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Meyer v. Schroeder

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

August 1, 2018

RENE D. MEYER, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDGE PATRICK SCHROEDER, JUDGE ERIC JOHNSON, MINNEHAHA COUNTY, INC., MINNEHAHA STATE'S ATTORNEY'S OFFICE - AARON MCGOWAN, STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, INC., ATTORNEY GENERAL - MARTY JACKLEY, MINNEHAHA PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE LISA CAPELLUPO, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          KAREN E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Rene D. Meyer, brought suit against defendants alleging various violations of her civil rights, including her right to a jury trial, right to a court appointed attorney, and her rights as a “sovereign citizen.” Docket 1 at 1. The complaint also alleges that defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Id. at 1. Meyer alleges these violations have caused harm to her reputation and impeded her ability to obtain employment opportunities. Defendants move to dismiss under 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Meyer opposes the motions. For the following reasons, defendants' motions to dismiss are granted. Dockets 10, 13, 16.

         BACKGROUND

         Meyer filed a pro se complaint on April 10, 2018, naming defendants, Judge Patrick Schroeder, Judge Eric Johnson, Minnehaha County, Minnehaha State's Attorney's Office, Aaron McGowan, Minnehaha Public Defender's Office, Lisa Capellupo, State of South Dakota, Office of the Attorney General, and Marty Jackley, and alleging various violations of her civil rights and RICO violations. Docket 1 at 1.

         Meyer's allegations stem from an incident that occurred on July 12, 2017, when Meyer was found selling alcohol to someone under the age of 21 in Minnehaha County. Docket 1 at 2. On July 19, 2017, the state charged Meyer, by criminal complaint, with one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor between the ages of 18 and 21 under SDCL § 35-9-1.1. Docket 17 at 1. A violation of SDCL § 35-9-1.1 is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to thirty days imprisonment or a five hundred dollar fine, or both. SDCL § 22-6-2.

         On July 27, 2017, Meyer was appointed a Minnehaha County public defender. Docket 17 at 2. A pre-trial conference was held on August 29, 2017, and a trial was scheduled for September 12, 2017. Id. After several requests for delay from both Meyer and the state, the complaint against Meyer was dismissed under SDCL § 23A-44-2 and the public defender was discharged on March 30, 2018. Id. Meyer paid no penalty and served no jail time. Docket 11 at 2.

         On April 10, 2018, Meyer filed this complaint challenging the state court case even though the charge had been dismissed by the State's Attorney. Docket 17 at 2. Defendants separately move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dockets 10, 13, 16. Plaintiff opposes the motions to dismiss. Docket 19.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Minnehaha County, Minnehaha State's Attorney's Office, Aaron McGowan, Minnehaha Public Defender's Office, Lisa Capellupo

         Minnehaha County defendants move to dismiss Meyer's claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Docket 16. When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court assumes that all facts in the complaint are true and construes any reasonable inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008). The factual content in the complaint must “ ‘allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.' ” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). As a pro se plaintiff, the court applies the pleading standards liberally in favor of the complaint; however, the court “ ‘will not supply additional facts, nor will [it] construct a legal theory for plaintiff that assumes facts that have not been pleaded.' ” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004) (quoting Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989)).

         If the complaint does not contain these bare essentials, dismissal is appropriate. See Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (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.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). Federal pleading rules call for “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), but they do not require dismissal of a complaint for imperfectly stating a claim.

         A. § 1983 Claim

         Because Meyer's non-RICO claims involve allegations of the deprivation of her civil rights, it is fair to construe her claim as a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “Section 1983 creates a species of tort liability for the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.” Manuel v. City of Joliet, 137 S.Ct. 911, 916 (2017) (internal citation omitted). “The essential elements of a constitutional claim under § 1983 are (1) that the defendant acted under the color of state law, and (2) that the alleged wrongful conduct deprived the plaintiff of a constitutionally protected federal right.” L.L. Nelson Enters., Inc. v. Cty. of St. Louis, 773 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Schmidt v. City of Bella Villa, 557 F.3d 564, 571 (8th Cir. 2009)).

         Even assuming that Minnehaha County defendants were acting under color of state law, the complaint fails to allege that Meyer was deprived of any constitutional right. Meyer alleges that she was deprived of her Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. Docket 1 at 1. But the misdemeanor Meyer was charged with is a petty offense under South Dakota law because it carried a maximum penalty of only thirty days imprisonment. See South Dakota v. Auen, 342 N.W.2d 236, 238 (S.D. 1984) (stating that offense carrying maximum prison term six months or less is presumed petty). The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that petty offenses are not subject to the Sixth Amendment jury trial provision. See, e.g., Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 159 (1968). Meyer also contends that she was deprived of her right to counsel. Docket 1 at 1. But the right to counsel is only violated when a criminal defendant is denied counsel and subsequently sentenced to a term of incarceration. United States v. Cavanaugh, 643 F.3d 592, 597 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Scott v. Illinois, 440 U.S. 367, 373-74 (1979)). In this case, and as noted in the complaint, no jail sentence was sought, so Meyer's right to counsel ...


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