United States District Court, D. Minnesota
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.
M. Zipf, League of Minnesota Cities, counsel for defendants
Plymouth Police Department, Glenn Gerads Plymouth Police, In
Official Capacity, Fisher Plymouth Police, In Official
S. Doty, Judge.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Younger Abstention Doctrine
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)).
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.
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 “periodically 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, ...