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Johnny Reed, Iv, et al. v. New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services

April 10, 2012

JOHNNY REED, IV, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Before the Court are two motions to dismiss, one filed by defendant Stephanie Shreter, and the other filed by defendants Linda Almodovar, Tracey Nelson, Evaristo Fontanez, Vernita Blocker, and Nancy R. Andre. Because plaintiffs' claims of Fourteenth Amendment due process violations are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the motions will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

This dispute arises from the removal of plaintiffs' biological minor child by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services ("DYFS"). DYFS removed the child after what has been referred to as a "stand-off" on the Walt Whitman bridge on March 27, 2008, between plaintiffs and the police in which the police negotiated the surrender of the child. Both plaintiffs were taken into police custody as a result of the incident. The state court entered an order of temporary custody and appointed a Law Guardian for the child.

B. Procedural Background

Parental termination proceedings regarding the custody of plaintiffs' minor son were held in the New Jersey Superior Court, Family Part ("Family Part"), and on April 22, 2009, the Family Part ordered that the plan for termination of parental rights and adoption was appropriate. Following trial, on May 24, 2010, the Family Part entered a final order terminating the parental rights of plaintiffs. In July 2010,*fn1 plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal with New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division ("state appellate court").*fn2

While the Family Part proceeding was pending, but almost a year before they filed their appeal in state court, plaintiffs, proceeding pro se, filed their complaint in this Court on July 27, 2009, against 49*fn3 defendants listing 22 causes of action and requesting five billion dollars in damages. On August 6, 2009, the Court entered an Order granting plaintiffs' in forma pauperis application, and permitting plaintiffs to amend their complaint to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on August 26, 2009, but the amended complaint was also deficient and failed to adhere to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The Court entered a second Order on October 20, 2009, permitting plaintiffs to file a second amended complaint. Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint on November 6, 2009, but did not prosecute their case further.

On August 25, 2010, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause ordering plaintiffs to prosecute their case or have their case dismissed. In response, plaintiffs served their complaint on defendants who in turn filed motions to dismiss. On February 28, 2011, plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint. The Court granted the motion and granted voluntary dismissal of 43 defendants.*fn4

In their third amended complaint, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985, plaintiffs allege that defendants violated their due process rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment, and that defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy to deprive plaintiffs of their due process rights. Plaintiffs named as defendants Stephanie Shreter, the court-appointed Law Guardian who represented the child at the parental termination proceedings, as well as five employees of DYFS involved in the state proceedings. Plaintiffs currently seek damages in the amount of $100,000 against each defendant and seek an award of punitive damages in the amount of ten million dollars.

The remaining six defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' third amended complaint on various grounds. Because plaintiffs' claims are barred under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, defendants' motions to dismiss shall be granted.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

Plaintiffs have alleged that defendants violated their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and, therefore, this Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 ...


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