United States District Court, D. Minnesota
John L. Corrigan, Jr., Plaintiff,
City of Savage, a municipal entity; Kyle Klapperick, Police Officer; Alexandria Marklowitz, Police Officer; Amber Bernier, a private individual; Nelson Rhodus, Assistant Scott County Attorney; Christian Wilton, Judge; Lynn Hanson, Probation Officer; Gabe Kerkaert, Police Officer; Edward Culbreth, Officer; Ashley Uthe, Police Officer; Luke Hennen, Scott County Sheriff; and Scott County, a municipality, Defendants.
L. Corrigan, Jr., 1705 3rd Ave. W., Apt. #6, Shakopee, MN
55379, pro se.
P. Jurtz, Esq., League of Minnesota Cities, counsel for City
of Savage Defendants.
Lateesa T. Ward, Esq., Ward & Ward PC, counsel for
L. Yunker, Esq., and William J. Everett, Esq., Everett &
VanderWiel, PLLP, counsel for Scott County Defendants.
Kathryn Iverson Landrum, Esq., Minnesota Attorney
General's Office, counsel for Defendant Judge Wilton.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. THORSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Judge Christian
Wilton's Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (Doc. No.
35), Defendants City of Savage, Police Officer Kerkaert,
Police Officer Culbreth, Police Officer Kyle Klapperick,
Police Officer Alexandria Marklowitz, and Police Officer
Uthe's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. No.
45), Defendants Nelson Rhodus, Luke Henne, Lynn Hanson, and
Scott County's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc.
No. 50), and the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings of
Defendant Amber Bernier (Doc. No. 69). The motions have been
referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation under
28 U.S.C. § 636 and D. Minn. LR 72.1. (Doc. No. 14.) On
November 8, 2018, this Court held a hearing on the matter in
which counsel appeared on behalf of Defendants and Plaintiff
appeared pro se. (See Doc. No. 84.) For the
reasons stated below, this Court recommends that
Defendants' motions be granted and Plaintiff's
pro se Complaint be dismissed.
facts underlying Plaintiff Corrigan's case all relate in
one way or another to an incident that occurred while driving
on August 3, 2016, which resulted in Corrigan being charged
and convicted of stalking, in violation of Minn. Stat. §
609.749. (See Doc. No. 11, Aff. of Kathryn Iverson
Landrum (“Landrum Aff.”) ¶ 3, Ex. B,
State of Minnesota v. John Louis Corrigan, Court
File No. 70-CR-16-14594 (Scott Cnty. Dist. Ct. July 2,
2018).) The facts, as described by the Minnesota Court of
Appeals, are as follows:
Amber Bernier was homebound from work on an evening in August
2016 and heading eastward on Highway 169 north when she
encountered John Corrigan in Shakopee. Soon the three-lane
roadway would split in two, with cars in the left lane
bending north (on Highway 169), cars in the right lane
continuing straight (on Highway 13), and cars in the middle
lane having the option to choose either route. Corrigan's
car was in the far left lane, and Bernier's was
immediately behind it. Bernier moved to the center lane,
intending to continue straight and avoid the northward bend.
Corrigan also changed lanes in front of her. Bernier then
pulled into the far right lane and passed Corrigan to her
left. Neither liked the other's driving. As Bernier
passed, each driver shot angry glances at the other.
Bernier continued in her lane toward the right as the highway
divided. And at first Corrigan followed the middle lane
toward the left, traveling on Highway 169 north after the
point where the middle lane widened and then split in two.
But then Bernier saw in her rearview mirror that Corrigan
abruptly changed course and crossed the double white lines to
continue in Bernier's direction. And he next moved into
the right lane directly behind her onto Highway 13. He
followed so closely that there was no room for any other car
to fit between them.
