Doe v. Hartz

Citation970 F.Supp. 1375
Decision Date23 June 1997
Docket NumberNo. C 96-4091-MWB.,C 96-4091-MWB.
PartiesJane DOE, Plaintiff, v. Father Gerald HARTZ, Bishop Lawrence Soens, St. Lawrence Church, and Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa
970 F.Supp. 1375
Jane DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
Father Gerald HARTZ, Bishop Lawrence Soens, St. Lawrence Church, and Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, Defendants.
No. C 96-4091-MWB.
United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division.
June 23, 1997.

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Roxanne Barton Conlin, Roxanne Conlin and Associates, P.C., Des Moines, IA, for Jane Doe.

Joseph L. Fitzgibbons, Fitzgibbons Brothers Attorneys at Law, Estherville, IA, for Father Hartz.

James W. Radig, Shull, Cosgrove, Hellige & Lundberg, Sioux City, IA, for Bishop Soens, St. Lawrence Church, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.

Anjali A. Ashley, Department of Justice, Civil Division, Federal Programs Branch, Washington, DC, Willis A. Buell, Asst. U.S. Atty., Northern District of Iowa, Sioux City, IA, for U.S.

Andrea Williams, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York City, for amicus curiae NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Victoria L. Herring, Des Moines, IA (Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, New York City, Judith Resnik, Orrin B. Evans, University of Southern California Law School, New York University School of Law, and Frank Michelman, Robert Walmsley, Harvard University Law School, of counsel); Reva Siegel, Yale Law School (on the brief), for amici curiae Law Professors.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING MOTION TO DISMISS, ABSTAIN, OR CERTIFY QUESTIONS

BENNETT, District Judge.


 TABLE OF CONTENTS
                 I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND....................................................1381
                 A. The Parties And The Central Incidents .....................................1381
                 B. The Complaint .............................................................1381
                 C. The Response ..............................................................1383
                II. LEGAL ANALYSIS ................................................................1385
                 A. Standards For Defendants' Motion To Dismiss ...............................1385
                 1. Failure to state a claim ..............................................1385
                 2. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction ...................................1386
                 B. The Challenges To The VAWA Claim ..........................................1390
                 1. Has Doe stated a claim under the VAWA? ................................1391
                 a. Elements of Doe's § 13981 claim ..............................1392
                 i. Rules of statutory interpretation ............................1392
                 ii. The plain meaning of the VAWA civil remedies statute .........1393
                 b. Elements of the predicate offense .................................1397
                 i. The statute defining the predicate offense ...................1397
                 ii. Predicate felonies ...........................................1399
                 c. Predicate "crime of violence" under the VAWA ......................1400
                 i. "Categorical" determination ..................................1400
                 ii. "Crime of violence" test .....................................1402
                 iii. Application of the test ......................................1403
                 d. Adequate pleading of a predicate offense ..........................1404
                

Page 1380

 e. Remaining elements of the VAWA claim ...............................1405
                 2. Is the VAWA constitutional?.............................................1409
                 a. The split in authority..............................................1409
                 b. Commerce Clause analysis ...........................................1413
                 i. Substantial effect on interstate commerce .....................1415
                 ii. Deference to congressional findings............................1419
                 iii. Congressional findings.........................................1421
                 iv. Reasonable adaptation of means to goal.........................1423
                 C. Supplemental Jurisdiction...................................................1423
                 1. Novelty and complexity..................................................1424
                 2. Predomination...........................................................1425
                 D. Challenges To State-Law Claims..............................................1426
                 1. Negligent hiring, training, and supervision.............................1426
                 a. Recognition of the tort as alleged..................................1427
                 b. Constitutionality of the tort as against religious institutions.....1428
                 i. The "entanglement" test........................................1428
                 ii. Federal decisions..............................................1430
                 iii. State court decisions..........................................1431
                 2. Other state-law claims..................................................1432
                 E. Certification For Interlocutory Appeal......................................1433
                III. CONCLUSION.....................................................................1434
                APPENDIX............................................................................1435
                 A. Amici Appearing Through NOW Legal Defense And Education Fund ...............1435
                 B. Amici "Law Professors" .....................................................1436
                

