Hansen v. South Central District Court et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION re 11 Second Amended Complaint filed by Angela Hansen; ORDER Staying Deadlines by Magistrate Judge Charles S. Miller, Jr. (ZE) Distributed to pro se parties on 10/10/2017 (cjs).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NORTH DAKOTA
David E. Reich, et al.,
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
RE 1915(e)(2) SCREENING AND
ORDER STAYING FURTHER ACTION
PENDING CONSIDERATION OF THIS
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Case No. 1-17-cv-55
Plaintiff Angela Hansen (“Hansen”), acting pro se, initiated this action on March 31, 2017,
against individuals working in the North Dakota state courts and law enforcement, ranging from
justices on the North Dakota Supreme Court to state district court judges to North Dakota attorneys
and to North Dakota state court administrative staff, amongst others. (Doc. Nos. 1, 10, 11). What
follows is the undersigned’s review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
This action stems from various state court actions involving the divorce of Hansen and
defendant Shannon Dieterle. The North Dakota Supreme Court outlined the circumstances giving
rise to this action in Dieterle v. Dieterle, 2016 ND 36, 875 N.W.2d 479 and Dieterle v. Dieterle,
2013 ND 71, 830 N.W.2d 571. Generally, the state district court divided the marital assets, awarded
Hansen temporary spousal support, and awarded Shannon Dieterle custody of the couple’s daughter.
The state district court subsequently held Hansen in contempt of court for failing to abide by its
orders. On the two appeals, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the division of marital
property, the spousal support award, the custody determination, and the finding of contempt.
Following closure of the state court proceedings, Hansen initiated this action on March 31,
2017. (Doc. No. 1).1 Before any of the defendants answered, Hansen filed a First Amended
Complaint (Doc. No. 10) and a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 11). In the Second Amended
Complaint, Hansen alleges the defendants, both individually and in concert, violated constitutional,
federal, and state law in various state court proceedings. Hansen alleges these violations resulted
in deprivation of her property, both personal and real, and her parental rights. Hansen’s Second
Amended Complaint contains fourteen claims arising under federal and state law for: (1) violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c); (2) conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c); (3) fraud; (4) kidnaping under
N.D.C.C. § 12.1-18 and hostage taking under 18 U.S.C. § 1203; (5) trespass to chattels; (6) unjust
enrichment; (7) civil conspiracy; (8) violations of North Dakota Canons of Judicial Conduct; (9)
declaratory judgment; (10) fraudulent conversion; (11) intentional infliction of emotional distress;
(12) violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985; (13) breach of fiduciary duty; and (14)
aiding and abetting. In her prayer for relief, Hansen seeks monetary damages, a declaration that the
various state court judgments are invalid, an injunction against enforcement of the state court
judgments, and other miscellaneous relief.
Notwithstanding any paid filing fee, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) provides “the court shall dismiss
the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails
to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who
is immune from such relief.” This § 1915(e)(2) screening, and the authority to dismiss claims arising
Prior to initiating the current action, Hansen brought a similar action in the federal district court for Colorado.
See Hansen v. Reich et al., Case No 1:16-cv-02469 (D.Colo.). The federal court there dismissed the case for improper
venue and refused to transfer the case, concluding transfer was not in the interests of justice because Hansen’s complaint
did not comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. (Doc. No. 13). In dismissing the case, the court also noted it was under no
obligation to transfer a meritless case doomed for failure in the transferee court.
thereunder, includes non-prisoner pro se complaints. Key v. Does, 217 F. Supp. 3d 1006, 1007
(W.D. Ark. 2016). With regard to frivolousness under § 1915(e)(2)(i), “the Supreme Court
explained that an action is frivolous if ‘it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.’” Aziz v.
Burrows, 976 F.2d 1158, 1159 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989)). “An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named
defendants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right.” Williamson v. Corizon, Inc.,
No. 1:15CV220, 2016 WL 5933982 at *1 (E.D. Mo. October 12, 2016). A complaint fails to state
a claim if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678-84 (2009) (“Iqbal”).
