Seenyur v. Coolidge
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (Written Opinion). Signed by Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright on 01/12/2018. (TJB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Antonio Seenyur, a/k/a Anthony Lee
Case No. 16-cv-3832 (WMW/BRT)
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND
Lt. Van Coolidge, Minnesota State Prison,
Rush City, individually and in his official
This matter is before the Court on the September 22, 2017 Report and
Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson. (Dkt. 23.)
The R&R recommends granting Defendant Lt. Van Coolidge’s motion to dismiss
Plaintiff Antonio Seenyur’s complaint. Seenyur filed timely objections to the R&R, and
Lt. Coolidge responded. For the reasons addressed below, the Court adopts the R&R and
grants Lt. Coolidge’s motion to dismiss.
As the R&R provides a detailed factual and procedural history, the Court briefly
summarizes the background of this litigation. Following his conviction of kidnapping,
assault, and rape, Seenyur was incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional FacilityStillwater (MCF-Stillwater).
He subsequently was transferred to the Minnesota
Correctional Facility-Rush City (MCF-Rush City), where Lt. Coolidge oversaw prisoner
transfers. At MCF-Rush City, Seenyur enrolled in the Sex Offender Treatment Program
(SOTP). On December 12, 2013, Jennifer Coolidge,1 the clinical director of the SOTP at
that time, terminated Seenyur from the SOTP for engaging in “physically threatening
behavior.” Lt. Coolidge subsequently ordered Seenyur’s transfer back to MCF-Stillwater
because of the SOTP termination.
Seenyur brought a legal action against Jennifer
Coolidge, alleging that his termination from the SOTP and transfer to MCF-Stillwater
violated his constitutional rights. Seenyur moved to amend his complaint approximately
one year after the deadline for doing so.2 Shortly thereafter, the magistrate judge issued
an R&R that recommended denying Seenyur’s motion to amend and granting Jennifer
Coolidge’s motion for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment. This Court
adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation and dismissed Seenyur’s lawsuit against
Jennifer Coolidge with prejudice on August 22, 2016.
Seenyur subsequently initiated this lawsuit against Lt. Coolidge, alleging that
Lt. Coolidge conspired with Jennifer Coolidge to terminate Seenyur from the SOTP and
transfer him to MCF-Stillwater. Seenyur’s complaint is a copy of the proposed amended
complaint Seenyur filed in his lawsuit against Jennifer Coolidge with redactions to
remove any reference to the initial lawsuit. Lt. Coolidge moves to dismiss Seenyur’s
Jennifer Coolidge is the wife of Lt. Coolidge.
The R&R erroneously states that Seenyur moved to amend his complaint sixteen
months after the deadline for doing so. Despite this error, the R&R correctly concludes
that Seenyur’s motion was impermissibly late, and the error does not affect the merits of
the magistrate judge’s recommendation.
complaint, arguing that the claims are barred by res judicata. The magistrate judge issued
an R&R recommending dismissal of the complaint, and Seenyur filed timely objections.
A district court reviews de novo any portion of an R&R to which timely objections
are filed. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3); United
States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir. 2003). When doing so, the district court
“may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
The R&R recommends dismissing Seenyur’s complaint as barred by res judicata.
Seenyur objects, arguing that res judicata does not apply to his claims. The doctrine of
res judicata bars a party from bringing a repetitive lawsuit involving the same claims or
causes of action. Lundquist v. Rice Mem’l Hosp., 238 F.3d 975, 977 (8th Cir. 2001) (per
curiam). Claim preclusion is a form of res judicata. Sandy Lake Band of Miss. Chippewa
v. United States, 714 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2013). A claim is barred by claim
preclusion if (1) the first lawsuit resulted in a final judgment on the merits,
(2) jurisdiction was proper in the first lawsuit, (3) both lawsuits involve either the same
parties or those in privity with them, and (4) both lawsuits are based on the same claims
or causes of action. Magee v. Hamline Univ., 775 F.3d 1057, 1059 (8th Cir. 2015). Res
judicata is an affirmative defense and must be apparent on the face of the complaint to
warrant dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A.H. ex rel. Hubbard
v. Midwest Bus Sales, Inc., 823 F.3d 448, 453 (8th Cir. 2016). Seenyur objects to the
R&R’s determinations that his initial lawsuit resulted in a final judgment on the merits,
that the lawsuits involve the same parties, and that the lawsuits are based on the same
claims. These objections are analyzed in turn.
Final Judgment on the Merits
The R&R concludes that the denial of Seenyur’s motion to amend the complaint in
his lawsuit against Jennifer Coolidge is a final judgment on the merits. Seenyur objects.
Because the Court did not evaluate the merits of the proposed amended pleading in his
initial lawsuit, Seenyur argues, the denial of his motion to amend was not a final
judgment on the merits. Seenyur’s argument is unavailing.