Highway 13 also soon divided; drivers can continue straight,
heading east, or they can bear right, heading south. Bernier
moved into the right-hand lane heading south, and Corrigan
followed closely behind her. After Bernier began south, she
moved two lanes to her left, into the left-turn lane of the
first intersection. She saw in her mirror that Corrigan, too,
crossed over two lanes and entered the turn lane, cutting in
front of another car to position himself behind Bernier. By
this point, Bernier was frightened.
Rather than turn left, Bernier attempted to evade Corrigan by
pulling out of the turn lane and back into southbound
traffic, moving straight through the intersection. She saw in
her mirror that Corrigan likewise changed course, following
right behind her. Bernier continued through other
intersections until she came to McColl Drive, where she moved
into the left-turn lane and turned east. She saw in her
mirror that, again, Corrigan did the same, following her.
As Bernier traveled east on McColl, she received a call from
her husband. Bernier told him that she was being followed,
and her husband advised her to call the police. She pulled
into the driveway of the Savage fire department and stopped.
Corrigan pulled beside her and stopped. Bernier lowered her
window and told Corrigan to stop following her. Corrigan
stared at her but said nothing. Then Bernier yelled,
“Stop following me or I'm going to call the
police!” Corrigan responded, “I figured you
already would have.”
Bernier dialed 9-1-1 and spoke with a dispatcher, who stayed
on the line and directed her to the nearby Savage police
station. Bernier parked outside the front doors of the
station, and Corrigan followed her and parked across the
street. Police arrived.
(Id. at 2-4.)
describes what happens next in his Amended Complaint. Police
Officer Kerkaert arrived on the scene and began asking
Corrigan questions. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23.) Corrigan placed
his passport on the hood of his vehicle. (Id.)
Police Officers Edward Culbreth, Alexandria Marklowitz,
Ashley Uthe, and Sergeant Kyle Klapperick then arrived on
scene. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24, 26.) Uthe and Marklowitz
interviewed Bernier, while the other officers tried to speak
to Corrigan. (Id.) Corrigan was given a citation for
fifth degree assault and then left the scene. (Am. Compl.
¶ 27.) Assistant County Attorney Nelson Rhodus later
amended the charge to stalking under Minn. Stat. §
609.749, subd. 2(2). (Am. Compl. ¶ 33; Doc. No. 53,
Decl. of Anna L. Yunker (“Yunker Decl.”) ¶
3, Ex. 3 at 1.)
Christian Wilton presided over Corrigan's criminal case
and following the jury-trial conviction, sentenced him to
120-days in jail. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 36-37.) Before the
sentencing, Corrigan had filed a post-trial motion requesting
a new trial and vacation of the judgment, arguing that the
Minnesota stalking statute was unconstitutional; that Bernier
had committed perjury during her trial testimony; that Rhodus
had improperly coached Bernier prior to her testimony; and
that Rhodus knew Bernier's trial testimony was false.
(See Yunker Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. 4 at 1-2.) Judge
Wilton denied the motions (Id. at 5.) Also prior to
sentencing, Judge Wilton ordered Scott County Community
Corrections to prepare a Pre-Sentence Investigation
(“PSI”) report. (Am. Compl. ¶ 37.) The
report was completed by Probation Officer Lynn Hanson
(Id. at ¶ 38.) Hanson concluded that Corrigan
would not be amenable to probation and recommended that he
serve 120 days in the Scott County Jail. (Id.) Judge
Wilton imposed the 120-day sentence as recommended. Corrigan
appealed the conviction and sentence; the Minnesota Court of
Appeals affirmed, and the Minnesota Supreme Court denied
August 2, 2018, Corrigan filed a Complaint pro se
with this Court. (Doc. No. 1.) The Complaint was thereafter
amended on September 5, 2018. (Doc. No. 23, Am. Compl.)
