United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ERIKA TREMAINE JOHNSON and BLAKE SINNETT, Individually and On Behalf of M.S., a minor, Plaintiffs,
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Defendant.
ORDER OF DISMISSAL FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
action involves Defendant Missouri Department of Social
Services' (“DSS”) role in the placement of
M.S., a minor, into protective custody. The parents of M.S.,
Plaintiffs Erika Tremaine Johnson (“Johnson”) and
Blake Sinnett (“Sinnett”) (collectively,
“the parents”), allege that DSS discriminated
against the family in violation of Title II of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §
12131 et seq.
pending before the Court is DSS's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 44). Because the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine divests the Court of subject matter jurisdiction,
this case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
and Sinnett are legally blind. On the day M.S. was born, May
21, 2010, DSS received a Newborn Crisis Assessment call
reporting that M.S. turned blue while Johnson attempted to
breastfeed. Following this call, Tia Wilson
(“Wilson”),  a DSS employee, met with the parents at
the hospital. The parents indicated that they needed some
assistance in caring for M.S. Def.'s Ex. A 34 (Doc.
45-1); Ex. D 26 (Doc. 45-4).
then conducted an investigation into whether the parents
could care for M.S. She contacted several of Plaintiffs'
family members and at least two community resource centers
for the blind to seek assistance for the parents. After her
inquiry, Wilson requested that M.S.'s hospital discharge
be delayed until May 25, 2010, to give her and the family an
opportunity to explore placement options for M.S. She also
wrote an eight-page report, which she provided to a state
juvenile officer for the Circuit Court of Jackson County,
Missouri. Def.'s Ex. E 1 (Doc. 45-5). The report
recommended that the state court allow the Children's
Division of DSS to retain protective custody of M.S. until
safety measures could be put in place at the family home.
Id. 9; Pls.' Ex. 5 at 7 (Doc. 48-5).
23, 2010, Johnson was discharged from the hospital, and M.S.
remained in the hospital pursuant to Wilson's request.
The following day, the state juvenile officer authorized the
temporary protective custody transfer of M.S. to DSS. On May
25, 2010, the same juvenile officer requested that the court
place M.S. in the custody of the Children's Division of
DSS. After a hearing on May 26, 2010, Judge Marco Roldan
(“Judge Roldan”) ordered that M.S. be placed into
DSS's custody. Def.'s Ex. H (Doc. 45-8). M.S.
remained in foster care until June 20, 2010, when the
juvenile officer voluntarily dismissed the petition and DSS
returned M.S. to her parents. Def.'s Ex. I (Doc. 45-9).
filed the instant action five years later, asserting that DSS
discriminated against them by reason of their blindness and
M.S.'s association with her blind parents. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 25-37 (Doc. 4). Plaintiffs contend that
DSS's investigation, reports, and recommendations leading
up to Judge Roldan's order were discriminatory and
violated Title II of the ADA.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and possess only
the power authorized by the Constitution and statute.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994). “[I]t is to be presumed that a cause
lies outside this limited jurisdiction and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting
jurisdiction.” Id. (citations omitted).
here invoke federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. But, even where § 1331 appears to create
subject matter jurisdiction, the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine may preclude the exercise of federal
jurisdiction. This doctrine “provides that, ‘with
the exception of habeas corpus petitions, lower federal
courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over challenges to
state court judgments, '” Ballinger v.
Culotta, 322 F.3d 546, 548 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Lemonds v. St. Louis Cty., 222 F.3d 488, 492 (8th
Cir. 2000)), foreclosing “not only straightforward
appeals but also more indirect attempts by federal plaintiffs
to undermine state court decisions.” Lemonds,
222 F.3d at 492.
Rooker-Feldman applies to cases: (1) brought by the
party that lost in state court; (2) complaining of injuries
caused by state court judgments; (3) rendered before the
district court proceedings commenced; and (4) inviting
district court review and rejection of those judgments.
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. 280, 291-92 (2005).
argues that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents
this Court from exercising jurisdiction because
Plaintiffs' suit is an impermissible attack on Judge
Roldan's state court order. In response, Plaintiffs do not
explicitly address DSS's Rooker-Feldman argument