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White v. Stacken

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 1, 2019

Ryan J. White, Plaintiff,
Nancy Stacken, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Leo I. Brisbois United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to a general assignment, made in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636, and upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. [Docket No. 14]. The Court took Defendants' Motion under advisement on the written submissions on March 5, 2019. (Order [Docket No. 21]).

         For the reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 14], be GRANTED.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff Ryan White (hereinafter “Plaintiff”) is currently civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (hereinafter “MSOP”). (Compl., [Docket No. 1], at 3). Plaintiff brings the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging generally that Defendants the Department on Human Services, Nancy Stacken, Peter Puffer, William Halman, and Jannine Hebert violated his constitutional rights while he has been committed to the MSOP on the basis of the following factual allegations. (See, Id.).

         At an unspecified time in early 2017, Plaintiff's sister submitted a visitation application (hereinafter the “Application”) to the MSOP in an effort to be granted permission to visit Plaintiff. (Id. at 4).

         On February 5, 2017, Plaintiff sent a client request form to the visiting room staff inquiring as to the status of his sister's Application. (Id.). On February 15, 2017, an unnamed visiting room staff member informed Plaintiff that his sister's Application had been received, and it was in the process of being reviewed. (Id.).

         On March 12, 2017, Plaintiff sent a client request form to his primary therapist, Defendant Halman, also inquiring about the status on his sister's Application. (Id. at 5). On March 20, 2017, Defendant Halman responded, “[i]n order to learn the status of your sister's visiting application you will need to write a client request to OSI. If you have any other questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me. Respectfully, William Halman.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff's sister's Application was denied on April 27, 2017. (Id. at 4). Plaintiff alleges the reason given for why the Application was denied was “non-therapeutic.” (Id. at 9).

         On May 2, 2017, Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant Stacken and Defendant Hebert inquiring as to why his sister's Application was denied, as well as, providing the reasons he believed the Application should have been approved. (Id. at 5-9). According to Plaintiff, neither Defendant Stacken nor Defendant Hebert responded to Plaintiff's May 2, 2017, letter. (Id. at 9).

         Plaintiff therefore maintains that, through an “unconstitutionally restrictive” visitation policy, Defendants “in their individual and official capacities, implemented, retained and carried out policies through the MSOP that violated and continue to violate Plaintiff's First [Amendment] (Freedom of Association) and Fourteenth [Amendment] (Substantive Due Process, Procedural Due Process and Due Process) rights” secured by the United States Constitution. (Id. at 1, 10). As relief, “Plaintiff seeks monetary compensatory relief against Defendants in their individual capacities only, ” as well as “declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants in their official capacities.” (Id. at 1, 9-10).

         On January 14, 2019, Defendants filed the present Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 14], arguing that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failing to state a claim upon which relied could be granted.

         On January 27, 2019, the undersigned established a briefing schedule on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss which provided that Plaintiff's responsive memorandum was due by no later than February 19, 2019; that Defendants' reply memorandum was due by no later than fourteen days after Plaintiff's response memorandum was filed; and that the Court would take Defendants' Motion to Dismiss under advisement on the parties' written submissions. (Order [Docket No. 21]). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his timely responsive memorandum, Defendants filed their timely reply memorandum, and the Court took the present Motion under advisement on March 5, 2019.

         II. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. [Docket No. 14].

         Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 14], seeks an Order of this Court dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because this Court's lack subject matter jurisdiction over portions of Plaintiff's Complaint and because Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state claim upon which relief may be granted. In the alternative, Defendants argue that even if Plaintiff's Complaint could be construed as stating a cognizable, federal claim, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to each of Plaintiff's claims.

         A. Standard of Review

         Pro se complaints are 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). While the Court is required to construe the content within Plaintiff's pleadings liberally as he is proceeding pro se, Plaintiff is nevertheless bound by applicable procedural and substantive law. “Although pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, pro se litigants are not excused from failing to comply with substantive and procedural law.” Burgs v. Sissel, 745 F.2d 526, 528 (8th Cir. 1984).

         Section 1983 establishes a cause of action against any “person who, under the color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any state” causes the deprivation of a federal or Constitutional right. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998). “A court must dismiss an action over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” Pomerenke v. Bird, No. 12-cv-1757 (DSD/JJG), 2014 WL 30363, at *1 (D. Minn. Jan. 3, 2014) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3)). Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may move to dismiss a pleading for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Such a motion may challenge, at any time, the sufficiency of the pleading on its face or may challenge the factual truthfulness of its allegations. See, Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993); Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990). ...

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