In applying § 1915(e)(2), the court must give the pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal
construction. See, e.g., Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 402 (2008); Solomon
v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (“When we say that a pro se complaint should be given
liberal construction, we mean that if the essence of an allegation is discernible . . . then the district
court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered
within the proper legal framework.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). This does not mean,
however, that the pro se litigant is excused from satisfying the plausibility standard established in
Twombly and further amplified by the Supreme Court in Iqbal. See Story v. Foote, 782 F.3d 968,
969 (8th Cir. 2015).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 failure
As an initial matter, Hansen’s Second Amended Complaint does not comply with Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1) (emphasis added). The purpose of this short
and plain statement is to provide defendants with “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545.
Hansen’s Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 11) is a 169-page document containing
nearly 50,000 words and over a thousand paragraphs, all of which set forth fourteen causes of action
ranging from RICO violations to kidnaping to fraudulent conversion. The shotgun style of Hansen’s
complaint does not provide the defendants with fair notice of the nature of Hansen’s claim. All
fourteen of the claims include language realleging and incorporating the thousand-plus preceding
paragraphs as to all of the defendants, save claims four, eight, and thirteen exempting certain
defendants. Through this pleading, it is virtually impossible to know which allegations are intended
to support which claims, let alone how those allegations relate to the individual defendants included
within those claims. Many of the allegations, the vast majority of which are nothing more than
unsubstantiated legal conclusions, have little to do with the specifics of a given claim, leaving the
court and the litigants to sift through the thousand-plus paragraphs and guess which are material to
a particular claim. This is not in keeping with the purposes behind Fed. R. Civ. P. 8.
Hansen fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted
More fundamentally, Hansen’s claims are also patently baseless - if not outright frivolous.
At their core, Hansen’s claims allege the defendants committed unlawful acts by: (1) advocating a
position adverse to Hansen in the state court proceedings; (2) making a decision adverse to Hansen
in the state court proceedings; (3) enforcing a decision adverse to Hansen stemming from the state
court proceedings; and/or (4) failing to heed Hansen’s demands regarding the state court
proceedings. Setting aside the immunity enjoyed by the vast majority of the defendants,2 these are
not sufficient bases for civil liability under any reasonable legal theory. Although Hansen countless
times alleges the defendants acted in cahoots so as to constitute racketeering and fraud, alleging these
conclusions over and over does not make them so when there is no factual or legal basis. The same
can be said with the countless other allegations of wrongdoing contained within Hansen’s pleadings.
In addition, Hansen lacks standing for the claims in which she seeks to enforce criminal
statutes and ethics codes, as is the case in claims four, seven, eight, thirteen, and fourteen. See, e.g.,
Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973) (“a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable
interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another”); Parkhurst v. Tabor, 569 F.3d 861, 865–67
(8th Cir.2009) (crime victims lack standing to compel a criminal prosecution); Jones v. Clinton, 206
F.3d 811, 812 (8th Cir. 2000) (a private party lacks standing to prosecute an action for criminal
contempt ); Smith v. Shaw, No. 5:09–01001, 2012 WL 1832340, at * 1 (S.D. W.Va. April 25, 2012);
Herr v. Cornhusker Farms, Case No. 1-15-cv-174, 2017 WL 1149072 at *16 (D.N.D. March 27,
2017) (not allowing privatized enforcement of ethical rules).
In short, despite being voluminous and verbose, Hansen’s complaint does not state any set
of facts that, if assumed to be true, would state a plausible claim for relief against any of the
defendants. That being the case, the court should not allow this action to go forward when it serves
The majority of the defendants sued in this action are members of the North Dakota judiciary or their
administrative staffs. Also included are the North Dakota Attorney General and multiple states’ attorneys. These
defendants have absolute immunity when acting within the scope of their judicial or prosecutorial duties or when assisting
in the carrying out of judicial functions. See, e.g., Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991) (judicial immunity); Imbler
v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431(1976) (prosecutorial immunity); Penn v. United States, 335 F.3d 786, 789 (8th Cir.
