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Colvin v. Plymouth Police Department

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 7, 2019

Brenda Calloway Colvin, Plaintiff,
v.
Plymouth Police Department, Glenn Gerads Plymouth Police, In Official Capacity, Fisher Plymouth Police, In Official Capacity, and Hennepin County Child Protection, Claire M. Niessen-Derry Investigator, In Official Capacity, Colette Roseler Supervisor, In Official Capacity and Kelli Syring Social Worker, In Official Capacity, Defendants.

          Brenda Calloway Colvin, Address Unknown, plaintiff pro se.

          Christiana Martenson, Hennepin County Attorney's Office, counsel for defendants Hennepin County Child Protection, Claire M. Niessen-Derry Investigator, In Official Capacity, Colette Roseler Supervisor, In Official Capacity and Kelli Syring Social Worker, In Official Capacity.

          Ryan M. Zipf, League of Minnesota Cities, counsel for defendants Plymouth Police Department, Glenn Gerads Plymouth Police, In Official Capacity, Fisher Plymouth Police, In Official Capacity.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge.

         This matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss the complaint by defendants Hennepin County Child Protection, Colette Roesler, Kellie Syring, and Claire M. Niessen-Derry (Hennepin County defendants). Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         In March 2019, a Plymouth police officer responded to a report of children alone in pro se plaintiff Brenda Calloway Colvin's home. ECF No. 18 at XI:294-303, XII:304-306, XII:311-317.[1] Plymouth police referred the matter to the Hennepin County defendants, who in turn filed a Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) petition on behalf of Colvin's six children. Id. at XII:311-320. The CHIPS proceeding remains ongoing. See ECF No. 26, Ex. 6.

         On March 29, 2019, Colvin filed suit against the Plymouth Police Department and two of its officers (Plymouth Police defendants), and against the Hennepin County defendants. ECF. No. 1. Colvin amended her complaint in June 2019 to include claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985 for various alleged constitutional violations as well as claims for alleged violations of certain state laws. See generally ECF No. 18. As far as this court can tell, Colvin is seeking various forms of declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of herself, and a damages award on behalf of her children. See Id. at XXIX:679-698, XXX:700-721, XXXI:722-741.

         The Hennepin County defendants now move to dismiss on grounds this court should abstain under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), in light of the ongoing CHIPS proceeding. Alternatively, they move to dismiss based on the fact that Hennepin County Child Protection is not a legal entity subject to suit, and on the grounds that (1) Colvin has not properly served any of the Hennepin County defendants, (2) the individual Hennepin County defendants are entitled to immunity, and (3) Colvin has failed to state a claim. Colvin has not responded to the motion to dismiss, and did not appear at the September 5, 2019, hearing on this matter. At the hearing, counsel for the Hennepin County defendants argued in support of its motion and counsel for the Plymouth Police defendants informed the court that they have not answered or filed motions in response to Colvin's complaint because they have not been properly served.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Younger Abstention Doctrine

         Under Younger, federal courts are directed “to abstain from accepting jurisdiction in cases where ... granting [the relief requested] would interfere with pending state proceedings” involving important state interests. Night Clubs, Inc. v. City of Fort Smith, Ark., 163 F.3d 475, 477 n.1 (8th Cir. 1998). To determine whether abstention is appropriate, the court must consider three factors: “(1) [whether] there is an ongoing state proceeding, (2) which implicates important state interests, and (3) [whether] there is an adequate opportunity to raise any relevant federal questions in the state proceedings.” Plouffe v. Ligon, 606 F.3d 890, 892 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)). Where a plaintiff seeks injunctive or declaratory relief, and the above Middlesex factors are present, Younger directs federal courts to abstain and dismiss the suit. Night Clubs, Inc., 163 F.3d at 481 (citing Gibson v. Berryhill, 411 U.S. 564, 577 (1973)). Where a plaintiff seeks damages, Younger calls for federal courts to abstain and stay the federal suit until the underlying state proceeding has concluded. Id. (citing Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 731 (1996)).

         Here, Colvin seeks damages on behalf of her children as well as declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of herself. As Magistrate Judge Becky Thorsen explained in the order granting in part and denying in part Colvin's motion to amend her complaint, because Colvin is proceeding pro se, she may not bring claims on behalf of her minor children. See Buckley v. Dowdle, No. 08-1005, 2009 WL 750122, at *1 (8th Cir. Mar. 24, 2009) (affirming dismissal of a pro se complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiff's minor daughter); Bower v. Springfield R-12 Sch. Dist., 263, Fed.Appx. 542, 542 (8th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (same); see also ECF No. 13 at 1 n.1. As such, this claim for relief must be summarily dismissed and does not factor into whether Younger abstention is proper.

         Next, Colvin seeks various forms of injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of herself. Among other things, Colvin requests that this court take over the ongoing state juvenile protection proceedings, ECF No. 18 at XXIX:694-98; that the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services review and audit Hennepin County Child Protection, Id. at XXX:703-06; and that Hennepin County Child Protection be required to contact parents ‚Äúperiodically with services to help parents, with the offer of having Children [sic] placed outside of the home so that parents can achieve healthy, and sustaining goals, such as school, ...


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