Wilson v. State of Montana
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 7 in full. Amended Complaint 4 is DISMISSED withoutprejudice. Any appeal of this decision would not be taken in good faith. Signed by Judge Brian Morris on 2/14/2017. Mailed to Wilson at 1000 Iowa St. address. (TAG)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
RAY DEAN WILSON,
STATE OF MONTANA, SECOND
JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, and
POLICE DEPT. PAROL &
Plaintiff Ray Dean Wilson (Wilson) filed an Amended Complaint pro se on
December 16, 2016. (Doc. 4). Wilson was incarcerated in the Butte Silver Bow
County jail on the date the Amended Complaint was filed. (Doc. 4 at 2). The
Amended Complaint, construed liberally, asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Wilson alleges that his arrest and prosecution for burglary violated his
constitutional rights. Named as Defendants are the State of Montana, the Montana
Second Judicial District Court, and the Butte Silver Bow Police Department Patrol
and Detectives. (Doc. 4 at 3). Wilson seeks injunctive relief (dismissal of the
burglary charge and the return of the property that was confiscated), and monetary
United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered Findings and
Recommendations in this matter on January 4, 2017. (Doc. 7). Judge Lynch
determined that Wilson’s claims for injunctive relief were barred by the Younger
abstention doctrine. (Doc. 7 at 4-7). Judge Lynch determined that Wilson’s claims
for monetary relief should be dismissed because Wilson had failed to name a proper
defendant against whom he could collect monetary damages. (Doc. 7 at 7-8).
Judge Lynch recommended that this action be dismissed without prejudice. (Doc. 7
at 9). Wilson did not file objections to Judge Lynch’s Findings and
The Court has reviewed Judge Lynch’s Findings and Recommendations for
clear error. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d
1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981). The Court finds no error in Judge Lynch’s Findings
and Recommendations, and adopts them in full.
Claims for Injunctive Relief
Wilson’s claims for injunctive relief challenge pending state court criminal
proceedings. The Supreme Court’s decision in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971) directs federal courts to abstain from granting injunctive or declaratory relief
that would interfere with pending state judicial proceedings. Id. at 40-41. A federal
court must abstain under Younger if the following four requirements are met: (1) a
state initiated proceeding is ongoing; (2) the state judicial proceeding implicates
important state interests; (3) the federal plaintiff is not barred from litigating federal
constitutional issues in the state proceeding; and (4) the federal court action would
enjoin the state proceeding or have the practical effect of doing so. Gilbertson v.
Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 978 (9th Cir. 2004).
All elements of Younger abstention are established in this case. First, there
exists an ongoing criminal action against Wilson in state court. Second, the
criminal proceeding implicates important state interests. The State of Montana has
a significant state interest in prosecuting conduct that constitutes a criminal offense
under Montana law. Third, Wilson will have an adequate opportunity to litigate
federal constitutional issues in the state court proceeding. Fourth, any decision by
this Court as to whether Wilson’s arrest violated his constitutional rights would
unduly interfere with the state criminal proceeding. This Court must therefore
abstain from adjudicating Wilson’s claims for injunctive relief.
Claims for Monetary Relief Against the State of Montana and the
Montana Second Judicial District Court
The Eleventh Amendment bars lawsuits in federal court against a state or a
state agency absent an express waiver of immunity by the state. See Idaho v. Coeur
d’Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 267-68 (1997); Puerto Rico Aqueduct and
Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993); Edelman v.
Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). The State of Montana has waived immunity
only for tort claims brought in state court. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-9-102. Wilson’s
claims for monetary damages against the State of Montana and the Montana Second
Judicial District Court are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
Claims for Monetary Relief Against the Butte Silver Bow Police
Montana law provides that a municipal police department is a subunit of the
municipality. Mont. Code Ann. §§ 2-9-1-1, 102. The municipality is the entity
responsible for the conduct of the employees in its police department, not the police
department. State of Montana v. District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District,
550 P.2d 382, 384 (Mont. 1976). The Butte Silver Bow Police Department is not a
separate entity with the capacity to be sued. Id. The Butte Silver Bow Police
Department is therefore not a proper defendant.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:
Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint (Doc. 4) is DISMISSED without
Any appeal of this decision would not be taken in good faith as
the Amended Complaint is frivolous as it lacks arguable substance in law or fact.
The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.
DATED this 14th day of February, 2017.
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