United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
October 31, 2016, plaintiff Alba Pineda
(“Pineda”), a resident of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, filed a self-prepared Complaint on behalf of
herself and her four minor children, GG, TG, JG and
The Complaint is set forth in narrative, letter form, and is
not entirely coherent. From what can be discerned, Pineda
sues the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
(“DCF”) and the DCF office in Cambridge. She
seeks $5 million in damages for alleged physical and
emotional harm, abuse of power and control, abuse of
discretion, and violation of rights based on disability.
Pineda alleges she is a recovering alcoholic. While not
entirely clear, it is presumed that three of her children are
in DCF custody. She claims DCF constantly made changes to her
service plans and canceled overnight visitation with her
children, based on DCF evaluations regarding the safety of
the children. She contends that these changes have been
arbitrary and “flimsy” and have
“deliberately initiated crisis” to her. Comp.
(Docket No. 1 at 1). Pineda alleges that DCF advisors should
act as professionals and assist with the healing and
unification of families rather than acting in an adversarial
Pineda claims that DCF views her as the enemy, and expects
that she will relapse back into drug and alcohol use. She
claims many members of the DCF office in Cambridge have
expressed to her that they are waiting for this to happen.
She alleges that, in fact, DCF workers have admitted to her
that they were watching to see if she can handle stress by
setting her up for failure in the hopes that she will reach a
breaking point. Id. She alleges that DCF's
actions have obstructed her support system and interfered
with her attempts to build healthy relationships with her
friends and neighbors, leaving her feeling stigmatized and
overwhelmed. She submits that these actions are cruel and
inhumane, and constitute a violation of Title II of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Further,
she claims DCF is manipulating her children, causing them
Pineda claims that her attorney has been ineffectual and has
accused her of being abusive. She contends that he has sided
with DCF rather than advocating for the best interests of her
with the Complaint, Pineda filed a Motions for Leave to
Proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 2) and a
Motion to Appoint Counsel (Docket No. 3).
The Motions for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
review of Pineda's financial affidavit, the Court finds
that she lacks sufficient funds to pay the filing and
administrative fees for this action. Accordingly, her Motion
for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis will be
ALLOWED. This court need not address the issue of
the filing fee obligations of the co-plaintiffs (the minor
children), for the reasons set forth herein.
Screening of the Complaint
Pineda is proceeding in forma pauperis, summonses
have not issued in order to allow the Court an opportunity to
review the Complaint to determine if it satisfies the
requirements of section 1915 of Title 28, the federal in
forma pauperis statute. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915. Section 1915 authorizes the federal courts to dismiss
an action in which a plaintiff seeks to proceed without
prepayment of the filing fee if the action lacks an arguable
basis either in law or in fact, Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), or if the action fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii) and (iii).
When subject matter jurisdiction is lacking, there is no
arguable or rational basis in law or fact for a claim,
Mack v. Massachusetts, 204 F.Supp.2d 163, 166 (D.
Mass. 2002) and the action may be dismissed sua
sponte and without notice. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at
327-328 (interpreting the former § 1915 (d)); accord
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992)
(“clearly baseless” actions may be dismissed).
conducting the preliminary screening, Pineda's pro
se Complaint is construed generously. Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Instituto de Educacion
Universal Corp. v. U.S. Dept of Education, 209 F.3d 18,
23 (1st Cir. 2000). Although Pineda does not set forth her
legal causes of action clearly, the Court will consider this
action as one for due process violations in connection with
her parental rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (the
vehicle for asserting alleged civil rights violations by
state actors) and as one for violations of the ADA, 42 U.S.C.
§ 12132. The Court will not consider the Complaint as
asserting a state-law claim for legal malpractice claim
against her attorney, insofar as she names only the DCF as a
defendant. The Court considers her statements regarding her
attorney merely as background allegations.
these parameters in mind, even under this broad reading, the
claims of the children shall be dismissed sua
sponte, and the claims of Pineda are subject to