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Thomas v. Schnell

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 1, 2019

Milton Thomas, Plaintiff,
Paul Schnell, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to a general assignment made in accordance with the provision of 28 U.S.C. § 636, and upon Plaintiff's Complaint, [Docket No. 10], [1] as well as, his Applications to Proceeds in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs. [Docket No. 6].

         Thomas is civilly committed at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), based on a judicial finding that he is a “sexual psychopathic personality.” In re Civil Commitment of Thomas, No. A15-0192, 2015 WL 4508338, at *1 (Minn.Ct.App. July 27, 2015). The Minnesota Court of Appeals described the proceedings leading to that commitment as follows:

[Thomas] has a history of sexual-assault convictions, including a 1987 conviction for the rape and beating of two 15-year-old girls, two 1994 convictions for the rape of 13-year-old and 14-year-old girls, and a 2008 conviction for the rape of a woman, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, while in the presence of Thomas's seven-year-old niece. He also has “at least eight parole revocations, ” including four instances of absconding.
While incarcerated, Thomas participated intermittently in sex-offender treatment programs, but never completed any of them. A summary of Thomas's treatment history reported that “Thomas admitted that he felt entitled to sex, and ‘the more the better.' He also indicated he chose victims he thought would be willing to engage in sexual behavior with him with little resistance.”
In June 2014, the state petitioned the district court to commit Thomas as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual psychopathic personality. The district court convened a hearing in November 2014, receiving three expert reports addressing whether Thomas met the criteria for commitment. Two of the experts also testified at the hearing.
Each of the experts recommended that Thomas be committed as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual psychopathic personality. They agreed that Thomas was “highly likely to reoffend” and that there was no suitable less-restrictive alternative to commitment. After finding each of their opinions to be credible, the district court considered the six factors listed in In re Linehan, 518 N.W.2d 609 (Minn. 1994) (Linehan I), and the five factors from In re Linehan, 594 N.W.2d 867 (Minn. 1999) (Linehan IV), concluding that each factor supported commitment.
The district court also considered Thomas's argument that his existing criminal sentence of lifetime supervised release could operate as a less-restrictive alternative to commitment. Based on Thomas's “extensive history of failures under corrections supervision [and] continued sexual offenses despite treatment and corrections consequences, ” it found that Thomas “may not be safely placed in the community at this time.” The district court concluded that Thomas had not shown “clear and convincing evidence that a less restrictive treatment program is available which is consistent with [Thomas's] treatment needs and the requirements of public safety.” Accordingly, it ordered that Thomas be indeterminately committed to the [MSOP].

Id. Thomas appealed the district-court order committing him to the MSOP, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed his commitment. See, Id.

         Thomas's convictions noted above implicated various legal consequences, two of which are critical to this action. First, under Minnesota law, courts sentencing persons convicted of sexual offenses must impose (depending on the conviction's circumstances) either a ten-year or a lifetime term of conditional release. See, Minn. Stat. § 609.3455, subds. 6-7. Second, Minnesota law requires that those convicted of sexual offenses register with the state and regularly provide information regarding-among other things-addresses, work location, and vehicles owned; failure to register or provide accurate information is a criminal offense. See, Minn. Stat. § 243.166.

         In the present action, Thomas challenges the legality of Minnesota's conditional-release and registration statutes. (See, Compl., [Docket No. 10], at 1). Thomas contends that various Defendants (1) “[t]hreatened, intimidated or coerced [him] to enter MSOP subject to violation of conditional release”; (2) “imposed upon [him] a conditional release term [for] which . . . [he] was never indicted under the proper statute”; and (3) “unreasonably direct[ed] . . . Minnesota Department of Human Services employees to inform [Thomas's] supervising agent of noncompliance with the terms of conditional release, ” with the result of such a report being a revocation of conditional release. (Id. at 5). Thomas asserts that this alleged conduct violates his federal constitutional rights, as well as, the “Bane Act.” (See, Id. at 5, 34-35). Thomas also suggests that various provisions of the registration statute are themselves unconstitutional, at least in part due to their allegedly retributive character. (See, Id. at 23-25).

         Thomas did not pay the filing fee for this matter, but instead applied for in forma pauperis (hereinafter “IFP”) status. (See, e.g., IFP Appl. [Docket No. 11]).[2] Thomas's IFP Applications are now before the Court, and they must be considered before any other action may be taken in this matter.

         After review, this Court concludes that Thomas qualifies financially for IFP status. However, an IFP application will be denied, and an action dismissed, when an IFP applicant has filed a complaint that fails to state a cause of action on which relief may be granted. See, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Atkinson v. Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1128 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam); Carter v. Schafer, 273 Fed.Appx. 581, 582 (8th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (“[C]ontrary to plaintiffs' arguments on appeal, the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) apply to all persons proceeding IFP and are not limited to prisoner suits, and the provisions allow dismissal without service.”).

         In reviewing whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, a court accepts the complaint's factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See, Aten v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 511 F.3d 818, 820 (8th Cir. 2008). Although the complaint's 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). The complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. In assessing the complaint's sufficiency, the court may disregard legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. See, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 ...

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