Corrigan has sued the City of Savage, Scott County, Police
Officers Kyle Klapperick, Alexandria Marklowitz, Gabe
Kerkaert, Edward Culbreth, and Ashley Uthe, Scott County
Sheriff Luke Hennen, Probation Officer Lynn Hanson, Assistant
Scott County Attorney Nelson Rhodus, Judge Wilton, and the
victim of the underlying stalking charge, Amber Bernier. The
Amended Complaint contains federal civil rights claims for
relief “under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and rais[es]
supplemental state-law claims concerning the actions . . . in
unlawfully arresting, maliciously prosecuting, denying due
process, prosecutorial misconduct, denying access to the
courts and cruel and unusual punishment.” (Am. Compl.
¶ 1.) Corrigan also alleges the “actions and
conduct of the defendants are the result of a policy,
practice, custom, and deliberate indifference on the part of
the Defendants City of Savage and Scott County.”
(Id.) In addition, he alleges that Defendant
Bernier, although a private individual, “was acting for
the state which exercised coercive power or significant
encouragement, either overt or covert, where the choice to
continue is deemed to be that of the state, ” and that
Bernier “acted jointly with Defendant Police Officers
and Defendant Rhodus to deprive the Plaintiff of his
constitutional rights to be free from unlawful seizure and
his right to due process through a fair trial.”
requests both compensatory and punitive damages for the
following asserted claims in this case:
• Against the Defendant City Police Officers and
Defendant Bernier (the victim), Corrigan asserts a violation
of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights
relating to free speech, unlawful arrest, right to remain
silent, retaliatory prosecution, and malicious prosecution
• Against the City of Savage, Corrigan asserts a
violation of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth
Amendment rights relating to deficient “training,
supervision, investigation, or discipline” regarding
the stop, detention, arrest, and charge. (Count II).
• Against Assistant Scott County Attorney Nelson Rhodus,
Corrigan asserts a violation of procedural due process (Count
III), and claims that the stalking statute under which he was
charged is unconstitutional (Count V).
• Against Probation Officer Lynn Hanson, Corrigan
asserts a violation of the Eighth Amendment by imposing a
cruel and unusual punishment of 120 days in jail (Count IV).
• Against Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen, Probation
Officer Lynn Hanson, and Scott County, Corrigan asserts a
violation of his First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendment rights regarding “training, supervision,
investigation, or discipline in the areas of . . .
provid[ing] prisoners with ‘adequate law libraries or
adequate assistance from persons trained in the
law'” and “[t]he proper exercise of probation
officer powers, including but not limited to the
investigation, analysis, and recommendation of the
Pre-Sentence Investigation report” (Count VI).
• Against all of the Defendant City Police Officers,
Corrigan asserts state law claims for false arrest, false
imprisonment, denial of due process, intentional infliction
of emotional distress, and malicious prosecution; against
Defendant Rhodus, Corrigan asserts a claim for prosecutorial
misconduct; against the victim Defendant Bernier, Corrigan
asserts claims for misrepresentation, perjury, and
intentional infliction of emotional distress; and against
Defendants Hennen, Hanson, the City of Savage, and the Scott
County, Corrigan asserts a claim for intentional infliction
of emotional distress (Count VII).
Judge Wilton, Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief (no monetary
relief) for a violation of procedural due process (Count
III), and for violation of the Eighth Amendment by imposing a
cruel and unusual punishment of 120 days in jail (Count IV).
Standard of Review
deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must accept as
true all factual allegations in the complaint and view them
in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Schaller
Tel. Co. v. Golden Sky Sys., Inc., 298 F.3d 736, 740
(8th Cir. 2002). In doing so, however, a court need not
accept as true wholly conclusory allegations, Hanten v.
Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th
Cir. 1999), or legal conclusions drawn by the pleader from
the facts alleged. Westcott v. City of
Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990). A court
may consider the complaint, matters of public record, orders,
materials embraced by the complaint, and exhibits attached to
the complaint in deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Porous
Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although a complaint
need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ”
it must contain facts with enough specificity “to raise
a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Id. at 555. This standard “calls for enough
fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of [the claim].” Id. at 556.
Whether a complaint states a claim is a question of law.
Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986).
“Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on
the basis of a dispositive issue of law.” Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989). In addition, this
court notes that pro se complaints are held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.
