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Hansen v. Reich

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

October 10, 2017

Angela Hansen, Plaintiff,
v.
David E. Reich, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE 1915(E)(2) SCREENING AND ORDER STAYING FURTHER ACTION PENDING CONSIDERATION OF THIS REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHARLES S. MILLER, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Angela Hansen (“Hansen”), acting pro se, initiated this action on March 31, 2017, against individuals working in the North Dakota state courts and law enforcement, ranging from justices on the North Dakota Supreme Court to state district court judges to North Dakota attorneys and to North Dakota state court administrative staff, amongst others. (Doc. Nos. 1, 10, 11). What follows is the undersigned's review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action stems from various state court actions involving the divorce of Hansen and defendant Shannon Dieterle. The North Dakota Supreme Court outlined the circumstances giving rise to this action in Dieterle v. Dieterle, 2016 ND 36, 875 N.W.2d 479 and Dieterle v. Dieterle, 2013 ND 71, 830 N.W.2d 571. Generally, the state district court divided the marital assets, awarded Hansen temporary spousal support, and awarded Shannon Dieterle custody of the couple's daughter. The state district court subsequently held Hansen in contempt of court for failing to abide by its orders. On the two appeals, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the division of marital property, the spousal support award, the custody determination, and the finding of contempt.

         Following closure of the state court proceedings, Hansen initiated this action on March 31, 2017. (Doc. No. 1).[1] Before any of the defendants answered, Hansen filed a First Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 10) and a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 11). In the Second Amended Complaint, Hansen alleges the defendants, both individually and in concert, violated constitutional, federal, and state law in various state court proceedings. Hansen alleges these violations resulted in deprivation of her property, both personal and real, and her parental rights. Hansen's Second Amended Complaint contains fourteen claims arising under federal and state law for: (1) violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c); (2) conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c); (3) fraud; (4) kidnaping under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-18 and hostage taking under 18 U.S.C. § 1203; (5) trespass to chattels; (6) unjust enrichment; (7) civil conspiracy; (8) violations of North Dakota Canons of Judicial Conduct; (9) declaratory judgment; (10) fraudulent conversion; (11) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (12) violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985; (13) breach of fiduciary duty; and (14) aiding and abetting. In her prayer for relief, Hansen seeks monetary damages, a declaration that the various state court judgments are invalid, an injunction against enforcement of the state court judgments, and other miscellaneous relief.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Notwithstanding any paid filing fee, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) provides “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” This § 1915(e)(2) screening, and the authority to dismiss claims arising thereunder, includes non-prisoner pro se complaints. Key v. Does, 217 F.Supp.3d 1006, 1007 (W.D. Ark. 2016). With regard to frivolousness under § 1915(e)(2)(i), “the Supreme Court explained that an action is frivolous if ‘it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.'” Aziz v. Burrows, 976 F.2d 1158, 1159 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989)). “An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right.” Williamson v. Corizon, Inc., No. 1:15CV220, 2016 WL 5933982 at *1 (E.D. Mo. October 12, 2016). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-84 (2009) (“Iqbal”).

         In applying § 1915(e)(2), the court must give the pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. See, e.g., Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 402 (2008); Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (“When we say that a pro se complaint should be given liberal construction, we mean that if the essence of an allegation is discernible . . . then the district court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). This does not mean, however, that the pro se litigant is excused from satisfying the plausibility standard established in Twombly and further amplified by the Supreme Court in Iqbal. See Story v. Foote, 782 F.3d 968, 969 (8th Cir. 2015).

         A. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 failure

         As an initial matter, Hansen's Second Amended Complaint does not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1) (emphasis added). The purpose of this short and plain statement is to provide defendants with “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545.

         Hansen's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 11) is a 169-page document containing nearly 50, 000 words and over a thousand paragraphs, all of which set forth fourteen causes of action ranging from RICO violations to kidnaping to fraudulent conversion. The shotgun style of Hansen's complaint does not provide the defendants with fair notice of the nature of Hansen's claim. All fourteen of the claims include language realleging and incorporating the thousand-plus preceding paragraphs as to all of the defendants, save claims four, eight, and thirteen exempting certain defendants. Through this pleading, it is virtually impossible to know which allegations are intended to support which claims, let alone how those allegations relate to the individual defendants included within those claims. Many of the allegations, the vast majority of which are nothing more than unsubstantiated legal conclusions, have little to do with the specifics of a given claim, leaving the court and the litigants to sift through the thousand-plus paragraphs and guess which are material to a particular claim. This is not in keeping with the purposes behind Fed.R.Civ.P. 8.

         B. Hansen fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted

         More fundamentally, Hansen's claims are also patently baseless - if not outright frivolous. At their core, Hansen's claims allege the defendants committed unlawful acts by: (1) advocating a position adverse to Hansen in the state court proceedings; (2) making a decision adverse to Hansen in the state court proceedings; (3) enforcing a decision adverse to Hansen stemming from the state court proceedings; and/or (4) failing to heed Hansen's demands regarding the state court proceedings. Setting aside the immunity enjoyed by the vast majority of the defendants, [2] these are not sufficient bases for civil liability under any reasonable legal theory. Although Hansen countless times alleges the defendants acted in cahoots so as to constitute racketeering and fraud, alleging these conclusions over and over does not make them so when there is no factual or legal basis. The same can be said with the countless other allegations of wrongdoing contained within Hansen's pleadings.

         In addition, Hansen lacks standing for the claims in which she seeks to enforce criminal statutes and ethics codes, as is the case in claims four, seven, eight, thirteen, and fourteen. See, e.g., Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973) (“a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another”); Parkhurst v. Tabor, 569 F.3d 861, 865-67 (8th Cir.2009) (crime victims lack standing to compel a criminal prosecution); Jones v. Clinton, 206 F.3d 811, 812 (8th Cir. 2000) (a private party lacks standing to prosecute an action for criminal contempt); Smith v. Shaw, No. 5:09-01001, 2012 WL 1832340, at * ...


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