Violence against women prompted Congress to pass the civil remedies provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), 42 U.S.C. § 13981, on September 13, 1994, as a new, federal weapon to combat gender-based violence. Yet, whatever the need for or merits of the VAWA, was its passage a constitutional exercise of congressional power? The only two courts to consider the question have split on the answer.1 The defendants here, a parish priest accused by a parishioner of sexually exploiting her, as well as the church, bishop, and diocese also called to account for the priest's allegedly wrongful conduct, assert that the VAWA cannot be sustained on the basis of either the Congress' Commerce Clause or Fourteenth Amendment enforcement powers. The plaintiff, the United States as a plaintiff/intervenor, and various amici curiae have rallied to defend the constitutionality of the VAWA.

However much the parties and interested persons press their arguments concerning the constitutionality of the enactment of the VAWA, the court must heed the directive of the Supreme Court, and first consider non-constitutional challenges to the plaintiff's VAWA claim, and must only reach the constitutional issue if it is "unavoidable."2 A non-constitutional challenge is not lacking here, because the defendants also contend that the plaintiff's VAWA claim, the only federal claim in the complaint, is inadequately pleaded. Furthermore, if the VAWA claim is dismissed, on constitutional or nonconstitutional grounds, the court may be deprived of subject matter jurisdiction over any of the plaintiff's thirteen state-law claims, and the

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defendants contend that the court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims in any event. Finally, the defendants also challenge the plaintiff's many state-law claims, again on constitutional grounds — this time, pursuant to the religion clauses of the First Amendment — as well as a plethora of nonconstitutional grounds.

This tangle of constitutional and nonconstitutional issues, federal and state claims, a federal claim dependent upon a predicate offense defined by state law, and supplemental jurisdiction questions, creates a veritable Gordian Knot.3 Alexander the Great could only loosen the Gordian Knot by slicing through it with his sword, an approach that is appealing, but unavailable here.4 This court's resolution of defendants' motion must be more patient and reasoned.

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
A. The Parties And The Central Incidents

Plaintiff Jane Doe5 filed her complaint in this action on August 29, 1996, naming as defendants Father Gerald A. Hartz, who is a priest at St. Lawrence Church, in Carroll, Iowa, St. Lawrence Church itself, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, and Bishop Lawrence Soens, the bishop of the defendant Diocese. The gravamen of Doe's complaint is that, on December 3, 1994, when she arrived at the Church to sing during evening mass, Father Hartz "came up behind her, grabbed her with both of his hands and pulled her back into his body, held her tightly and kissed her neck." Complaint, ¶ 11. Later that same evening, after mass, "Defendant Hartz rubbed Plaintiff's back up and down with his hand." Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges thirteen claims, based on state and federal law, as a result of these incidents or related events.

B. The Complaint

Count 1 of Doe's complaint is the only one stating a federal claim, and thus is the count upon which federal jurisdiction depends.6 In Count 1, Doe asserts a civil claim against Father Hartz for violation of the civil remedies provision of the VAWA, 42 U.S.C. § 13981. Doe alleges that Father Hartz's conduct constituted sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist within the meaning of Iowa Code § 709.15, establishing a predicate felony crime of violence under the federal statute. As relief, she seeks a declaration that Father Hartz's conduct violated the VAWA; an injunction, apparently against all defendants, enjoining any conduct violating the rights of the plaintiff and others secured by the VAWA;7 an order that Father Hartz

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receive psychological evaluation and treatment; an injunction against Father Hartz from performing his duties and responsibilities until such time as a neutral professional certifies that he can do so without sexually exploiting females; compensatory and punitive damages; attorneys fees; costs; and such other relief as the court deems just and proper.

The remaining counts assert state-law claims against the various defendants. Count 2 alleges sexual abuse by Father Hartz. As relief on this count, Doe seeks an order requiring Father Hartz to receive professional counseling within the meaning of Iowa Code § 611.23, and compensatory and punitive damages. Count 3 alleges fraud by Father Hartz arising from a special relationship of trust, and...

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