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Gleason v. Bundage

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

May 18, 2018

CHRISTINE SUSAN GLEASON, individually and as guardian for S.F., a minor; and S.F., individually, Plaintiffs,
AMANDA BUNDAGE, in her individual capacity and as an official of the state of Oregon; JANE DOE 1, supervisor, individually and as an official of the state of Oregon; and FARIBORZ PAKSERESHT, Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services, in his official capacity, Defendants.



         In this civil rights action, plaintiffs Christine Gleason and her minor child, S.F., allege that defendant officers and employees of the Oregon Department of Human Services ("Oregon DHS") violated their constitutional rights when they questioned S.F. multiple times at S.F.'s school. Defendants sought to question S.F. in connection with their investigation of the biological father of Gleason's younger child, M.H. Although Gleason permitted defendants to question M.H., she refused to consent to defendants questioning S.F. because M.H.'s father is not S.F.'s father, S.F. had no information about the incident in question, and S.F. did not want to talk to Oregon DHS. Plaintiffs allege that Oregon DHS, without Gleason's consent and without a warrant, pulled S.F. out of class multiple times and questioned her.

         In this action, plaintiffs assert four claims for relief: (1) a substantive due process claim alleging unlawful interference with familial association; (2) a Fourth Amendment claim alleging unreasonable seizures; (3) a request for injunctive relief, directing Oregon DHS to stop its practice of questioning minor children without parental consent, a warrant, provision of a child advocate, or informing the minor children of the right to have an attorney or advocate present; and (4) a request for declaratory relief, stating that the practice described above is unconstitutional.

         Defendants filed a motion to partially dismiss the complaint, arguing that plaintiffs lack standing to assert some of their claims. Defendants request dismissal of plaintiffs' first claim for relief to the extent it rests on allegations that Oregon DHS's questioning of S.F. violated the Fourth Amendment, contending that Gleason lacks standing to challenge any seizure of S.F. on Fourth Amendment grounds. Defendants also seek dismissal of plaintiffs' third and fourth claims for relief, averring that plaintiffs cannot show the requisite threat of future injury necessary to give this court jurisdiction to grant injunctive or declaratory relief.


         Article III standing is a "jurisdictional prerequisite for the consideration of any federal claim." Gerlinger v. Inc., 526 F, 3d 1253, 1255 (9th Cir. 2008). A challenge to standing is appropriately raised through a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Chandler v. State Farm Mitt. Auto. Ins. Co., 598 F.3d 1115, 1122 (9th Cir. 2010). Plaintiffs, as the party seeking to invoke the subject-matter jurisdiction of the court, have the burden of establishing injury in fact, causation, and redressability. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of Article III standing, the court may consider evidence outside the pleadings. Kingman Reef Atoll Ims., LLC v. United States, 541 F.3d 1189, 1195 (9th Cir. 2008).


         I. Substantive Due Process Claim

         Plaintiffs' first claim for relief, asserted by Gleason, is for interference with familial association, in violation of Gleason's right to substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. That claim rests in part on allegations related to the legality of the seizure of S.F, during questioning. Plaintiffs concede that this claim is inartfully pleaded and that Gleason lacks standing to assert a Fourth Amendment claim, either on her own behalf or on behalf of S.F. They request leave to amend their first claim for relief to make more definite the nature of their substantive due process claim. Defendants do not oppose that request. Accordingly, defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' first claim for relief is denied and plaintiffs are instead granted leave to make a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(e) and 15(a)(2).

         II. Request for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief

         Plaintiffs assert their third claim for relief against defendant Fariboz Pakseresht, the Director of Oregon DHS, in his official capacity. Plaintiffs seek an injunction ordering Oregon DHS to stop its "regular of practice ... in Lane County" of "remov[ing] children from school or interview[ing] them without a warrant, court order or parental consent, and without providing a special advocate or informing children of the right to have an attorney or special advocate present." Am. Compl. ¶ 18. In their fourth claim for relief, plaintiffs seek a declaration that the above-described policy, "on [its] face and as applied[, ]" violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. ¶ 40. Defendants argue that plaintiffs' third and fourth claims must be dismissed because plaintiffs cannot show a threat of future harm sufficient to confer standing to obtain prospective relief in federal court.

         The seminal federal case on standing to sue for prospective relief is City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95 (1983). In Lyons, the plaintiff sued for damages, injunctive, and declaratory relief, alleging that Los Angeles police officers, during a traffic stop and "without provocation or justification, " subjected him to a "chokehold" that rendered him unconscious and damaged his larynx. Id. at 98. The plaintiff alleged that it was the city's official policy to use such chokeholds "in innumerable situations where [police officers] are not threatened by the use of any deadly force whatsoever" and that at least fifteen people had died as a result of the chokeholds. Id. at 98, 100. He sought a "permanent injunction against the City barring the use of such chokeholds and a declaration that the use of the chokeholds, "absent the threat of immediate use of deadly force[, wa]s a per se violation of various constitutional rights." Id. at 95.

         The Court held that the plaintiff lacked standing to obtain injunctive or declaratory relief. It explained that the plaintiffs "standing to seek the injunction requested depended upon whether he was likely to suffer future injury by the use of the chokeholds by police officers." Id. at 105. The allegation that plaintiff was illegally choked by the police afforded him "standing to claim damages against the individual officers and perhaps against the City, " but it did not "establish a real and immediate threat that he would again be stopped for a traffic violation, or for any other offense, by an officer or officers who would illegally choke him into unconsciousness without any provocation or resistance on his part." Id. Furthermore, the Court stated that "[t]he additional allegation in the complaint that the police in Los Angeles routinely apply chokeholds in situations where they are not threatened by the use of deadly force falls far short of the allegations that would be necessary to establish a case or controversy between these parties." Id.

         The Ninth Circuit has explained that, under Lyons, "plaintiffs must demonstrate that a 'credible threat' exists that they will again be subject to the specific injury for which they seek injunctive or declaratory relief." Sample v. Johnson,771 F.2d 1335, 1340 (9th Cir. 1985) (quoting Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 355 n.3 (1983)). In evaluating whether such a credible threat of future harm exists, "past exposure to harm is largely irrelevant!.]" Nelsen v. King Cty.,895 F.2d 1248, 1251 (9th Cir. 1990). Supreme Court precedent demonstrates that it is particularly difficult to demonstrate the requisite imminent harm when the asserted injury flows from "the affirmative actions of third parties beyond a plaintiffs control." Litjan, 504 U.S. at 593 (Blackmun, J., dissenting). "[N]o matter how important the issue or how likely that ...

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