Udoh et al v. Minnesota Department of Human Services et al
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS 117 and denying plaintiffs' motions to strike 30 36 . (Written Opinion) Signed by Judge Patrick J. Schiltz on 6/21/2017. (ECW) Modified text on 6/21/2017 (ACH). cc: Tonya Udoh, Emem Udoh
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
TONYA UDOH and EMEM UDOH,
individually, and on behalf of their minor
children, K.K.W., and K.C.W.,
Case No. 16‐CV‐3119 (PJS/SER)
MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF
HUMAN SERVICES; CHARLES E.
JOHNSON; DONOTHAN BARTLEY;
ANN NORTON; DANIEL E. JOHNSON;
CATRINA BLAIR; CITY OF MAPLE
GROVE; CITY OF MAPLE GROVE
POLICE DEPARTMENT; MELISSA
PARKER; CITY OF PLYMOUTH; CITY
OF PLYMOUTH POLICE
DEPARTMENT; MOLLY LYNCH,
KELVIN PREGLER; INDEPENDENT
SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 279; JOANNE
WALLEN; KAREN WEGERSON; ANN
MOCK; CORNERHOUSE; PATRICIA
HARMON; BILL KONCAR; GRACE W.
RAY; and LINDA THOMPSON,
Tonya and Emem Udoh, pro se.
Frederick J. Argir, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE, for
defendants Minnesota Department of Human Services and Charles E. Johnson.
Christiana M. Martenson and Daniel D. Kaczor, HENNEPIN COUNTY
ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, for defendants Donothan Bartley, Ann Norton, Daniel E.
Engstrom,1 Catrina Blair, and Linda Thompson.
Nathan C. Midolo and Paul D. Reuvers, IVERSON REUVERS CONDON, for
defendants City of Maple Grove, City of Maple Grove Police Department,
Melissa Parker, City of Plymouth, City of Plymouth Police Department, Molly
Lynch, and Kelvin Pregler.
John P. Edison and Michael J. Waldspurger, RUPP, ANDERSON, SQUIRES &
WALDSPURGER, P.A., for defendants Independent School District No. 279,
Joanne Wallen, Karen Wegerson, and Ann Mock.
John R. Marti and Lauren O. Roso, DORSEY & WHITNEY LLP, for defendants
CornerHouse, Patricia Harmon, Bill Koncar, and Grace Ray.
This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs Emem and Tonya Udoh’s objection
to the May 5, 2017 Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of Magistrate Judge Steven E.
Rau. Judge Rau recommends denying the Udohs’ first motion to strike as moot2 and
denying their second motion to strike on the merits. The Court has conducted a
de novo review. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). Based on that review,
the Court overrules the Udohs’ objection and adopts Judge Rau’s R&R.
The caption incorrectly lists Engstrom’s last name as “Johnson.”
In their objection, the Udohs claim that their motions are not moot “because this
issue remains unresolved.” ECF No. 128 at 4. The Udohs are confused. The R&R
recommends denying only the Udohs’ first motion to strike as moot because the Udohs
filed the exact same motion just days later. See ECF No. 117 at 2 n.1. The R&R
recommends denying the second motion to strike on the merits. Because the two
motions are identical, compare ECF Nos. 30‐31, with ECF Nos. 36‐37, the R&R necessarily
addresses every “issue” raised by the motions.
A few matters merit comment:
First, the Udohs argue that it was “objectively unreasonable” for Judge Rau to
issue his R&R before giving them another chance to argue those motions at the June 6,
2017 motion hearing. ECF No. 128 at 3. The Court disagrees. For one thing, neither
district judges nor magistrate judges are required to hear oral argument on civil
motions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b) (“By rule or order, the court may provide for
submitting and determining motions on briefs, without oral hearings.”); Skarzynski v.
CIA, 637 F. App’x 220, 221 (7th Cir. 2016) (“ District courts may, at their discretion, rule
on motions without an oral hearing . . . .”). What is more, the June hearing had nothing
to do with the May R&R. The May R&R recommended denial of two motions to strike
that the Udohs briefed in January and argued in March. See ECF Nos. 30‐31, 36‐37, 39,
89, 117. Judge Rau scheduled the June hearing to address nine unrelated motions—two
motions for judgment on the pleadings, two motions to dismiss, and five motions to
amend the complaint. See ECF Nos. 56, 65, 73, 90, 99, 101, 102, 118, 131, and 139. There
was nothing unreasonable about Judge Rau’s issuance of the May R&R recommending
denial of the Udohs’ motions to strike prior to the June hearing.