2003) (absolute immunity extends “to other officials for acts taken pursuant to a facially valid court order”); Robinson
v. Freeze, 15 F.3d 107, 109 (8th Cir. 1994) (judicial immunity extends to individuals carrying out the judiciary’s
functioning). For most, if not all, of these defendants, Hansen has failed to pled facts that state a claim to which the
absolute immunity of these defendants would not apply.
no purpose other than to harass the currently named defendants and others.3
Lack of subject matter jurisdiction
Finally, there is another even more fundamental problem. Assuming that the defects in
Hansen’s pleadings could be rectified by way of another amended complaint, this court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction to entertain this suit at all because of the limited authority of federal courts to
revisit state court proceedings, particularly with respect to state court determinations on family law.
Rooker-Feldman Doctrine and the Domestic Relations Exception
Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, lower federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction
over challenges to state court judgments, a review limited to the province of the United States
Supreme Court. Keene Corp. v. Cass, 908 F.2d 293, 296 (8th Cir. 1990) (noting “[f]ederal courts,
with the exception of the United States Supreme Court, do not possess appellate jurisdiction over
state court proceedings.”). This doctrine applies to “cases brought by state-court losers complaining
of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the [federal] district court proceedings
commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp.
v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, (2005). These types of suits are “out of bounds” in
Documents submitted to the court by the various defendants make clear that Hansen is using this action to
harass members of the North Dakota legal community. Without the court’s leave, and without any authority to do so,
Hansen served civil investigative demands on some of the defendants demanding sensitive personal and financial
information that has no bearing on this litigation. (Doc. No. 31-1). Further, in an attempt to get the defendants to
capitulate, the demands, without any basis, falsely state it would be a crime to avoid compliance. Upon multiple motions
from the defendants, the court already had to quash these demands as improper. (Doc. No. 50).
In addition, the harassment extends to individuals and entities who have not been properly added as defendants
in this action. In documents submitted to the court, Hansen appears to have altered the issued summonses by handwriting
in additional defendants who are not named in her Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. Nos. 49-1; 49-2; 56-2). Hansen
has not sought leave from the court to file any further complaint adding these individuals and entities as parties to this
action. Additionally, the altered summonses are not consistent with one another, with some individuals being listed in
one summons but not the other, and vice versa. These handwritten summonses have left some of these individuals and
entities confused as to whether they are a part of this action and has led to multiple motions to dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 47,
51, 55, 58).
federal court and warrant dismissal “for want of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Id. at 283-84. The
doctrine not only precludes direct assailments of state court judgments, but also prohibits collateral
attacks by way of federal claims inextricably intertwined with the state court judgments. Prince v.
Arkansas Bd. of Examiners in Psychology, 380 F.3d 337, 341 (8th Cir. 2004). Federal claims are
inextricably intertwined “with the state court judgment if they succeed only to the extent that the
state court wrongly decided the issue before it.” Id. (internal quotations and alterations omitted).
This prevents federal courts from considering actions that would “directly nullify the final judgment
of the state court.” Id. (internal alterations and quotations omitted). The type of relief sought may
be indicative of whether a federal claim is simply an attempt to disturb the state court judgment. Id.
