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Hartnett v. The Farm Service Agency

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 12, 2018

RONALD BRUCE HARTNETT, as the Fiduciary Trustee of the other LIVING TRUST OF ARNOLD L. & BETTE M. HARTNETT, Plaintiff,
v.
THE FARM SERVICE AGENCY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ronald Bruce Hartnett, Fiduciary Trustee of the Living Trust of Arnold L. & Bette M. Hartnett filed a Complaint asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and other federal statutes based upon alleged “collusion of all said individual defendants” in a conspiracy to deprive the Trust of its constitutionally-protected rights. Before the Court are five motions to dismiss filed by various Defendants (Docs. 18, 19, 21, 24, 28), and Mr. Hartnett's motion for extension of time to file a response (Doc. 33). Because Mr. Hartnett is not an attorney, he cannot bring this action on behalf of the Trust, and this case is therefore dismissed with prejudice.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Ronald Bruce Hartnett is the Fiduciary Trustee of the Living Trust of Arnold L. & Bette M. Hartnett (“the Trust”). Mark W. Hartnett is the Beneficiary Trustee, and Lonnie J. Hartnett and Lex L. Hartnett are the beneficiaries. On February 12, 2018, Ronald Bruce Hartnett filed a Complaint on behalf of the Hartnett Trust, stating:

The Plaintiffs herein, Ronald Bruce, [sic] Hartnett, Fiduciary Trustee for the [Hartnett Trust], not pro se, but in propria persona, by Right of Visitation, and by his own authority make this Special Appearance, in his natural person and complains against Defendants above named for depriving Plaintiffs of Constitutional protected Birth Rights under color of Federal Law, in the abuse of Administrative Due Process, custom or usage, conspiracy to so deprive and/or failure, neglect or refusal to protect plaintiffs from said conspiracy in using only selective Statutes/Federal Regulations (CFR) for enforcement.[1]

         The Complaint names as Defendants: “The Farm Service Agency, United States Department of Agriculture;” Val J. Dolcini and Dana E. Dolcini; Adrian J. Polansky and Kristine A. Polansky; Terry Hawk and Mrs. Terry Hawk; James Baxa and Mrs. James Baxa; Steven A. Gabrial and Mrs. Steven A. Gabrial; C.Z. Thompson and Brad Thompson; Mark Hendrickson and Mrs. Mark (FNU) Hendrickson; and “Does 1-20.”

         Mr. Hartnett brings this action on behalf of the Trust “for Money Damages in an apparent collusion of all said individual defendants in the Deprivation/Theft of Private Property (proceeds of contract, or crop production), for Conspiracy to Deprive Plaintiffs of Constitutional Protected Rights and for Failure to Protect Plaintiffs from Conspiracy to Deprive.” The factual allegations are difficult to follow. It appears that the Trust was denied Conservation Reserve Program benefits by the Department of Agriculture in 2013, which Mr. Hartnett claims was a “Breech [sic] of Contract.” The Trust then began the “Administrative Process” to appeal the denial of benefits. Apparently, the Trust's administrative appeals within the Farm Service Agency and Department of Agriculture were ultimately unsuccessful due to Defendants' conspiracy against the Trust.

         In total, Defendants have filed five motions to dismiss. Four of the motions were filed between March 23 and April 19, 2018. On April 30, 2018, Defendants James Baxa, Val Dolcini, Steven Gabrial, Terry Hawk, Mark Hendrickson, Adrian Polansky, C.Z. Thompson, and the Department of Agriculture filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, to stay this case and set a deadline for Plaintiffs to hire an attorney licensed to practice in the Court (Doc. 32). In the motion, Defendants argue that the case should be dismissed because it has been filed by a person who is not admitted to practice law and therefore cannot represent the trust and its beneficiaries in federal court. Defendants counsel represents that, prior to filing the motion, counsel contacted Mr. Hartnett to discuss this issue. This conversation revealed that Mr. Hartnett “did not understand that his ability to serve as the Trustee for the living trust in regard to its general operations did not also confer upon him the ability to file pleadings in federal district court on behalf of the trust which has more than one beneficiary.”[2]

         On May 2, the Court received a letter from Mr. Hartnett dated April 27. Mr. Hartnett indicated that he spoke with Defendants' counsel who told him that he is not able to represent the Trust as a non-attorney. He asked:

Is he correct, or as I've read elsewhere, as the Fiduciary I am able to Represent [sic] the Trust in Federal District Court?
Another question, since both Kansas USDC Local Rule, and FRCP Rule 7(a)(7); 12(a)(1)(C); and 12(a)(4)(B) all state that any Reply/Response are IF the Court Orders one is due after either 14 or 21 days after the order, doesn't that mean that we are NOT to Reply nor Respond until After the Court directs us too? [Sic].

         The Court sent Mr. Hartnett a response letter on May 4. The Court informed Mr. Hartnett that the Court is prohibited from giving legal advice to pro se litigants regarding their case. However, the Court did inform Mr. Hartnett that he could not represent the trust in federal district court. Finally, the Court directed Mr. Hartnett to Local Rule 6.1(d) for response and reply deadlines.

         On May 7, Mr. Hartnett filed a “Motion to Dismiss Motion to Dismiss [sic] and Motion to Stay the Case and Set a Deadline for Plaintiffs to Obtain Licensed Representation.”[3] In this filing, Mr. Hartnett explained that he had been inflicted with the West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease. Because of his illness, he was unable to file the Complaint until the statute of limitations had nearly expired. Additionally, his illness has caused “difficulties of memory, motion, thinking process, reliable voice and [has impaired] the ability to effectively produce the necessary documents of this case.” Because Mr. Hartnett believes the statute of limitations has now expired, he requested that the Court dismiss (deny) Defendants' motions to dismiss. Additionally, Mr. Hartnett conceded that he is unable to lawfully represent the Trust “in his own person, ” and requested a stay to provide him time to obtain legal representation for the Trust.[4]

         On May 14, Mr. Hartnett filed a “Motion to File Plaintiff's Response to Motion(s) to Dismiss Out-of-Time Instanter.” Mr. Hartnett represents that because co-defendants' motions to dismiss came in at different times, with similar arguments, he became unsure of the proper procedure to reply to the motions. He then explained that he did not receive a response to his letter from the Court until May 7, and that was the first time he was told that his response should have ...


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