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Curtis v. Gutzmer

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 29, 2018

James E. Curtis, Plaintiff,
Jeff Gutzmer, Defendant.

          James E. Curtis, Pro Se.

          Rachel Bell, Esq., Minnesota Attorney General's Office for Defendant.




         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff James E. Curtis's Objections [Doc. No. 29] to United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) dated January 23, 2018 [Doc. No. 28]. The magistrate judge recommended that Defendant Jeff Gutzmer's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 12] be granted.

         Pursuant to statute, this Court reviews de novo any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific objections are made, and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations” contained in that R&R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). For the reasons stated herein, the Court overrules Plaintiff's Objection and adopts the R&R in its entirety.


         The facts of this case, taken from Plaintiff's Complaint, are thoroughly detailed in the background section of the R&R, which the Court incorporates by reference here. Briefly stated, Plaintiff James Curtis is an inmate from the state of Washington who was formerly housed within the Minnesota Department of Corrections (“MNDOC”) pursuant to the Interstate Corrections Compact. (Compl. [Doc. No. 1], at 11.) For a period of just over five months, beginning on October 10, 2014, Plaintiff was housed in Minnesota's Oak Park Heights facility. (Id. at 16, 56.) Plaintiff spent most of that time in a segregation unit due to prior incidents of misconduct at MCF-Stillwater. (Id. at 13-16, 42, 50-53.) During his brief time at MCF-Oak Park Heights, Plaintiff alleges that he faced nearly continuous mistreatment and abuse from guards and staff, such as having his food poisoned and his cell contaminated with repugnant “malodorant[s].” (See generally id.) As a result, Plaintiff filed constant complaints with the prison staff, including over 150 pages of informal kites and formal grievances which he attached as exhibits to his complaint. (See, e.g., Compl. Ex. 1, at 51-70.) On March 26, 2015, Plaintiff was transferred back to the state of Washington. (Compl., at 13.)

         Plaintiff subsequently filed this pro se lawsuit, naming Lieutenant Jeff Gutzmer of MCF-Oak Park Heights as the sole defendant. Plaintiff claims that Defendant conspired with other prison officials to have him transferred back to Washington in retaliation for his use of the grievance process. Magistrate Judge Brisbois construed Plaintiff's Complaint to allege one count each of retaliatory transfer and civil conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (R&R, at 13-14.) The Complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief against Defendant in his official and unofficial capacities. Defendant timely moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (See Def. Gutzmer's Mot. to Dismiss [Doc. No. 12].)

         After carefully analyzing the allegations in the Complaint, Magistrate Judge Brisbois recommended that the Court grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. First, Magistrate Judge Brisbois recommended that Plaintiff's claims for monetary relief against Defendant in his official capacity be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment, and that Plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief be dismissed for failure to state a proper claim for declaratory judgment. (R&R, at 18-20.) Second, Magistrate Judge Brisbois concluded that Plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to make out a prima facie case of either retaliatory transfer or civil conspiracy against Defendant, in large part because he did not sufficiently allege Defendant's personal involvement in the transfer itself, or in a conspiracy to transfer. (Id. at 25, 27.) Therefore, the magistrate judge recommends that Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief against Defendant in his official and individual capacities, and Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages against Defendant in his individual capacity be dismissed. (Id.) Plaintiff timely filed an Objection to the R&R, and for the reasons below, the Court overrules the Objection and adopts the R&R.


         A. Standard of Review

         Upon issuance of an R&R, a party may “serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2) (emphasis added). “The objections should specify the portion of the magistrate judge's [R&R] to which objections are made and provide a basis for those objections.” Mayer v. Walvatne, No. 07-cv-1958, 2008 WL 4527774, at *2 (D. Minn. Sept. 28, 2008). Objections which are not specific but merely parrot arguments already presented to and considered by the magistrate judge are not entitled to de novo review. Dunnigan v. Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp., No. 15-cv-2626, 2017 WL 825200, at *3 (D. Minn. Mar. 2, 2017) (citing Mashak v. Minnesota, No. 11-cv-473, 2012 WL 928251, at *2 (D. Minn. Mar. 19, 2012)). Furthermore, when presenting arguments to a magistrate judge, parties must put forth “not only their ‘best shot' but all of their shots.” Ridenour v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., 679 F.3d 1062, 1067 (8th Cir. 2012) (quotations and citations omitted). Thus, a party cannot, in her objections to an R&R, raise arguments that were not clearly presented to the magistrate judge. Hammann v. 1-800, Inc., 455 F.Supp.2d 942, 947-48 (D. Minn. 2006).

         B. ...

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