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Widtfeldt v. City of Atkinson

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

July 24, 2018

JAMES WIDTFELDT, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ATKINSON, KEN COUNTS, City Council; STUART DOCKTER, City Council; RON KRYSL, City Council; GARY A. LECH, City Council; JERRY OSBORNE, City Council; LEO SEGER, City Council; PAUL CORKLE, Mayor; THOMAS HERZOG, FORREST PEETZ, ALAN BRODBECK, NEBRASKA BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS, WAYNE BRAUN, TIM BRAUN, TIMOTHY LARBY, JANET KROTTER CHVALA, ANDREW HOFFMAN, JEFFREY GAYLEN, STEVEN A. BREWSTER, ASHLEY D. BOETTCHER, LEO SEGER, MIKE FREDERICK, PAUL CORKLE, NEBRASKA DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE, NEBRASKA DEPARTMENT GOVERNING FUNERAL HOMES, SHANNON CORKLE OLBERDING, SHANNON CORKLE, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp, Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 12, filed by Defendant United States of America; the Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 15, filed by Defendants Mike Fredrick[1] d/b/a State Farm Insurance, Shannon Corkle Olberding, and Shannon Corkle d/b/a Corkledings; the Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 17, filed by Defendants City of Atkinson, Ken Counts, Stuart Dockter, Ron Krysl, Gary A. Lech, Jerry Osborne, Leo Seger, Paul Corkle, Thomas Herzog, Alan Brodbeck, Wayne Braun, Tim Braun, Timothy Larby, Janet Krotter Chvala, Andrew Hoffman, Jeffrey Galyen, Steven A. Brewster, Leo Seger d/b/a Seger Funeral Home, and Paul Corkle, d/b/a Crop Insurance Sales; the “Objection to Judge [Smith] Camp, ”[2] ECF No. 19, filed by Plaintiff James Widtfeldt; and the Motion to Strike, ECF No. 20, filed by Defendant United States of America. For the reasons stated below, the motions to dismiss will be granted, the motions to recuse and to strike will be denied, and the Amended Complaint will be dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         Widtfeldt filed this action in the District Court for Holt County, Nebraska. His Amended Complaint alleged a far-reaching conspiracy against him, involving the United States Postal Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Atkinson City Council, and the Seger Funeral Home of Atkinson, Nebraska, among others. Widtfleft alleged that various defendants withheld his mail, wrongfully cited him for housing code violations, interfered with his efforts to cure Lyme disease, and murdered his tenants. Widtfeldt named that United States Postal Service, and its employee, Jon Sindelar, as defendants “due to theft or diversion of a Widtfeldt certified mail from Judge Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia in January . . . .” Amend. Compl. ¶ 15, ECF No. 1-1, Page ID 14. Sindelar removed to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d)(2), [3] on the basis of Widfelt's certified mail allegation.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Corrado v. Life Inv'rs Ins. Co. of Am., 804 F.3d 915, 917 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 2941 (2015). The complaint's factual allegations must be “sufficient to ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” McDonough v. Anoka Cty., 799 F.3d 931, 946 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must accept factual allegations as true, but it is not required to accept any “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 373 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Thus, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ash v. Anderson Merchandisers, LLC, 799 F.3d 957, 960 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 804 (2016).

         On a motion to dismiss, courts must rule “on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true, ” and “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Mickelson v. Cty. of Ramsey, 823 F.3d 918, 923 (8th Cir. 2016) (alternation in original) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to Recuse, ECF No. 19, and Motion to Strike, ECF No. 20.

         Widtfeldt filed an “Objection to Judge Camp, ” ECF No. 19, in which he “object[ed] to appointment of Judge Camp in this matter for the reason of seeming indifferen[t] in a previously filed case . . . involving break ins by the City of Atkinson.” The Court interprets the objection as a motion for recusal. Widtfeldt appears to argue that recusal is warranted because of prior rulings by the undersigned judge in other cases to which Widtfeldt was a party. Because “judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion, ” Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994) (citing United States v. Grinnell Corp., 384 U.S. 563, 583 (1966)), Widtfeldt's motion will be denied, and the United States' motion to strike, ECF No. 20, will be denied, as moot.

         II. Motions to Dismiss

         A. Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 12

         Defendant United States seeks dismissal on the basis that it has not waived its sovereign immunity. In his Amended Complaint, Widtfeldt alleges:

The U.S. Post Office is being added as a defendant and Jon Sindelar of the O'Neill and Atkinson offices, due to theft or diversion of a Widtfeldt certified mail from Judge Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia in January, and probably many hundreds of certified mailings before that, probably being forwarded to Janet Krotter Chvala ...

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