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Doe v. Mower County Health and Human Services Office of Child Support

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 15, 2019

John-Henry Doe, Plaintiff,
v.
Mower County Health and Human Services Office of Child Support, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the May 13, 2019 Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Katherine M. Menendez. (Dkt. 35.) The R&R recommends granting Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff John-Henry Doe filed timely objections to the R&R. For the reasons addressed below, the Court overrules Doe's objections, adopts the R&R, and dismisses this action without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brought this case under the pseudonym John-Henry Doe against Mower County Health and Human Services Office of Child Support.[1] Doe alleges that Mower County violated his constitutional rights and fraudulently induced him to make child-support payments. In particular, Doe challenges a statement published on Mower County's website that “[e]very child needs financial and emotional support and every child has the right to support from both parents. Minnesota's child support program benefits children by enforcing parental responsibility for their support.” Doe characterizes this statement as fraudulent. Doe also complains that, because Mower County used a portion of his child-support payments to cover interest and fees, the entire amount of his payments was not distributed to his child. Mower County moved to dismiss Doe's complaint on two grounds: Doe filed under a false name and he failed to state a claim.

         The R&R recommends granting Defendant's motion to dismiss because Doe failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The R&R concludes that Doe has not stated a claim under Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983, a claim for fraud, or any claim related to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Doe filed objections that, when construed liberally, challenge each of the R&R's conclusions.

         ANALYSIS

         After a party files and serves specific written objections to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations, the district court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which an objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); LR 72.2(b)(3). When doing so, the district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3). Because Doe is proceeding pro se, the Court liberally construes his complaint and objections. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         I. Failure to State a Claim

          A complaint must allege sufficient facts such that, when accepted as true, a facially plausible claim to relief is stated. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). If a complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted, dismissal is warranted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When determining whether a complaint states a facially plausible claim, a district court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Blankenship v. USA Truck, Inc., 601 F.3d 852, 853 (8th Cir. 2010). Factual allegations must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). Mere “labels and conclusions” are insufficient, as is a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. at 555. And legal conclusions couched as factual allegations may be disregarded. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Doe's claims asserted against Mower County are addressed in turn.

         A. Civil Rights Violation

         Doe alleges that Mower County violated Doe's constitutional rights by inducing him to pay child support. In response, Mower County contends that Doe's allegations are frivolous and incomprehensible.

         Section 1983 provides, in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a Section 1983 claim against a municipality, a plaintiff must allege that either a municipal policy, an unofficial municipal custom, or the inadequate training of the municipality's employees caused a constitutional injury. See City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989) (training); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (policy or custom); see also Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403-04 (1997). Even if a plaintiff is not privy to the facts necessary to describe with specificity the municipal custom, the complaint must ...


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