United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Dwight D. Mitchell, individually and on behalf of his children X.M. and A.M.; Bryce Mitchell; and Stop Child Protection Services from Legally Kidnapping, Plaintiffs,
Dakota County Social Services et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge
dispute arising from Defendants' temporary removal of
Plaintiff Dwight D. Mitchell's children from his custody,
Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' 25-count amended
complaint. (Dkts. 15, 24.) For the reasons addressed below,
the Court grants Defendants' motions to dismiss.
are New Jersey residents Mitchell and his three children,
X.M., A.M., and B.M. (collectively, the individual
plaintiffs) and Stop Child Protection Services from Legally
Kidnapping (SCPS), an association of parents who have been
affected by Minnesota's child-protection services. The
individual plaintiffs, along with Mitchell's then-wife
Tatiana Litvinenko and her child, M.L., lived in Minnesota
from at least February 2014 to July 2014. Defendants are
Dakota County, Dakota County Social Services (DCSS), nine
Dakota County officials, and three State of Minnesota
claims arise from a February 16, 2014 incident in which
police responded to a call from the Mitchell family's
babysitter. The babysitter relayed to police X.M.'s
allegations that Mitchell had inflicted corporal punishment
on him. Police took the children from their home to the
police station for questioning, where both X.M. and A.M.
alleged that Mitchell had spanked them on prior occasions.
County officials also reached out to Eva Campos,
Mitchell's ex-wife and the biological mother of X.M.,
A.M., and B.M.Campos alleged that Mitchell had abused the
children, and she encouraged officials to pursue legal action
against Mitchell in Minnesota, instead of in the
children's home state of New Jersey. In response to
Campos's allegations, DCSS removed X.M., A.M., and B.M.
from Mitchell's custody.
Susan Boreland subsequently commenced a Child in Need of
Protection or Services (CHIPS) proceeding. Mitchell accepted
service of the CHIPS petition and attended an emergency
protective hearing on February 26, 2014. In May 2014,
Mitchell entered an Alford plea in response to a
criminal charge for malicious punishment of a child. At a
July 10, 2014 settlement conference for the CHIPS proceeding,
Mitchell agreed to a court order prohibiting him from using
corporal punishment in exchange for regaining physical
custody of A.M. and B.M. On July 21, 2014, Mitchell and his
family returned to New Jersey without X.M. On December 4,
2015, the state court dismissed the CHIPS petition against
Mitchell. The following day, DCSS returned X.M. to
allege numerous instances of misconduct by Defendants between
February 2014 and December 2015. Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants were unlawfully motivated to separate Mitchell
from his children, conspired to transfer custody to
Mitchell's ex-wife, and made racially disparaging
comments during their interactions with
Mitchell. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants
forced Litvinenko to move out of Mitchell's Minnesota
house during the CHIPS proceeding, threatening that
Litvinenko would lose custody of her child, M.L., if she did
not leave. Finally, according to Plaintiffs, Defendants
submitted unreliable accusations to the Minnesota court in
the CHIPS proceeding and concealed a court order indicating
that New Jersey-not Minnesota-was the proper jurisdiction for
the CHIPS proceeding.
present action, Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleges 25
counts against Defendants, including constitutional, federal,
and state law claims. Counts 1 through 6, advanced by all
plaintiffs, allege that several Minnesota child-protection
statutes are facially unconstitutional because they are void
for vagueness and violate the Due Process and Equal
Protection Clauses of the United States
Constitution. The remaining 19 counts are advanced only
by the individual plaintiffs. Counts 7 through 12 allege that
the same Minnesota child-protection statutes challenged in
Counts 1 through 6 are unconstitutional as applied to the
individual plaintiffs. Counts 13 and 14 allege that Dakota
County's policies caused civil rights violations. Counts
15 through 17 allege that state and county officials engaged
in conspiracies to terminate Mitchell's parental rights.
Counts 18 through 24 are state law claims, alleging
intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, malicious
prosecution, abuse of process, and false imprisonment. Count
25 is a request for declaratory relief against Dakota County.
move to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). A defendant may
challenge the plaintiff's complaint for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction either on its face or on the
factual truthfulness of its averments. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1);
see, e.g., Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590,
593 (8th Cir. 1993). Here, Defendants assert a facial
challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction. In a facial
challenge, the nonmoving party “receives the same
protections as it would defending against a motion brought
under Rule 12(b)(6).” Osborn v. United States,
918 F.2d 724, 729 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990).
complaint must be dismissed if it fails to state a claim on
which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts that, when accepted as true, state a
facially plausible claim to relief. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When determining
whether the complaint states such a claim, a district court
accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and
draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Blankenship v. USA Truck, Inc., 601 F.3d 852, 853
(8th Cir. 2010). The factual allegations need not be
detailed, but they must be sufficient to “raise a right
to relief above the speculative level” and “state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570
(2007). A plaintiff, however, must offer more than
“labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action.”
