United States District Court, D. New Jersey
KENNETH J. ROSELLINI KENNETH ROSELLINI, ATTORNEY AT LAW
Attorney for Plaintiff Kevin Lewis.
JOSEPH HAROLDSON NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC
SAFETY DIVISION OF LAW Attorney for Defendants Carmen
Diaz-Petti and Christine Norbut Beyer.
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case concerns claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the New
Jersey Civil Rights Act, and New Jersey common law relating
to a decision by the New Jersey Division of Child Protection
and Permanency (“DCP&P”) to take custody of
Plaintiff's three children from him and give it to
Plaintiff's ex-wife. Currently before the Court is
Defendants', Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer and
Assistant Commissioner Carmen Diaz-Petti (collectively, the
“Moving Defendants”), Motion to Dismiss and
Plaintiff's opposition. For the reasons discussed below,
this Court will grant Moving Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, in part, and deny the remaining portions as moot.
Court takes this recitation of facts from Plaintiff's
Complaint. Plaintiff, Kevin Lewis, alleges he is an
African-American and parent of three children, “L.L.,
” “KaL., ” and “KeL.” On May
16, 2016, DCP&P caseworker Rosemary Ortiz visited
Plaintiff's home, told Plaintiff a complaint had been
made about Plaintiff's treatment of his children, and
asked to see them. Plaintiff agreed to speak with Ortiz and
allow her inside to see his children. Plaintiff refused to
allow Ortiz to speak with his children until after he had
consulted with an attorney.
next day, when Plaintiff went to pick up his children at
school, local police officers informed him that his children
had been removed from his custody by DCP&P. Plaintiff, at
some point, spoke with Ortiz who told him his children were
in DCP&P custody, but refused to disclose their location.
Plaintiff later learned Defendant Lauralie Lewis, his
ex-wife, had made a false allegation of abuse and that the
children had been placed with her. Plaintiff also learned
that Defendant Lewis had allegedly influenced his children to
make false statements to DCP&P, which led to the
investigation. Those false allegations included allegations
of physical abuse of which Plaintiff claims there was no
physical evidence and which a proper investigation would have
revealed as false. For ninety days, Plaintiff was unable to
have contact with his children.
instituted legal proceedings against Plaintiff, alleging he
had abused or neglected his children. A full fact-finding
hearing was held. Plaintiff alleges that he proved there was
“no basis for the allegations and the abuse and neglect
allegations . . . were dismissed by [court order on] June 30,
2017.” (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 30.) In August 2016,
Plaintiff was allowed ninety minutes of supervised visitation
with his children every week. Besides this visitation, the
children were not returned to Plaintiff's custody.
alleges his children were mistreated while in DCP&P's
or his ex-wife's custody. The mistreatment resulted in
mental health issues with one child, the development of
diabetes in another, and expulsion from school for the third,
among other things. Plaintiff complained to DCP&P about
the mistreatment, specifically to a DCP&P supervisor,
Defendant Jennifer Malloy, but Plaintiff alleges DCP&P
did not investigate his claims.
also makes allegations beyond DCP&P's failure to
investigate. Plaintiff claims DCP&P caseworker, Defendant
Shelia Walderama,  falsely testified in the underlying matter
concerning Plaintiff's ability to administer diabetic
treatment to his child. Plaintiff claims a DCP&P
caseworker, Defendant Chinuso Akunne, delayed medical
attention for one of Plaintiff's children, belittled him
in front of the child, and “intentionally and
maliciously interfered with Plaintiff's reunification
therapy with his children.” (Pl.'s Compl.
¶¶ 47-51.) Plaintiff additionally alleges that
Defendants Jasmine Peters, a DCP&P caseworker, and Lewis
threatened his children on multiple occasions that
“they will soon be questioned by court personnel and if
they say they want to live with their father they all will be
thrown in foster care.” (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 37.)
Plaintiff alleges improper conduct by DCP&P contractors.
Plaintiff claims Defendants Dr. Brian Eig or Dr. Lee and
Associates “fabricated a false psychological evaluation
of Plaintiff with an improper diagnosis” and
recommended placement of his children with Defendant Lewis.
Plaintiff alleges this same individual or entity has done the
same in other cases. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Dr.
Stephanie Lanase “fabricated a false psychological
evaluation of Plaintiff's children, including a false
diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder” and the
underlying judge found these findings “were,
unexplainably, extremely biased against Plaintiff.”
(Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶ 55-56.) Finally, and
similarly, Plaintiff claims Defendant Dr. Melissa McCausland
fabricated a false diagnosis of Plaintiff's children,
stating they suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Defendant Dr. McCausland did not respond to witness subpoenas
in the underlying matter.
complaint in this Court alleges six counts against multiple
defendants. Plaintiff alleges claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, NJCRA, and New Jersey common law. In the first count,
Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by
Defendants Malloy, Ortiz, Peters, Walderama, and Akunne. In
the second count, Plaintiff alleges unlawful retaliation
against his exercise of First Amendment rights by the same
Defendants. In the third count, Plaintiff alleges violations
of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by Moving
Defendants for an allegedly unconstitutional policy. In the
fourth count, Plaintiff also alleges violations of Due
Process and Equal Protection rights, here by all Defendants
except Moving Defendants. In the fifth count, Plaintiff
alleges violations of the NJCRA by all Defendants except
Moving Defendants. Finally, in the sixth count, Plaintiff
claims Defendant Lewis has committed malicious abuse of
September 18, 2018, Moving Defendants filed the pending
Motion to Dismiss. Attached to the Motion to Dismiss is the
Certification of Elizabeth Wallace, Deputy Attorney General
for New Jersey who is responsible for handling the underlying
child custody matter. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A.)
Ms. Wallace states that the custody matter is still ongoing
in the New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family
Part, Burlington ...