United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The motion is granted.
Additionally, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court is required to dismiss a
complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a
complaint must plead more than "legal conclusions"
and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action [that are] supported by mere conclusory
statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim
for relief, which is more than a "mere possibility of
misconduct." Id. at 679. "A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense. Id. at 679.
filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
"Two or More Unknown Police Officers"; Unknown City
or County; and two employees of the Missouri Department of
Social Services, Linda Gavon and Monica Bryant. Plaintiff
asserts that his daughter and his stepdaughter were removed
from his wife's custody in June of 2015 and placed in a
complains that although he was at that time entitled to
"supervised visitation" with the children, he was
not offered custody of the children. Rather, the children
were "falsely arrested/imprisoned" in the
Children's Home by defendants. Plaintiff asserts that
defendants did not "try hard to locate him" until
after they filed for a "protective hearing" with
the children, and he claims he suffers from "parental
seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.
complaint is deficient in three respects. First he does not
state any discernible cause of action against any of the
named defendants. Plaintiff, himself, has alleged that at the
time his children were removed from his wife's custody,
he was only entitled to supervised visits with his children.
Thus, it appears that plaintiff, himself, has indicated that
he was unable to provide his children with a full-time home
at the time that the children were removed from his
wife's home. Accordingly, the court cannot infer from
these allegations that these defendants were liable for any
misconduct. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
this action is subject to dismissal under the domestic
relations exception to federal court jurisdiction. Plaintiff
requests that this court order the defendants to return
plaintiffs children to him. However, it is well-settled that
"the whole subject of the domestic relations of husband
and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the States
and not to the laws of the United States." In re
Burrus, 136 U.S. 586, 593-94 (1890); Kahn v.
Kahn, 21 F.3d 859, 861 (8th Cir. 1994).
Although this domestic relations exception to federal
jurisdiction does not apply to a civil action that merely has
domestic relations overtones, federal courts lack
jurisdiction where the action is a mere pretense and the suit
is actually concerned with domestic relations issues.
See, e.g., Drewes v. Ilnicki, 863 F.2d 469, 471 (6th
Cir. 1988); Lannan v. Maul, 979 F.2d 627, 631
(8th Cir. 1992).
the substance of plaintiffs claims concern state law domestic
relations matters. This is particularly so where it is clear
from plaintiffs allegations and filings that his
children's care and custody is the subject of a juvenile
court case in Missouri. Missouri's state courts would be
better equipped to handle the issues that have arisen in the
course of the juvenile court proceedings in Missouri. See
Overman v. U.S., 563 F.2d 1287, 1292 (8th Cir. 1977)
("There is, and ought to be, a continuing federal policy
to avoid handling domestic relations cases in federal court
in the absence of important concerns of a constitutional
dimension. ... Such cases touch state law and policy in a
deep and sensitive manner and as a matter of policy and
comity, these local problems should be decided in state
courts.") (internal quotations omitted).
even if the court did not lack jurisdiction based on the
domestic relations exception, the court would abstain from
hearing plaintiffs claims under the abstention doctrine set
out by the Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, 401
U.S. 37, 43-45 (1971). Under Younger, abstention is
mandatory where: (1) there is an ongoing state proceeding;
(2) an important state interest is implicated; and (3) the
plaintiff has an avenue open for review of constitutional
claims in the state court. See Aaron v. Target
Corp., 357 F.3d 768, 774 (8th Cir. 2004) ("Under
Younger v. Harris, federal courts should abstain
from exercising jurisdiction in cases where equitable relief
would interfere with pending state proceedings in a way that
offends principles of comity and federalism.")
each of the three Younger conditions is satisfied.
First, the state proceedings in Missouri are apparently
ongoing. Second, disputes concerning the care and custody of
minors implicate important state interests. Third, while
plaintiff has alleged that his civil rights have been
violated, there is no indication that the state courts ...