Prosecution of the criminal case was subsequently transferred from Benton County Attorney's Office to the Sauk Rapids City Attorney's Office. (See Id. ¶ 8.) After a bench trial on June 15, 2017, Woolsey was convicted of driving with a suspended license in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1.[1] The state court entered judgment on the conviction on June 30, 2017. Woolsey did not file a direct appeal, claiming that he would only have been denied an impartial jury twice.

         On May 12, 2017, while his state prosecution was still ongoing, Woolsey filed this action, alleging that the state criminal prosecution resulted in a “constructed incarceration” that infringes on his right to travel. (Compl. ¶ 27.) He seeks an “Order for Right to Travel, ” an “Order to Vacate Fraudulent Suspended License, ” and $37, 227.07 in damages. (Id. ¶¶ 27-29.) At the hearing before the Magistrate Judge, Woolsey also requested that the Court vacate his state criminal conviction.

         Woolsey named the following defendants in his complaint (collectively, “Defendants”): (1) Benton County Attorney Philip Miller; (2) Benton County Sheriff's Deputy Cory Eisenschenk; (3) Minnesota State District Court Judge Robert Raupp; (4) Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck; (5) Sauk Rapids City Attorney Joseph Sylvan Mayers; (6) Minnesota Department of Public Safety employee Linda Vang; and (7) Benton County. (Compl. at 1-3.) Mayers filed an answer to the Complaint. (Answer, June 7, 2017, Docket 17.) The remaining Defendants filed motions to dismiss. (County Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, June 15, 2017, Docket 19; State Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, July 5, 2017, Docket 44.)

         The Magistrate Judge recommended that, because Woolsey seeks to enjoin a state criminal prosecution that was ongoing at the time he filed his Complaint, the Court must dismiss the action as to all defendants under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). (R&R at 9-10, Oct. 18, 2017, Docket 71.) Woolsey filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's R&R. (Objs., Oct. 31, 2017, Docket 72.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Upon the filing of an R&R by a Magistrate Judge, “a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1). “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). ...


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