Hartsoe v. State of Montana et al
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS as to Defendants Sam and Barbara Marshall and ORDER re 81 MOTION for Default Judgment filed by John Hartsoe - DENIED as moot. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch on 6/29/2017. (APP) Copy mailed to Hartsoe
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
JUN 2 9 2017
ORDER, and FINDINGS
STATE OF MONTANA, et al.,
Plaintiff John Hartsoe moves for the entry of a default judgment against
Defendants Sam and Barbara Marshall. For the reasons discussed, however, the
Court finds Hartsoe' s federal claims against the Marshalls are barred by the
doctrine of res judicata and should be dismissed.
Plaintiff John Hartsoe, appearing prose, commenced this action against
private individuals, state and local governmental employees, and judicial officers for
their alleged violations of his rights during the course of criminal proceedings
instituted against him in Montana state court in 2008. He also alleges certain
Defendants are liable for violations of his rights in relation to prior civil litigation
matters stemming from marital dissolution proceedings between he and Defendant
The majority of Hartsoe's claims allege specific Defendants, while acting
under color of state law, violated the rights secured him by the United States
Constitution. Thus, Hartsoe sufficiently invokes the Court's federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. And to the extent any of Hartsoe's claims are
asserted under the laws of the State of Montana, or jurisdiction of those claims
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) to the extent any such state law claims form part
of the same case or controversy as that of the federal claims over which the Court
This civil action constitutes yet another installment in a successive series of
lawsuits Hartsoe has filed against many of the same Defendants in state and federal
courts for the identical conduct relative to the same prior civil and criminal
proceedings against Hartsoe. Therefore, numerous Defendants have successfully
moved for the dismissal of Hartsoe's claims advanced against them in this action
based on the doctrine of res judicata or claim preclusion.
The claim's Hartsoe advance against Sam and Barbara Marshall arise from
their alleged conduct in preparing a transcript in their capacity as court reported of
a hearing in a prior civil action between Hartsoe and Defendant Donna Heisel. The
referenced prior civil action was prosecuted in the Montana Twentieth Judicial
District Court, Lake County, Montana, and is identified as Heisel v. Hartsoe, et al.,
Cause No. DV-10-353 (Heisel case). On August 24, 2011, a summary judgment
hearing was conducted in the Heisel case, and Sam and Barbara Marshall were the
court reporters responsible for preparing a transcript of the hearing. Hartsoe
contends the Marshalls did not prepare a true and correct transcript of everything
that transpired during the August 24, 2011 hearing. Specifically, he alleges the
transcript the Marshalls prepared inserted two "pauses" in the transcript of the
hearing thereby omitting and allegedly covering up alleged illegal conduct
committed by the presiding judge at the hearing. Hartsoe asserts that during the
hearing his sister, Lilie Morris, asked the presiding judge where Hartsoe was
because Hartsoe was not present at the hearing. The presiding judge allegedly
responded by informing Morris that Hartsoe did not need to be at the hearing.
Hartsoe complains that the Marshalls omitted from the transcript that conversation
between Morris and the presiding judge. Therefore, Hartsoe alleges the Marshalls
are liable to him for violations of various federal statutory and constitutional
provisions, and for violations of Montana law, based on their conduct in allegedly
altering the transcript. (See Doc. 1-6.)
The Court finds that Hartsoe presented the exact factual allegations against
the Marshalls in a prior federal action which Hartsoe commenced in this Court,
identified as Hartsoe v. Sam and Barbara Marshall, Cause No. CV 14-225-MDLC (D. Mont. September 16, 2014) (hereinafter referred to as "Marshall I''). In
Marshall I Hartsoe alleged that the Marshalls omitted from the transcript of the
summary judgment hearing the exact same conversation his sister, Lilie Morris, had
with the same presiding judge regarding Hartsoe's absence from the hearing.
Morris's affidavit filed in support of the complaint in Marshall I is the identical
affidavit filed in support of Hartsoe's claims against the Marshalls in this case.
(Compare Marshall I, Doc. 2-1 at 2 of 2, with Doc. 1-6 at 5 of 5 filed in this case.)
In Marshall I Hartsoe alleged the Marshalls' conduct in omitting the discussion
between Morris and the presiding judge from the transcript violated his rights under
both federal law and Montana law.
In Marshall I, the Court reviewed the merits of Hartsoe's allegations and
legal claims against the Marshalls. The Court found that Hartsoe's federal claims
under both the Freedom of Information Act at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B), and
criminal statutes at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001, 1017 and 1018 all failed to state a legal claim
upon which relief could be granted by the Court. Therefore, by Order entered
December 1, 2014, the Court dismissed Hartsoe's federal claims in Marshall I for
failure to state a claim for relief, and it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over Hartsoe's claims advanced under Montana law. (Marshall I, Doc. 6.)
Judgment was entered against Hartsoe on December 1, 2014, and his complaint
Because Hartsoe is proceeding prose the Court must construe his pleading
liberally, and the pleading is held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers[.]" Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). See also
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). Nonetheless, the Court
concludes Hartsoe's action against the Marshalls is barred by res judicata.
Hartsoe's Federal Claims
Although a federal court must be cautious in raising a preclusion bar sua
sponte, it is appropriate to do so in special circumstances. Arizona v. California,
530 U.S. 392, 412 (2000).
[I]f a court is on notice that it has previously decided the issue presented, the
court may dismiss the action sua sponte, even though the defense has not
been raised. This result is fully consistent with the policies underlying res
judicata: it is not based solely on the defendant's interest in avoiding the
burdens of twice defending a suit, but is also based on the avoidance of
unnecessary judicial waste.
