Trevino et al v. Schroeder
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 25 Amended and Substituted Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Tyson D Bettin, Brandi Drost, Brad Jacobson, Jeff Roth, Steven Schroeder. Signed by Senior Judge Donald E OBrien on 11/28/2011. (des)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
RAFAEL TREVINO, et. al.,
THOMAS CLAYTON SCHROEDER II,
Memorandum and Opinion Order
On July 12, 2011, Plaintiffs, Rafael and Julia Trevino,
on behalf of themselves and their minor children, A.T. (age
12), D.T. (age 11), and E.T. (age 9), filed a complaint
against Defendants with this Court.
eight causes of action:
The complaint alleges
(1) hate crime under Iowa Code
729A.2, (2) assault, (3) battery, (4) false imprisonment, (5)
malicious prosecution, (6) abuse of process, (7) civil rights
violations, and (8) conspiracy to violate Plaintiffs’ civil
Docket No. 13, 11-13.
Schroeder, Tyson D. Bettin, Brad Jacobson, Brandi Drost, and
Plaintiffs’ claims based on three grounds:
(1) lack of
jurisdiction based on Plaintiffs’ lack of access to U.S.
courts, (2) failure to file a right to sue letter as required
and/or the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), and (3)
failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
Docket Nos. 24 and 25.
FACTS AS ALLEGED IN PLAINTIFFS’ FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
Hidalgo County, Texas” and “are of Mexican origin.” Id. at 2.
All of the Defendants are Caucasian.
In June of 2009,
Rafael Trevino moved to Wall Lake, Iowa, as a migrant farm
worker detasseling corn on local farms. Julia Trevino, Rafael
Trevino’s wife, and their children remained in Texas.
“On the evening of August 3, 2009, Rafael Trevino and
another member of” the detasseling “crew went to a bar called
Doc’s Place . . . played pool, and then returned” to their
apartments, “two blocks away.”
Upon returning home, Mr.
Trevino ate dinner and then “went outside to his back yard to
call his wife . . . .”
Just prior to dialing her number,
“a white pickup truck with a crew cab [sped] into his back
yard and [knocked] over a barbeque grill.”
“One or more
of the Defendants . . . including[,] without limitation Tommy
Schroeder, Steven Schroeder, and Brad Jacobson, exited the
white truck, immediately grabbed Mr. Trevino, and forced him
into the bed of the truck” where Mr. Trevino was forcibly held
face down and driven “to a remote location on the outskirts of
Wall Lake, Iowa.”
Id. at 4-5.
Plaintiffs allege, “[o]n information and belief, the
group of people at the remote location included all or most”
Schroeder, Brad Jacobson, DeRae A. Bettin, Tyson D. Bettin,
Id. at 5.
Brandi Drost, and Jeff Roth.
Once at the remote
location, one or more of the Defendants dragged Mr. Trevino
“repeatedly . . . striking him with their fists and kicking
While the beating was ongoing, “[s]ome members of
the group shouted ‘kill him’ and ‘f**king Mexican,’” as Mr.
Trevino drifted in and out of consciousness.
As a result
of the beating, Mr. Trevino suffered a broken nose, broken
rib, cuts, bruises, swelling all over his body, and blood in
his urine due to blows to his genitals and kidneys.
Id. at 5-
Since suffering his injuries, Mr. Trevino “has required
repeated hospital treatment.”
Id. at 6.
According to Plaintiffs, after the brutal beating of Mr.
Helmich, a personal friend of the Schroeder family. Id. at 8.
Defendant Helmich is also Chief of Police of the Lake view
Police Department, which serves two municipal corporations:
Wall Lake and Lake View, Iowa.
Chief Helmich, in furtherance
of covering up the actions of those who wrongfully beat the
Plaintiff, told Tommy Schroeder to take Mr. Trevino from the
remote sight back to Doc’s Place.
Tommy took Mr. Trevino
back to Doc’s and concocted a story to make it look as though
he caught Mr. Trevino breaking into a pickup outside the bar,
and, after attempting to apprehend Mr. Trevino, was forced to
Id. at 7.
After conversing with Tommy Schroeder via telephone,
Chief Helmich dispatched “Officer A.W. Staples to the bar.”
Id. at 8.
Officer Staples found Mr. Trevino under Tommy
Schroeder’s pickup truck in the alley behind Doc’s Place. Id.
