Schurman v. Payer et al
ORDER denying 48 Motion to Amend/Correct; denying 52 Motion to Appoint Counsel ; denying 52 Motion ; denying 53 Motion. Signed by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier on 11/13/2023. (Mailed to Stephanie Schurman) (JLS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
STEPHANIE SCHURMAN a/k/a
Stephanie Amanda Schurman,
MARK PAYER, in his official capacity;
and JIM VHLAHAKIS, in his official
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S POSTDISMISSAL MOTION TO AMEND,
MOTION TO REOPEN THE CASE,
MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF
COUNSEL, AND MOTION FOR
Plaintiff, Stephanie Schurman, commenced a pro se civil rights lawsuit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Docket 1. Schurman alleges that defendants violated
her First Amendment rights by retaliating against her for exercising her right to
access the courts while she was detained at the Yankton County jail. Id. at 1,
3. When Schurman did not respond to defendants’ interrogatories and requests
for production of documents, defendants filed a motion to compel and
requested attorney’s fees. Docket 28. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy
granted defendants’ motion to compel but denied the request for an award of
attorney’s fees. Docket 40 at 14–15. Schurman did not comply with Magistrate
Judge Duffy’s order directing her to respond to defendants’ discovery requests.
Docket 42 ¶ 6. Because Schurman did not comply with Magistrate Judge
Duffy’s order, defendants filed a motion to dismiss Schurman’s claims under
Federal Rule of Civil Rule 37(d)(3). Docket 41. Schurman did not respond to
defendants’ motion to dismiss. Thus, this court granted defendants’ motion to
dismiss and entered judgment in favor of defendants on June 21, 2023.
Dockets 44, 45.
On July 21, 2023, Schurman filed a motion for leave to amend her
complaint and a proposed amended complaint. Dockets 48, 48-1. In her
proposed amended complaint, Schurman alleges additional claims against
defendants Mark Payer and Jim Vhlahakis and asserts claims against Todd
Brandt, the Yankton County Jail Administrator, and Tyler Larson, the Yankton
County State’s Attorney. Docket 48-1. Schurman alleges that defendants Payer
and Vhlahakis conspired with Brandt and Larson “to withhold the plaintiff[’s]
own records from her, causing this court to dismiss the case for failure to
provide discovery.” Id. at 1. Defendants oppose Schurman’s motion to amend
(Docket 49) and request that the court strike the pleading Schurman filed in
response to defendants’ opposition to her motion to amend (Docket 51).
Defendants also request that the court enter an order prohibiting Schurman
from filing any additional motions in this action. Docket 54. Schurman moves
to reopen the case and for appointment of counsel. Docket 52. Finally,
Schurman requests that the court provide to her a copy of the 2021 and 2023
versions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the District of South
Dakota’s Civil Local Rules of Practice. Docket 53.
Schurman’s Motion to Amend
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that a party may amend
its pleadings with leave of the court and that “[t]he court should freely give
leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). But “different
considerations apply to motions filed after dismissal.” Dorn v. State Bank of
Stella, 767 F.2d 442, 443 (8th Cir 1985) (per curiam). The Eighth Circuit has
instructed that it is inappropriate to grant a motion for leave to amend if
“dismissal of the complaint also constitutes dismissal of the action.” Greier v.
Mo. Ethics Comm’n, 715 F.3d 674, 677 (8th Cir. 2013) (cleaned up and citation
omitted). The distinction between dismissal of a complaint and dismissal of the
entire action often turns on whether the court intended the dismissal to be a
final, appealable order. Id. In this case, the court intended its order granting
defendants’ motion to dismiss under Rule 37(d)(3) to be a final, appealable
order. The court entered judgment with prejudice in favor of defendants and
against Schurman based on its order granting defendants’ motion to dismiss.
Docket 45. Schurman’s motion to amend (Docket 48), which was filed after
entry of a judgment of dismissal, is denied. See Mountain Home Flight Serv., Inc.
v. Baxter Cnty., Ark., 758 F.3d 1038, 1046 (8th Cir. 2014) (finding that the
district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to amend the
complaint filed after dismissal of the action).
