United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
RENE D. MEYER, Plaintiff,
JUDGE CRAIG A. PFEIFLE, JUDGE MATTHEW M. BROWN, JUDGE HEIDI LINNGREN, CITY OF RAPID CITY, PENNINGTON COUNTY, PENNINGTON COUNTY STATES ATTORNEYS OFFICE, MARK VARGO, STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, ATTORNEY GENERAL, JASON RAVNSBORG, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS, DENYING MOTION FOR
SANCTIONS, DENYING MOTION FOR ORAL ARGUMENTS AND TO CORRECT
DEFECTS, AND DENYING MOTION TO ADD DEFENDANTS
E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Rene D. Meyer, sued defendants alleging various violations of
her civil rights 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) and that the defendants “have
conspired to take away [her] civil rights and are attempting
to jail [her] for a letter.” Id. Meyer alleges
that these violations have caused harm to her reputation and
impeded her ability to obtain employment opportunities.
Id. Defendants move to dismiss under 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dockets 13,
16, 18, and 20. Meyer opposes the motions. Docket 24.
Following each defendant moving to dismiss, Meyer made a
motion for oral argument and to correct defects in the case
(Docket 37) and a motion to add defendants (Docket 35). For
the following reasons, defendants' motions to dismiss are
granted, and Meyer's motions are denied.
filed this pro se complaint on May 3, 2018, naming
defendants, Judge Craig Pfeifle, Judge Matthew Brown, Judge
Heidi Linngren, the City of Rapid City, Pennington County,
the Pennington County State's Attorney Office, Mark
Vargo, the State of South Dakota, the Office of the Attorney
General, and Marty Jackley, and alleging various violations
of her civil rights and RICO. Docket 1. Jason Ravnsborg, in
his official capacity, was substituted as the named defendant
in lieu of Attorney General Marty Jackley, in his official
capacity. Docket 39.
allegations stem from two criminal proceedings against her
and her divorce proceeding all in the Seventh Judicial
Circuit in Pennington County. Docket 17 at 2. One case is a
pending criminal matter charging Meyer with two counts of
forgery and attempted grand theft that alleges Meyer forged
an invoice and letter from the City of Rapid City.
Id. The other criminal case charged Meyer with
second degree theft and intentional damage to property, but
this case was later dismissed by the prosecutor. Id.
Finally, a judgment and decree of divorce was filed December
20, 2017, in Meyer's divorce proceeding. Id.
Meyer alleges that “[t]he reason all of the defendants
are listed is they all have a part to play in the corruption
of the judicial system to undermine the people and to use
statutes to control the people instead of doing what they are
supposed to do and that is to represent the people and a
system of fairness.” Docket 1 at 9. Meyer states that
the Pennington County States Attorneys Office and Mark Vargo
“are the direct adversary in court and helps represent
the state” and that the defendants “all work
together with the judges to control the outcome of
cases.” Id. Meyer alleges that “[t]he
three judges are listed because both made decisions on the
cases against me and one is pending and on going [sic]. . .
.” Id. Apart from presiding over a case, Meyer
alleges that Judge Linngren “spied on her” at a
luncheon in Rapid City. Id. at 2.
also alleges that an incident occurred on June 25, 2016, when
the Rapid City police department allegedly raided Meyer's
boyfriend's home. Id. at 3. Meyer suggests that
the City of Rapid City “is just covering up their
crimes by bringing felony charges against me.”
Id. at 4. She claims that the State of South Dakota
is “a business and fictional entity.”
Id. at 5. Meyer alleges damages in the amount of $
9, 789, 752 and that all damages are “linked to my
divorce and my ex-husband and all the judges and police he
has used to help him harass me.” Id. at 35-37.
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.' ”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (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. “The
plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. Inferences are construed in favor of the
non-moving party. Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d
1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Braden v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 595 (8th Cir. 2009)).
complaints, “ ‘however inartfully pleaded,'
[are] held to ‘less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.' ” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (quoting Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Civil rights and pro
se complaints must be liberally construed. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted);
Bediako v. Stein Mart, Inc., 354 F.3d 835, 839 (8th
Cir. 2004). Even with this standard, a pro se complaint must
“allege sufficient facts to support the claims
advanced.” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914
(8th Cir. 2004). The court is not required to “supply
additional facts, nor will [it] construct a legal theory . .
. that assumes facts that have not been pleaded.”
Id. (citing Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188,
1197 (10th Cir. 1989)). A complaint “does not need
detailed factual allegations . . . [but] requires 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. “If a plaintiff
cannot make the requisite showing, dismissal is
appropriate.” Abdullah v. Minnesota, 261
Fed.Appx. 926, 927 (8th Cir. 2008); see also Beavers v.
Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985).
Pennington County, Pennington County State's Attorney
Office, and Mark Vargo
County defendants move to dismiss Meyer's claims under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Docket 16. Meyer opposes the motion.
Docket 24. 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.
See Matsushita Elec. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986) (citation omitted).
§ 1983 Claim
alleges that the parties have conspired to take away her
civil rights under “the Constitution, and the State of
South Dakota Constitution.” Docket 1 at 1, 3. Because
Meyer's claims involve allegations of the deprivation of
civil rights, it is fair to construe her claim as a possible
cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at
3. “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 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, 673 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir. 2012)
(citing Schmidt v. City of Bella Villa, 557 F.3d
564, 571 (8th Cir. 2009)).