Though Officer Staples “concluded . . . the crime scene had
expectations of Chief Helmich, filed criminal charges against
Mr. Trevino and failed to investigate Mr. Trevino’s report of
events or file charges against Tommy Schroeder or the others
Id. at 8-9.
According to Plaintiffs, Officer Staples’ decisions were
statements” supporting Tommy Schroeder’s version of events
“were not credible.”
Id. at 9.
On January 12, 2010, “Iowa
prosecutors dismissed all criminal charges against Mr. Trevino
. . . .”
Among other claims, Plaintiffs contend Chief
Helmich and Officer Staples, acting under color of Iowa law
Municipalities of Wall Lake and Lake View, “conspired with
each other and with the other Defendants to violate” a number
of Mr. Trevino and his family members’ established rights.
Id. at 9-10.
III. LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
The Movants argue the claims against them should be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because
“[i]t is difficult to know if the Plaintiffs are residents of
the United States or entitled access to the Courts in the
United States.” This simply is not accurate. The Plaintiffs’
complaint clearly alleges they are “residents of Hidalgo
County, Texas,” and, as Plaintiffs point out, it is a long
standing maxim that allegations in a complaint are to be
accepted as true in the early stages of a proceeding.
Feed Lot & Trucking v. Hobson, 539 F.3d 898, 901 (8th Cir.
Even assuming the compliant uses the term “resident”
Plaintiffs live but are not “legal residents,” foreigners can
sue United States Citizens for events occurring on U.S. soil.1
The basic diversity of citizenship statute gives a district
including actions brought under state law, “where the matter
in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000 . . . and
is between . . . citizens of different States” or “citizens of
a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state.”
U.S.C. § 1332(a).
For purposes of the diversity statute “an
alien admitted to the United States for permanent residence”
is “deemed a citizen of the State in which such alien is
“district courts . . . have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1350, foreigners may even sue U.S.
Citizens for events occurring outside of U.S. territory, if
the U.S. Citizen’s actions, or forbearance of action, violated
a U.S. Treaty or international law.
the United States,” regardless of a plaintiff’s legal status,
and so this Court clearly has original jurisdiction over
Plaintiffs’ civil rights claims.
if district courts were not allowed to hear
claims brought by resident aliens or illegal aliens, the kind
of heinous conduct here alleged could be undertaken without
impunity; such a result would be contrary to basic principles
of human dignity, fairness, and justice.
Movants’ motion to dismiss on this ground is denied.
IV. FAILURE TO EXHAUST ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES
The Movants argue the complaint fails to provide a right
to sue letter from the EEOC or the ICRC.
Docket No. 25-1, 3.
Docket No. 25, 2 and
The federal legislation establishing the
EEOC and the Iowa State legislation establishing the ICRC
require potential plaintiffs to exhaust certain administrative
remedies prior to seeking relief from a court for certain
types of claims.
In this case, neither commission has any
authority in relation to any of the Plaintiff’s claims.
enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate
against a job applicant or employee.”
About EEOC, U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/,
last visited October 17, 2011.
In order to bring a Title VII
employee must file a right to sue letter from the EEOC.
letter indicates that administrative review of the employee’s
claim has been exhausted.
Frazier v. Vilsack, 419 Fed.Appx.
685, 689-90 (8th Cir. 2011).
Plaintiffs neither contend any
Defendant was their employer, nor that Defendants’ actions
violated Title VII, and, therefore, a right to sue letter from
the EEOC is simply not required in this case, and Movants’
motion to dismiss in relation thereto is denied.
The ICRC was created under the Iowa Civil Rights Act of
1965 (hereinafter, the Act). Under the Act, a person claiming
practice[s] must initially seek . . . administrative relief by
filing a complaint with the commission.”
Iowa Code Ann. §
Unfair and discriminatory practices are defined as
“those practices specified as unfair or discriminatory in
sections 216.6, 216.6A, 216.7, 216.8, 216.8A, 216.9, 216.11,
and 216.11A” of the Iowa Code.
Iowa Code Ann. § 216.16(1).
discriminatory practices in providing education, and unfair
The Plaintiffs do not make claims in
relation to these issues and the provisions of the Act simply
do not apply.
Therefore, Movants’ motion to dismiss in
relation thereto is denied.
V. FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM ON WHICH RELIEF CAN BE GRANTED
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.”