Schurman’s Motion to Reopen the Case and for Appointment of
Schurman moves for appointment of counsel and to reopen the case
because her complaint has merit and “it has been shown that a valid question
of law and fact has been presented for determination by the court after a fair
evidentiary hearing is held to address the defendant’s refusal to provide the
plaintiff’s own records so as obstruct her ability to provide discovery[.]” Docket
52 at 1. Schurman attached excerpts of the Rules Governing Section 2254
Cases in support of her motions. Id. at 4. The Rules Governing Section 2254
Cases are not a basis for reopening this case or appointing counsel for
The court has reviewed the interrogatories and requests for production of
documents that were served by defendants. See Docket 29 at 5–8. It is not
clear why Schurman could not have responded to these discovery requests
without her Yankton County jail records. Further, if Schurman was unable to
respond to defendants’ discovery requests because of defendants’ actions or
inactions, Schurman should have brought this to Magistrate Judge Duffy’s
attention when the motion to compel was pending or after Schurman received a
copy of the order granting defendants’ motion to compel and directing her to
respond to defendants’ discovery requests. When defendants filed a motion to
dismiss, Schurman did not respond to the motion or take any steps to inform
the court that she was unable to respond because defendants had refused to
provide her copies of her own records. For these reasons, Schurman’s motion
to reopen the case and for appointment of counsel (Docket 52) is denied.
Schurman’s Motion for Copies
Schurman requests that the court provide to her hard copies of the 2021
and 2023 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Docket 53. Schurman alleges that
she has a “disability that interferes with cognition and ability to visually focus
on very small electronic print for long periods of time.” Id. Because of her
disability, it is difficult for her to read and navigate the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure using the small iPad Yankton County jail provides to access an
online Lexis library. Id.
Along with the court’s scheduling order, the court provided to Schurman
a copy of the District of South Dakota’s Civil Local Rules of Practice and copies
of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26, 33, 34, 35, 37, and 56. Docket 11 ¶ 4.
In the order granting defendants’ motion to compel, Magistrate Judge Duffy
provided a detailed explanation of the stages of civil litigation, including
discovery. Docket 40 at 7–11. Schurman’s motion for copies (Docket 53) is
denied. If Schurman has a disability that requires accommodation to access
the online Lexis library, her request for accommodation should be directed to
the Yankton County Jail, not to this court. Finally, Schurman’s request for
authorization to access the South Dakota Federal District Law Library is
denied. The District of South Dakota does not have a publicly accessible law
Schurman titled her response to defendants’ opposition to her motion to
amend as “Plaintiff’s Counterclaim and Argument Against Defendant’s [sic]
Response Filed August 2[nd,] 2023.” Docket 50. Defendants move to strike
Schurman’s pleading because the District of South Dakota’s Civil Local Rules
of Practice do not provide for a “counterclaim and argument” pleading. Docket
51. But the Local Rules do provide for a reply brief. See D.S.D. Civ LR 7.1.B.
Notwithstanding the title, this court construes Schurman’s pleading as a reply
brief in support of her motion to amend. Defendants’ motion to strike (Docket
51) is denied.
Defendants also request that the court enter an order prohibiting
Schurman from filing additional documents in this action. Docket 54.
Defendants do not cite any authority in support of their motion. Given
Schurman’s pro se status, at this stage of the proceedings, the court is not
inclined to enter an order prohibiting Schurman from filing any further
motions, although the court notes that any further motions are likely not to be
In her proposed amended complaint, Schurman alleges that Yankton
County Jail Administrator Todd Brandt, relying on the advice of Yankton
County State’s Attorney Tyler Larson, has refused to complete and return to
Schurman a prisoner trust account form. Docket 48-1 at 2. As a result,
Schurman has been unable to file any other cases in the District of South
Dakota. Id. In this case, the court granted Schurman’s motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis (Docket 7), and Schurman concedes that she does
not need a prisoner trust account form for the current case. Docket 48-1 at 3.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that “[a] prisoner seeking to bring a
civil action . . . without prepayment of fees . . . shall submit a certified copy of
the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the prisoner
for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint . . .
obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at which the prisoner is or
was confined.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). The term “prisoner” is broadly defined
and does not appear to exclude persons incarcerated or detained in county
jails, see id. § 1915(h), but this issue is not before the court. If Schurman files
a complaint and motion to proceed in forma pauperis in the District of South
Dakota, if necessary, the court will address within that case any request for
relief Schurman may make if she is unable to file a certified prisoner trust
account form. See, e.g., Ross v. Gant, 2020 WL 6946472, at *1–2, 2020 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 221081, at *2–4 (S.D. Ind. Nov. 25, 2020) (recognizing that in some
circumstances it is appropriate for a district court to order a prison or jail to
complete and provide to the clerk of court a certified prisoner trust account
Thus, it is ORDERED:
That Schurman’s motion to amend (Docket 48) is denied.
That Schurman’s motion for appointment of counsel and to reopen
the case (Docket 52) is denied.
That Schurman’s motion for copies (Docket 53) is denied.
That defendants’ motion to strike (Docket 51) is denied.
That defendants’ request for an ordering prohibiting plaintiff from
filing additional motions (Docket 54) is denied.
Dated November 13, 2023.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Karen E. Schreier
KAREN E. SCHREIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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