819 F.Supp. 1429 (D.Minn. 1993), Civ. 4-92-1058, McMaster v. State of Minnesota

Docket Nº:Civ. 4-92-1058.
Citation:819 F.Supp. 1429
Party Name:Gregory J. McMASTER, Elizabeth Krogstad, Harold Gustafson, Michael Giest, Guy Hathaway, John E. Liljedahl, Timothy S. Smith, Shawn Hubbard, James Scott, Rickey J. Sistad, and Gerald Norris, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. STATE OF MINNESOTA; Orville Pung, Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections; Jean W
Case Date:April 29, 1993
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, District of Minnesota

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819 F.Supp. 1429 (D.Minn. 1993)

Gregory J. McMASTER, Elizabeth Krogstad, Harold Gustafson, Michael Giest, Guy Hathaway, John E. Liljedahl, Timothy S. Smith, Shawn Hubbard, James Scott, Rickey J. Sistad, and Gerald Norris, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs,


STATE OF MINNESOTA; Orville Pung, Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections; Jean Whitney, Administrative Assistant to the Commissioner of Corrections; Donald G. Tomsche, Correctional Administrator to Minnesota Department of Corrections; Dennis Benson, Warden, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Oak Park Heights; Pat Adair, Superintendent, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Shakopee; Robert Erickson, Warden, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Stillwater; Fred Holbeck, Superintendent, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Faribault; G. Fred Lafleur, Superintendent, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Lino Lakes; Leroy Siegal, Superintendent, Minnesota Correctional Facility--St. Cloud; Thomas F. Grogan, Director, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Oak Park Heights Industries; Frank Wood, Minnesota Deputy Commissioner of Corrections; Guy Piras, Assistant Director, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Oak Park Heights Industries; Jim Rariek, Supervisor, Complex 4, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Oak Park Heights Industries; John Doe, Mary Roe, and Persons Unknown, Defendants.

Civ. 4-92-1058.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota, Fourth Division.

April 29, 1993

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Richard G. Nadler, Thomas J. Lyons, St. Paul, MN, Heidi H. Crissey, John R. Wylde, Jr., Minneapolis, MN, for plaintiffs.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Minnesota Atty. Gen., and Blair A. Rosenthal and Jocelyn F. Olson, Asst. Attys. Gen., St. Paul, MN, for defendants.


MacLAUGHLIN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for dismissal and partial summary judgment. The motion will be granted.


This is a class action brought by current and former inmates of various Minnesota correctional facilities. Defendants include the state of Minnesota, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections (DOC), and various state officials involved with prison industries operated by the DOC. The prison industries were established pursuant to Minn.Stat. § 241.27, which allows the DOC to establish industrial and commercial activities at correctional institutions to provide vocational training and employment to inmates. The industries produce items such as furniture, truck and auto body products, mattresses, textiles, and notebooks; they also provide services such as data entry, assembly, market research, and printing to private companies with whom the state has contracts. Plaintiffs allege that defendants sell prison industry products in interstate commerce to governmental entities and to the private sector. They further allege that in 1991, total sales for the prison industries exceeded $11 million, and forty percent of the sales were in the private sector.

Compensation paid to inmates working in prison industries is determined by the commissioner of the DOC, pursuant to Minn.Stat. § 243.23, subd. 1, which allows the commissioner to pay inmates according to the quality and character of the work performed. Plaintiffs allege that they are paid between fifty and seventy-five cents per hour. Although Minnesota law allows many inmates to reduce their sentences by accruing good time, inmates who refuse available work assignments in the prison industries may not earn good time for any day on which they do not perform a work assignment. Minn.Stat. § 243.18.

