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Paddock v. Ballou

United States District Court, D. Idaho

June 19, 2018

SHALYNN F. PADDOCK, M.B. and A.P., Plaintiffs,
ANDREW BALLOU, BRIANA DIXON, COUNTY OF CANYON, a public entity; IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE CPA, RAYCHELLE MINDEN, in her individual capacity; MIRANDA SQUIBB, in her individual capacity; JASMINE OLMEDO, in her individual capacity; ARACELI LUNA, in her individual capacity; CALDWELL POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER T EDWARDS, in his individual capacity; OFFICER DEFUR, in his individual capacity; KIDS SERVICES, INC. of Caldwell, Canyon County, Idaho and JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-50, Defendants.


          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge.


         Pending before the Court are three motions to dismiss filed by Defendants KIDS Services, Inc., Andrew Ballou, [1] and Briana Dixon. (Dkt. 10, 40, 41.) The motions to dismiss are ripe for the Court's consideration. Having reviewed the record herein, the Court finds the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motions will be decided on the record without oral argument. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d).

         The pertinent claims asserted against the moving parties[2] begin with count one, brought under Section 1983, which claims that Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to familial association was violated by Defendants KIDS Services and Briana Dixon, Defendant Ballou's girlfriend (or spouse). (Dkt. 1, p. 13.) Next, Plaintiff alleges violations of the Sixth Amendment against Ballou in count two, and the Thirteenth Amendment against Defendant KIDS Services and “CPS Workers” in count three. Id.

         Turning to Plaintiff's state law claims, count five alleges a violation of her state civil rights by all Defendants, but does not state which specific rights were violated. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 74-87.) And second, Plaintiff alleges in count nine that all Defendants committed the tort of invasion of privacy. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 88-94.) After careful consideration of the briefing, the standard of review, and relevant authorities, the Court will recommend that all three motions to dismiss be granted.


         Plaintiff Shalynn Paddock (Plaintiff), who appears pro se in this matter, brings both constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983) and state law claims. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 1.) Defendants in this case are: Canyon County, Canyon County Sheriff's Department, Caldwell Police Department, Raychelle Minden, Miranda Squibb, Jasmine Olmedo, Araceli Luna, Officer T. Edwards, Officer Defur, Kids In Divorce Support Services, Inc. (KIDS Services), [3] Briana Dixon, and Andrew Ballou. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 4-15.) Defendants Minden, Squibb, Olmedo, and Luna are identified as employees of Child Protective Services (CPS) in Canyon County. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 7-10, 16.) Defendant Officers Edwards and Defur are both employees of the Caldwell Police Department. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 11- 12.) KIDS Services is a private company located in Canyon County. (Dkt. 1, ¶13; (Dkt. 13.) It appears Andrew Ballou is the father of one of Plaintiff's children, M.B., and Briana Dixon is either Ballou's girlfriend or spouse. When reading the caption and complaint together, it is unclear if the government employees named as defendants are being sued in their individual capacities, their official capacities, or both, as the information in the caption does not fully align with the allegations in the complaint.

         Plaintiff asserts that all named Defendants deprived her of various constitutional and state rights during investigations regarding allegations of child abuse, which later resulted in the removal of her minor children from the home. (Dkt. 1.) Plaintiff states the investigation stemmed from allegations that Plaintiff's son, M.B., was not being fed, had bruises on his body from being hit by Plaintiff, had bedbugs present in his bed, and was often locked in his bedroom for long periods of time. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 20; see also Report, Dkt. 1-2 at 4.) Additional allegations in the underlying investigation included that drugs and drug paraphernalia were present in the home, and that Plaintiff was consuming alcohol while breastfeeding. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 20.)

         Plaintiff was subjected to numerous welfare checks performed by both CPS employees and law enforcement officials, where the purpose was to ensure that Plaintiff's children were living in a safe environment. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 20, 22.) On November 17, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Defur was in possession of a protection order that instructed him to remove M.B. from Plaintiff's home, which he did, based on the continuing allegations of child abuse. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 23.) KIDS Services later facilitated supervised visitations between M.B. and Plaintiff. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 23, 26.)

         KIDS Services charged Plaintiff a sixty-dollar intake fee, as well as fifty dollars per hour to participate in supervised visits with M.B. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 26.) Plaintiff asserts that KIDS Services told her when and how long her visits with M.B. would be - she was not given a choice in the matter. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 26.) After the first visit with M.B., Plaintiff contacted KIDS Services to find out when her next visitation was scheduled, but Plaintiff did not receive a response from KIDS Services. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 35.) Last, Plaintiff alleges that KIDS Services scheduled a visitation appointment, failed to inform Plaintiff about the appointment, and then charged Plaintiff forty dollars for missing the appointment. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 35, 37.)

