United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE
Laera Reed and Paige Ray-Cluney, both residents of Iowa, have
brought a number of constitutional and state law claims
against several defendants arising out of alleged abuse they
suffered while confined at the Copper Lake School for girls
in Irma, Wisconsin. Plaintiffs were confined at Copper Lake
pursuant to court orders from Iowa state courts. At the time
of their confinement, the State of Iowa had contracted with
the State of Wisconsin to house juvenile detainees at Copper
Lake. Acting in his position as the director of the Iowa
Department of Human Services, defendant Charles Palmer had
authorized the contract on behalf of the State of Iowa.
Plaintiffs contend that Palmer should be held liable for the
harm they suffered while at Copper Lake because he knew, or
should have known, of the abuse at the Copper Lake but failed
to take any steps to remove plaintiffs.
December 2017, I granted defendant Palmer's motion to
dismiss the claims against him because I concluded that he
was entitled to qualified immunity with respect to
plaintiffs' federal claims, plaintiffs had conceded they
had not exhausted their state law tort claims and I declined
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff
Reed's constitutional claims arising under Iowa's
constitution. Dkt. #23 in 17-cv-590-bbc and Dkt. #26 in
17-cv-591-bbc. (Unless otherwise noted, citations to docket
numbers in this opinion refer to case number 17-cv-590.)
Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their federal claims,
and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed.
Reed v. Palmer, 906 F.3d 540 (7th Cir. 2018).
Plaintiffs did not appeal the dismissal of their Iowa state
law claims, and instead filed those claims in Iowa state
the federal claims were remanded, Palmer renewed his motions
to dismiss with respect to the arguments left unaddressed in
the previous decision. Specifically, he argues that the
claims against him should be dismissed because (1) this court
cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over him; (2) Wisconsin
is an inconvenient forum; and (3) Iowa has not waived its
Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. As discussed below, I
do not find Palmer's personal jurisdiction and forums non
conveniens arguments persuasive. The sovereign immunity
argument fails because plaintiffs' only remaining claims
against Palmer are individual capacity claims for damages,
and the Eleventh Amendment does not bar damages suits against
state officials in their individual capacities. Kroll v.
Board of Trustees of the Univ. of Illinois, 934 F.2d
904, 907 (7th Cir. 1991). As to plaintiffs' official
capacity claims, they were brought under the Iowa
constitution, were dismissed earlier in the case and have not
been the subject of an appeal. Therefore, Palmer's motion
to dismiss will be denied.
federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a
nonresident defendant “whenever the person would be
amenable to suit under the laws of the state in which the
federal court sits (typically under a state long-arm
statute), subject always to the constitutional due process
limitations encapsulated in the familiar ‘minimum
contacts' test.” KM Enterprises Inc. v. Global
Traffic Technologies, Inc., 725 F.3d 718, 723 (7th Cir.
2013). Wisconsin's long-arm statute, Wis.Stat. §
801.05, confers jurisdiction to the maximum extent allowed by
the due process clause. Felland v. Clifton, 682 F.3d
665, 678 (7th Cir. 2012). Plaintiffs have the burden of
establishing personal jurisdiction when a defendant
challenges it. Northern Grain Marketing, LLC v.
Greving, 743 F.3d 487, 491 (7th Cir. 2014). Where, as
here, the issue is raised on a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs
need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts.
Purdue Research Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo,
S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003).
first to Wisconsin's long-arm statute, plaintiffs contend
that Wisconsin has general personal jurisdiction over
defendant Palmer under Wis.Stat. § 801.05(1)(d) based on
his “substantial and not isolated activities” in
Wisconsin. This argument is not persuasive. Palmer's only
alleged contacts with Wisconsin relate to the contract he
signed with Wisconsin's Department of Corrections in his
role as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services.
Although the contract was in place from October 2014 to June
2016 and resulted in the housing of four to six Iowan girls
in Wisconsin, this is not enough to establish general
jurisdiction over Palmer. Wisconsin's general
jurisdiction statute applies to defendants whose general
contacts with the state result in the defendant's taking
up “local presence or status” within the state.