Plaintiffs allege that defendants have violated their constitutional and statutory rights by failing to pay inmates minimum or prevailing wages for work performed in prison industries, and by punishing inmates who refuse to work by depriving them of good time. Plaintiffs seek relief on behalf of two classes of individuals. The first class includes individuals who have worked in prison industries and have not received lawful wages; the second class includes inmates who have lost good time as a result of refusing to work in the industries. Defendants move to dismiss Counts 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 of the complaint, which raise claims under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968, various amendments to the United States Constitution, and 18 U.S.C. § 1761. Defendants also move for dismissal or summary judgment on Count 3, which alleges that defendants have retaliated against some of the named plaintiffs because of their participation in this lawsuit.


In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim the Court presumes all factual allegations to be true and all reasonable

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inferences from those allegations are construed in favor of the non-moving party. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Palmer v. Tracor, Inc., 856 F.2d 1131, 1132 (8th Cir. 1988). The appropriate inquiry is not whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether he will be allowed to introduce evidence to support his claims. Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236, 94 S.Ct. at 1686. Because dismissal on the pleadings is an extreme remedy it is not favored by the courts and is employed only when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted). Robinson v. MFA Mutual Insurance Co., 629 F.2d 497, 500 (8th Cir. 1980). See also Palmer, 856 F.2d at 1132.1

I. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

At the outset, defendants argue that the Eleventh Amendment shields the state of Minnesota and the individual defendants in their individual capacity from suit on all of plaintiffs' claims except the claims arising under the FLSA. Plaintiffs argue that neither the state nor the individual officials are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment.

The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states or state entities unless the state has waived its immunity or Congress has overridden it. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 3106 n. 14, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). The Eleventh Amendment bar applies regardless of the relief sought. Thus, the general rule is that a state cannot be sued directly in its own name. Id. Where plaintiffs seek injunctive or declaratory relief under federal law, they may overcome the state's immunity by naming state officials in their official capacity as defendants; they may not, however, obtain an award of monetary damages against state officials in their official capacity because such an award would be in effect an award against the state. Id. at 169, 105 S.Ct. at 3107.

Defendants concede that the plaintiffs' FLSA claims are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment, because the United States Supreme Court has held that the FLSA applies to the states. Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985). Defendants assert, however, that neither the state as an entity nor the state officials in their official capacity are subject to suit on plaintiffs' remaining claims. Defendants correctly point out that the state itself is not subject to suit under section 1983 because states and state entities are not "persons" within the meaning of that section. Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989). Nor are states subject to suit under RICO, absent a state waiver of immunity. See Bair v. Krug, 853 F.2d 672 (9th Cir. 1988). Therefore, defendants assert that with the exception of the FLSA claim, all claims against the state and the individual defendants in their official capacity must be dismissed.

In response, plaintiffs do not argue that the state of Minnesota has waived its sovereign immunity for plaintiffs' non-FLSA claims, or that Congress has abrogated the state's immunity on those claims. Instead,

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plaintiffs assert that where the commerce clause is involved, the state does not have complete immunity. In support of this assertion, plaintiffs rely on Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co., 491 U.S. 1, 109 S.Ct. 2273, 105 L.Ed.2d 1 (1989). As defendants point out, however, Union Gas holds that Congress has authority under the commerce clause to abrogate sovereign immunity for claims arising under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). As this case involves no CERCLA claim, Union Gas is simply inapplicable. Because it is clear that the state of Minnesota is not subject to suit on plaintiffs' non-FLSA claims, those claims must be dismissed insofar as they seek to impose liability against the state itself.

However, the claims against the individual defendants in their official capacity cannot be dismissed in their entirety on Eleventh Amendment grounds. Defendants rely on Will to support their argument that plaintiffs' non-FLSA claims against the individual defendants in their official capacity must be dismissed. This argument misstates the reach of Will. As noted above, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits for injunctive or declaratory relief against state officials. Consistent with this rule, Will holds that suits seeking prospective injunctive relief against state officials in their official capacity are permissible under section 1983 because they are not treated as actions against the state. Will, 491 U.S. at 71 n. 10, 109 S.Ct. at 2311 n. 10. Because plaintiffs seek both injunctive relief and monetary...

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