Second, the Udohs argue that defendants’ Rooker‐Feldman defense is barred by the
fact that “Plaintiffs or Defendants were not [the] ‘same parties’ to Mr. Udoh[’s] criminal
judgment.” ECF No. 128 at 6. To be sure, “[t]he Rooker‐Feldman doctrine does not bar
actions by nonparties to the earlier state‐court judgment.” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459,
466 (2006). But Emem was a party “to the earlier state‐court judgment.” Id. He was the
losing defendant in that prosecution. And if Rooker‐Feldman means anything, it means
that “state‐court losers” cannot ask federal courts to invalidate state‐court judgments
that were entered against them “before the [federal] court proceedings commenced.”
Shelby Cty. Health Care Corp. v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins., 855 F.3d 836, 840‐41 (8th Cir.
2017) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)).
The fact that the Udohs’ current lawsuit may involve additional parties does not bar
defendants from asserting a Rooker‐Feldman defense.
Third, the Udohs point out that the Rooker‐Feldman doctrine only prevents federal
courts from overturning state‐court judgments; it does not prevent federal courts from
considering constitutional challenges to state statutes. See ECF No. 128 at 2‐3 (citing
Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 532 (2011)). That is true as a general matter. But the
facts in Skinner were different from the facts here. In Skinner, the plaintiff’s
constitutional challenge to Texas’s “postconviction DNA statute” did not “necessarily”
implicate the validity of his underlying conviction. Skinner, 562 U.S. at 530, 534. Here,
by contrast, the Udohs have asked the Court to expunge their Minnesota Department of
Human Services maltreatment records. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 211, 230. It is unclear whether
these records include Emem’s state‐court convictions. It is also unclear whether the
Court may expunge those records without first determining that Emem’s state‐court
convictions were invalid. Until these legal and factual issues are more fully developed,
it would be premature to strike defendants’ Rooker‐Feldman defense.
This is not to say that defendants’ Rooker‐Feldman defense will ultimately prevail.
That is a question for another day. But striking a defense under Rule 12(f) before the
defendant has had a chance to fully present that defense “is an extreme and disfavored
measure.” BJC Health Sys. v. Columbia Cas. Co., 478 F.3d 908, 917 (8th Cir. 2007). At this
point, defendants’ Rooker‐Feldman defense is not clearly “foreclosed by prior controlling
decisions or statutes” on point. EEOC v. Prod. Fabricators, Inc., 873 F. Supp. 2d 1093,
1097 (D. Minn. 2012) (citation omitted). Rather, it “fairly presents a question of law or
fact which the court ought to hear.” Lunsford v. United States, 570 F.2d 221, 229 (8th Cir.
1977) (citation omitted).
Fourth, the Udohs repeat their argument that Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 should be
stricken because they are redundant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. The
Court disagrees. These exhibits simply document the results of Emem’s appeals of his
state‐court convictions. Exhibit 1 is an opinion by the Minnesota Court of Appeals
partially affirming Emem’s convictions. Exhibit 2 is an order from the Minnesota
Supreme Court denying Emem’s petition for further review. And Exhibit 3 is a letter
from the United States Supreme Court confirming that the Court had denied Emem’s
petition for a writ of certiorari. See ECF No. 22‐1.
These exhibits are not redundant because they are referenced only once in the
answer. See ECF No. 22 ¶ 112. In general, allegations are redundant only when they
“constitute a needless repetition of other averments in the pleading.” Brodkorb v.
Minnesota, No. 12‐CV‐1958 (SRN/AJB), 2013 WL 588231, at *16 (D. Minn. Feb. 13, 2013)
(citation omitted). The exhibits here are not repetitive in that way.
These exhibits are both material and pertinent because they respond to specific
allegations in the Udohs’ complaint. Cf. Stanbury Law Firm v. IRS, 221 F.3d 1059, 1063
(8th Cir. 2000) (concluding that the district court abused its discretion when it struck
information that “provide[d] important context and background” to the suit, even when
this information was not “strictly relevant” to every portion of the suit). In particular,
the Udohs’ complaint alleges that “Emem was wrongfully found guilty on August 2014
and [is] appealing this wrongful conviction,” ECF No. 1 ¶ 112, while the answer denies
that Emem was wrongfully convicted and refers to these exhibits, ECF No. 22 ¶ 112.
And finally, these exhibits are not scandalous because they are not
“unnecessarily” derogatory or prejudicial. McLafferty v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Ind., No.
14‐CV‐0564 (DSD/SER), 2014 WL 2009086, at *3 (D. Minn. May 16, 2014). They do not
contain any ad hominem attacks. They simply document the results of Emem’s appeals
of his state‐court convictions, convictions that Emem himself referenced in his
Because these exhibits are neither redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or
scandalous, the Court declines to strike them under Rule 12(f).
Based on the foregoing, and on all of the files, records, and proceedings herein,
the Court OVERRULES plaintiffs’ objection [ECF No. 128] and ADOPTS Judge Rau’s
May 5, 2017 R&R [ECF No. 117]. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs’ motions to
strike [ECF Nos. 30 and 36] are DENIED.
Dated: June 21, 2017
s/Patrick J. Schiltz
Patrick J. Schiltz
United States District Judge
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