Id. at 555. Legal conclusions that are couched as
factual allegations may be disregarded by the district court.
See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
Subject-Matter Jurisdiction over Federal Claims
Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction over Counts 1 through 6 because Plaintiffs lack
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. U.S. Const. art.
III, § 2, cl. 1; Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992); Hargis v. Access
Capital Funding, LLC, 674 F.3d 783, 790 (8th Cir. 2012).
Before a district court can reach the merits of a claim, the
court must determine the jurisdictional question of standing.
City of Clarkson Valley v. Mineta, 495 F.3d 567, 569
(8th Cir. 2007). If a federal district court determines at
any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court
must dismiss the action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). When the
district court or a party challenges standing, the party
invoking federal jurisdiction has the burden to establish
that the requirements of standing have been satisfied.
Mineta, 495 F.3d at 569. Standing is determined
based on the facts as they existed when the complaint was
filed. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 569 n.4.
Individual Plaintiffs' Standing for Counts 1 through
Defendants argue that the individual plaintiffs lack standing
to challenge the facial validity of the Minnesota statutes
because there is no real and immediate threat of repeated
standing, a plaintiff must (1) have suffered an injury in
fact, (2) establish a causal relationship between the
defendant's conduct and the alleged injury, and (3) show
that the injury would be redressed by a favorable decision.
Id. at 560-61; Mineta, 495 F.3d at 569.
When, as here, a plaintiff seeks prospective relief, a
plaintiff also must establish a “real and immediate
threat” that the injury will be repeated. See City
of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 102-05 (1983);
Mosby v. Ligon, 418 F.3d 927, 933 (8th Cir. 2005).
the individual plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory
relief in Counts 1 through 6. When the suit was commenced, the
individual plaintiffs had returned to their home state of New
Jersey and Defendants no longer had custody over
Mitchell's children. As they live in New Jersey, the
individual plaintiffs are no longer subject to
Minnesota's laws. And there is no allegation in the
amended complaint that demonstrates a real and immediate
threat that Minnesota's child-protection statutes will
interfere with the individual plaintiffs' familial
relationship again. Accordingly, the individual plaintiffs
lack standing to bring Counts 1 through 6.
SCPS's Standing for Counts 1 through 6
argue that SCPS also lacks standing to bring Counts 1 through
6 because SCPS's members do not have standing in their
own right. Plaintiffs counter that SCPS's members have
standing because they have been affected by Minnesota's
association has standing when three conditions are met: at
least one of its members has standing, the asserted interests
are germane to the association's purpose, and the
individual members' participation in the lawsuit is
unnecessary. Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Advert.
Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 342-43 (1977). A member's
interest must be more than an “abstract concern”
or “unadorned speculation.” Simon v. E. Ky.
Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 40, 44 (1976).
Defendants argue that no SCPS member has standing in his or
her own right. The amended complaint alleges that SCPS is
“an association of parents who have been affected or
may be affected” by Minnesota's child-protection
system. This abstract concern does not establish that any
SCPS member has suffered an injury in fact. See Id.
at 40. Nor does the amended complaint provide any allegations
linking the Minnesota statutory provisions at issue to
SCPS's members. Moreover, there is no indication that
SCPS's members face a real and immediate threat of being
harmed by Minnesota's child-protection statutes again.
Lyons, 461 U.S. at 102-05. Accordingly, SCPS does
not have standing to bring Counts 1 through 6.
these reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motions to
dismiss Counts 1 through 6, as both the individual plaintiffs
and SCPS lack standing to bring these claims.
Failure to State a Claim
Defendants argue that Counts 7 through 17, the remaining
constitutional and federal claims, fail to state claims on
which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
individual plaintiffs allege four categories of
constitutional claims: procedural due process, substantive
due process, equal protection, and freedom of association
claims. The Court addresses each category of claims in
Procedural Due Process (Counts 7, 8 and 12)
argue that Counts 7, 8 and 12 fail to state a claim for
violation of procedural due process. The amended complaint
alleges that Defendants failed to provide adequate procedural
safeguards during the CHIPS proceeding and in Mitchell's
separation from Litvinenko.
state a claim for a violation of procedural due process, a
plaintiff must allege that defendants deprived the plaintiff
of a protectible liberty or property interest without
providing adequate procedural safeguards. Mathews v.
Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332-33 (1976). Natural parents
have a fundamental liberty interest “in the care,
custody, and management” of their children.
Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753 (1982). When
the government attempts to interfere with this liberty
interest, a parent must be afforded “fundamentally fair
procedures.” Id. at 754. Procedural due
process requires that parties have “a meaningful
opportunity to present their case.” Eldridge,
424 U.S. at 349. The extent of procedural safeguards required
depends on the nature of the interest ...