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Hatton v. Piper

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 23, 2019

Russell John Hatton and Lloyd Desjarlais, Plaintiffs,
Emily Johnson Piper, Shelby Richardson, Jannine Hèbert, Dr. Peter Puffer, Kathryn Lockie, Nancy Stacken, Dr. Elizabeth Peterson, Kevin Moser, Terry Kneisel, Sandra Bryant, Chad Mesojedec, Jerry Fjerkenstad, Scott Benoit, Gene Anderson, Steve Sajdak, Steve Sayovitz, Dana Osborne, Tara Osborne, Sara Kulas, Meg McCauley, Sharlonda Pierce, Ross Peterson, Mark Hansen, Donald Geil, and Kyle Rodgers, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.


          Steven E. Rau United States Magistrate Judge

         The above-captioned case comes before the undersigned on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 17), and Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint, (ECF No. 42).[1] This matter was referred for the resolution of pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1. (ECF No. 24). For the reasons stated below, this Court recommends Defendants' motion be granted, Plaintiffs' motion to amend be denied, and this matter be dismissed.


         Plaintiffs Russell John Hatton and Lloyd Desjarlais initiated suit on November 10, 2016. (Compl., ECF No. 1). Hatton and Desjarlais are civilly committed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (“MSOP”) in Moose Lake, Minnesota. They assert that Defendants-MSOP employees-are responsible for restrictions placed on the practice of their Native American religious beliefs. Hatton and Desjarlais brought suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (“AIRFA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1996 et seq., and the Minnesota Constitution.

         Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on various grounds. (ECF No. 17). The parties submitted briefing on the motion, (ECF Nos. 20, 28, 29, 32), but before the motion could be ruled upon this case was stayed on June 30, 2017 as it was deemed sufficiently related to the ongoing class-action litigation of Karsjens, et al. v. Piper, et al., Case No. 11-cv-3659 (DWF/TNL), (ECF No. 34). The stay was lifted on October 22, 2018, (ECF No. 39), and this Court permitted the parties an opportunity to file supplemental briefing addressing any changes in law that may affect the Court's analysis of the already-submitted motion to dismiss, (ECF No. 40). Supplemental briefs were submitted and the motion is ripe for determination. (ECF Nos. 41, 43).[2] Simultaneous with their supplemental brief, Plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint. (ECF No. 42).


         Desjarlais received a Behavioral Expectation Report (“BER”) for misconduct-a rule violation-on September 8, 2016. (Compl., at 14; Aff. of Lloyd Desjarlais, at 1, ECF No. 3). Because of the BER, Desjarlais was on Restriction Status III[3] from September 11 to November 20, 2016. (Compl., at 14; Desjarlais Aff., at 1). Hatton received a BER for misconduct on October 8, 2016. (Compl., at 12; Aff. of Russell Hatton, at 1, ECF No. 2). Hatton was placed on Restriction Status III for 28 days, from October 13 through November 9, 2016. (Compl., at 12-13; Hatton Aff., at 1).

         On September 11, 2016, Hansen and Pierce told Desjarlais he could not attend Native American religious services due to the BER he received three days prior. (Compl., at 14; Desjarlais Aff., at 1). Likewise, on October 13, 2016, MSOP employees Randy Gordon, [4] Benoit, Sayovitz, and Tara Osborne told Hatton he could not attend Native American religious services due to the BER he received five days prior. (Compl., at 12). Hatton and Desjarlais assert they were denied the opportunity to participate in sweat lodge ceremonies, pipe ceremonies, smudge ceremonies, indoor and outdoor talking circles, and special events. (Compl., at 13, 14).

         Desjarlais asked Hansen if he had spoken with his supervisor about Desjarlais attending Native American religious services, with Hansen indicating he was following MSOP policy in denying Desjarlais's participation. (Compl., at 14; Desjarlais Aff., at 1). Similarly, Hatton filed a complaint with Bryant regarding his denied access to Native American religious services. (Compl., at 13). Bryant and Hansen each stated that MSOP policy denied religious services to clients on Restriction Status III. (Compl., at 13, 14; Desjarlais Aff., at 1). MSOP clients on Restriction Status III may not attend spiritual group ceremonies or studies, but spiritual self-study materials are available upon client request. (Compl., at 13, 15; Hatton Aff., at 1; Desjarlais Aff., at 1; Aff. of David Bornus, Ex. A, ECF No. 21).

         Hatton and Desjarlais allege that when they are permitted to attend Native American religious services, such as the sweat lodge and pipe ceremonies, they are searched and wanded afterwards. (Comp., at 13, 14-15). Hatton and Desjarlais claim this policy is ineffective because MSOP telegraphs when they will search individuals, which ensures contraband will be hidden beforehand and leads to the result that MSOP “has never found any contraband since its inception” of searches following Native American religious services. (Compl., at 13, 14-15).

