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Huggler v. State

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

July 16, 2019

EDWARD H. HUGGLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF MONTANA DOJ as SUPERVISING AGENCY, Defendant.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          TIMOTHY J. CAVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Edward Huggler submitted a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, together with a proposed Complaint alleging his rights are being violated by various law enforcement agencies within the State of Montana. (Docs. 1, 2.) On April 17, 2019, Mr. Huggler filed an untitled document, seeking an injunction on Ravalli County Justice Court proceedings to be held on May 8, 2019, claiming he was being denied due process and equal protection. (Doc. 4.)

         The motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted, but the Complaint fails to name a proper defendant and fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Mr. Huggler will be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint, but his request for legal assistance (Doc. 2 at 4) will be denied. The April 17, 2019 filing, construed as a motion for injunctive relief, should be denied.

         I. MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

         Mr. Huggler's Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. 1) is sufficient to make the showing required by 28 U.S.C. §1915(a). The request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

         II. ALLEGATIONS

         Mr. Huggler alleges his rights were violated on June 2, 2018 by a Ravalli County Sheriff Deputy when he was pulled over without probable cause. He then contends that on September 16th he was arrested with excessive force and without probable cause by Montana Highway Patrolman Adam Gane. He also claims that on April 5, 2019, his rights were violated when a photo was taken at the Big Horn County Jail of his SVOR registration, and a message warning of Mr. Huggler was sent to Shantell Faith, who then spread a false claim on Facebook accusing Mr. Huggler hanging around a school. He also contends that on April 3, 2019, he was called out of the Office of the Western Motel by Deputy Middleton, who then accused him of whistling and making lewd comments. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 1-2.)

         Mr. Huggler contends law enforcement is falsely accusing him of being dangerous. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 1-2.) He asks that all his connected lower court cases in Ravalli and Missoula County be suspended until this action is resolved. He also asks for an order of protection from the Big Horn County Sheriff's Department for fear of retaliation. Finally, he requests legal assistance for perfecting this claim and filing motions. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 3-4.)

         III. SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915

         A. Standard

         Mr. Huggler is proceeding in forma pauperis so the Court must review his Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which requires the Court to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis before it is served if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. A complaint is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “A case is malicious if it was filed with the intention or desire to harm another.” Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2005). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if a plaintiff fails to allege the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation omitted).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint “that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the [plaintiff] is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). That is, a complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). A complaint's allegations must cross “the line from conceivable to plausible.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680.

         There is a two-step procedure to determine whether a complaint's allegations cross that line. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662. First, the Court must identify “the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 680. Factual allegations are not entitled to the assumption of truth if they are “merely consistent with liability, ” or “amount to nothing more than a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements' of a constitutional” claim. Id. at 679, 681. A complaint stops short of the line between probability and the possibility of relief where the facts pled are merely consistent with a defendant's liability. Id. at 678.

         Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a “plausible” claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A claim is “plausible” if the factual allegations, which are accepted as true, “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. This inquiry is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679 (citation omitted). If the factual allegations, which are accepted as true, “do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not “show[n]”-“that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardu, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); cf. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice”).

         B. Analysis

         Mr. Huggler has raised allegations regarding a series of encounters with law enforcement in the last year, but the only named Defendant is the State of Montana-DOJ as supervising agency. As set forth below, the State is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and cannot be sued in federal court. Further, even if Mr. Huggler could name a proper defendant, he must provide additional factual allegations regarding claims, and clarify whether the incidents of which he complains are pending criminal actions, or if concluded, whether he was convicted of any of the named offenses.

         1. State of Montana

         The Eleventh Amendment states: “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Eleventh Amendment to mean that absent waiver, neither a State nor an agency of the State acting under its control may “be subject to suit in federal court.” Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993). Consequently, the Eleventh Amendment bars “suits which seek either damages or injunctive relief against a state, an arm of the state, its instrumentalities, or its agencies.” Franceschi v. Schwartz, 57 F.3d 828, 831 (9th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Eleventh Amendment bars suit in federal court against a state or state agencies absent a valid abrogation of immunity by Congress or an express waiver of immunity by the State. Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 267-268 (1997); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 653 (1974); Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993). The State of Montana has waived immunity only for tort claims brought in state court. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-9-101 et seq. Thus, the State of Montana and its agencies have Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court. In addition, states are not “persons” subject to suit for money damages under section 1983. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65, 71 (1989).

         Mr. Huggler's claims against the State of Montana itself cannot proceed. Greater L.A. Council on Deafness, Inc. v. Zolin, 812 F.2d 1103, 1110 n. 10 (9th Cir. 1987) (“Since the [E]leventh [A]mendment by its terms bars suits against a state ‘in law or equity,' our holding necessarily also applies to plaintiffs' claims against the Superior Court for injunctive and ...


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