Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FLDS man's civil rights lawsuit against Mormon Church thrown out

Last week the federal District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed claims against the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) by a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist sect led by Warren Jeffs that broke away from the Mormon Church. (Whew! Got those long names out of the way.) Last year Roland Cooke brought a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Mormon Church and the FBI. (This case already sounds like a conspiracy theorist's dream.) The action was later dismissed and then refiled against the Corporation of the President and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church.

Late last year the defendant organizations within the LDS Church filed a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, and it was granted last Friday. The District Court actually rejected the Mormon Church's res judicata arguments, but granted dismissal on grounds that Mr. Cooke failed to state a claim under § 1983 for which relief could be granted:

In his amended complaint, Plaintiff fails to plead any facts sufficient to allow the Court to reasonably infer that Defendants were either “engaging in a traditional and exclusive public function [or] responding to state compulsion ...” Plaintiff's conclusory allegations of collusion amongst Defendants and the States of Utah and Arizona, as well as the allegation that his “property was confiscated and put in the care of ... a member of the Mormon Church[,]” are not sufficient to permit the Court to infer any sort of invidious discrimination or actionable “joint participation” between the States of Utah and Arizona and the LDS Church (citations omitted).
The outcome perhaps should not be surprising, given that Mr. Cooke was acting pro se. Fortunately for Mr. Cooke, the Arizona District Court granted him leave to file another amended complaint to try to cure his pleading deficiencies. Unfortunately for Mr. Cooke, it will be very difficult to prove state action in the current scenario under the standard in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.

Hat tip: Religion Clause.
Cooke v. Corp. of the Pres. of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints