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Branson v. Moser

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 22, 2019

Terry Lee Branson, Plaintiff,
v.
Kevin D. Moser, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HON. LEO I. BRISBOIS, U.S. 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. 76]. The Court took Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 76], under advisement upon the parties' written submissions. (Order [Docket No. 85]).

         For the reasons discussed herein, the undersigned recommends that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 76], be GRANTED.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff Terry Lee Branson, (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), is currently civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (hereinafter “MSOP”). (Amended Compl. [Docket No. 53]). Plaintiff brings the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging generally that Defendants Emily Piper, Nancy Johnson, Kevin D. Moser, Peter D. Puffer, Terry K. Kneisel, Kathryn E. Lockie, Dr. Crystal Leal, Brian S. Ninneman, Courtney Jo Menten, Nicole Vaineo, Michael McEachran Jr., Kent Johansen, Deborah E. Becker, Jamie R. Houk, and Paul Mayfield violated his constitutional rights while he has been committed to the MSOP on the basis of the following factual allegations.

         On February 4, 2016, and May 17, 2016, Defendant Johansen placed into Plaintiff's medical file “treatment notes” regarding Plaintiff's ineligibility to order meals from vendors outside the MSOP. (Id. at 38). These treatment notes provided that Plaintiff was ineligible to participate in ordering food from vendors outside the MSOP facility due to Plaintiff's failure to actively participate in treatment which thereby prevented Plaintiff from reaching the appropriate tier level required pursuant to the MSOP Outside Orders Policy. (Id. at 10-11, 38).[2] On September 8, 2016, Defendant Menton placed a similar treatment note into Plaintiff's medical file, and on October 28, 2016, Defendant Vaineo placed another similar treatment note into Plaintiff's medical file. (Id. at 38).

         On May 19, 2016, Plaintiff inquired as to the reasons the treatment notes were placed in his medical file. (Id. at 38). In response to Plaintiff's inquiry, Defendant Ninneman informed Plaintiff that “[p]olicy was followed-You should have received a MSOP Treatment Memo outlining which of the expectations you did not meet per policy.” (Id.). On May 31, 2016, Plaintiff sent a follow-up inquiry[3] to which Defendant Menten responded that “Policy 420-5015[4] section A2 spells out the qualifications for individuals who met the criteria for quarterly meal. I'd encourage you to speak directly with those individuals if you wish to see how they met those goals. I will not address other clients [sic] treatment involvement, as it would violate their privacy. Thanks.” (Id. at 39).

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Leal, Ninneman, Menten, Vaineo, Johansen, McEachran, Becker, Houk, and Mayfield constitute Plaintiff's “treatment team.” (Id. at 13-14). Plaintiff further alleges that this “treatment team” is the team of persons who decided that he was ineligible to participate in ordering meals from vendors outside the MSOP facility. (Id. at 13-14, 41).

         Plaintiff refers collectively to Defendants Piper, Johnston, Moser, Puffer, Kneisel, and Lockie as the Administration. (Id. at 14). Plaintiff alleges that each member of the Administration has “either participated in the creation and/or application of MSOP Policy, Outside Order, No. 420-5015.” (Id. at 14). As already noted, it is this Outside Orders Policy which prevents Tier 1 and Tier 2 MSOP client's from being eligible to participate in ordering food from vendors outside the MSOP facility. (Id. at 14, 41; MSOP Outside Orders Policy [Docket No. 80-1]).

         Plaintiff maintains five Causes of Action asserting that, through the implementation and application of the Outside Orders Policy, Defendants “in their individual and official capacities” have violated Plaintiff's Thirteenth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights as secured by the United States Constitution, as well as, Plaintiff's right to equal protection under the laws as secured by the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. (See, Amended Compl. [Docket No. 53]). As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, as well as, injunctive and declaratory relief. (Id. at 55-58).

         Although Plaintiff attempts to place different descriptive labels on his various purported Causes of Actions, he in fact bases them all on factual allegations solely related to the Defendants' alleged failure to allow Plaintiff to order food from vendors outside the MSOP facility. (See, Id.).

         II. Standard of Review

          Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998). “The requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States and is inflexible and without exception.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). To invoke federal question jurisdiction, a plaintiff must plead facts supporting a cause of action arising under federal law or the United States Constitution. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A complaint states a federal cause of action when it appears on the face of a well-pleaded complaint. See gen., Oglala Sioux Tribe v. C&W Enterp., Inc., 487 F.3d 1129, 1131 (8th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).

         “A court does not obtain subject-matter jurisdiction just because a plaintiff” purports to raise “a federal question in his or her complaint. If the asserted basis of federal jurisdiction is patently meritless, then dismissal for lack of jurisdiction is appropriate.” Biscanin v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 407 F.3d 905, 907 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted) (citing Hagans v. Lavin, 415 U.S. 528, 537-38 (1974)). In other words, merely because a plaintiff states in the complaint that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction does not make it so. See, Id. It is the burden of the party asserting jurisdiction to prove that jurisdiction exists. VS Ltd. P'ship. v. Department of Hous. & Urban Dev., 235 F.3d 1109, 112 (8th Cir. 2000). And a ...


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