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Beamon v. Pollard

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 6, 2016

EARNEST D. BEAMON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM POLLARD, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff Earnest Beamon, who is proceeding p ro se, filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated at the Waupun Correctional Institution. The court issued a screening order allowing him to proceed with his action on February 17, 2016 (ECF No. 17) and the defendants filed their answer on April 7, 2016 (ECF No. 24). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of this court. (ECF Nos. 5, 16).

This matter is before the court on Beamon’s “motion to strike affirmative defenses.” (ECF No. 25). The defendants have not responded. For the reasons explained in this order, the court will grant in part and deny in part Beamon’s motion to strike.

The court may, upon motion or upon its own initiative, “order stricken from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). The burden on a motion to strike is upon the moving party. Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distrib. Co., 961 F.2d 654, 664 (7th Cir. 1992). T he court should not grant a motion to strike unless the defense is patently defective under the requirements set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Bobbitt v. Victorian House, Inc., 532 F.Supp. 734, 736 (N.D. Ill. 1982). Indeed, the court must give defendants the opportunity to prove their allegations if there is any possibility that the defense might succeed after a full hearing on the merits. United States v. 416.81 Acres of Land, 514 F.2d 627, 631 (7th Cir. 1975).

Defendants raise ten “defenses” in their answer. (ECF No. 24 at 9). Beamon asks the court to strike all ten defenses from the answer.

a. Defense One: Failure to State a Claim

Beamon contends that the court must strike as “moot” defendants’ defense of failure to state a claim because the court issued a screening order allowing the action to proceed. The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that federal courts screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In doing so, the court uses the motion to dismiss standard established under Rule 12(b)(6) when screening the complaint. § 1915(e)(2)(B). However, a screening order is issued without the benefit of defendants’ response. § 1915A(a). Once defendants present their arguments, the court may conclude that plaintiff’s complaint does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Moreover, the screening order is a cursory review of the complaint construed in favor of allowing the action to proceed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Thus, defendants’ assertion that plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim is legally “possible.” The court will deny the motion to strike defense one.

b. Defense Two: Sovereign Immunity

Beamon next argues that, contrary to defendants’ second defense, he may file suit against state government employees in their “official capacity” under § 1983 without violating the doctrine of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Beamon is correct that he may seek injunctive or declaratory relief against state government employees in their “official capacity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985). However, he may not seek monetary damages against a state government employee in h is or her official capacity. Id; Cory v. White, 457 U.S. 85, 90 (1982); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). “[A] judgment against a public servant ‘in his official capacity’ imposes liability on the entity that he represents” in violation of the Eleventh Amendment. Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471 (1985).

Beamon has filed suit against the defendants in their “personal” and “official” capacities, seeking both declaratory and monetary relief. The defendants’ sovereign immunity defense is not “redundant, immaterial, impertinent, scandalous, ” or “patently defective” to the extent that Beamon asserts that he is entitled to monetary damages from a defendant who was acting in his or her official capacity. The court will deny the motion to strike defense two.

c. Defenses Three, Four, Six, Seven, and Nine: Qualified Immunity, Personal Involvement, Control, Failure to Mitigate, and Claim/Issue Preclusion.

Beamon contends that the defenses of qualified immunity, lack of personal involvement, lack of control, failure to mitigate, and claim/issue preclusion must be raised at summary judgment and not in the answer as affirmative defenses under Rule 8(c). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that, “[i]n responding to a pleading, a party must state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1)(A). “Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be asserted in the responsive pleading if one is required.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). Defendants have done that. The motion to strike defenses three, four, six, seven and nine will be denied.

d. Defense Five: State Law Claims

Beamon contends that the court should strike the fifth defense because he is not pursuing any state law claims. The court will grant Beamon’s motion to strike defense five as “immaterial.” Beamon is advised that the court will hold him to his representation and will not accept a later ...


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