Supreme Court held in Monell v. Department of Social
Services that while municipalities can be sued under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must show a constitutional right
violation was caused by an official policy or widespread
custom. 436 U.S. 658, 690-95 (1978). “[N]either
municipalities nor government officials may be held liable
for unconstitutional conduct under a theory of respondeat
superior.” Rogers v. King, 885 F.3d 1118,
1122-23 (8th Cir. 2018) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at
691). Thus, a governmental entity is liable under § 1983
“only when the entity itself is a ‘moving
force' behind the violation. That is, the entity's
official ‘policy or custom' must have
‘caused' the constitutional violation . . .
.” Clay v. Conlee, 815 F.2d 1164, 1170 (8th
Cir. 1987). “[I]t is when execution of a
government's policy or custom . . . inflicts the injury
that the government as an entity is responsible under §
1983.” Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.
establish governmental liability under Monell, a
plaintiff must allege facts to support a finding of a
continuing, widespread pattern of unconstitutional conduct,
deliberate indifference or tacit authorization by the
entity's policymaking officials, and injury suffered by
the plaintiff due to this custom. Thelma D. By and
Through Delores A. v. Bd. of Educ. of St. Louis, 934
F.2d 929, 932-33 (8th Cir. 1991) (citing Jane Doe
“A” By and Through Jane Doe “B” v.
Special Sch. Dist. of St. Louis Cty., 901 F.2d 642, 646
(8th Cir. 1990)). This rule “was intended to
distinguish acts of the [governmental entity] from acts of
employees of the [governmental entity], and thereby make
clear that [governmental] liability is limited to action for
which the [governmental entity] is actually
responsible.” Thompson v. Shock, 852 F.3d 786,
793 (8th Cir. 2017) (quoting Pembaur v. City of
Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986)). “At a
minimum, a complaint must allege facts which would support
the existence of an unconstitutional policy or custom.”
Doe v. Sch. Dist. of Norfolk, 340 F.3d 605, 614 (8th
Meyer's complaint fails to allege that Meyer was deprived
of any constitutional right. Aside from the fact that her
three court cases were venued in Pennington County and the
two criminal matters were prosecuted by the Pennington County
State's Attorney Office, Meyer fails to plead any facts
that support a constitutional deprivation by these parties.
Second, Meyer fails to allege any custom or policy of
Pennington County that led to a violation of her
constitutional rights. Pennington County acts through its
county commissioners who do not direct what cases should be
prosecuted by the Pennington County State's Attorney
Office. The county has no policies or customs that would
direct Vargo as the Pennington County State's Attorney as
to what charges should be brought, dismissed, or reduced.
Because Meyer fails to allege a constitutional violation and
fails to allege facts that would support the existence of an
unconstitutional policy or custom, Meyer's complaint
fails to state a claim against Pennington County or the
Pennington County State's Attorney Office.
the complaint does not specifically name the defendant in his
individual capacity, it is presumed he is sued only in his
official capacity.” Artis v. Francis Howell North
Band Booster Ass'n, 161 F.3d 1178, 1182 (8th Cir.
1998). Meyer fails to express in what capacity Vargo is sued.
Thus, he is presumed to be sued in his official capacity.
Prosecutors like Vargo who are sued under § 1983 may be
entitled to either absolute or qualified immunity. Kalina
v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 123-26 (1997). The type of
immunity depends on the function the prosecutor was
performing during the alleged misconduct. Id. at
127. Prosecutors have absolute immunity for actions
“intimately associated with the judicial phase of the
criminal process.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424
U.S. 409, 430 (1976). For example, “[p]rosecutors enjoy
absolute immunity in their review of and decisions to charge
a violation of the law.” Sample v. City of
Woodbury, 836 F.3d 913, 916 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 420-427). For other functions,
like investigative or administrative functions, prosecutors
only have qualified immunity. Buckley v.
Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993).
alleges that “Mark Vargo [sic] in charge of this
office.” Docket 1 at 9. She also alleges that the
Pennington County State's Attorney is “a direct
adversary in court and helps represent the state.”
Id. Although it is hard to decipher what other
allegations apply to Vargo, Meyer's central complaints
concerning her two criminal cases and her divorce case appear
to concern Vargo's actions “intimately associated
with the judicial phase of the criminal process.”
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430. Vargo's decision to
indict is protected by absolute immunity. Buckley,
509 U.S. at 274 n.5. Thus, because any decisions by Vargo in
Meyer's criminal cases were intimately associated with
the judicial process, his actions are protected by absolute
fails to state a § 1983 claim upon which relief can be
granted against Mark Vargo, Pennington County, or the
Pennington County State's Attorney Office.
Conspiracy claims - RICO and § 1983
unclear whether Meyer alleges conspiracy claims against the
defendants under § 1983 and the RICO Act or just the
RICO Act. First, Meyer alleges that the defendants'
“violations fall under the RICO ACT . . . .”
Docket 1 at 3. Meyer alleges that the South Dakota bar
association “violates the RICO ACT, it's a club.
The judge, the states attorney, the attorney general, the
county and state all work together to get convictions and
align against the accused.” Id. at 7. Meyer
also alleges that “its a Kangaroo Court. It is a
violation of [her] Civil Rights and violates the Constitution
and also my rights as a sovereign.” Id. Meyer