United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Troy K. Scheffler, Plaintiff,
City of New Hope, et al., Defendant.
K. Scheffler, pro se.
M. Zipf, League of Minnesota Cities, For Defendant City of
Kathryn Iverson Landrum, Minnesota Attorney General’s
Office, for the Judicial Defendants.
RICHARD NELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation
(“R&R” [Doc. No. 94]) of Magistrate Judge Leo
I. Brisbois dated February 15, 2019, recommending that the
Motion to Dismiss brought by Defendants Richard A. Trachy,
Lucinda E. Jesson, Ivy S. Bernhardson, Francis J. Connolly,
and James B. Florey (hereafter, “the Judicial
Defendants”) [Doc. No. 44] be granted, the Motion to
Dismiss brought by the City of New Hope [Doc No. 50] be
denied as moot, and that this action be dismissed with
prejudice. Plaintiff Troy K. Scheffler
(“Plaintiff”) timely filed objections
(“Objections”) to the R&R [Doc. No. 96], to
which the Judicial Defendants filed their response [Doc. No.
97]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules
Plaintiff’s objections and adopts the R&R, as
factual and procedural background of this matter is detailed
in the R&R and is incorporated herein by reference. In
brief, Plaintiff had petitioned for expungement of a speeding
ticket issued in 2010 by Defendant City of New Hope. (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 18, 27.) Defendants Trachy, a Minnesota
State Court Judicial Referee, and Bernhardson, Chief Judge of
the Minnesota State Court, Fourth Judicial District, denied
his petition. (Id. ¶ 49.) Eventually, Plaintiff
filed a second petition for expungement, which was granted on
January 2, 2019. See Expungement Order [Doc. No.
95-1]. The magistrate judge construed Plaintiff’s
Complaint to allege seventeen causes of action arising under
the common law and Minnesota and U.S. constitutions, some
against the Judicial Defendants and others against Defendant
City of New Hope. (R&R at 5–6; see also
Am. Compl. ¶¶ 149–341; Defs.’ Br. [Doc.
No. 47] at 4.)
on the Complaint, the R&R, and Plaintiff’s
Objections, it appears that Plaintiff’s claims arise
from alleged wrongs committed by the Judicial Defendants in
the course of the expungement proceedings. Primarily,
Plaintiff takes issue with an April 2017 denial order in
which he alleges that Defendants Trachy and Bernhardson
misstated the expungement statute’s language and made a
finding that Plaintiff was “factual[ly] guilty.”
(See R&R at 3.) Plaintiff asserts the same
argument against Defendants Connolly, Jesson and Florey, the
Minnesota Court of Appeals judges who affirmed the order.
(See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 92–93.) Also,
Plaintiff appears to assert deprivations of his state and
federal due process rights arising from denials of hearings
related to his initial expungement petition and his appeal to
the Minnesota Court of Appeals. (See R&R at
December 2018, the state court granted Plaintiff’s
second expungement petition. (Dec. 28, 2018 Hennepin Cty.
Order [Doc. No. 95-1].) In February 2019, Plaintiff informed
the Court of this ruling, acknowledging that it
“disposes of much of the relief requested” in
this lawsuit. (Pl.’s Letter Filed Feb. 19, 2019 [Doc.
No. 95].) Consequently, the Court considers Plaintiff’s
claims for mandamus and declaratory relief related to the
denials of his expungement petition to be moot. (See
R&R at 7 n.4.)
Judicial Defendants moved to dismiss this action pursuant to
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). They
argue that the Younger abstention doctrine applies
because of ongoing state-court litigation and the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies to the claims
arising from the completed first expungement proceedings;
they are entitled to absolute judicial immunity and Eleventh
Amendment immunity; they are not “persons” under
42 U.S.C. § 1983; and Plaintiff fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. (Defs.’ Mem. at 6.)
They also argue that the Court should decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state-law
constitutional claims. (See Id. at 15–16.)
R&R, Magistrate Judge Brisbois recommended dismissing
this suit because the Judicial Defendants had acted entirely
within the scope of their judicial capacities and
jurisdiction, and are thus entitled to absolute immunity from
all claims against them. (R&R at 8–11.) Even if the
Judicial Defendants were not entitled to absolute immunity,
the magistrate judge recommended dismissal because federal
courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction to review state court
decisions under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
(R&R at 11–13.)
filed his objections to the R&R in a timely manner.
(See Objs.) He takes issue with the finding that the
Judicial Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity,
arguing that their “rewriting” of the expungement
statute usurps the legislature’s power, and that the
“finding of guilt” is an exercise reserved for
the executive branch through prosecution and violates his
right to be presumed innocent. (Id. at 5, 11, 12.)
Through these actions, he asserts, the Judicial Defendants
“ignored the very fundamentals of due process”
and failed to uphold their oath to “faithfully”
discharge their duties. (Id. at 4–5.) He
alleges that because the acts were “not made in good
faith” and were “repugnant to the
Constitution,” the Judicial Defendants have waived
immunity. (Id. at 4.) He seeks declaratory judgment
against the Judicial Defendants under § 1983,
“costs,” and “the remaining relief of
innocence.” (Id. at 6–8, 16, 17.)
district court must conduct a de novo review of a magistrate
judge’s report and recommendation on dispositive
motions to which specific objections have been made. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); D. Minn. L.R.
72.2(b). The Judicial Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is
dispositive and must be reviewed under this standard. D.
Minn. L.R. 7.1(c)(6)(B). “[A] pro se complaint must be
liberally construed, and ‘pro se litigants are held to
a lesser pleading standard than other parties.’”
Gertsner v. Sebig, LLC, 386 F. App’x 573, 575
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Whitson ...