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Scheffler v. City of New Hope

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 15, 2019

Troy K. Scheffler, Plaintiff,
v.
City of New Hope, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LEO I. BRISBOIS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon the Judicial Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 44]; the City of New Hope's Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 50]; and upon referral from the Honorable Susan Richard Nelson. (Order of Reference [Docket No. 59]). A hearing was held on December 17, 2018, after which the Defendants' Motions were taken under advisement. (Minute Entry [Docket No. 88]).

         For the reasons discussed herein, it is recommended that the Judicial Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 44], be GRANTED; that the City of New Hope's Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 50], be DENIED as moot; and that the present action be DISMISSED with prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Troy Scheffler initiated the present case on June 19, 2018, by filing his Complaint. [Docket No. 1]. On August 30, 2018, Plaintiff filed the now operative Amended Complaint. [Docket No. 41]. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, [Docket No. 41], names as Defendants Richard A. Trachy, Lucinda E. Jesson, Ivy S. Bernhardson, Francis J. Connolly, James B. Florey (hereinafter collectively the “Judicial Defendants”) and the City of New Hope.

         Defendant Trachy is a Minnesota State Judicial Referee. Defendants Connolly, Jesson, and Florey are Justices on the Minnesota Court of Appeals. And Defendant Bernhardson is the Chief Judge of the Minnesota State District Court for the Fourth Judicial District.

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges as follows. On October 12, 2010, Plaintiff was charged with speeding by the City of New Hope police department. (Id. at 4). Thereafter, on April 7, 2011, Plaintiff reached an agreement with the City of New Hope, through prosecuting attorney Steven Sondrall, to “dismiss” the speeding charge. (Id. at 5). The agreement provided that the speeding charge would be “dismissed” if Plaintiff paid $145.00 in prosecution costs and did not receive any new traffic violations in the next year. (Id.). It further provided“that if the agreement is terminated and the prosecution resumes and a trial is held that Plaintiff would then stipulate that on October 12, 2010 in the City of New Hope [Plaintiff] was travelling northbound on Highway 169 at a pees [sic] ¶ 67 mph. The speed limit on Highway 169 is 55 mph.” (Id. at 5-6).

         The state court accepted the agreement on April 14, 2011. (Id. at 6). And on October 9, 2012, the state court dismissed the speeding charge.

         On March 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Expungement pursuant to Rule 609A.02. Plaintiff was then provided a “Notice of No. hearing” by the Hennepin County Court Administrator. The notice provided that a hearing would only be held if the court was considering denying the petition. (Id. at 7).

         On July 6, 2016, Defendant Trachy denied Plaintiff's Petition without a hearing. (Id. at 8). Defendant Trachy's decision was co-signed by Defendant Bernhardson. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Trachy omitted from his decision material portions of the expungement statute there at issue, and Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Trachy also crafted arguments on behalf of the City of New Hope. (Id. at 8-12).

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant the City of New Hope did not object to the denial. (Id. at 12). Plaintiff alleges, however, that Defendant City of New Hope had a contractual and ethical obligation to object to the denial of expungement because Plaintiff was being denied the benefit of the bargain of their agreement. (Id.).

         On July 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed an appeal of the denial of his Petition. (Id. at 13). Plaintiff alleges that on December 28, 2016, the Minnesota Court of Appeals “reversed and remanded” the decision “based on the fact that Defendant Trachy and Defendant Bernhardson denied Scheffler his right to a hearing.” (Id.).

         On March 16, 2017, Plaintiff appeared before Defendant Trachy concerning the remanded Petition. (Id. at 13-16). On April 7, 2017, Defendant Trachy again denied Plaintiff's Petition, and that denial order was co-signed by Defendant Bernhardson. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that the denial order again misstated the statute at issue, and it advocated for the City of New Hope who did not appear to contest the Petition. Plaintiff further alleges that in the order Defendants Trachy and Bernhardson “made a finding of guilt by stating, ‘It is important to note that in this present case, there is no question at all of Petitioner's factual guilt.” (Id.) (underlining in original).

         On June 12, 2017, Plaintiff appealed the denial of his Petition. (Id. at 16). Defendants Florey, Connolly, and Jenson denied Plaintiff's request for oral argument, and they affirmed the denial of Plaintiff's Petition. (Id. at 16-18).

         On December 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed a petition for discretionary review to the Minnesota Supreme Court. (Id.). And on February 20, 2018, that petition for review was denied. (Id. at 18-20).

         On March 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed a second petition for expungement (hereinafter the “Second Petition”). (Id. at 20). On May 24, 2018, Plaintiff was provided with a “notice of no hearing” which indicated that a hearing would only be held if the court intend to deny the Second Petition. (Id. at 20-21). On June 4, 2018, Defendant Trachy and Bernhardson issued an order indicating that they intended to deny the Second Petition. (Id. at 21).

         Plaintiff filed a motion to disqualify Defendant Trachy due to alleged bias. (Id.). On April 11, 2018, Defendant Trachy issued an order denying the request to disqualify. (Id. at 22).

         Plaintiff also sought to schedule a hearing for a Rule 60.02 motion, however, he alleges the “Hennepin County Court Administrator” refused to schedule a hearing on Plaintiff's Rule 60.02 motion.[1] Plaintiff further alleges that the Hennepin County Court Administrator supervisor told Plaintiff that Defendant Bernhardson had said that Plaintiff was required to wait on the Rule 60.02 motion. (Id.).

         On April 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to have Defendant Bernhardson reconsider Defendant Trachy's decision declining to disqualify himself. (Id. at 23). Defendant Bernhardson assigned the matter to Judge Meyer. On May 17, 2018, a hearing was held on Plaintiff ...


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