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Staska v. Stecker

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 12, 2019

JACOB F. STASKA and JODIE M. FALLON, Plaintiffs,
v.
JAMES C. STECKER, STEVEN TWOHIG, ANDREW LANGE, DEMETRIA W. HERMAN, MARY C. GILBRIDE, L. JAY MORROW, GERALD D. JOHNSON, PATRICIA L. STARR, VILLAGE OF MEAD, GREG LARSON, SAUNDERS COUNTY, CITY OF WAHOO, BROMM, FREEMAN-CADDY & LAUSTERER LAW FIRM, MAUREEN FREEMAN-CADDY, SAUNDERS COUNTY REC'S OFFICE, RHONDA ANDRESEN, MARK STEELE, DARREN L. HARTMAN, JOHN H. SOHL, SAUNDERS COUNTY CORRECTIONS, KEVIN STUKENHOLTZ, UNKNOWN SAUNDERS COUNTY DEPUTY SHERIFFS, PATRICK R. MCDERMOTT, KENNETH JACKSON, CURRENT ACTING CHIEF OF POLICE, UNKNOWN WAHOO POLICE OFFICERS, LOREN LINDAHL, PATTY MCEVOY, DEBBIE L. SLADKY, ANNE TWEEDY, LINDA LITTLE, UNKNOWN DEFENDANTS, DOES 1-50, NEBRASKA LAND TITLE AND ABSTRACT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOSEPH F. BATAILLON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the defendants' respective motions to dismiss, Filing Nos. 18, 20, 24, 27, 29, and 44. Plaintiffs Jacob F. Staska and Jodie M. Fallon filed a complaint in United States District Court for the District of Nebraska on August 28, 2018, for violation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and sought both declaratory and injunctive relief. Filing No. 1, complaint at 1. The plaintiffs' motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis were granted on August 29, 2018. Filing Nos. 6 and 7.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The fifty-page complaint, which identifies an excess of thirty defendants, asserts federal civil rights claims against various private individuals and public servants. The complaint is at times difficult to discern. It appears that Plaintiffs attempt to sue, essentially, every agency and individual they encountered vis-à-vis their collective experiences as litigants in the civil and criminal court systems in Saunders County, Nebraska, and the proximate area. Plaintiffs allege that the defendants committed acts “under color of law conspiring in their individual and official capacities with private actors in an agreement which deprived Plaintiffs of rights secured under the United States Constitution.” Filing No. 1 at 2.

         Plaintiffs' complaint pursues ten federal Constitutional claims, which are characterized as “counts” and delineated as separate headings: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983: False Imprisonment; (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel; (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3): Conspiracy to Deprive Constitutional Rights; (4) 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Conspiracy to Deprive Constitutional Rights; (5) 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Denial of Access to the Courts; (6) Violation of Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clauses; (7) Violation of Substantive Due Process Rights; (8) § 1985: Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights [Private Individual Defendants and Saunders County Municipalities, Agencies, and Saunders County Courthouse Employees]; (9) 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Malicious Prosecution; and (10) 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Private Party to § 1983 Suits. See Filing No. 1 at 41-49.

         This case involves six motions to dismiss. Defendant James C. Stecker moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Filing No. 18. Defendants the County of Saunders, Nebraska, Steven Twohig, Andrew Lange, Demetria W. Herman, L. Jay Morrow, Kevin Stukenholz, Rhonda Andresen, John Sohl, Patty McEvoy, and Debbie Sladky (collectively, “County Defendants”) moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), 10(b), 12(b)(1) and (6). Filing No. 20. Defendant Mark A. Steele moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (6). Filing No. 24. Defendant Gerald D. Johnson moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), 10(b), 12(b)(1) and (6). Filing No. 27. Defendants Nebraska Land Title and Abstract, Anne Tweedy, and Linda Little, moved to dismiss pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Filing No. 29. Lastly, defendant Darren Harman moved to dismiss pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, 10(b), and 12(b)(6). Filing No. 44.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Law

         Under the Federal Rules, 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). Additionally, “a party must state its claims or defenses in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b). Further, while claims for relief must be asserted in responsive pleadings (if required), a party may assert via a motion, inter alia, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (6).

         The rules require a “'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 n.3 (2007) (quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds for his entitlement to relief necessitates that the complaint contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         The factual allegations of a complaint are assumed true and construed in favor of the plaintiff, “even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbably and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Id. at 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232 236 (1974)). “[O]n the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact), ” the allegations in the complaint must “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555-556. In other words, the complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 547. “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (stating that the plausibility standard does not require a probability but asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully).

         Twombly is based on the principles that (1) the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions; and (2) only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678-679. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a “context-specific task” that requires the court “to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Accordingly, under Twombly, a court considering a motion to dismiss may begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to assumption of truth. Id. Although legal conclusions “can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id.

         Thus, the court must find “enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” that “discovery will reveal evidence” of the elements of the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Dura Pharms., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005) (explaining that something beyond a faint hope that the discovery process might lead eventually to some plausible cause of action must be alleged). When the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Relief is not available against an official sued in his individual capacity. SeeBrown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1161 n.5 (10th Cir. 2011); see alsoWill v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (stating that a suit against a state official in his official capacity is suit not against the official, but rather against the official's office). Judicial immunity is a judge's immunity from suit and assessment of damages. Mireles v. Waco502 ...


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