Rasmussen v. General Motors Corp., 2011 WI 52,
¶ 18, 335 Wis.2d 1, 803 N.W.2d 623. See also Tamburo
v. Dworkin, 601 F.3d 693, 701 (7th Cir. 2010)
(“The threshold for general jurisdiction is high; the
contacts must be sufficiently extensive and pervasive to
approximate physical presence.”) In this instance,
plaintiffs have not alleged facts or submitted evidence
showing that Palmer took up a “local presence or
status” in Wisconsin. There are no allegations that
Palmer visited Wisconsin, communicated regularly with
Wisconsin residents or had any “substantial and not
isolated activities” in Wisconsin. Thus, this court
does not have general jurisdiction over Palmer.
contend that if general jurisdiction does not exist, specific
jurisdiction does. Plaintiffs cite first to § 801.05(3)
(“Local Act or Omission”), which extends
jurisdiction in “any action claiming injury to person
or property within or without this state arising out of an
act or omission within this state by the defendant.”
Plaintiffs also cite § 801.05(4)(a) (“Local
Injury; Foreign Act”), which extends personal
jurisdiction in “any action claiming injury to person
or property within this state arising out of an act or
omission outside this state by the defendant, ”
provided that “[s]olicitation or service activities
were carried on within this state by or on behalf of
defendant” at the time of the injury. Plaintiffs
contend that the injuries they suffered at Copper Lake School
arose out of defendant's “act” of contracting
to confine plaintiffs at Copper Lake and his
“omission” of not removing plaintiffs from
Wisconsin. Plaintiffs also contend that their confinement
constitutes “service activities” carried on
within Wisconsin on behalf of Palmer.
Palmer responds that neither provision applies because his
act of contracting did not cause plaintiffs'
injuries and he was not in any position to remove plaintiffs,
as only the court had such authority. However,
defendants' arguments relate to the merits of
plaintiffs' claims, not whether their allegations are
sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction. At this stage,
Palmer has not submitted any evidence that he lacked
authority to remove plaintiffs from Copper Lake or that he
could not have made a recommendation that Iowa's contract
with Wisconsin be terminated or that plaintiffs should be
removed in light of the serious allegations of misconduct
that had been reported. It may be that Palmer lacked such
authority but without any evidence to the contrary, I must
accept plaintiffs' allegations as true. Accordingly, I
conclude that this court has statutory permission to exercise
personal jurisdiction over this defendant.
next question is whether defendant Palmer has sufficient
“minimum contacts” with Wisconsin, such that this
suit “does not offend traditional notions of fair play
and substantial justice.” International Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation
marks omitted). See also Illinois v. Hemi Group,
LLC, 622 F.3d 754, 757 (7th Cir. 2010). The court
considers whether “the defendant should reasonably
anticipate being haled into court in the forum state, because
the defendant has purposefully availed itself of the
privilege of conducting activities there.” Kinslow
v. Pullara, 538 F.3d 687, 691 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court
of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has identified three
essential requirements for finding the existence of minimum
contacts: “(1) the defendant must have purposefully
availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in
the forum state or purposefully directed his activities at
the state; (2) the alleged injury must have arisen from the
defendant's forum-related activities; and (3) the
exercise of jurisdiction must comport with traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice.”
Felland, 682 F.3d at 673 (internal citations
Palmer argues that allowing claims to proceed against him
offends traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice because his only contact with Wisconsin was
“signing a contract and paying for placement ordered by
the juvenile courts.” Dft.'s Br., dkt. #40, at 6.
But Palmer is downplaying plaintiffs' allegations about
the specific conduct he took that was directed at Wisconsin.
Plaintiffs have alleged that Palmer contracted with Wisconsin
to send girls to Copper Lake, both before and after they were
ordered there, Cpt., dkt. #1, ¶ 1, and that he later
renewed the contract in June 2015. Dkt. #19-2. Plaintiffs
also allege that Palmer received reports from Copper Lake
about plaintiffs and monitored their confinement. Cpt., dkt.
#1, ¶ 25. These allegations are sufficient to suggest
that Palmer purposefully directed activities at Wisconsin.
They are also sufficient to infer that plaintiffs'
injuries relate to Palmer's contacts with Wisconsin.
Palmer has not shown that there would be any significant
burden upon him in litigating in Wisconsin, while plaintiffs
have pointed to several reasons why the case should stay
here: Wisconsin's interest in adjudicating this dispute;
plaintiffs' interest in obtaining convenient and
effective relief; and the efficiency in litigating all of
plaintiffs' federal claims in one forum. Under the
circumstances, I agree with plaintiffs that exercising
personal jurisdiction over Palmer comports with the
requirements of due process.