Even when leave to amend a complaint is denied for reasons other than the merits,
such a denial is a final judgment on the merits, which bars the same complaint in a later
action. Prof’l Mgmt. Assocs., Inc. v. KPMG LLP, 345 F.3d 1030, 1032 (8th Cir. 2003)
(per curiam). Seenyur’s complaint against Lt. Coolidge is materially the same as the
proposed amended pleading in his lawsuit against Jennifer Coolidge. For this reason, the
Court’s denial of Seenyur’s motion to amend the complaint in the initial lawsuit “is a
judgment on the merits of the claims in the proposed amended pleading.” Id. That
judgment bars Seenyur from filing the same pleading in this lawsuit. Accordingly, the
Court overrules Seenyur’s objection and adopts the R&R’s determination that the denial
of Seenyur’s motion to amend the complaint in his lawsuit against Jennifer Coolidge is a
final judgment on the merits.
Same Parties or Parties in Privity
The R&R concludes that Lt. Coolidge is in privity with Jennifer Coolidge, the
defendant in Seenyur’s initial lawsuit. Seenyur objects, arguing that Lt. Coolidge and
Jennifer Coolidge are not in privity because they held different positions at MCF-Rush
City and the claims against them address different alleged violations of Seenyur’s rights.
A defendant who was not a party in the initial lawsuit may use claim preclusion to
defeat a subsequent lawsuit. Airframe Sys., Inc. v. Raytheon Co., 601 F.3d 9, 17 (1st Cir.
2010). When a defendant in the subsequent lawsuit is closely related to a defendant in
the initial lawsuit, claim preclusion applies. Id.; see also Lubrizol Corp. v. Exxon Corp.,
929 F.2d 960, 966 (3d Cir. 1991) (“[R]es judicata may be invoked against a plaintiff who
has previously asserted essentially the same claim against different defendants where
there is a close or significant relationship between successive defendants.” (internal
quotation marks omitted)); Fowler v. Wolff, 479 F.2d 338, 340 (8th Cir. 1973) (“The
relationship of [new defendants] to the parties sued in the [prior litigation] is so close that
their addition cannot change the fact that this present action is repetitious and barred by
res judicata.”). “Members of a conspiracy are deemed under the law to be in privity with
each other.” RSM Prod. Corp. v. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer U.S. LLP, 800 F.
Supp. 2d 182, 193 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Raytheon Co., 601 F.3d at 17-18).
Here, Seenyur’s claims against Lt. Coolidge arise from an alleged conspiracy
between Lt. Coolidge and Jennifer Coolidge. Seenyur alleges that “Jennifer Coolidge
maliciously and intentionally [collaborated] with her Husband, Lt. Van Coolidge, who
was in charge of the prisoner transfer department, and had the Plaintiff transferred . . . .
The transfer . . . was a calculated, orchestrated, conspiracy by the Defendant Jennifer
Coolidge and her husband Lt. Van Coolidge.” Seenyur also alleges that he is the “victim”
of “the malicious retaliation of . . . team conspirators.”
Each allegation against
Lt. Coolidge also refers to Jennifer Coolidge.
Based on Seenyur’s complaint, Lt.
Coolidge and Jennifer Coolidge are in privity with one another.
For these reasons, the Court overrules Seenyur’s objection and adopts the R&R’s
determination that Lt. Coolidge is in privity with Jennifer Coolidge.
Same Claims or Causes of Action
Finally, the R&R determines that the claims are barred by res judicata because this
lawsuit against Lt. Coolidge involves the same claims or causes of action as those alleged
in Seenyur’s lawsuit against Jennifer Coolidge. “[A] claim is barred by res judicata if it
arises out of the same nucleus of operative facts as the prior claim.” Banks v. Int’l Union
Elec., Elec., Tech., Salaried & Mach. Workers, 390 F.3d 1049, 1052 (8th Cir. 2004)
(internal quotation marks omitted). To determine whether a claim is barred, a court
“examines whether the second lawsuit is part of the transaction, or series of connected
transactions, out of which the first action arose.” First Nat’l Bank in Sioux Falls v. First
Nat’l Bank S.D., 679 F.3d 763, 767 (8th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).
When performing this analysis, the court considers “whether the facts are related in time,
space, origin, or motivation, [and] whether they form a convenient trial unit.”
(internal quotation marks omitted).
The claims in the two lawsuits at issue here arise from the same transaction or
occurrence. Indeed, the claims contain the same allegations. Seenyur’s complaint in this
lawsuit is materially the same as the proposed amended complaint in his lawsuit against
Jennifer Coolidge. The Court overrules Seenyur’s objection and adopts the R&R’s
determination that this lawsuit against Lt. Coolidge involves the same claims or causes of
action as Seenyur’s lawsuit against Jennifer Coolidge.
Because Seenyur’s claims satisfy the elements of claim preclusion, the Court
adopts the R&R’s recommendation to grant Lt. Coolidge’s motion to dismiss Seenyur’s
complaint with prejudice.
Based on the foregoing analysis, the R&R, and all the files, records and
proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
Plaintiff Antonio Seenyur’s objections to the R&R, (Dkt. 26), are
The September 22, 2017 R&R, (Dkt. 23), is ADOPTED; and
Defendant Lt. Van Coolidge’s motion to dismiss, (Dkt. 13), is GRANTED,
and this action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
Dated: January 12, 2018
s/Wilhelmina M. Wright
Wilhelmina M. Wright
United States District Judge
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