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Rowell v. Lassen

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 10, 2019

Jessica Monique Rowell, Plaintiff,
v.
Tara L. Lassen, Defendant.

          Jessica Monique Rowell, (pro se Plaintiff).

          Matthew Hart, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, (for Respondent Tara L. Lassen in her official capacity only).

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          Tony N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung, on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. ECF No. 13. This motion has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a Report & Recommendation to the Honorable Michael J. Davis, United States District Judge for the District of Minnesota, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1. Based on all the files, records, and proceedings herein, and for the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that Defendant's motion be GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was civilly committed as Mentally Ill. and Dangerous to the custody of the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services on March 30, 2018. ECF No. 1-1, p. 4. She resides at the Minnesota Security Hospital (“MSH”). Id. On July 31, 2018, following reports that Plaintiff acted aggressively towards hospital staff and other patients, the State sought judicial authorization to administer neuroleptic medications to Plaintiff without her consent. See id. at 3-19; In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of Jessica Monique Rowell, Ramsey County Court File No. 62-MH-PR-17-494 (“Ramsey County Court File”), Index No. 70. The Ramsey County District Court held a court trial on the issue on August 29, 2018. See Ramsey County Court File. That day, following the trial, the court issued a one-page order permitting the State to administer various atypical neuroleptics to Plaintiff. Order, Ramsey County Court File, Index No. 88.

         Two days later, Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court seeking an order prohibiting the State from giving Plaintiff medication without her consent, her release from MSH, and $937, 000 in damages. ECF No. 1, p. 4.[1] The complaint names only Tara L. Lassen, the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse treating Plaintiff, as Defendant. ECF No. 1, pp. 1-2. Shortly after Plaintiff filed the complaint, the Ramsey County District Court issued an amended order modifying the medications the state was allowed to administer to Plaintiff. Amended Order, Ramsey County Court File, Index No. 91. Then, approximately two weeks later, the Ramsey County District Court issued its “Findings and Order for Treatment with Neuroleptic Medications” which contained the court's findings from the August 29, 2018 court trial and an order permitting the state to administer the same medications as those authorized by the Amended Order. Findings and Order for Treatment with Neuroleptic Medications, Ramsey County Court File, Index No. 93.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant has moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). ECF No. 15, p. 2. When considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, courts “distinguish between a ‘facial attack' and a ‘factual attack' on jurisdiction.” Carlsen v. Game Stop, Inc., 833 F.3d 903, 908 (8th Cir. 2016) (quotation omitted). “In a facial attack, 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).” Id. (citation and internal quotations omitted). “In a factual attack, the court considers matters outside the pleadings, and the non-moving party does not have the benefit of 12(b)(6) safeguards.” Id.

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the purpose of determining Defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) this Court must take the Plaintiff's factual allegations as true. Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009). In order to meet the 12(b)(6) pleading standard, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court is not, however, “bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A complaint that merely “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . .'” or that makes “‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement'” fails to meet the Rule 12(b)(6) facial plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A pro se complaint is to be liberally construed, but still must plead facts that support its legal conclusions. See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004); Kaylor v. Fields, 661 F.2d 1177, 1183 (8th Cir. 1981). This Court cannot supply additional facts nor can it construct a legal theory for relief that is not alleged in the complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss against a pro se plaintiff. Stone, 364 F.3d at 915. But in deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court “may consider the complaint, matters of public record, orders, materials embraced by the complaint, and exhibits attached to the complaint . . . .” Wickner v. McComb, No. 09-cv-966 (DWF/JJK), 2010 WL 610913, at *3 (D. Minn. Feb. 19, 2010) (citing Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999)).

         A. Eleventh Amendment Bars Plaintiff's Claim for Monetary Damages.

         The Eleventh Amendment prohibits lawsuits against a state in federal court by citizens of that or other states. See U.S. Const. amend. XI; Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 11-21 (1890). It further bars claims for damages in actions brought against state officials in their official capacity. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985) (citing Corey v. White, 457 U.S. 85, 90 (1982)). This is because claims against state officials in their official ...


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