         Another incident occurred on December 9, 2017. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 30.) According to Plaintiff's complaint, Defendants Olmedo and Officer Edwards arrived at Plaintiff's home with the intent of performing a welfare check. Specifically, they requested to check on Plaintiff's infant daughter, A.P., as they believed the baby had rashes on her body, and had been given soda by way of bottle-feeding. Id. Upon arrival, Defendants allegedly pushed their way into Plaintiff's home. Id. Plaintiff asserts she did not provide Defendants with consent to enter the home and told them to leave. Id. Defendants Olmedo and Officer Edwards allegedly forced Plaintiff to remove her daughter's clothing so she could be inspected for rashes by these Defendants. Id. Plaintiff's home was also searched by these officials, which included a search for bedbugs in the mattresses and a search of Plaintiff's roommate's bedroom. Id. It is unclear from Plaintiff's complaint whether Defendants Olmedo and Officer Edwards had obtained judicial authorization prior to entering and searching the home, and examining A.P. Id.

         On February 6, 2018, KIDS Services filed a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 10.) Plaintiff was provided an opportunity to respond to the motion, and she received notice regarding how to do so. (Dkt. 11.) Plaintiff filed a document on February 27, 2018, titled “Questions for KIDS Services' Council [sic] Concerning Motion to Dismiss.” (Dkt. 26.) KIDS Services responded to Plaintiff's filing by indicating that Plaintiff did not address the legal issues raised by KIDS Services in its motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 32.) KIDS Services asserts that Plaintiff failed to allege facts to support a cognizable cause of action against it, and requests the Court grant its motion to dismiss. Id.

         Plaintiff later filed an opposition to KIDS Services' motion to dismiss on April 5, 2018. (Dkt. 44.) Plaintiff opposes the motion on the grounds that a conflict of interest exists, because legal counsel for KIDS Services is also a director of the organization. Plaintiff alleges also that KIDS Services “has a close monetary relationship with the courts thus causing a biased relationship in favor of the wishes of the courts, police, prosecutors, and judges.” KIDS Services responded, asserting that the objections Plaintiff raised are insufficient as a matter of law to defeat its motion to dismiss, and Plaintiff failed to identify any substantive issues of law which would affect the motion. (Dkt. 49.)

         On April 3, 2018, Defendants Ballou and Dixon separately filed motions to dismiss with accompanying memoranda, which are nearly identical to each other, and substantially similar to KIDS Services memorandum. (Dkt. 40, 41.) Ballou raises three arguments. First, that this is a custody dispute and the complaint raises frivolous allegations against Ballou that should be resolved in state court. (Dkt. 40, 31.)[4] Second, Ballou contends that, to the extent Plaintiff alleges civil rights violations against him, Plaintiff failed to file a complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission prior to filing suit. And third, Ballou asserts that Plaintiff's claim for invasion of privacy is not viable. Dixon raises the same arguments in her motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 41-1.) Additionally, in their answers, both Ballou and Dixon asserted that the complaint failed to state claims against them upon which relief could be granted. (Dkt. 30, 31.)

         In response, Plaintiff argues neither Ballou nor Dixon addressed all of the allegations made against them in her Complaint; discovery has not yet been conducted so she cannot support her claims; the custody matter is a separate matter, and has no relationship to the civil rights claims she brings here; and last, that she is not required to file a complaint with any state agency if she believes “there will be no fair resolution at the state level.” (Dkt. 51, 52.)[5]


         1. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” to “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must set forth “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. The principle “that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (citing Twombly at 555).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly at 570. 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. Id. at 556. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'” Id. at 557.

         The United States Supreme Court identified two “working principles” that underlie Twombly in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). First, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Id. Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79. Second, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will ... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         Additionally, a pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). “A pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Id. (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, the Court must construe her pleadings liberally and afford her the benefit of any doubt. See Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

         2. Jurisdiction

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by the Constitution and statutes. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A federal court must have subject-matter jurisdiction over claims brought before it. Federal courts have original jurisdiction over cases “arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or in which the citizenship of the parties is completely diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Because subject-matter jurisdiction “involves a court's power to hear a case…, it [cannot] be forfeited or waived.” Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) (quoting United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002)).

         In certain contexts, federal law provides special rules for federal courts to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over related state law claims. That is, jurisdiction over claims that arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the claims set forth in the original complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1367. A federal court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over such claims when they derive from a common nucleus of operative fact. See generally United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966). The following three criteria are considered to determine whether facts form a common nucleus of operative fact: (1) when the facts are related in time, space, origin or motivation; (2) when the facts form a convenient trial unit; and (3) when treating the facts as a unit would conform to the parties' expectations. Apparel Art Int'l, Inc. v. Amertex Enters. Ltd., 48 F.3d 576, 584 (1st Cir. 1995).

         Finally, even when proper, the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction is discretionary. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). A court may decline to exercise jurisdiction under any one of four scenarios: (1) when exercising jurisdiction would require a ruling on a novel or complex state law claim; (2) when the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction; (3) if the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction; or (4) if there are other compelling reasons for the court to decline to extend supplemental jurisdiction. Id.


