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Woods v. Guilford County DSS

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

November 13, 2019

GUILFORD COUNTY DSS, et al., Defendants.


          L. Patrick Auld, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on the Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (the “Application”) (Docket Entry 1) filed in conjunction with Plaintiff's pro se Complaint (Docket Entry 2). The undersigned will grant the Application for the limited purpose of recommending dismissal of this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) for failing to state a claim and as barred by immunity doctrines.


         “The federal in forma pauperis statute, first enacted in 1892 [and now codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1915], is intended to guarantee that no citizen shall be denied access to the courts solely because his poverty makes it impossible for him to pay or secure the costs.” Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 953 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Dispensing with filing fees, however, [is] not without its problems. . . . In particular, litigants suing in forma pauperis d[o] not need to balance the prospects of successfully obtaining relief against the administrative costs of bringing suit.” Nagy v. FMC Butner, 376 F.3d 252, 255 (4th Cir. 2004). To address this concern, the in forma pauperis statute provides that “the [C]ourt shall dismiss the case at any time if the [C]ourt determines . . . the action . . . (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         As to the first ground, a plaintiff “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), when the complaint does not “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (emphasis added) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Where 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.”'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). This standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. In other words, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.[1]

         The next ground for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) generally applies to situations in which doctrines established by the United States Constitution or at common law immunize government entities and/or government personnel from liability for damages. See, e.g., Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984) (discussing eleventh-amendment immunity of states and state officials); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967) (describing interrelationship between 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and common-law immunity doctrines); cf. Allen v. Burke, 690 F.2d 376, 379 (4th Cir. 1982) (noting that, even where “damages are theoretically available under [certain] statutes . . ., in some cases, immunity doctrines and special defenses, available only to public officials, preclude or severely limit the damage remedy” (internal quotation marks omitted)).


         Asserting claims under the 4th, 6th, and 14th Amendments, “42 C.F.R. Part 489” and “HIPPA” (Docket Entry 2 at 2-3), [2] Plaintiff initiated this action against 22 defendants: (1) “Guilford Co. DSS, ” (2) “Guilford Co. Police Dept, ” (3) “Moses Cone Women's Hospital” (“Defendant Hospital”), (4) “Judge Betty Brown” (“Judge Brown”), (5) “Judge Jarrall Jones” (“Judge Jones”), (6) “Guilford Co. G[ua]rdian [ad] litem program attorney office, ” (7) “Randleman Co. Schools, ” (8) “Guilford Co. Schools, ” (9) “Heather Skeens, ” (10) “Kim Miles” (“Defendant Miles”), (11) “Sarah Fitzgerald” (“Defendant Fitzgerald”), (12) “Officer Bowen, ” (13) “Chief Wayne Scott, ” (14) “Unknown Officer [1], ” (15) “Unknown Officer [2], ” (16) “Unknown Officer Supervisor, ” (17) “Ashley Triplett, ” (18) “Dr. Jacob Stinson, ” (19) “Dr. John Allagen, ” (20) “Lisa Thompson, ” (21) “Archdale Elementary School, ” and (22) “Gal Attorney Donna Michelle Wright” (“Attorney Wright”). (Id. at 1-2.) In that regard, the Complaint alleges under its “Statement of Claim” the following:

4/2016 - seizure of Plaintiff's 3 children w[as] unlawful and violated the 4th and [14th] amendment rights of Plaintiff by [D]SS and reps[;]
4/14/2016 - violation of [6th] amendment [ ] rights of [P]laintiff was violated by Judge [] Brown and social workers [Defendant] Miles and [Defendant] Fitzgerald[;]
3/25/2016 - violation of [Defendant H]ospital and representatives in regards to 42 CFR Part 489 whereas doctors put creating a case ahead of health and stabilization of [Plaintiff;]
4/14/2016 - violation of due process rights of [P]laintiff by Judge [] Brown and Judge [] Jones who did not a[c]knowledge procedural safeguards to protect rights which included 14[th amendment] rights[;]
3/25/2016 - police dept and representatives unlawfully entered home and removed children to speak to social workers and threatened [P]laintiff by sep[a]rating mother from her children and placing oneself on door with hand on gun and assisted in coer[c]ion of [P]laintiff[;]
[ ] Attorney [ ] Wright helped Randleman Co[.] schools get a judge's order after [P]laintiff expressed it ...

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