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Hazley v. Roy

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 26, 2019

Glenn Kevin Hazley, Plaintiff,
v.
Tom Roy, Becky Dooley, and Kristi Cisar, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Eric C. Tostrud United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Glenn Kevin Hazley (“Hazley”) was incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Moose Lake (“MCF-Moose Lake”) when the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined that his sentence was unauthorized and remanded his criminal case to the district court for further proceedings. State v. Hazley, No. A15-1418, 2016 WL 953051, at *2 (Minn.Ct.App. Mar. 14, 2016). After remand, the district court set bail for Hazley, and he attempted to access funds in his inmate account to post bail and obtain release pending further district-court proceedings. Hazley filed this civil case pro se alleging that three MCF-Moose Lake officials violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and committed the state-law tort of false imprisonment by preventing him from accessing his inmate account, thus denying him the opportunity to post bail and obtain his release. Defendants sought dismissal of Hazley's complaint, and Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Cowan Wright issued a Report and Recommendation concluding that Defendants' motion should be granted in part and denied in part. Defendants object to those portions of the Report and Recommendation concluding that their motion should be denied. Defendants' objections will be overruled, and the Report and Recommendation will be accepted.

         I

         The facts underlying this dispute are set forth fully in the Report and Recommendation. ECF No. 73 (“R&R”) at 2-11. In short, Hazley has filed three complaints to date, and his claims already have survived, at least in substantial part, one motion to dismiss. See Compl. [ECF No. 1]; Am. Compl. [ECF No. 8]; Third Am. & Restated Compl. (“Third Am. Compl.”) [ECF No. 49]; Mar. 20, 2018 Order at 14 [ECF No. 47] (granting Defendants' motion to dismiss official-capacity claims against Tom Roy (“Roy”) and Becky Dooley (“Dooley”) and allowing Hazley to amend his complaint to state individual-capacity claims against Dooley and Kristi Cisar (“Cisar”), but not Roy). Most recently, after Hazley filed his Third Amended Complaint, Defendants again moved to dismiss. Mot. [ECF No. 50].

         Hazley's Third Amended Complaint names Dooley, Cisar, and Roy as defendants, and he specifically asserts that he is suing them in their individual capacities. Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9. Setting aside Hazley's claims against Roy-which were not properly included in the Third Amended Complaint, because a prior order in this case had dismissed official-capacity claims against Roy and declined to permit amendment to add individual-capacity claims against Roy, see ECF No. 47-Hazley has sued Dooley and Cisar for the “violation of Plaintiff's civil rights to Due Process secured by the United States Constitution or by Federal Law and guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to deprive Plaintiff of property, due course of justice, and wrongful, prolonged incarceration in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for the violation of Minnesota State Common Law for false imprisonment.” Third Am. Compl. at 1. He alleges that Dooley and Cisar, among other actions, denied him “an opportunity to post bail from jail due to MCF-Moose Lake's customs and policies” and “unlawfully restrained [his] freedom of movement or personal liberty” by “not sending [his] $800 bail to Hennepin County Criminal Court” and “not granting [his] request to stop payment on the check and return the funds to his forwarding address.” Id. ¶¶ 50, 73-74, 100-01, 117.

         Defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6). Mot.; Mem. in Supp. at 8 [ECF No. 51]. They argued then, as they do now in their objections to the Report and Recommendation, that Hazley “fails to allege a cognizable Section 1983 claim against Defendants Dooley and Cisar in their individual capacities and both are entitled to qualified immunity.” Mem. in Supp. at 4; see Obj. at 1.

         II

         When reviewing a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, “the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id.

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Gorog v. Best Buy Co., 760 F.3d 787, 792 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Although the factual allegations 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) (citation omitted). The complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. While factual allegations are accepted as true, “[c]ourts must not presume the truth of legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.” Hager v. Ark. Dep't of Health, 735 F.3d 1009, 1013 (8th Cir. 2013) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         Defendants seeking dismissal of § 1983 claims under Rule 12(b)(6) based on the qualified-immunity doctrine “must show that they are entitled to qualified immunity on the face of the complaint.” Carter v. Huterson, 831 F.3d 1104, 1107 (8th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, a court must dismiss a complaint against a government official in his [or her] individual capacity that fails to state a claim for violation of ‘clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'” Hager, 735 F.3d at 1013 (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). In determining whether defendants have qualified immunity, the Court asks: “(1) whether the facts shown by the plaintiff make out a violation of a constitutional or statutory right, and (2) whether that right was clearly established at the time of the defendant's alleged misconduct.” Brown v. City of Golden Valley, 574 F.3d 491, 496 (8th Cir. 2009). Courts, in their sound discretion, may consider the questions in either order, but a § 1983 plaintiff can defeat a claim of qualified immunity only if the answer to both questions is yes. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009).

         In assessing both plausibility and qualified immunity, Hazley's pro se pleadings are entitled to liberal construction. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S 89, 94 (2007). Pro se complaints, “however inartfully pleaded, ” are held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94). “[I]f the essence of an allegation is discernible, ” the district court 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) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (providing in the Prison Litigation Reform Act that “the court shall” review prisoner complaints to “identify cognizable claims”). However, even under this liberal standard, a pro se complaint must contain specific facts in support of the claims it advances. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).

         III

         A

         Defendants' first contention is that Magistrate Judge Wright “erred by recognizing an offender's constitutional right to access his offender account.” Obj. at 3, 5 (“Plaintiff does not have a constitutional right to access the funds in his offender account.”). But ...


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