United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MARVIN MUNT, PRO SE.
E. BELL-MUNGER, FOR DEFENDANTS.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Joel Marvin
Munt's Objections [Doc. No. 50] to the Report and
Recommendation (“R&R” [Doc. No. 48]) of
Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau dated June 13, 2019. In the
R&R, the magistrate judge recommended: (1) granting
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 24]; (2) granting
Defendant Hammer's Motion to Dismiss or Amend the Caption
[Doc. No. 32]; (3) denying Plaintiff's Request for a Stay
[Doc. No. 42]; and (4) dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint
[Doc. No.1] with prejudice. (See R&R at 14-15.)
For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules
Plaintiff's Objections in part, sustains them in part,
and adopts the R&R.
2018, Plaintiff Joel Marvin Munt filed this action pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, who is serving a life
sentence for the first-degree murder of his ex-wife, alleges
that Defendants, who are officers and employees of the
Minnesota Department of Corrections (“DOC”),
retaliated against him for exercising his constitutional
right of access to the courts.
Related Cases and Filings
facts of this case are related to a state court petition for
a writ of habeas corpus filed by Munt, see Munt v.
Miles, No. A18-0740, 2018 WL 6165501, at *1
(Minn.Ct.App. Nov. 26, 2018), review denied, (Minn.
Feb. 19, 2019), and to the facts and claims in another
federal lawsuit, Munt v. Roy, 17-cv-5215
(SRN/SER). Munt refers to both of these matters
in the Complaint in the instant case. (See Compl.
[Doc. No. 1] at 8-13, ¶¶ 1, 10, 13 n.7, 18 n. 12,
19, 24 n. 18.)
state court habeas petition arose from events that began in
November 2017. At that time, Munt gave a corrections officer
at MCF-Stillwater a 19-page love letter. Munt, 2018
WL 6165501, at *1. The officer filed an incident report and
turned the letter over to prison authorities, who charged
Munt with violating several prison regulations. Id.
After he admitted to violating DOC rules against
abuse/harassment and disorderly conduct, Munt served ten days
in segregation as a sanction. Id. Afterwards, Munt
sought to challenge this discipline via a habeas petition.
Id. The state district court dismissed Munt's
habeas petition with prejudice, finding it “frivolous
or malicious, ” with “no arguable basis in law or
in fact.” Id. The Minnesota Court of Appeals
agreed, finding Munt's claims were moot and meritless,
id., and, in February 2019, the Minnesota Supreme
Court denied review. Id.
related federal lawsuit, Munt v. Roy, Plaintiff
asserted § 1983 claims alleging the general denial of
access to the courts and legal resources. See Munt v.
Roy, 17-cv-5215 (SRN/SER), 2019 WL 157289, at *1 (D.
Minn. Jan. 10, 2019). In January 2019, this Court dismissed
the suit, finding that Munt failed to state a claim under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and failed to sufficiently demonstrate
the personal involvement of certain defendants, who were also
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and qualified
immunity. Id. at *2-7. Plaintiff's Complaint in
the instant action expressly refers to several filings in the
Munt v. Roy matter. (See, e.g., Compl.
¶¶ 13 n.7, 18 n.12, 19 n.13.) Among the documents
Munt references are the Affidavit of Susan Norton, Munt
v. Roy, 17-cv-5215 (SRN/SER) [Doc. No. 51], and the
Affidavit of Lisa Cox, id. [Doc. No.
52]. (Compl. ¶¶ 13 n.7, 18 n.12.)
affidavit, Ms. Norton states that in March 2018, Munt
requested indigent offender copies of an affidavit (herein
after, “the Affidavit”) that he had written and
which he planned to submit in his state court habeas action.
(Norton Aff. ¶ 5.) Per the DOC's Indigent Offender
Policy,  Norton first reviewed the document.
(Id.) She determined that in the Affidavit, Munt
expressed his fixation with, and romantic feelings for, the
same corrections officer to whom he had written the November
2017 letter. (Id.) Norton states that DOC policy
provides for the confiscation of contraband, which includes
any items deemed to present a risk to security, and the DOC
deems romantic relationships between offenders and officers a
security threat. (Id. ¶ 6.) Norton acknowledges
that she confiscated the Affidavit as contraband, wrote an
incident report, and logged the writing into evidence.
(Id.) As a result of this incident, Norton states
that the DOC transferred Munt to Minnesota Correctional
Facility (“MCF”)-Oak Park Heights. (Id.
also asserts that Munt sent several “kites”
(i.e., inmates' written requests) to her and other
MCF-Stillwater staff regarding the confiscation of the
Affidavit, transfer, and loss of items of personal property.
(Id. ¶ 8.) Norton states that MCF-Stillwater
Warden Eddie Miles responded to Munt's kite about the
confiscation of the Affidavit, explaining that the document
demonstrated a security risk to the officer and was properly
confiscated under the DOC's Contraband Policy.
