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Young v. Grensky

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

January 29, 2018

ERNIE VAN DE'R VAA'RTE YOUNG, JR, etal, Plaintiffs,
v.
RONALD D. GRENSKY, et al, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARK D. CLARKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Ernie Young seeks to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") in this action. He has also filed a motion for appointment of counsel (#14). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs [Fourth] Amended Complaint (#13) should be dismissed with prejudice. The request to proceed IFP (#2) and the motion for pro bono counsel (#14) should both be denied. Plaintiff should not be given leave to file a fifth Amended Complaint.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Generally, all parties instituting any civil action in United States District Court must pay a statutory filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However, the federal IFP statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), provides indigent litigants an opportunity for meaningful access to the federal courts despite their inability to pay the costs and fees associated with that access. To authorize a litigant to proceed IFP, a court must make two determinations. First, a court must determine whether the litigant is unable to pay the costs of commencing the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Second, it must assess whether the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In regard to the second of these determinations, district courts have the power under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen complaints even before the service of the complaint on the defendants, and must dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim. Courts apply the same standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012). To survive a motion to dismiss under the federal pleading standards, the complaint must include a short and plain statement of the claim and "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'"' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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. The plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. The Court is not required to accept legal conclusions, unsupported by alleged facts, as true. Id.

         Pro se pleadings are held to less stringent standards than pleadings by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). That is, the court should construe pleadings by pro se plaintiffs liberally and afford the plaintiffs the benefits of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988) (citation omitted). Additionally, a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and the opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         On October 16, 2017, Plaintiff Ernie Young filed a Complaint against six defendants, including a Jackson County Circuit Court judge, Hon. Ronald Grensky, a Jackson County Deputy District Attorney, Ben Lull, and three law enforcement officers from the Eagle Point Police Department, and one caseworker from Child Protective Services. The original complaint was dismissed on October 30, 2018, and the Court gave Plaintiff detailed notice of the deficiencies and allowed him 30 days to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff then proceeded to file several different versions of an Amended Complaint (#5, 11, 12, 13). The Court assumes that the most recently filed Amended Complaint (#13) is the one Plaintiff wishes to be operative in this case.

         I. Plaintiffs Amended Complaint should be dismissed due to the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine and for failure to state a claim.

         In the most recent Amended Complaint (#13), the named defendants are Child Protective Services ("CPS"); Carissa Jenkins and Kirstin Stroud, caseworkers at CPS; Brandy Lynn Wedin, the mother of Plaintiff s child; and Joseph Ballejos. As in the original complaint, there are plenty of factual allegations, though the specific claims against each defendant are confusing and disjointed. However, it is clear to the Court that Plaintiff is attempting to bring this case because he believes custody of his son lias been wrongly taken from him and given to Ms. Wedin, the mother of the child. While the Court understands Plaintiffs frustration with the caseworkers and the process, which may seem patently unfair, the federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. As discussed in the Court's previous Order, Pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction "when the federal plaintiff both asserts as her injury legal error or errors by the state court and seeks as her remedy relief from the state court judgment." Kongasian v. TMSL, Inc., 359 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2004); Cooper, 704 F.3d at 777-78. See also Meek v. Zopan, 2017 WL 902864, at *3 (D. Or. Mar. 6, 2017).

         As discussed in the previous Court Order, if Plaintiff is dissatisfied with the outcome of his child custody or child welfare case in state court, he may not attempt to overturn that outcome by challenging that case in federal court. In order to challenge the outcome of a state court proceeding, a person must appeal that state court judgment to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Attempting to challenge it in federal court is an improper collateral attack. Therefore, any claims asserted by Plaintiff that arise out of a state court proceeding and that attempt to overturn the outcome of that proceeding cannot be allowed.

         Specifically, for example, Plaintiff alleges that on "November 2nd, 2017, the State of Oregon for the County of Jackson and Child protective services filed a Dependency Petition to take custody of Mr. Young's son [Z.Y.]." Plaintiff does not indicate the outcome of that petition. or whether or not the proceeding has ended or is on-going. Plaintiff also states that defendant Kirstin Stroud gave testimony in the Circuit Court of Jackson County on April 12, 2017, against Mr. Young, which was "in False light the act of Conspiracy and perjury to sway the [Court], to have Mr. Young's son wrongfully removed from Mr. Young's Sole Care and Home."

         After a close reading of the entire Amended Complaint, the Court cannot find any allegations that do not arise out of the state court proceedings regarding custody of Plaintiff s son. While the details are often confusing, it is clear that Plaintiffs claims ultimately allege that the CPS caseworkers wrongfully "interfered" with his relationship with his son, and "'misrepresented" to the Jackson County Circuit Court that they were concerned about his parenting abilities. Plaintiff believes that they should have been more concerned with hisMs. Wedin's parenting abilities. He contends that Ms. Wedin was neglecting their son's needs and wellbeing and possibly exposing him to abuse by allowing contact with Mr. Ballejos. Plaintiff claims that the CPS workers' views were prejudiced against him, based on his diagnosis of "higher functioning autism." Other than the negligent acts Plaintiff alleges Ms. Wedin and Mr. Ballejos regarding their care of Plaintiff s son, Plaintiff does not state any cognizable claims against either named defendant. Ms. Wedin is named in conclusory fashion on page 7, where Plaintiff requests relief "For Defamation and Libel and Slander, " regarding "Claim IV." "Claim IV, " however, asserts claims arising out of testimony and proceedings that took place in Jackson County Circuit Court regarding custody, parenting time, and possible endangerment of Plaintiff s son.

         Later in the Amended Complaint, the allegations appear to suggest that the state court proceedings terminated unfavorably for Plaintiff because of the above actions of the CPS workers and their "false testimony" and "hearsay and perjury." If that is the case, he must appeal that judgment or judgments to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Because Plaintiffs allegations do not state a claim for relief- either due to the Rooker-Feldma ...


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