         1. KIDS Services' Motion to Dismiss

         Plaintiff alleges the following four claims against KIDS Services: a violation of familial association pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment; a violation of Plaintiff's right to be free from involuntary servitude pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment; a violation of state civil rights; and, the tort of invasion of privacy. KIDS Services moves to dismiss the constitutional claims on the grounds that it is not a state actor; Plaintiff has not alleged specific facts constituting unconstitutional conduct; and, even if there is state action, KIDS Services is entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity. With regard to the state law claims, KIDS Services argues Plaintiff has not alleged she filed a complaint with the Idaho Commission on Human Rights, or alleged facts to support a state law claim for invasion of privacy.

         As explained below, the Court agrees that Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim against KIDS Services. Therefore, the Court will recommend KIDS Services' motion to dismiss be granted and all claims against KIDS Services be dismissed, with the opportunity to amend.[6]

         A. Constitutional Claims - Thirteenth Amendment (Count Three) and Fourteenth Amendment (Count One)

         Section 1983 provides a remedy for individuals who have been deprived of one or more of their federal constitutional rights by a person acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see, e.g., Burke v. Cty. of Alameda, 586 F.3d 725, 731 (9th Cir. 2009). “The purpose of § 1983 is to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights.” Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). To prevail on her Section 1983 claims, Plaintiff must show that: (1) acts by the Defendants, (2) under color of state law, (3) deprived her of federal rights, privileges or immunities, and (4) caused her damage. Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1163-64 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Shoshone-Bannock Tribes v. Idaho Fish & Game Comm'n, 42 F.3d 1278, 1284 (9th Cir. 1994)).

         (1) State Action

         To state a claim for relief under Section 1983, it must be shown that KIDS Services and its employees were acting under color of state law when they allegedly denied Plaintiff of her rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. However, Plaintiff asserts that KIDS Services is a private corporation that facilitates supervised visitation between children and their parents. Private corporations act under color of state law only when the alleged infringement of federal rights is “fairly attributable to the state.” Flowers v. City of Parma, No. 1:14-CV-00453-EJL, 2015 WL 4757330, at *6 (D. Idaho Aug. 12, 2015) (quoting Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982)).

         “State action may be found if, though only if, there is such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action that seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.” Villegas v. Gilroy Garlic Festival Ass'n, 541 F.3d 950, 955 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) (citing Brentwood Acad. v. Tenn. Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2001)). “Action taken by a private individual may be ‘under color of state law' where there is ‘significant' state involvement in the action.” Howerton v. Gabica, 708 F.2d 380, 382 (9th Cir.1983). The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has identified four general approaches to determine whether private conduct is attributable to the state: 1) public function, 2) joint action/participation, 3) governmental compulsion or coercion, and 4) governmental nexus. Henneberry v. City of Newark, Case No. 13-cv-05238-MEJ, 2014 WL 4978576, at *10 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 6, 2014) (citation omitted); see also Kirtley v. Rainey, 326 F.3d 1088, 1092 (9th Cir. 2003).

         “Under the public function test, ‘when private individuals or groups are endowed by the State with powers or functions governmental in nature, they become agencies or instrumentalities of the state and subject to its constitutional limitations.'” Lee v. Katz, 276 F.3d 550, 554-55 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Newton, 382 U.S. 296, 299 (1966)). Under the joint action or participation test, “a private party acts under color of state law if ‘he [or she] is a willful participant in joint action with the State or its agents.'” Lopez v. Dept. of Health Servs., 939 F.2d 881, 883 (9th Cir. 1991) (quoting Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 27 (1980)). The coercion test is most often applied in situations involving forced participation in alleged religion-based programs in prison, which is not the case here. Anderson v. Craven, No. CV-07-246-BLW, 2009 WL 804691, at *4 (D. Idaho Mar. 26, 2009). And finally, “[u]nder the governmental nexus test, a private party acts under color of state law if ‘there is a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the challenged action of the regulated entity so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.'” Lopez, 939 F.2d at 883 (quoting Jackson, 419 U.S. at 351) (Constitutional deprivation caused by private party involves state action if claimed deprivation resulted from exercise of a right or privilege having its source in state authority.)).

         KIDS Services contends it is not a state actor, and is merely a corporation formed under the laws of the State of Idaho. KIDS Services does not specifically mention the four general approaches recognized in the Ninth Circuit to determine whether private conduct is attributable to the State. Rather, KIDS Services argues generally that its actions (and those of its employees) are not attributable to the State, because its role in family court proceedings is limited to providing reports to the court regarding supervised visitation.

         Other than alleging in her motion that KIDS Services receives money from the State, Plaintiff has not alleged facts raising a plausible inference of state action. Plaintiff alleges KIDS Services is a corporation doing business in Canyon County. The only factual allegations related to KIDS Services include the amount of money Plaintiff was charged for supervised visitation with her son, that she was not given a choice of when and how long the meetings would last, and that KIDS Services failed to properly communicate the time and date of a scheduled visitation. None of these factual allegations plausibly alleges state action under either the public function, joint action, or governmental nexus tests. Further, under the Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 717(D) clarifies that providers of court ordered supervision are not parties to the court proceeding.

         Because there are no factual allegations in the Complaint establishing that KIDS Services was a state actor, the Court will recommend that ...

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