(Id. ¶ 9.)
Munt's personal property, Norton states that Associate
MCF-Stillwater Warden Victor Wanchena informed Munt that the
prison's Property Department staff packed his belongings
pursuant to the DOC's Property Policy. (Id.
¶ 10.) Further, Associate Warden Wanchena told Munt that
a bin containing his legal materials was sent to MCF-Oak Park
Heights, and he directed Munt to the disposition form that
Munt had received about his property. (Id.) Warden
Miles also responded to Munt, reiterating Associate Warden
Wanchena's points, and informing him that offenders are
not permitted to pack their own belongings. (Id.)
Norton attached exhibits to her affidavit, including the
incident report, some of Munt's kites, Defendants'
responses to kites, and prison policies. (See
generally, Norton Aff. Exs. 1-5).) The kites and
Defendants' responses to them concern the confiscation of
the Affidavit, the Indigent Offender Policy, Munt's
transfer, and the packing of his belongings prior to
transfer. (See id.)
noted, the Complaint also refers to the Cox Affidavit.
(Compl. ¶ 18 n.12.) Ms. Cox is a correctional officer in
MCF-Stillwater's Property Department. (Cox Aff. ¶
1.) She states that Property Department staff inspect and
process all incoming and outgoing offender property.
(Id. ¶ 4.) With respect to the property of an
inmate who is pending transfer, staff inventory the
inmate's property, consistent with DOC Policy 302.250,
entitled “Offender Property.” (Id. at
¶¶ 4-5.) The DOC places a two-storage-bin limit on
the quantity of offenders' personal property.
(Id. ¶ 6.) Cox inventoried Munt's property
bins on March 9, 2018, and completed a Property Disposition
Form, (id. ¶ 5), which she attached to her
affidavit. (Cox Aff., Ex. 1 [Doc. No. 52-1] (Property
Disposition Form).) The Property Disposition Form lists
“misc. papers” among the items removed.
(Id.) Ms. Cox attests that documents marked as legal
documents were put in a separate bin and sent to MCF-Oak Park
Heights. (Cox Aff. ¶ 6.) Munt's miscellaneous
papers, which included letters, cards, and calendars,
apparently exceeded the two-bin property limit.
(Id., Ex. 1 (Property Disposition Form).) Staff
shipped them to one of Munt's family members whom he had
designated to receive them. (Id.)
contends that Defendants at MCF-Stillwater placed him in
segregation and transferred him to a different prison
“in retaliation for my affidavit.” (Compl. at 15,
¶¶ 30- 31.) Consistent with the Norton Affidavit,
Munt alleges that after he requested a copy of the Affidavit
in late February 2018, (id. at 8, ¶ 1), DOC
Paralegal Susan Norton and MCF-Stillwater Associate Warden
Wanchena reviewed the document. (Id. at 9-11,
¶¶ 4, 13.) Based on Ms. Norton's review, Munt
acknowledges that she wrote an incident report on March 1,
2018, recommending Plaintiff's detention. (Id.)
Munt was placed in segregation later that day. (Id.
at 9, ¶ 7.) Munt alleges that in a related case,
Munt v. Roy, 17-cv-5215 (SRN/SER), the DOC has
“admitted” that it confiscated the Affidavit,
placed him in segregation, and transferred him because of the
Affidavit. (Id. at 12, ¶ 19.)
further contends that while in segregation, Defendants failed
to process and respond to various kites that he filed with
respect to his placement in segregation. (Id. at 11,
¶¶ 14-16.) He also alleges that Defendants impeded
his access to the courts by restricting and/or depriving his
access to legal resources and papers while he was in
segregation. (Id. at 15, ¶ 32.) In connection
with his prison transfer, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants
“very loosely” packed his belongings and
intentionally removed certain items, which he describes as
“everything I needed to meaningfully continue pursuing
my cases.” (Id. at 16, ¶ 34.)
suit, Munt seeks injunctive relief, including the return of
the Affidavit and all of his paperwork, declaratory relief,
and compensatory damages. (Id., Prayer for Relief at
on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in the R&R,
Magistrate Judge Rau found that Munt's retaliation claims
fail because he does not plausibly allege that Defendants
took adverse actions against him purely out of a retaliatory
motive. (R&R at 6-8.) He further found that Munt fails to
plausibly allege a separate claim for denial of access to
courts, as he does not allege any actual injury resulting
from restricted access to legal materials, the confiscated
Affidavit, or lost legal materials. (Id. at 8-9.)
addition, Magistrate Judge Rau found that Munt fails to
allege that Defendant Roy, the former Commissioner of the
DOC, was personally involved in any of the alleged
constitutional violations. (Id. at 10-11.) He also
found that because Munt fails to allege constitutional
violations, Defendants are either entitled to qualified
immunity, or Munt's pleading deficiencies deprive the
Court of the ability to fully analyze the question of
qualified immunity. (Id. at 11.)