More particular to family law matters, federal courts have developed what has come to be
known as the domestic relations exception. The “domestic relations exception, first articulated in
Barber v. Barber, 62 U.S. (1 How.) 582, 584, 16 L.Ed. 226 (1859), divests the federal courts of
jurisdiction over any action for which the subject is a divorce, allowance of alimony, or child
custody.” Kahn v. Kahn, 21 F.3d 859, 861 (8th Cir. 1994). “[W]hen a cause of action closely relates
to but does not precisely fit into the contours of an action for divorce, alimony or child custody,
federal courts generally will abstain from exercising jurisdiction.” Id. This doctrine precludes
federal suit involving “a remedy which is essentially domestic—where, in addressing the same
conduct involved in a state domestic proceeding, the effect of a remedy in the federal suit is to
modify, nullify, or predetermine the domestic ruling of the state proceeding.” Wallace v. Wallace,
736 F.3d 764, 767 (8th Cir. 2013). No matter how styled, the domestic relations exception disallows
domestic claims “cloaked in the ‘trappings’ of another type of” a federal claim. Mandel v. Town of
Orleans, 326 F.3d 267, 271 (1st Cir. 2003) (quoting Congleton v. Holy Cross Child Placement
Agency, Inc., 919 F.2d 1077, 1078–79 (5th Cir.1990)).
Most of Hansen’s claims relate, in one way or another, to alleged violations of due process
that she contends occurred in the state court proceedings and entitle her to relief here, both monetary
and injunctive. These claims offend the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and the domestic relations
exception because they can succeed only to the extent the state courts wrongly decided the various
issues and because any relief this court may provide would essentially nullify or modify the state
Hansen’s ninth claim is illustrative as well as the most offensive in this regard. This claim
seeks a declaratory judgment from this court declaring the state court judgment “unenforceable and
non-recognizable pursuant to the Declaratory [J]udgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), and any use of
such court orders must cease immediately.” (Doc. No. 11 p. 146). According to Hansen, the state
court judgments are unenforceable under various state and federal laws because of “fraud, failure to
afford procedures compatible with due process, lack of impartial tribunals, lack of personal
jurisdiction, contravention of public policy, that the judgment conflicts with proper due process of
law, and that the judgment is an unenforceable penalty.” (Doc. No. 11 p. 146). To support this
claim, Hansen alleges the state district court judges presiding over the hearings were biased against
her and this bias gives rise to a claim for due process violations.4 As evidence, she cites the state
Although not verbatim, this claim tracks other arguments Hansen made to the North Dakota Supreme Court.
See Brief of Appellant, Dieterle v. Dieterle, No. 20150087 (N.D. August 17, 2015) (“The Order was void due to the
fraud, perjury and Unclean Hands of the Plaintiff by which the Prior Order was obtained under and was on Appeal” and
that “The Judge acted in ways of obvious bias, by his denial of a full and fair hearing to the Defendant.”); see also
Petition for Rehearing, Dieterle v. Dieterle, No. 20150087 (N.D. March 3, 2016) (“Judge Reich's individual actions in
this matter, fall under violation to U.S.C title 42, section 1983 as does wrongful action taken by the Supreme Court to
attempt to exceed its Jurisdiction and try to validate what Ms. Hansen has already proven to be void by lack of due
process, fraud upon the court, and abuse of discretion.” and that a “judgment is invalid when it is based on fraudulent
courts’ various legal conclusions. For instance, Hansen alleges the state court showed bias “by
applying only two of the thirteen best interest factors.” (Doc. No. 11 p. 50). Hansen, quoting from
an unidentified source, further alleges a “due process violation occurs when a state-required breakup
of a natural family is founded solely on a ‘best interests’ analysis that is not supported by the
requisite proof of parental unfitness.” (Doc. No. 11 p. 59). These are just some of the alleged legal
errors Hansen alleges amount to bias against her.5 In addition to legal conclusions, Hansen alleges
the presiding judges exhibited bias towards her with their factual conclusions, specifically by
refusing “to consider her or her children credible.” (Doc. No. 11 p. 50). Expounding, Hansen
alleges “the lower court ignored the evidence actually received . . . a lower court’s decision is
supposed to be made based on facts and not the recitation of bald faced lies and innuendo.” (Doc.
No. 11 pp. 58-59). In a different iteration, Hansen alleges the state courts “intentionally, knowingly,
and willfully failed to interpret the facts fairly,” all of which evidenced bias (Doc. No. 11 p. 50).
