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Leisure v. State of Pennsylvania Department of Child Youth Services

United States District Court, Third Circuit

March 30, 2012



DAVID LEE SCHWALM, ESQUIRE On behalf of Defendants Wilina Gonzalez, Shea Kinsey, and Jessica Hamby


JAMES KNOLL GARDNER, United States District Judge

This matter is before the court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, filed by defendants Wilina Gonzalez, Shea Kinsey, and Jessica Hamby on August 26, 2011.[2] Plaintiff filed his Response to Defendants[’] Motion to Dismiss pro se on October 13, 2012.

For the reasons articulated below, I grant the motion to dismiss filed by defendants Gonzalez, Kinsey, and Hamby and dismiss plaintiff’s Amended Complaint without prejudice for plaintiff to file a second amended complaint in accordance with this Opinion.

First, I dismiss plaintiff’s request for an Order from this court granting plaintiff custody of his two daughters, F.R.L. and S.R.C., and reinstating his parental rights because under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine[3], this court does not have jurisdiction to issue such an Order.

Next, I dismiss the Lancaster County Children and Youth Social Service Agency as a defendant in this action because as an administrative arm or department of a municipal government, LCCYSSA is not a proper party to this Action.

Finally, I dismiss plaintiff’s claims against defendants Gonzalez, Kinsey, and Hamby in Counts I through IV pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.


Jurisdiction in this case is based upon federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.


Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because the events giving rise to plaintiff’s claims allegedly occurred within this judicial district.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY State Court Proceedings

On May 9, 2011 plaintiff Junius Leisure filed a pro se Amended Complaint alleging violations of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff’s claims arise out of proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Orphans’ Court Division, which resulted in the termination of his parental rights to his two minor daughters, S.R.C. and F.R.L.

Plaintiff’s parental rights to both his children were terminated by two separate Decrees and a single consolidated Memorandum Opinion issued by Lancaster County Common Pleas Judge Jay J. Hoberg on May 19, 2009. Plaintiff appealed the termination of his parental rights to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. On December 9, 2009, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed Judge Hoberg’s decisions terminating plaintiff’s parental rights.[4] On February 12, 2010, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied plaintiff’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal.[5]

Federal Action

Plaintiff filed a Petition for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on December 29, 2010. By Order dated January 18, 2011, I granted plaintiff’s petition and directed the Clerk of Court to file plaintiff’s Complaint and serve Summons and the Complaint on the defendants. Plaintiff’s Complaint was filed January 20, 2011.

Plaintiff filed a Petition for Modification of a Custody, Partial Custody, or Visitation Order and a Motion to Appoint Counsel pro se on January 20, 2011. Both of these motions were denied by my Order dated March 9, 2010 and filed March 10, 2011.

Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint was filed pro se March 14, 2011. That motion was granted by my Order dated April 27 and filed April 28, 2011.

Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint pro se on May 9, 2011. Both defendant Hamby and the “Lanc. Co. Children and Youth Agency” were served with the Amended Complaint on August 5, 2011.[6] Defendants Kinsey and Gonzalez were each served with the Amended Complaint on August 9, 2011.[7]

Defendants Gonzalez, Hamby, and Kinsey jointly filed Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, which seeks dismissal of the Amended Complaint, on August 26, 2011.

By Order dated September 13 and filed September 14, 2011, I granted plaintiff’s Motion for Extension of Time to Oppose the Defendants[’] Motion to Dismiss the Complaint and granted plaintiff until October 11, 2011 to respond to the motion to dismiss. On October 13, 2011, plaintiff filed his Response to Defendants[’] Motion to Dismiss.


A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires the court to examine the sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957) (abrogated in other respects by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record, including other judicial proceedings. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2008).

Except as provided in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9, a complaint is sufficient if it complies with Rule 8(a)(2), which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2) “[does] not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d at 949.[8]

In determining whether a plaintiff’s complaint is sufficient, the court must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)).

Although “conclusory or ‘bare-bones’ allegations will [not] survive a motion to dismiss, ” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210, “a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits.” Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Nonetheless, to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must provide “enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s].” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940) (internal quotation omitted).

The court is required to conduct a two-part analysis when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. First, the factual matters averred in the complaint, and any attached exhibits, should be separated from legal conclusions asserted therein. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. Any facts pled must be taken as true, and any legal conclusions asserted may be disregarded. Id. at 210-211.

Second, the court must determine whether those factual matters averred are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at ___, 129 S.Ct. at 1950, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884).

Ultimately, this two-part analysis is “context-specific” and requires the court to draw on “its judicial experience and common sense” to determine if the facts pled in the complaint have “nudged [plaintiff’s] claims” over the line from “[merely] conceivable [or possible] to plausible.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at ___, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-1951, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884-885 (internal quotations omitted).

A well-pleaded complaint may not be dismissed simply because “it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940-941.

In addition to being subject to Rule 8 and Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, proceedings in forma pauperis are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Section 1915(e) provides, in pertinent part, that “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that...the action...fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted”. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(ii).

While pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 292, 50 L.Ed.2d 251, 261 (1976), a pro se plaintiff must still plead the essential elements of his or her claims and is not excused from conforming to the standard rules of civil procedure. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113, 113 S.Ct. 1980, 1984 124 L.Ed.2d 21, 28-29 (1993).


Based on the averments in plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, which I must accept as true for purposes of this Opinion under the applicable standard of review discussed above, the pertinent facts are as follows.

Plaintiff Junius P. Leisure is the biological father of two daughters, S.R.C. (born in April 2005)and F.R.L. (born in July 2003). Renee Jo Caldwell is the biological mother of S.R.C. Filena Marie Caldwell (also known as Filena Marie Leisure) is the biological mother of F.R.L. The biological mothers of F.R.L. and S.R.C. are, themselves, sisters.

The individual defendants -- Wilina Gonzalez, Shea Kinsey, and Jessica Hamby -- are former caseworkers for the LCCYSSA.

The LCCYSSA first became involved with plaintiff and his children when, in December 2005, plaintiff reported to LCCYSSA that the house where F.R.L. lived was unhygienic and did not have proper heat. At that time, F.R.L. and S.R.C. lived in a five-bedroom home together with their respective mothers, their uncle, their maternal grandmother, and F.R.L.’s two older sisters.

The LCCYSSA made two unannounced visits to the five-bedroom house in early January 2006 and found it in deplorable condition with a significant number of safety and sanitary concerns including feces smeared on some walls and in some of the bedding. The LCCYSSA also visited plaintiffs home because F.R.L. would spend some weekends there at the time.

Later in January 2006, after the five-bedroom house was cleaned up, a Family Service Plan was established for the mothers of F.R.L. and S.R.C., and for plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that at this point, he was expecting to receive custody of both F.R.L. and S.R.C., and that he was taken aback by the LCCYSSA’s creation of the Family Service Plan, which he did not sign until March 2006.

Sometime in February 2006, F.R.L. began living with plaintiff at his home, while S.R.C. continued to live in the five-bedroom home with her mother, and the others. An unidentified caseworker from the LCCYSSA brought a child-safety gate to plaintiff’s home shortly after F.R.L. began living there and told plaintiff to install the safety gate. Plaintiff refused to do so, contending that the gate was too big to install and would have caused a grave danger to any occupants.

In March 2006 plaintiff alleged that the uncle who resided in the five-bedroom house had sexually abused F.R.L. in the past. Plaintiff made no allegations regarding any abuse of, or risk to, S.R.C. and did not attempt ...

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