See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per
curiam). However, even a pro se complaint must
allege facts, and not just bare, unsupported, legal
conclusions. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337
(8th Cir. 1985) (“Although it is to be liberally
construed, a pro se complaint must contain specific
facts supporting its conclusions.”).
on the pleadings is appropriate when there are no issues of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Porous Media Corp., 186 F.3d at
1079. In making this determination, the court must
“accept as true all factual allegations set out in the
complaint and . . . construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Ashley Cnty., Ark. v.
Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009)
(quotations omitted). When deciding a motion for judgment on
the pleadings, “the court may consider the pleadings
themselves, materials embraced by the pleadings, exhibits
attached to the pleadings, and matters of public
record.” Mills v. City of Grand Forks, 614
F.3d 495, 498 (8th Cir. 2010); see also Fraenkel v.
Messerli & Kramer, P.A., No. Civ. 04-1072 (JRT/FLN),
2004 WL 1765309, at *2 (D. Minn. July 29, 2004). Defendants
have submitted the register of actions in Corrigan's
criminal case, a copy of state court decisions in
Corrigan's state criminal action along with other state
court and appellate filings, and the Minnesota Court of
Appeals opinion on Corrigan's appeal. (Doc. No. 11, Aff.
of Kathryn Iverson Landrum (“Landrum Aff.”)
¶¶ 2 & 3, Exs. A & B; Doc. No. 48, Aff. of
Daniel P. Kurtz (“Kurtz Aff.”) ¶¶ 3, 6,
7, Exs. B, D, E; Doc. No. 53, Decl. of Anna L. Yunker
(“Yunker Decl.”) ¶¶ 2, 3. Exs. 2-15).)
Corrigan does not dispute the authenticity of these
documents. The Court will consider these matters of public
record in deciding Defendants' motions to dismiss and
will not convert those motions into motions for summary
§ 1983 Claims
brings § 1983 claims against all of the Defendants for
various constitutional violations, brings a Monell
claims against the City of Savage, Scott County, Scott County
Sheriff Hennen, and Probation Officer Hanson, and brings
additional state law claims against all of the Defendants
except Judge Wilton. The Court will address Corrigan's
§ 1983 claims as they relate to Judge Wilton, the City
Defendants,  the County Defendants,  and Bernier in
turn, and then address the remaining state-law claims. Before
doing so, however, given the contentions in the Complaint
that the state court proceedings violated Plaintiff's
constitutional rights, Plaintiff's claims raise questions
of this Court's subject-matter jurisdiction and whether
his claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, issues that must be addressed first.
matter jurisdiction . . . is a threshold requirement which
must be assured in every federal case.” Turner v.
Armontrout, 922 F.2d 492, 493 (8th Cir. 1991). “If
the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Application of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine is jurisdictional.
Lawrence v. City of St. Paul, 740 F.Supp.2d 1026,
1036 (D. Minn. 2010). Defendant Judge Wilton argues that this
Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
claims against him under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. This Court disagrees.
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a federal district
court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over a lawsuit
brought by plaintiffs who “ha[ve] litigated and lost in
state court” and who “essentially invite
federal courts of first instance to review and reverse
unfavorable state-court judgments.” Exxon Mobil
Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283
(2005); see also District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486-87 (1983) (holding that
federal district courts may not exercise judgment over issues
that are “inextricably intertwined” with a prior
state-court judgment); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust
Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923) (holding that federal
district courts have no appellate jurisdiction over state
courts). Although Corrigan asks for “declaratory
judgment for constitutional violations (due process and cruel
and unusual punishment) by Judge Wilton” (Am. Compl at
18, Relief), he is not asking this Court to reverse or
otherwise set aside his state-court conviction. Therefore,
Corrigan “plainly has not repaired to federal court to
undo the [Minnesota] judgment [against him].” Exxon
Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at 293. Thus, this Court is not
deprived of subject-matter jurisdiction by the
§ 1983 Claims ...