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BAYER v. MONROE COUNTY CHILDREN & YOUTH SERVICES

September 29, 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. CAPUTO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are nine separate motions to dismiss filed by various Defendants. (Docs. 6, 24, 29, 38, 50, 60, 70, 71, 107.) Collectively, the motions raise the following challenges: lack of subject matter jurisdiction, immunity defenses, failure to plead properly under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For reasons set forth below, I will grant five of the motions to dismiss in their entirety. (Docs. 6, 24, 38, 50, 107.) I will deny two of the motions. (Docs. 70, 71.) Lastly, I will grant two of the motions in part and deny them in part. (Docs. 29, 60.) The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  Accepting the allegations in the Complaint as true, as required when reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion, the relevant facts are as follows: 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.) Plaintiffs further assert that the children's biological father resided at a different address, and that there was no justifiable reason for removing the children from their care pending the investigation. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 58, 140.) 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. In addition, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants continually attempted to coerce them into signing papers voluntarily surrendering their children during the four days the minor children were in protective custody prior to the filing of a dependency petition. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 51-53, 61-62.) 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 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 after this date and 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, 2003, 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 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 18 U.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, Article 1, 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.) On September 12, 2005, the Court reiterated that all claims addressing the rights of the minor children had been dismissed and granted the motions to dismiss of defendants President Judge Ronald Vican, Judge Margherita P. Worthington, David Williamson, Mark Pazuhanich, District Attorney's Office of Monroe County, Elizabeth Weekes, Dr. Judy Munoz, Dr. Colleen Cooper, and Foster Care Division of Monroe County. (Doc. 111.) Collectively, the remaining Defendants filed the nine motions to dismiss presently before the Court. (Docs. 6, 24, 29, 38, 50, 60, 70, 71, 107.) Many of the nine motions are titled as motions to dismiss the amended complaint. However, they address the underlying claims in the original Complaint and I will treat them as motions to dismiss the original Complaint. 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

  1. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

  Plaintiffs assert that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through its failure to prevent or correct allegedly unlawful actions taken by MCCYS, is responsible for the Plaintiffs' damages. (Doc. 1, ¶ 453.) The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania asserts that it has Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit. I will treat Defendant's Eleventh Amendment argument as a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Supreme Court has held that "[w]ithout jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause." Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998).

  The Eleventh Amendment provides states with immunity from suit in federal court. See Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 58 (1996). This immunity is jurisdictional in nature. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 n. 8 (1984). Pennsylvania has expressly withheld consent and has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity. See 42 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 8521(b) (2004). Thus, the Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims against the Commonwealth. As such, I will grant the Commonwealth's motion to dismiss and all claims against the Commonwealth will be dismissed.

  2. Failure to State a Claim

  Plaintiffs' federal claims allege violations of RICO and § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims allege violations of their First Amendment free speech, Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection and due process rights. The Complaint also contains state law claims for alleged violations of Plaintiffs' rights under Pennsylvania's Constitution, invasion of privacy, malpractice, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages. Defendants assert that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim for each of these alleged violations and that, in the alternative, they are entitled to immunity from suit.

  a. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

  Under RICO, "any person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of section 1962" of the Act has a civil action for treble damages. 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c) (2005); see also Gilbert v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 769 F.2d 940, 941 (3d Cir. 1985). Plaintiffs fail to allege any relevant injury or violation of section 1962. As such, count XIV of Plaintiffs' Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

  b. Section 1983

  Plaintiffs next allege that Defendants violated § 1983, which provides that:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other persons within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured. . . .
  Two elements must be present in order to state a § 1983 claim: (1) the conduct complained of must have deprived Plaintiffs of rights, privileges and immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the conduct must have been committed by a person acting under color of state law. See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 923 (1982); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 184 (3d. Cir. 1993).

  i. Constitutional Rights

  Plaintiffs allege that Defendants are liable under § 1983 for violations of their constitutional rights under the First Amendment free speech clause, the Eighth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection and due process clauses. Plaintiffs also included claims under the Fifth Amendment, Fourth Amendment and First Amendment free exercise of religion clause in the Complaint, however, these claims address the rights of their minor children and ...


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