Arizona, at 412 (quoting United States v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. 371, 432 (1980)
(Rehnquist, J., dissenting)). "As a general matter, a court may, sua sponte, dismiss
a case on preclusion grounds 'where the records of that court show that a previous
action covering the same subject matter and parties had been dismissed.'"
Headwaters, Inc. v. United States Forest Service, 399 F.3d 1047, 1054-55 (9th Cir.
2005) (quoting Evarts v. W. Metal Finishing Co., 253 F.2d 637, 639 n.1 (9th Cir.
1958)). Thus, where judicial resources have previously been spent on the
resolution of a particular prior case, special circumstances can be found warranting
the court's sua sponte application of res judicata to a subsequent attempt to
relitigate the same case. Cf Arizona, at 412-413, and Headwaters, Inc. at 1056-57.
This Court has notice of the facts and circumstances of Hartsoe's allegations
in Marshall I. This Court expended judicial resources addressing the merits of
Hartsoe's federal claims pled against the Marshalls in that case. Those claims were
dismissed, and Hartsoe now seeks to enter the Marshalls' default in this case which
arises from the same facts that the Court addressed in Marshall I. A default
entered in this case would be inconsistent with the prior dismissal in Marshall I,
and it would be a waste of judicial resources to again adjudicate claims stemming
from the same predicate facts as were presented in Marshall I. Therefore, the
Court finds it is appropriate to raise the doctrine of res judicata sua sponte.
Res judicata, or claim preclusion, provides that "a final judgment on the
merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that
were or could have been raised in that action." Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94
(1980). Res judicata is applicable when (1) the prior litigation and the present
action involve the same claims, or when the two cases have an "identity of claims;"
(2) a final judgment on the merits was entered in the prior litigation; and (3) there
exists privity between the parties in the two cases. Headwaters, Inc. v. United
States Forest Service, 399 F.3d 1047, 1052 (91h Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).
In assessing whether two litigation matters involve the same claims, a court
(1) whether rights or interests established in the prior judgment would be
destroyed or impaired by prosecution of the second action; (2) whether
substantially the same evidence is presented in the two actions; (3) whether
the two suits involve infringement of the same right; and (4) whether the two
suits arise out of the same transactional nucleus of facts. The last of these
criteria is the most important.
Headwaters, Inc., 399 F.3d at 1052.
The Marshall I case and this case as pled against the Marshalls each arose
out of the same nucleus of operative facts. In each case Hartsoe asserts the
Marshalls unlawfully omitted from the court transcript a portion of the presiding
judge's discussion during the August 24, 2011 summary judgment hearing in the
Heisel case. The matter which the Marshalls allegedly omitted from the transcript
as challenged in Marshall I is the exact same matter Hartsoe again alleges in this
case that the Marshalls omitted from the transcript, and Hartsoe filed the same
supporting affidavit from Morris in each case. Also, Hartsoe and the Marshalls are
each parties to both Marshall I and this case. Lastly, a judgment was entered in
Marshall I dismissing Hartsoe's federal claims against the Marshalls. And Hartsoe
did not appeal that 2014 judgment which renders the judgment final. The
entitlement that the Marshalls enjoy as to the finality of that judgment as a result
Marshall I would be impaired by this relitigation of the same matter. Therefore,
Hartsoe' s federal claims against the Marshalls advanced in this case are barred by
the doctrine of res judicata, and should be dismissed.
Hartsoe's Claims Under Montana Law
Hartsoe asserts claims under Montana law against the Marshalls. Those state
law claims are not barred by res judicata because Hartsoe's state law claims in
Marshall I were dismissed only on the basis that the Court concluded it should not
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims. But the Court must consider
whether it possesses jurisdiction over Hartsoe's state law claims against the
Marshalls in this case. The Court concludes it does not.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, where a district court has original jurisdiction in a
civil action it shall also have supplemental jurisdiction over other claims "that are so
related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of
the same case or controversy[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). "A state law claim is part
of the same case or controversy when it shares a 'common nucleus of operative
fact' with the federal claims and the state and federal claims would normally be
tried together." Bahrampour v. R.O. Lampert, 356 F.3d 969, 978 (9 1h Cir. 2004)
Here, Hartsoe' s state law claims predicated upon the Marshalls' conduct in
allegedly omitting matters from the subject court transcript arise from independent
facts unique to only the Marshalls' conduct. The alleged facts of the Marshalls'
conduct are wholly independent of all the factual allegations as to all of the other
Defendants' conduct in this case. The facts of the Marshalls' alleged specific
conduct do not share a common nucleus of operative facts with the other
Defendants and those remaining federal claims. The facts which allegedly support
the Marshalls' liability under Montana law are not dependent upon the facts of the
other Defendants' conduct. Therefore, the facts supporting Hartsoe' s state law
claims against the Marshalls do not form part of the same case or controversy as
any remaining federal claim over which the Court may still have jurisdiction.
Therefore, the Court concludes it does not have supplemental jurisdiction over
Hartsoe' s state law claims against the Marshalls, and those claims should be
For the reasons discussed, IT IS RECOMMENDED that Hartsoe's federal
claims against Sam and Barbara Marshall be DISMISSED as barred by the doctrine
of res judicata. IT IS FURTHER RECOMMENDED that the Court should
dismiss Hartsoe's independent state law claims against the Marshalls for lack of
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Hartsoe's motion for a default judgment
against Sam and Barbara Marshall is DENIED as moot.
DATED this 291h day of June, 2017.
Je e iah C. Lynch
U "ted States Magistrate Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?