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Muathe v. Hite

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 29, 2018

ERIC MUATHE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STUART HITE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CARLOS MURGUIA, United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the court upon defendants Stuart Hite, Dan Peak, and Crawford County Sheriff's Department's Amended Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 18). Pro se plaintiffs Eric Muathe, Julie Stover, and Kasey King filed their complaint on June 30, 2017 (Doc. 1). The complaint cites 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985 and the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as various state statues. The individual defendants are sued in both their personal and official capacities. Defendants seek to dismiss plaintiffs' twelve claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, among other reasons.

         As a preliminary matter, plaintiffs' response violates the local rules prohibition on filing briefs with excessive pages by about five pages. D. Kan. Rule 7.1(e) (prohibiting arguments authorities sections from exceeding 30 pages without leave of court). Although pro se litigants' pleadings are liberally construed, they are required to comply with federal and local rules.

         I. Background

         The following facts taken from plaintiffs' complaint are taken as true. Plaintiffs were part of a group called “Summary Judgment Group” in February 2015. The group's intended purpose was to promote and protect various constitutional rights. Plaintiffs produced flyers that showed pictures of local judges and their spouses and local law enforcement, including defendant Stuart Hite, at social events. Plaintiffs created these flyers because they believe that these social encounters between judges and arresting officers create a conflict of interest. The Summary Judgment Group has a website, Conflictgate.com, that features defendant Hite and his social interactions with local judges and attorneys. The group believes that the website exposes “corruption among public officials and . . . blatant conflicts of interests between area Judges, attorneys, businessmen, politicians and law enforcement.” (Doc. 1, at 5.)

         Plaintiffs started a petition to convene a grand jury to remove judges in Crawford County, Kansas, specifically Judges Andrew J. Wachter, Lori B. Fleming, and Kurtis I. Loy. Plaintiffs received 121 signatures on their petition but 315 were required. On June 2, 2015, a local judge not named in this case dismissed plaintiffs' petition and ordered it sealed.

         Plaintiffs state that they believe that in September or October of 2015, defendant Hite, local attorneys, the three judges plaintiffs were attempting to remove from office, and others met to try to stop plaintiffs from getting signatures for their petition. This meeting would have occurred after their petition was dismissed.

         Also after the petition was dismissed, around October 29, 2015, plaintiffs believe that defendants Dan Peak and Hite began an investigation into the validity of the signatures on plaintiffs' dismissed petition. Plaintiffs believe that defendant Hite investigated the situation because he is friends with various judges, goes to church with them, or attends social events with them at Crestwood Country Club.

         Plaintiffs claim that defendants Peak, Hite, and a Kansas Bureau of Investigations Officer questioned various individuals about whether their signatures were valid and whether they knew plaintiffs. Plaintiffs believe the investigation was undertaken to intimidate the general population, to keep them from supporting plaintiffs' efforts.

         II. Legal Standards

         a. Pro Se Litigants

         Where a plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court construes his or her filings liberally and holds them to less stringent standards than pleadings filed by lawyers. Barnett v. Corr. Corp of Am., 441 Fed.Appx. 600, 601 (10th Cir. 2011). Pro se plaintiffs are nevertheless required to follow the Federal and Local Rules of practice and the court does not assume the role of advocating for pro se plaintiffs. United States v. Porath, 553 Fed.Appx. 802, 803 (10th Cir. 2014).

         b. Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         The court will grant a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) only when the factual allegations fail to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the factual allegations need not be detailed, the claims must set forth entitlement to relief “through more than labels, conclusions and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., 534 F.Supp.2d 1214, 1216 (D. Kan. 2008).

         The allegations must contain facts sufficient to state a claim that is plausible, rather than merely conceivable. Id. “All well-pleaded facts, as distinguished from conclusory allegations, must be taken as true.” Swanson v. Bixler, 750 F.2d 810, 813 (10th Cir. 1984); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). The court construes any reasonable ...


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