United States District Court, D. Noterman and David E. Kathleen Morris, Michael M. Chadwick and Jon K. Barta, New Prague, Minn. Cole and Paul C. Earl Barrett, Minneapolis, Minn. The Court heard these motions early in the litigation, either prior to or shortly after the commencement of discovery depositions. The Court quickly announced its rulings in terse orders to enable successfully moving defendants to avoid the burdens of discovery.
This Memorandum Opinion sets forth the rationale for those rulings, but it does not deal with Gould v. The Court's Memorandum and Order of June 26, fully explains why the Court granted summary judgment in favor of all the defendants in Gould. Jordan Police arrested Rud that same evening on charges of sexually abusing children. The arrest and questioning of Rud set into motion what became known as the "Jordan sex ring investigation.
The number of suspects also continued to expand as the investigation proceeded. From the date of Rud's arrest until June 6, , an additional 23 individuals from the Jordan area in Scott County, Minnesota were criminally charged with sexually abusing children. Once charged with sexually abusing children, most parents had their children taken away from them by Scott County officials.
Plaintiffs in the present actions were arrested during a period from January 11, to June 4, At the time of their arrests, these plaintiffs, except for the Lallaks and the Ranks, had their children taken away from them.
Two other plaintiffs, Daniel and Wanda Meger, were never arrested. The Meger children were separated from their parents on June 5, Defendants state that this separation was the result of Wanda Meger consenting to voluntary placement of the children with the County, while Wanda Meger contends that she was pressured and misled into signing the placement agreement. Of all the criminal cases involving the Jordan sex ring, only the Bentz case went to trial. Kathleen Morris dismissed the charges against the remaining Jordan sex ring defendants.
Morris explained the dismissal of these allegations as necessary to avoid prejudicing an investigation of great magnitude, which was a reference to an investigation of alleged homicides in Scott County. Morris also noted that further criminal trials would harm the children who had to appear as witnesses. Subsequently, state and federal authorities assumed control over further investigations and legal proceedings involving alleged Scott County child abusers.
These authorities did not reinstate criminal actions against any of the 21 individuals who had their charges dismissed. After dismissal of the criminal allegations, the plaintiffs filed the present actions in federal court under 42 U. Plaintiffs who have children also are suing on behalf of their children.
The list of defendants varies slightly from case to case, but most defendants are present in more than one lawsuit. All plaintiffs have named Morris and Scott County as defendants. The other defendants in these actions are the Sheriff of Scott County, Douglas Tietz; four Scott County deputy sheriffs; therapists who had contact with the children; a therapist who conducted an adverse examination of two plaintiffs who were criminal defendants; guardians ad litem appointed by the Scott County Family Court to protect the interests of children; the Scott County Department of Human Services and individual employees of the department; the Scott County Board of Commissioners; the City of Jordan; the Jordan City Council; the former and current mayor of the City of Jordan; the Jordan Police Department; Jordan Police Chief Alvin Erickson; a Jordan police officer; a foster parent of one of the children; the director of a halfway house in which one of the children stayed; and a doctor who examined some of the children.
Plaintiffs assert that the various defendants acted in concert to bring about the arrests and separations of parents and children, and that the actions of the defendants prolonged the separation of parents and children. Plaintiffs further assert that by repeatedly questioning child witnesses, defendants were able to wear down or brainwash the children into making accusations against adults. In effect, plaintiffs allege that defendants coerced the children to give the responses defendants desired.
The thrust of plaintiffs' charges can be further gleaned from the following paragraph, because each complaint, except the Ranks', contains a virtually identical paragraph. The aforesaid actions by Defendants were acts in furtherance of a conspiracy. Defendants, and specifically R. Kathleen Morris and her office, were engaged in a publicity campaign against child abuse and incest.
Defendants attempted to legitimize this invented "sex ring" by producing a large number of arrests and prosecutions in Jordan for sexual abuse of children. In furtherance of this conspiracy, Defendants recklessly sought out the [plaintiffs] as candidates for prosecution.
These arrests were thus made without making any adequate substantiated inquiries regarding the welfare of the Plaintiffs' minor children and without probable cause and in willful disregard of Plaintiffs' rights, privileges and immunities secured by the United States Constitution and the law and Constitution of the State of Minnesota.
Plaintiffs have brought their lawsuits in federal court because they maintain that defendants' conduct is actionable under 42 U. In order to state a claim under section , a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under color of state law violated a federally protected right.
Individual defendants, in addition to raising the defenses of absolute and qualified immunity, argue that plaintiffs' allegations do not state a claim under section against them. Before examining the arguments of specific defendants, the Court will determine whether plaintiffs' allegations state a claim for relief in a general sense. Not all of plaintiffs' accusations apply to each defendant, but the following section essentially treats defendants generically to see if plaintiffs' claims contain a viable cause of action against any defendant.
