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Tisdell v. Crow Wing County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 10, 2014

Brian Tisdell, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Crow Wing County, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon Defendants Crow Wing County, Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Chad Paulson, Crow Wing County Child Protective Services, Rockwell J. Wells, and Crow Wing County Child Support's Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 6], and Defendant Judge Maus's[1] Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 13]. The motions have been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Local Rule 72.1, for a report and recommendation. (Order Referring All Dispositive and Non-Dispositive Motions [Docket No. 4]). The Court held a motion hearing on January 30, 2014, and the Court took the parties' motions under advisement. For reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends that the Crow Wing County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 6], be GRANTED, and that Defendant Judge Maus's Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 13], be GRANTED.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiffs Brian and Tammy Tisdell, pro se, seek declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages as a result of the alleged deprivation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Plaintiffs generally allege their claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1992.[2] (Compl. [Docket No. 1], ¶ 1).

The present suit appears to arise from an underlying state court Child in Need of Protection or Services ("CHIPS") action and the circumstances giving rise to the CHIPS action (although the Complaint fails to provide a factual context for Plaintiffs' allegations). Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Crow Wing County Deputy Chad Paulson, acting under color of law, (1) allowed minor children JBT and GLT to be taken, presumably from Plaintiffs and presumably by Child Protective Services, (2) stated that it was not his job to review court orders, (3) allowed minor children to be taken in violation of a court order, and (4) threatened Plaintiff Tammy Tisdell with jail time if she did not allow the minor children to be taken from her care. (Id. ¶¶ 6-9).

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Crow Wing County employee Linnea Ames, acting under color of law, (1) took the minor children in violation of court order, and (2) took the minor children against the wishes of their custodial parent. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11).[3]

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Crow Wing County Child Support (1) allowed Sara Janowiak (aka Sara Ames) to fail to pay child support for over a year when she was under a court order to do so, (2) took no action to inform Sara Janowiak's social worker or the court that she quit her job after child support was taken from her paycheck, (3) allowed Sara Janowiak to avoid paying proper support to her two eldest children because she was paying child support for her two younger children, and (4) failed to enforce child support payments by Sara Janowiak for JBT and GLT for nine months. (Id. ¶¶ 12-15).

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Crow Wing County Child Protective Services employee Rockwell J. Wells represented Social Services at a hearing without knowledge of the history concerning child support payments. (Id. ¶ 16).

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Judge Maus (1) allowed a non-attorney to "represent as counsel" in his courtroom, (2) allowed an individual not a party to the action to speak but denied the Plaintiff the opportunity to present his case, (3) allowed a hearing regarding visitation rights to come before the court prior to two years and without cause demonstrating that visits had been denied or that there was a risk to harm to the children, and (4) disregarded the ruling of the Honorable Judge DeMay without reading the entire file. (Id. ¶¶ 17-20).

Plaintiffs' Complaint also alleges that Greg Lange (not formerly captioned, served, or joined in the present action) (1) took a case back to the court without cause showing that visits were denied or that there was risk of harm to the children, and (2) failed to notify Crow Wing County Social Services that his client was bringing an action before the court when the client was under a court order to notify Social Services of such action. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22).

II. THE CROW WING COUNTY DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS, [DOCKET NO. 6]

Defendants Crow Wing County, Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Chad Paulson, Crow Wing County Child Protective Services, Rockwell J. Wells, and Crow Wing County Child Support ("Crow Wing County Defendants" or "County Defendants") move the Court for an order dismissing Plaintiffs' Complaint against them, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [Docket No. 6]).

A. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint articulate only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. In addressing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, "[courts] look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Riley v. St. Louis County of Mo. , 153 F.3d 627, 629 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing Double D Spotting Serv., Inc. v. Supervalu, Inc. , 136 F.3d 554, 556 (8th Cir. 1998)), cert. denied 525 U.S. 1178 (1999). All reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Maki v. Allete, Inc. , 383 F.3d 740, 742 (8th Cir. 2004).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulistic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, " and "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556-67. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 664.

Courts must undertake the "context-specific task" of determining whether the moving party's allegations "nudge" its claims against the defendant "across the line from conceivable to plausible." See id. at 679-81. The moving party must "plead[ ] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id .; see also Farnam Street Fin., Inc. v. Pump Media, Inc., No. 09-cv-233 (MJD/FLN), 2009 WL 4672668, at *3 (D. Minn. Dec. 8, 2009) (citing Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678).

"Though pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced." Stone v. Harry , 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted). See, e.g., Dunn v. White , 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989) (regarding a pro se plaintiff, "we will not supply additional facts, nor will we construct a legal theory for plaintiff that assumes facts that have not been pleaded"); Cunningham v. Ray , 648 F.2d 1185, 1186 (8th Cir. 1981) ("[P]ro se litigants must set [a claim] forth in a manner which, taking the pleaded facts as true, states a claim as a matter of law."). "Although pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, pro se litigants are not excused from failing to comply with substantive and procedural law." Burgs v. Sissel , 745 F.2d 526, 528 (8th Cir. 1984).

B. Analysis

1. Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against the Crow Wing ...


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