         Plaintiffs assert MSOP policy, and Defendants' enforcement of it, violates their religious rights. Plaintiffs seek to prevent Defendants from withholding religious services “as a tool to punish” Plaintiffs because their religion is therapeutic. (Compl., at 16-17).


         A. Legal Standard

         When determining a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, courts “must distinguish between a ‘facial attack' and a ‘factual attack' on jurisdiction.” Carlsen v. GameStop, Inc., 833 F.3d 903, 908 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990)). In a facial attack, like that at issue here, ‘the court restricts itself to the face of the pleadings, and the non-moving party receives the same protections as it would defending against a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6).'” Carlsen, 833 F.3d at 908 (quoting Osborn, 918 F.2d at 729 n.6).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and then determines “whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009). The court must draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Sletten & Brettin Orthodontics v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 782 F.3d 931, 934 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)); accord Zink, 783 F.3d at 1098. Facial plausibility of a claim exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Although a sufficient complaint need not be detailed, it must contain “[f]actual allegations . . . enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted); see Id. (“The pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion of a legally cognizable right of action.”) (quotations and citation omitted). Additionally, complaints are insufficient if they contain “naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In assessing a pro se complaint, the court applies “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quotation and citation omitted); accord Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014). “If the essence of an allegation is discernible, ” then the court, in applying a liberal construction to pro se complaints, “should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.” Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). Despite the liberal construal of such complaints, the pro se plaintiff “still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced.” Stringer v. St. James R-1 Sch. Dist., 446 F.3d 799, 802 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Stone, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). Thus, pro se litigants “must set a claim forth in a manner which, taking the pleaded facts as true, states a claim as a matter of law.” Stringer, 446 F.3d at 802 (quoting Cunningham v. Ray, 648 F.2d 1185, 1186 (8th Cir. 1981)).

         B. Some of Plaintiffs' Requested Relief is Barred

         Plaintiffs sue all Defendants in their official and individual capacities. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages, but do not differentiate how the relief sought applies to Defendants.

         The Eleventh Amendment bars suit against a state, absent a state's consent to filing of such a suit. Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (per curiam). This immunity applies to claims against officials sued in their official capacities. See, e.g., Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). A federal court lacks jurisdiction over claims barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 121 (1984). Thus, “Section 1983 plaintiffs may sue individual-capacity defendants only for money damages and official-capacity defendants only for injunctive relief.” Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1161 n.5 (10th Cir. 2011) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 30 (1991)); Greenwalt v. Indiana Dept. of Corr., 397 F.3d 587, 589 (7th Cir. 2005) (“[S]ection 1983 does not permit injunctive relief against state officials sued in their individual as distinct from their official capacity.”); Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 360 n.2 (9th Cir. 2004) (noting that injunctive and equitable relief are not available in § 1983 individual-capacity suits). Thus, to the extent Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief against Defendants in their individual capacities, such requests for relief must be dismissed. And to the extent Plaintiffs seek monetary relief against Defendants in their official capacities, such requests for relief must also be dismissed.[5]

         C. Plaintiffs Do Not Plead Personal Involvement of Various Defendants

         Plaintiffs must also allege Defendants' personal involvement or responsibility for the constitutional violations to state a § 1983 claim. Ellis v. Norris, 179 F.3d 1078, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999). Moreover, “[g]overnment officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. “While the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 cases, a supervisor may still be liable under § 1983 if either his direct action or his ‘failure to properly supervise and train the offending employee' caused the constitutional violation at issue.” Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 543 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Tlamka v. Serrell, 244 F.3d 628, 635 (8th Cir. 2011)). Thus, “[e]ven if a supervisor is not involved in day-to-day operations, his personal involvement may be found if he is involved in ‘creating, applying, or interpreting a policy' that gives rise to unconstitutional conditions.” Jackson, 747 F.3d at 543 (quoting Bonner v. Outlaw, 552 F.3d 673, 679 (8th Cir. 2009)).

         Here, the complaint only pleads actions by Defendants Sandra Bryant, Mark Hansen, Sharlonda Pierce, Scott Benoit, Steve Sayovitz, and Tara Osborne. Plaintiffs do not allege any personal involvement by Defendants Emily Johnson Piper, Shelby Richardson, Jannine Hèbert, Dr. Peter Puffer, Kathryn Lockie, Nancy Stacken, Dr. Elizabeth Peterson, Kevin Moser, Terry Kneisel, Chad Mesojedec, Jerry Fjerkenstad, Gene Anderson, Steve Sajdak, Dana Osborne, Sara Kulas, Meg McCauley, Ross Peterson, Donald Geil, or Kyle Rodgers. The only time these defendants are mentioned in the complaint is in the section identifying the defendants, asserting each

continues to damage and has caused injury and implemented, retained and carried out practices and policies beyond the legitimate scope of employment duties at the MSOP that [violate or violated] the constitutional, statutory, and common law rights of Plaintiff's [sic] where [she or he] continues to condone and ...

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