The Court will then discuss the arguments unique to specific defendants. Fourth Amendment Plaintiffs clearly do have a fourth amendment right not to be arrested unless probable cause justifies the arrest. A person arrested without probable cause, moreover, can seek redress under section Cosden Oil and Chemical Co.
The mere fact that a person arrested is later acquitted or the charges against him or her are dropped, however, does not by itself subject the arresting officials to section liability. Neither should arresting officials be liable to arrestees if the officials reasonably believed probable cause did exist. Yet a police officer cannot claim he or she simply made a mistake if the officer knew that no probable cause existed, or if the officer was reckless in concluding that probable cause existed.
Plaintiffs here assert that the defendants recklessly disregarded the truth in concluding that probable cause existed for plaintiffs' arrests. Defendants respond that plaintiffs do not have a viable section claim based on the fourth amendment under any circumstances because independent judicial officers concluded that probable cause did exist for plaintiffs' arrests.
The Court cannot accept this contention. United States, F. The court noted, however, that the indictment would not break the chain of causation if the plaintiff alleged acts such as the presentation of false evidence to, or the withholding of truthful evidence from the grand jury.
Ames dealt with presenting information to a grand jury, but its reasoning should also apply to presenting tainted information to a judicial officer who has to decide whether or not to issue an arrest warrant.
In the Scott County cases, the plaintiffs are arguing that defendants knew or should have known the information presented to judicial officers was false. Such accusations may or may not be true, but they do state a claim under section Liberty Interest The other major constitutional violation plaintiffs assert is based on the separation of the parents from their children. Undoubtedly, plaintiffs have a protected liberty interest under the fourteenth amendment in keeping their family unit together.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has recently emphasized that "[t]he privacy and autonomy of familial relationships We can conceive of no more important relationship, no more basic bond in American society, than the tie between parent and child. County of Dakota, F. Plaintiffs claim that the false accusations defendants created caused the separation of children from parents.
Defendants do not dispute that plaintiffs have a protected liberty interest in their family relationships. Defendants reason that plaintiffs received all the process that was due through the procedures of the Scott County Family Court and the Minnesota Rules of Procedure for Juvenile Court Minn.
All parent plaintiffs who had children taken away from them either received or waived these hearings. Parent plaintiffs were also entitled to informal court review of the placement of their children every eight days.
Again, the parent plaintiffs either received or waived these informal reviews. In addition, parent plaintiffs had a variety of other procedural rights under the rules. Defendants conclude that plaintiffs' rights under state law and procedural rules were sufficient to protect plaintiffs' liberty interest in their families.
Relying on Parratt, U. Although Parratt involved a property right, defendants point to cases which have applied the Parratt adequate state remedies analysis to liberty interests. In fact, a court in the District of Minnesota recently applied Parratt to an intentional deprivation of a liberty interest.
But see Quaschnick v. State of Minnesota, F. Defendants further draw upon Ellis v. Ellis held that due process is not violated "if the state provides reasonable remedies for preventing families from being arbitrarily broken up by local domestic relations officers".
Ellis does state that due process is not violated if state procedures exist to correct "inevitable errors" or "blunder[s]" of local officials regarding custody matters. Here, however, plaintiffs allege that defendants fabricated sexual abuse charges in reckless disregard for the truth and in willful indifference for plaintiffs' rights.
If these allegations are true, defendants' conduct would be more culpable than simple errors or blunders. Another reason for rejecting defendants' adequate state remedies argument concerns the nature of the liberty interest involved. Plaintiffs' liberty interest in their families being together involves a right protected not only by procedural due process, but also by substantive due process.
The plurality stated that substantive due process protected the right of an extended family to live together. The grandparent in Moore was not challenging any procedures e. Rather, the grandparent attacked the result of the ordinance, and the Supreme Court agreed that the result was improper. The ability of plaintiffs to assert violations of substantive due process is not affected by the availability of adequate state remedies.
Lake City Sanitation, Inc. Accordingly, plaintiffs' claim that defendants violated plaintiffs' liberty interest in maintaining their family units is a viable claim under section In sum, plaintiffs' allegations do in a general sense state claims upon which relief can be granted under section If plaintiffs' complaints had failed this initial hurdle, then all defendants would have been entitled to summary judgment.
Plaintiffs' passing this threshold does not mean, however, that all defendants' summary judgment motions should be denied. Summary Judgment Nearly every defendant in the Scott County cases has moved for dismissal under either Fed. Although nearly all defendants did technically move for dismissal as well as summary judgment, defendants typically relied heavily on matters outside the pleadings and spoke only in terms of summary judgment in their arguments.
Because the Court did not exclude from its consideration these matters outside the pleadings, the Court must treat defendants' motions as motions for summary judgment.