Rule 12(b)(6) provides that a Defendant
may assert a defense for “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
requires courts to construe pleadings “so as to do justice.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e).
In Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, the Supreme
Court revisited the standard for a 12(b)(6) motion.
The Court upheld the traditional concept of
notice pleading, whereby the primary purpose of pleading in
the federal system is to give a Defendant “‘fair notice what
the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’”
at 544 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)).
complaint need not include detailed factual allegations but
“requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . .”
“Facts and allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level . . . on the ASSUMPTION
THAT ALL THE allegations in the complaint are true (even if
doubtful in fact).”
Overall, the Court did not “require
heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
550 U.S. at 570.
In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Court elaborated on its ruling
in Twombly, noting two principles underlying its decision.
129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950-51 (2009).
First, a court need not
accept allegations which constitute mere legal conclusions as
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
Id. (citing 550 U.S. at 556).
“Second, only a
complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a
motion to dismiss.”
Id. (citing 550 U.S. at 556).2
Though attorneys, when their client’s needs demand,
are apt to portray the Supreme Court’s rulings in Twombly and
Iqbal as a sea change in motion to dismiss jurisprudence, a
decision made after Twombly,
Erickson v. Pardus, clearly
The Movants contend Plaintiffs’ complaint “sets forth no
specific facts or acts in relation to Defendants Bettin,
Drost, and Roth.”
Movants’ contention is not accurate.
Plaintiffs allege that “[o]ne or more” of the Defendants,
including Bettin, Drost, and Roth, were present when Mr.
Trevino was taken from the back of his home.
Docket No. 13,
Plaintiffs also allege, “[o]n information and belief,”
that “all or most” of the Defendants, excluding Officer
Staples, Chief Helmich, and the Municipalities of Wall Lake
and Lake View, Iowa, were present at the remote location where
Mr. Trevino was allegedly beaten.
Id. at 5.
basic principles of liberal pleading in
federal district courts. 551 U.S. 89 (2007).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)
requires only ‘a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.’
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
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 . . . (2007) (quoting
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 . . .
In addition, when ruling on a
defendant’s motion to dismiss, a judge must
accept as true all of the factual
allegations contained in the complaint.
Plaintiff’s response indicates, their complaint alleges facts
as to Defendants Bettin, Drost, and Roth’s involvement at
paragraphs 3, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32,
33, 34, 41, 42, 59, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, and 74 of the
Docket No. 27, 2.
While the Plaintiffs do not allege that Bettin, Drost,
and Roth were definitely present for all events, “evaluation
of a complaint . . . is ‘a context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d
585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 195).
As previously noted, Mr. Trevino alleges that he was nabbed
from his home at night, held face down in the back of a
pickup, driven to a remote location, dragged from the pickup,
and then beaten as he drifted in and out of consciousness
while surrounded by the glare of his assailants’ vehicles’
Assuming the facts alleged as true, it is not
surprising that Mr. Trevino cannot recite, in detail, each
minute event which happened to him that night, nor is it
surprising that he cannot remember every person that was
When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, a court must take into account a plaintiff’s
“limited access to crucial information.” U.S.A. v. Dico, 2011
WL 677448 (S.D. Iowa 2011).
When a fact is in the control of
necessary. See Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585,
598 (8th Cir. 2009) (“If plaintiffs cannot state a claim
without pleading facts which tend systematically to be in the
sole possession of defendants, the remedial scheme . . . will
fail, and . . . crucial rights . . . will suffer.”).
In addition, the Plaintiffs’ response to Movants’ motion
to dismiss notes that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Appendix
Form 12, Complaint for Negligence when the Plaintiff Does Not
Know Who is Responsible, provides the wording by which a
plaintiff can state a claim showing he is entitled to relief
under circumstances similar to what are at issue here.
Plaintiffs’ brief does, in fact, employ the kind of wording
suggested in the Form, and, this Court is persuaded that if
Congress determines this type of language sufficient, this
Court neither wants to nor is in a position to disagree.
plausibility not probability, and it is enough that Mr.
involved in some or all of the stages of the events on which
alleged, it is not necessary for and would be unreasonable to
require Plaintiffs to plead their exact role. If movants have
been wrongfully accused, later stages of civil procedure are
better suited to vindicate them.
Therefore, Movants’ motion
to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief can be
granted is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 28th day of November, 2011.
Donald E. O’Brien, Senior Judge
United States District Court
Northern District of Iowa
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