Although Hansen attempts to characterize this claim as one of due process, the claim is little
more than a thinly veiled attempt to have this court sit in review of the factual and legal conclusions
reached in the state court proceedings. Hansen’s bias claim principally, if not entirely, rests on
allegations the state courts wrongly decided the various issues and these erroneous decisions
evidenced bias, which Hansen then parlays into a due process claim. To vindicate Hansen’s claim
misrepresentation of facts.”). The North Dakota Supreme Court rejected these arguments. Dieterle, 2016 ND 36 at ¶
20 (concluding “[w]e have considered Hansen's remaining claims, and we conclude they are without merit or unnecessary
to our decision.”).
Hansen also argues the state courts erred, in part, by delegating their decision making authority to a parental
coordinator. (Doc. No. 11 p. 49) (alleging, not “only did Jorgensen incorrectly delegate a judicial duty to a parenting
investigator, he also inappropriately delegates the creation of a parenting plan to a parenting coordinator . . . this also
proves the bias of Jorgensen against Hansen.”). The North Dakota Supreme Court rejected this argument. Dieterle, 2013
ND 71 at ¶ 16 (concluding the “court's order is not an impermissible delegation of authority to the parenting
coordinator.”). This is just another attempt by Hansen to use the cloaking of “bias” as pretense to have this court sit in
review of a state court family law decision.
by finding bias, the court would necessarily have to revisit the record and conclude the state courts
wrongly applied North Dakota law and wrongly decided factual issues. Not only does such
vindication fall within the second-guessing prohibited by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, it also
offends the domestic relations doctrine by addressing the same conduct involved in a state domestic
proceeding to modify or nullify the state court judgments.6 The same problems exist with respect
to claims one, two, three, five, seven, eight, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen, all of which to varying
degrees allege the state courts wrongly decided issues under the guise of due process claims.
In the end, Hansen is a disappointed state court litigant pursuing claims that, at bottom, are
nothing more than an invitation for this court to sit in appellate review of the state court judgment
in contravention of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which limited her right to any federal review to
a direct appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and that, in any event, are barred from
consideration here by the domestic relations exception. Hansen’s Second Amended Complaint
should be dismissed because of lack of subject matter jurisdiction for these reasons.
For the reasons expressed above, and pursuant to the initial screening allowed for under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the above action be DISMISSED
WITHOUT PREJUDICE for (1) failure to comply with Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, (2) failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, and (3) want of subject matter jurisdiction, and that all
Hansen’s intent to use this litigation as a vehicle to seek relief from the state court judgment and obtain
custody of the minor child is all the more apparent when considered in light of what she styled as “Complaint and
Request for Injunction.” (Doc. No. 10). In the requested relief, Hansen stated she “requests and is entitled to, and should
be awarded, a preliminary injunction awarding her immediate custody of her youngest daughter . . . .” (Doc No. 10 p.
15). Hansen goes on to cite N.D.C.C. ch. 14-09, which contains the best interest factors used to determine child custody,
for why her ex-husband should not have custody of their child. (Doc. No. 10 pp. 16-17). These admissions make clear
that Hansen seeks a domestic remedy in this case by acquiring custody of her child from defendant Shannon Dieterle.
This court’s jurisdiction does not include readdressing child custody issues.
pending motions (Doc. Nos. 46, 47, 51, 54, 55, 57, 58) be deemed MOOT.
Pending the court’s consideration of this Report and Recommendation, it is HEREBY
ORDERED that further action in this case is STAYED and all deadlines, except for the deadline
for filing objections to this Report and Recommendation, are suspended. This includes deadlines
for responses to any pending motions.
NOTICE OF RIGHT TO FILE OBJECTIONS
Pursuant to D.N.D. Civil L.R. 72.1(D)(3), any party may object to these recommendations
within fourteen (14) days after being served with a copy of this Report and Recommendation.
Failure to file appropriate objections may result in the recommended action being taken without
further notice or opportunity to respond.
Dated this 10th day of October, 2017.
/s/ Charles S. Miller, Jr.
Charles S. Miller, Jr.
United 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?