United States District Court, D. Minnesota
GUY I. GREENE, Plaintiff,
KELLY LAKE; PAUL COUGHLIN, BRIAN BELICH, DAVE KAMUNEN; JASON WILMES; CAMMI WERNER; TRAVIS WARNYGORA; JOHN DOES, an unknown number; JANE DOES, an unknown number; and TOM ROY; Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KATHERINE MENENDEZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Greene brought this action asserting several civil rights
claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and supplemental
state law claims. All of these claims arise out of a period
when Mr. Greene was confined at Carlton County Jail from
March through August 2017. He makes several allegations about
the conditions of his confinement while he was held in the
Jail. [See Am. Compl., ECF No. 25.] Among the
defendants Mr. Greene named in the Amended Complaint is Tom
Roy, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of
Corrections. [Am. Compl. at 1 (caption); id. at 2,
¶ 5; id. at 24, ¶ 116.] Mr. Greene alleges
that Commissioner Roy “failed to properly train and
supervise the other defendants and [his] actions/failures to
act to correct [the] known violations of the plaintiffs'
civil rights, led to, and proximately caused those
violations.” [Am. Compl. at 24, ¶ 116.] In his
Prayer for Relief, Mr. Greene seeks an injunction and
damages. [Am. Compl. at 30-31 (Prayer for Relief).]
Roy has filed a Motion to Dismiss, which is now before the
Court. [Def. Roy's Mot., ECF No. 30.] Commissioner Roy
argues that any claim against him for damages in his official
capacity should be dismissed pursuant to the doctrine of
sovereign immunity. [Def.'s Mem. at 3-4, ECF No. 32.] He
next argues that Mr. Greene's claims for injunctive
relief should be dismissed because Greene is no longer
confined in the Carlton County Jail. [Id. at 4-5.]
And finally, Commissioner Roy argues that the Amended
Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state an
individual-capacity claim against him. [Id. at 5-6.]
For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that
Commissioner Roy's motion to dismiss be granted.
Immunity and Official Capacity Damages Claims
enjoy sovereign immunity from claims for damages asserted in
federal lawsuits. Thomas v. St. Louis Bd. of Police
Comm'rs, 447 F.3d 1082, 1084 (8th Cir. 2006). This
immunity applies to a suit for damages asserted against a
State official sued in his official capacity because such
claims are no different than a claim against the State
itself. Id. (noting that sovereign immunity
“bars private parties from bringing actions for damages
against unconsenting states in federal courts”);
see also King v. Dingle, 702 F.Supp.2d 1049, 1068
(D. Minn. 2010). “Thus, the Eleventh Amendment bars
actions, in Federal Court, which seek monetary damages from
individual State Officers, in their official capacities, . .
. for the recovery of money from the state.”
King, 702 F.Supp.2d at 1069 (quotation omitted).
Section 1983 does not abrogate a State's sovereign
immunity. Thomas, 447 F.3d at 1084 (citing Quern
v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979)).
addition to individual capacity claims, the Amended Complaint
asserts claims against Commissioner Roy in his official
capacity. Because Commissioner Roy is an employee of the
State of Minnesota, Mr. Greene's official-capacity claims
against Commissioner Roy are no different than a suit against
the State itself. See King, 702 F.Supp.2d at 1069
(“A suit against a public employee in that person's
official capacity is merely a suit against the public
employer.”). Mr. Greene's Prayer for Relief seeks
compensatory, punitive, and any other monetary damages to
which he may be entitled. The doctrine of sovereign immunity
bars these official-capacity damages claims. Mr. Greene
provides no basis for the Court to conclude otherwise in his
response to the motion to dismiss. [Pl.'s Resp., ECF No.
40.] Accordingly, the Court concludes that the
official-capacity claims for damages against Commissioner Roy
should be dismissed.
Mootness and Claims for Prospective Injunctive
Roy argues that Mr. Greene cannot maintain a claim for
prospective injunctive relief because he is no longer
confined in Carlton County Jail, essentially asserting
mootness. When a plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, he must
show that he “faces a threat of future or ongoing
harm.” Park v. Forest Serv. of the United
States, 205 F.3d 1034, 1037 (8th Cir. 2000). Speculation
that a future injury may occur is inadequate to support a
claim for injunctive relief, Los Angeles v. Lyons,
461 U.S. 95, 111 (1983), and the plaintiff must show that the
threat is “real and immediate, ” O'Shea
v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 496 (1974). If a plaintiff
is able to show that a threat of future harm is real and
immediate, he can show that injunctive relief “will
remedy the alleged harm.” Stell Co. v. Citizens for
a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 108 (1998). However,
“[c]laims for equitable and injunctive relief are moot
when the plaintiff is no longer subject to the conditions of
confinement of which he complains.” Roblero-Barrios
v. Ludeman, No. 07-cv-4101 (MJD/FLN), 2008 WL 4838726,
at *10 (D. Minn. Nov. 5, 2008) (citing Senty-Haugen v.
Goodno, No. 04-cv-1077 (ADM/JJG), 2005 WL 2917464, at *
3 (D. Minn. Nov. 4, 2005)).
record here demonstrates that Mr. Greene is no longer held in
the Carlton County Jail. On August 12, 2017, Mr. Greene filed
a notice of change of address, which indicates that, as of
that date, he was no longer confined at the Jail. Because Mr.
Greene is no longer held in Carlton County Jail, he is no
longer subject to the conditions of confinement that are the
subject of the allegations in his Amended Complaint.
Therefore, he cannot show that he faces a real and immediate
threat of future harm. This reality makes his claims for
prospective equitable and injunctive relief moot.
response to this argument, Mr. Greene does not assert that he
is still confined at the Jail. Instead, he argues that this
case is not moot because he pled it as a putative class
action and it “involves ongoing injury to class members
at the Carlton County Jail who do not know what's going
on in this litigation. . . .” [Pl.'s Resp. at 5.]
However, this reasoning is unpersuasive. Although Mr. Greene
has asserted that he was bringing this case on behalf of
others in the same situation, as this Court explained in
recommending denial of his motion for class certification,
Mr. Greene cannot represent the interests of anyone other
than himself in federal court because he is not an attorney.
the Court recommends that Mr. Greene's claims for
prospective injunctive relief be dismissed as moot because he
is no longer confined in Carlton County Jail.
Failure to State a Claim
respect to the claims against Commissioner Roy in his
individual-capacity, the motion to dismiss asserts that Mr.
Greene has failed to plead facts sufficient to state a claim
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). To
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a
complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
v. Twombly, 500 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This standard does
not require the inclusion of “detailed factual
allegations” in a pleading, but the complaint must
contain facts with enough specificity “to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at
555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are
not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In
applying this standard, the Court must assume the facts in
the complaint to be true and must construe all reasonable
inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187
(8th Cir. 1986). But the Court does not need to accept as
true any wholly conclusory allegations, Hanten v. School
District of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th
Cir.1999), or legal conclusions that the plaintiff draws from
the facts pled, Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d
1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).
Mr. Greene is representing himself in this litigation, the
Court reads his complaint liberally. Solomon v.
Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). “When
we say that a pro se complaint should be given liberal
construction, we mean that if the essence of an allegation is
discernible . . . then the district court should construe the
complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to
be considered within the proper legal framework.”
Id. (citing Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912,
914 (8th Cir. 2004)). The Court will also consider statements
in Mr. Greene's memorandum in response to the motion to
dismiss in analyzing the sufficiency of the allegations in
the complaint. See Pratt v. Corrections Corp. of
Am., 124 Fed. App'x 465, 466 (8th Cir. Feb. 14,
2005) (“Initially, we note the district ...