Thompson v. Benson et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 10 Partial Motion to Dismiss (See Order Text). Signed by Senior Judge Donald E OBrien on 3/5/2012. (des)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
MARY BENSON, ET. AL.,
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
This matter is before this Court on Mary Benson, Jason
Defendants’, partial motion to dismiss Elwood Thompson’s,
Plaintiff’s, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint, alleging Defendants
are refusing to provide him essential medical treatment for
Docket No. 4 and 10.
Plaintiff has been
adjudicated a sexually violent predator and is currently
committed to the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders
Mary Benson is a Nurse at the facility, and Jason
Smith is the Director of the facility.
On August 5, 2011, this Court granted Plaintiff’s motion
to proceed in forma pauperis and request for appointment of
Docket No. 3.
On September 16, 2011, Plaintiff’s
appointed counsel declined to file an amended complaint.
Docket No. 7.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any
statute ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, of any State or Territory or the
District of Columbia, subjects, or causes
to be subjected, any citizen of the United
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of
any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall
be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress . . . .
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 motion a court to dismiss a claim for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted . . . .”
Fed. R. Civ.
Defendants contend they are entitled to a motion to
dismiss on the following grounds:
(1) Plaintiff’s claims
against the Iowa Department of Human Services and other
Defendants, CCUSO employees, are inappropriate in that state
agencies and state officials sued in their official capacities
do not constitute a “person” as contemplated under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; (2) the State of Iowa, including the Iowa Department
of Human Services, is immune from claims for money damages;
and (3) Plaintiff’s claims related to events occurring more
than two years prior to the filing of his complaint are barred
by the statute of limitations.
Docket No. 10.
Plaintiff concedes that the events that occurred two
years prior to Plaintiff filing his complaint are barred under
§614.1(2) (providing that actions “founded on injuries to the
person . . . whether based on contract or tort, or for a
statute penalty” must be brought “within two years”).
Plaintiff also concedes that state sovereign immunity prevents
any claim for monetary damages against the State of Iowa.
See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974).
Plaintiff also concedes that the Iowa Department of Human
Services is not a person as contemplated under 42 U.S.C. §
See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 22-23 (1991).
though the Plaintiff concedes that suits brought against
improper, the Plaintiff maintains they are appropriate to the
extent injunctive relief is sought.
Thus, the sole question
before this Court is whether 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims seeking
injunctive relief against Defendants acting in their official
capacities are appropriate.
concedes, that state officials generally cannot be sued in
their official capacities under § 1983, state officials can be
sued in their individual capacities.
Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S.
officials in their official capacity are not per se banned
from consideration under § 1983. In Will v. Michigan Dept. of
State Police, the Supreme Court clearly noted that state
officials sued in their official capacity are, when injunctive
relief is sought, “persons” under § 1983, “because ‘officialcapacity actions for prospective relief are not treated as
actions against the State.’”1
491 U.S. 58, 71, fn 10 (quoting
The distinction rests on a balance of three
considerations: (1) state sovereign immunity protects states
from suits that seek to “‘impose liability which must be paid
from public funds in the state treasury;’” (2) suits against
state officials in their official capacities are, in effect,
suits against the state; for instance, if a state official,
sued in his official capacity, dies or leaves office, their
successor must continue to defend the suit; and (3) § 1983 was
designed “‘to give a remedy to parties deprived of
constitutional rights, privileges and immunities by an
official’s abuse of his position.’” Hafer, 502 U.S. 21, 25,
27, and 30 (quoting Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 172 (1961)
and Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). In balancing
these three policy considerations, the Supreme Court has ruled
that officials may be sued in their individual capacities for
monetary damages, and, in order to prevent the repetition of
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167, fn. 14 (1985)).
It is unclear from Plaintiff’s complaint whether he
intended to sue Defendants Smith and Benson in their official
or individual capacities, but pro se complaints,2 no matter
standards than formal pleadings as drafted by a lawyer.”
Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (internal citations
Plaintiff is alleging government officials are
violating his constitutional rights in a manner he perceives
to have real and unjust consequences; the question of whether
he is suing the alleged perpetrators in their official or
individual capacities, though it has a real and important
effect, no doubt appears academic to the Plaintiff.
questions involve points of law no layman should be expected
Thus, this Court will assume Plaintiff sought any
relief which could be reasonably inferred from his complaint,
including monetary damages against Defendants Benson and Smith
in their individual capacities and injunctive relief against
Defendants Benson and Smith in their individual and official
an on-going wrong under the guise of state authority, in their
official capacities for injunctive relief.
Though Plaintiff now has counsel, his complaint on
record was filed pro se.
It is Hereby Ordered:
Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims
related to events that occurred prior to the running of the
two year statute of limitations is granted.
Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims
against the Iowa Department of Human Services is granted.
Defendants’ motions to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims
brought against Defendants Benson and Smith in their official
capacities are granted to the extent that Plaintiff seeks
Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Benson and Smith in
their individual capacities, Defendants’ motions are denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 5th day of March, 2012.
Donald E. O’Brien, Senior Judge
United States District Court
Northern District of Iowa
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