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Eggenberger v. West Albany Township

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 21, 2016

Bernard Eggenberger Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
West Albany Township, a Minnesota governmental entity; John W. Moechnig, West Albany Township City Clerk in his official capacity or his successor Defendants-Appellees

Submitted: December 15, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

Before WOLLMAN, LOKEN, and BYE, Circuit Judges.

BYE, Circuit Judge.

Bernard Eggenberger alleges violations of his Minnesota and federal constitutional rights and unlawful retaliation by West Albany Township and its clerk John E. Moechnig (collectively, "the Township"). The district court[1] dismissed the lawsuit and Eggenberger appeals. We affirm.

I

Bernard Eggenberger is a citizen and political activist in West Albany Township, Minnesota. West Albany Township is a governmental entity in Minnesota. John E. Moechnig is the West Albany Township City Clerk and was sued in his official capacity. Eggenberger attends Township meetings, reviews Township documents, and pays attention to Township actions. Based on these observations, Eggenberger has publicized various criticisms of the governance of the Township. Eggenberger has published his opinions in the local newspaper and, at least once, reported an illegal land transfer to a state agency. Eggenberger has brought at least one lawsuit acting as a private attorney general. The suit was ultimately dismissed as frivolous, but during litigation Eggenberger sought a subpoena against the Township, who was a non-party to the lawsuit. The Township did not comply with the subpoena and instead served on Eggenberger a written objection. The Township also discussed the possibility of seeking a restraining order against Eggenberger. The Township never actually sought a restraining order.

Eggenberger alleges the Township generally allows individuals to view and copy public information, but the Township targeted Eggenberger specifically and prevented him from viewing and photocopying the type of documents generally available to the public.

Based on the above conduct, Eggenberger filed a lawsuit in Minnesota state court alleging violations of his constitutional rights. The Township removed the action to federal court, and the case proceeded under Eggenberger's First Amended Complaint. In the First Amended Complaint, Claim I and Claim II allege violations of the Minnesota Constitution; Claim III alleges a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; and Claim IV and Claim V allege First Amendment retaliation claims. The district court dismissed the lawsuit on the pleadings.

II

We review a district court's grant of a motion for judgment on the pleadings de novo. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Johnson, 719 F.3d 1010, 1014 (8th Cir. 2013). "We accept as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party." Faibisch v. Univ. of Minnesota, 304 F.3d 797, 803 (8th Cir. 2002).

A

Eggenberger first argues the Township violated rights found in the Minnesota Constitution, including Eggenberger's rights to political speech, free speech, association, and petition. We need not determine whether the Township, by allegedly denying Eggenberger access to and the ability to photocopy documents, violated the Minnesota Constitution because it is not self-enforcing and Eggenberger has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

"[T]here is no private cause of action for violations of the Minnesota Constitution." Guite v. Wright, 976 F.Supp. 866, 871 (D. Minn. 1997), aff'd on other grounds, 147 F.3d 747 (8th Cir. 1998); see also Mlnarik v. City of Minnetrista, No. A09-910, 2010 WL 346402 at *1 (Minn.App. Feb. 2, 2010) (explaining "no private cause of action for a violation of the Minnesota constitution has yet been recognized" and "[t]herefore appellant's complaint fails to state a claim"); Danforth v. Eling, No. A10-130, 2010 WL 4068791 at *6 (Minn.App. Oct. 19, 2010) (noting "there is no private cause of action for violations of the ...


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