while Munt broadly refers to state law claims, stating,
“The court also has supplemental jurisdiction over the
state claims under 28 U.S.C. section 1367, ” (Compl. at
4), Magistrate Judge Rau found that he fails to specify any
such claims. (R&R at 12.) Because the magistrate judge
recommended the dismissal of all federal claims over which
the Court has original jurisdiction, he also recommended that
the Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
any state law claims. (Id. at 12) (citing 28 U.S.C.
magistrate judge also found that Eleventh Amendment immunity
bars any claims for compensatory damages against Defendants
in their official capacities, (id. at 12), and
claims for injunctive relief against Defendants in their
individual capacities. (Id. at 12-13.)
addition to addressing Defendants' collective motion to
dismiss, the magistrate judge also considered Defendant
Hammer's Motion to Dismiss or Amend the Caption.
(Id. at 13.) Magistrate Judge Rau noted that Munt
himself agrees that the addition of Hammer to the Complaint
was a typographical error and that he should be dismissed
from the lawsuit. (Id.)
Magistrate Judge Rau denied Munt's motion to stay the
proceedings pending an appeal. (Id. at 13-14.) He
found that, on balance, the equities favor the denial of a
because the magistrate judge concluded that Munt fails to
state a claim, he recommended that Defendants' motion be
granted and the case be dismissed with prejudice.
(Id. at 14-15.)
objects to nearly all aspects of the R&R. He presents
several procedural arguments, asserting that the magistrate
judge applied the wrong standard of review, considered
materials outside the pleadings, and improperly favored
Defendants' arguments concerning the Affidavit. (Objs. at
1, 3, 5.) Similarly, Munt argues, Magistrate Judge Rau erred
by deciding issues of disputed fact, (id. at 5,
9-10), and “muddied the waters” by considering
matters only relevant to other suits filed by Munt.
(Id. at 3-4.)
also presents an array of factual and legal arguments. He
asserts that the magistrate judge misconstrued his Complaint
to assert a stand-alone access-to-courts claim. (Id.
at 2, 12.) He states, “No such claim was raised, though
Plaintiff stated he intended to amend [the Complaint] to
include such a claim.” (Id. at 12.) Rather,
Munt argues, the allegations in question simply support his
claims of retaliation, (id. at 12-14), and the
magistrate judge thus failed to consider, as retaliatory
acts, his lack of legal resources and access in segregation
and loss of legal papers during his transfer. (Id.
at 2.) In spite of this clarification, Munt nevertheless
challenges the magistrate judge's finding on a
stand-alone access-to-courts claim that he suffered no harm.
(Id. at 12-13.)
his retaliation claim, Munt disputes the magistrate
judge's finding that he fails to sufficiently allege a
retaliatory motive, arguing that “at no time did
Defendants present anything to indicate any of the adverse
actions would have occurred ‘but for' the protected
conduct.” (Id. at 8.) In support of his
argument that he sufficiently alleges Defendants'
retaliatory motive, Munt asks the Court to make certain
inferences and points to particular allegations. For
instance, he argues that he is entitled to an adverse
inference of improper motive based on Defendants' alleged
destruction of his Affidavit. (Id. at 5.) Also, Munt
argues that in connection with the Affidavit, Defendants did
not charge him with breaking any current rule. (Id.
at 10-11.) The lack of any charges, he contends, supports an
inference that Defendants retaliated against him based on his
challenge to past discipline. (Id.) Similarly, he
states that the alleged retaliatory acts occurred in close
temporal proximity to the seizure of the Affidavit,
suggesting that his effort to access the court supports a
finding of an improper but-for motive for Defendants'
actions. (Id. at 7-8.) In addition, he faults the
magistrate judge for failing to acknowledge a purported
statement from Warden Miles that in the future, Defendants
would respond in the same manner if Munt “file[d]
something that [staff] didn't like, ” (id.
at 7), and for finding that the Affidavit was contraband.
(Id. at 8-9.) Furthermore, he argues that by writing
the Affidavit, he was not engaging in repetitive, violative
conduct, but was merely attempting to appeal the discipline
resulting from the seizure of the first letter. (Id.
at 6-8, 10.)
also objects to the magistrate judge's rulings regarding:
(1) Commissioner Roy's lack of personal involvement,
(id. at 15); (2) qualified immunity, (id.
at 16-17); (3) whether he brings claims against Defendants in
both their individual and official capacities, (id.
at 17); (4) the viability of his state law claim,
(id. ); (5) denial of a stay, (id. at
17-20); and (6) the failure to explain the recommendation for
dismissal with prejudice. (Id. at 20.)
district court must conduct a de novo review of a magistrate
judge's report and recommendation on dispositive motions
to which specific objections have ...