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BAYER v. MONROE COUNTY CHILDREN & YOUTH SERVICES

September 12, 2005.

BRUCE BAYER and ANGELA BAYER PRO SE, Plaintiffs,
v.
MONROE COUNTY CHILDREN & YOUTH SERVICES, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are nine separate motions to dismiss filed by various Defendants. (Docs. 4, 9, 12, 16, 19, 39, 41, 52, 54.) In total, Defendants' motions raise standing issues, immunity defenses, failure of Plaintiffs to state a cognizable cause of action, and Defendant Foster Care Division of Monroe County's (hereinafter Foster Care Division) lack of a separate legal identity. For reasons set forth below, I will grant five of the motions to dismiss in their entirety (Docs. 4, 9, 12, 16, 41); I will deny two of the motions (Docs. 19, 54); and I will grant two of the motions in part and deny them in part (Docs. 39, 52). The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  On January 10, 2003, Plaintiffs Bruce and Angela Bayer were served with a protection order signed by Detective Michael Robson of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department. (Doc. 1 ¶ 42.) Pursuant to that order, Plaintiffs' minor children were removed from their home and placed in protective custody with Monroe County Children and Youth Services (hereinafter MCCYS), while the children's biological father was investigated on alleged sexual abuse charges. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 43, 49.) Plaintiffs assert that the protection order was defective. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 137-42.) On January 14, 2003, MCCYS filed for an emergency petition which was heard before Judge Margherita P. Worthington on January 16, 2003. (Doc. 1 ¶ 85.) Plaintiffs assert that the protection order was valid for only 72 hours and that, therefore, the children were improperly held in protective services at the time of the petition on January 14, 2003. Id. At the January 16, 2003, hearing on the petition, Plaintiff Angela upon the advice of her counsel agreed to continue the hearing until February 20, 2003. (Doc. 1 ¶ 100.) Plaintiff Angela asserts that she was under duress when she agreed to the continuance. Id. Pending the dependancy hearing on February 20, 2003, Judge Worthington granted custody of the minor children to MCCYS. (Doc. 1 ¶ 102.) On January 28, 2003, the sexual abuse case against the children's biological father was deemed unfounded. (Doc. 1 ¶ 125.) Plaintiffs assert that various Defendants negligently failed to petition for the children's release from protective services prior to the dependancy hearing on February 20, 2003. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 125-32.) Plaintiffs further allege that during their placement in protective custody the Plaintiffs' minor children received inadequate medical and psychological care. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 152-69.) At the hearing on February 20, Judge Worthington denied MCCYS' petition and returned Plaintiffs' minor children to their care. (Doc. 1 ¶ 160.)

  PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  On November 18, 2004, Plaintiffs filed, pro se, a two-hundred (200) page Complaint alleging violations of their civil rights by raising forty-one (41) claims against thirty-one (31) Defendants. In the Complaint, Plaintiffs assert the following claims on behalf of themselves and their minor children:
1. Count I Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Procedural Due Process — Seizure of Gabriel
 
2. Count II Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Unreasonable Search and Seizure — Seizure of Gabriel
3. Count III Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Substantive Due Process
4. Count IV Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Deprivation of Liberty — Detention of Gabriel
5. Count V Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Procedural Due Process — Seizure of Pedro
6. Count VI Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Unreasonable Search and Seizure — Seizure of Pedro
7. Count VII Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Substantive Due Process
8. Count VIII Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Deprivation of Liberty — Detention of Pedro
9. Count IX Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Equal Protection
10. Count X Violation of Civil Rights Under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Cruel and Unusual Punishment Inflicted — Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress 11. Count XI Violation of Civil Rights Under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — Abridging the Freedom of Speech
12. Count XII Defendants' Liability Under 18U.S.C. § 241 — Conspiracy Against Rights
13. Count XIII Defendants' Liability under 18 U.S.C. § 242 — Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law
14. Count XIV Defendants' Liability under 18 U.S.C. § 1964 — Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
15. Count XV Violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 1, Due Process
16. Count XVI Violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 Unreasonable Search and Seizure
17. Count XVII Violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article1, Section 26 — Equal Protection
18. Count XVIII Violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 6, Section 3, Oath of Office
19. Count XIX Kidnapping — Federal
20. Count XX Kidnapping — State
21. Count XXI Hostage Taking
22. Count XXII Endangering the Welfare of a Child — Gabriel
23. Count XXIII Endangering the Welfare of a Child — Pedro
24. Count XXIV False Imprisonment
25. Count XXV Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
26. Count XXVI Abuse of Process
27. Count XXVII Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings
28. Count XXVIII Invasion of Privamccys (sic) 29. Count XXIX Legal Malpractice — Williamson
30. Count XXX Legal Malpractice — Cohen
31. Count XXXI Legal Malpractice — Pazahanich
32. Count XXXII Legal Malpractice — Weekes
33. Count XXXIII Legal and Judicial Malpractice
34. Count XXXIII*fn1 Abuse of Office
35. Count XXXIV State Liability Under 23 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 6302 and 6383-6384 et al.
36. Count XXXV County Liability Under 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 63
37. Count XXXVI Damages to Religious Rights Under 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article 1 Section 3 of the Commonwealth Constitution of Pennsylvania
38. Count XXXVII Abduction
39. Count XXXVIII Deprivation of Familial Rights
40. Count XXXIV Physical Damages
  41. Count XXXV Punitive Damages On November 29, 2004, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 2.) The amended complaint consisted of the first five pages of the original Complaint with a different spelling of a defendant's name. Plaintiffs then filed an amendment to complaint (Doc. 3) on December 8, 2004. Both the amended complaint and the amendment to complaint were stricken per Order dated April 11, 2005. (Doc. 96.) On December 22, 2004, the Plaintiffs were ordered to retain representation for their minor children within 20 days. (Doc. 14.) No counsel entered an appearance for the children and they were dismissed from the suit on April 8, 2005. (Doc. 90.) Defendants President Judge Ronald Vican, Judge Margherita P. Worthington, David Williamson, Mark Pazuhanich, District Attorney's Office of Monroe County, Elizabeth Weekes, Judy Munoz, Colleen Cooper, and Foster Care Division of Monroe County filed the nine motions to dismiss presently before the Court. (Docs. 4, 9, 12, 16, 19, 39, 41, 52, 54.) Five of the nine motions are titled as motions to dismiss the amended complaint. (Docs. 4, 9, 41, 52, 54.) Because the motions address the underlying claims in the original Complaint, I will treat four of the five as motions to dismiss the original Complaint.*fn2 (Docs. 4, 9, 41, 52.) Plaintiff filed briefs in opposition to the motions to dismiss. These matters are now ripe for disposition.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true and "drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, no relief could be granted under any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).

  In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents where the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached a copy of the document to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume that the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 (3d Cir. 1998), nor credit a complaint's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Marion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

  When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of the claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred. See Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has emphasized a policy of liberally interpreting pro se complaints, so Plaintiff's complaint should be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Weaver v. Wilcox, 650 F.2d 22, 26 (3d Cir. 1981); Henderson v. Fisher, 631 F.2d 1115, 1117 (3d Cir. 1980); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (per curiam).

  DISCUSSION

  a. Standing

  Defendants raise a number of issues in their motions to dismiss concerning lack of standing. Standing doctrine determines whether a litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of a dispute or of particular issues. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750-51 (1984) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975)). The requirement of standing has a core component that is derived directly from the Constitution and embraces several judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiciton. Id. at 751. One such limit is the general prohibition on litigants raising another person's legal rights. Id. Plaintiffs run afoul of this limitation in two ways. ...


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