United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Jacqueline K. Koski, Plaintiff,
James Jago, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Brisbois United States Magistrate Judge
matter came before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge upon routine supervision of the cases that pend before
the Court pursuant to a general assignment made in accordance
with the provision of 28 U.S.C. § 636, and upon
Plaintiff Jacqueline K. Koski's Application to Proceeds
in forma pauperis. [Docket No. 2].
Jacqueline K. Koski brings this action for alleged violations
of her constitutional rights by officials and employees of
St. Louis County, Minnesota, as well as an agency of that
county. Koski did not pay the filing fee for this action, but
instead applied for in forma pauperis
(“IFP”) status. (See, IFP Application
[Docket No. 2]). That IFP application is now before the
Court, and it must be considered before any other action is
taken in this matter.
review of the IFP application, this Court concludes that
Koski qualifies financially for IFP status. However, an IFP
application will be denied, and an action will be dismissed,
when an IFP applicant has filed a complaint that fails to
state a cause of action on which relief may be granted.
See, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii);
Atkinson v. Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1128 (8th Cir. 1996)
(per curiam); Carter v. Schafer, 273 Fed. App'x
581, 582 (8th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (“[C]ontrary to
plaintiffs' arguments on appeal, the provisions of 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e) apply to all persons proceeding IFP and
are not limited to prisoner suits, and the provisions allow
dismissal without service.”).
reviewing whether a complaint states a claim on which relief
may be granted, this Court must accept as true all of the
factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Aten v.
Scottsdale Ins. Co., 511 F.3d 818, 820 (8th Cir. 2008).
Although the factual allegations in the complaint need not be
detailed, they must be sufficient to “raise a right to
relief above the speculative level . . . .” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The
complaint must “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. In
assessing the sufficiency of the complaint, the court may
disregard legal conclusions that are couched as factual
allegations. See, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662 (2009). Pro se complaints are to be construed
liberally, but they still must allege sufficient facts to
support the claims advanced. See, Stone v.
Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004).
discussed below, there are two substantial problems with
Koski's complaint as pleaded.
Koski seeks monetary relief for constitutional violations,
but she does not specify whether she is seeking relief from
the defendants in their personal capacities or in
their official capacities as officers or employees
of the State of Minnesota. “If a plaintiff's
complaint is silent about the capacity in which she is suing
the defendant, we interpret the complaint as including only
official-capacity claims.” Egerdahl v. Hibbing
Community College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995). In
this context, this means that Koski's claims must be
construed as being raised against St. Louis County itself
(and only against St. Louis County). See, Doe By
and Through Doe v. Washington County, 150 F.3d 920, 923
(8th Cir. 1998) (“A suit against a county official in
his official capacity is the equivalent of a suit against the
county itself.”). “[A] governmental entity is
liable under § 1983 only when the entity itself is a
moving force behind the deprivation . . . .”
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985)
(quotations omitted). There is nothing in the complaint to
suggest that St. Louis County itself acted contrary
to Koski's federal constitutional rights, such as (for
example) through the maintenance of an unlawful policy or
custom that resulted in the foreseeable depravation of
Koski's constitutional rights.
even leaving aside this somewhat technical pleading
deficiency, Koski's complaint fails to establish in
non-conclusory terms how defendants-whether personally or in
their official capacities-violated the law. The exact
circumstances of this lawsuit are difficult to follow, but
Koski's claims appear to relate to child-custody
proceedings that are either ongoing or recently concluded in
state court. Defendant James Jago, a social worker, is
alleged to have violated Koski's constitutional rights by
entering her home “without probable cause, ” but
this allegation is entirely conclusory. (Compl., [Docket No.
1], at 5). This Court cannot conclude from the allegations in
the Complaint, even assuming those allegations to be true,
that the entry was effected without probable cause or
otherwise unlawfully. Koski also alleges that Jago
“created [a] false narrative” that led to her
losing custody of a grandchild, but she offers practically no
details about the events at issue. The allegations against
Koski are simply too vague to put him (or the Court) on
notice of the specific claims being raised by Plaintiff.
allegations against defendants Sara Janofski and Elizabeth
Seibenalor are vaguer still. Both are claimed to have lied
during the course of the child-custody proceedings, but the
exact nature of those alleged lies is not clear other than
that the lies are alleged to apparently relate to Koski's
character. Again, there is simply too little alleged to put
these Defendants (or the Court) on notice of the claims being
it is recommended that this action be dismissed pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Amendment of Koski's
complaint would not necessarily be futile; it is therefore
recommended that this action be dismissed without
prejudice. Nevertheless, before proceeding in any new action,
Koski should draft a complaint that makes clear the specific
facts and circumstances at issue in the litigation, along
with a specific explanation of how she believes each
Defendant violated the law.
based on the foregoing, and on all of the files, records, and
proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED
1. This matter be DISMISSED without
prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2. Plaintiff Jacqueline K. Koski's application to proceed
in forma pauperis, [Docket No. ...