United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
October 31, 2016, plaintiff Alba Pineda
(“Pineda”), acting pro se, filed a
Complaint on behalf of herself and her minor children,
against the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
(“DCF”) and the DCF office in Cambridge. She
sought $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
(alcoholism and mental illness). She alleged that DCF
constantly made changes to her service plans and made
arbitrary decisions regarding visitation. She further claimed
that DCF employees “deliberately initiated
crisis” to her and have been setting her up to fail.
Comp. (Docket No. 1 at 1). Additionally, Pineda asserted
violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”). With respect to her children, Pineda
claimed that DCF was manipulating her children and causing
them emotional distress.
November 9, 2016, this Court issued a Memorandum and Order
(Docket No. 6) granting Pineda's Motion for Leave to
Proceed in forma pauperis and directing her to file
an Amended Complaint stating plausible claims. In that
Memorandum and Order, this Court noted the various legal
impediments to her claims, which included: (1) Pineda, a
non-attorney, could not represent the interests of her
children; (2) Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity barred
any civil rights claims against the DCF brought pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”); (3)
Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity barred any claim for
monetary damages against DCF employees sued in their official
capacities; and (4) Pineda failed to state plausible ADA
claims in accordance with the pleading requirements of Rule 8
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
additional matter, this Court considered whether appointment
of pro bono counsel was warranted under the
circumstances. Notwithstanding Pineda's emotional
difficulties, in light of the legal impediments to this
action, this Court determined that the use of scarce pro
bono resources was not justifiable and thus denied
Pineda's Motion to Appoint Counsel (Docket No. 3).
December 8, 2016, Pineda filed an Amended Complaint (Docket
No. 8) with an attached exhibit.
The Amended Complaint
Amended Complaint, Pineda reiterates the allegations
contained in the original Complaint, but includes additional
details and some dates and context that were missing from the
original. Nevertheless, the Amended Complaint is set forth in
narrative form and is not entirely organized. While not
clear, it appears that she seeks to add additional
defendants, including: (1) Kerry Woods, DCF Director; (2)
Laura Ryan, DCF Office Manager; (3) Renee Franzis, DCF
Supervisor; (4) Nichole Wolf, DCF Social Worker; (5) Virginia
Chan, DCF Adoption Supervisor; (6) Chelsea Loyd; and (7)
unnamed others whose location is unknown.
what can be discerned, Pineda alleges she suffers from Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and is a
recovered alcoholic under the supervision of a psychologist.
She contends that DCF has knowledge of her conditions from
her therapist and herself. DCF was requested to create an
environment that would encourage and provide stability and
certainty to Pineda so that she could avoid anxiety and
depression, which she claims previously resulted in suicide
attempts. Pineda contends that this request “requires
DCF to modify their administrative procedures and methods to
reduce stress causing news and announcements [concerning
cancellations of visitation with her children] which triggers
anxiety, depression, alcohol, relapse, and suicide thoughts
and of actions.” Am. Compl. (Docket No. 8 at 3)
Pineda alleges that a foster parent working for DCF has
advised her that, using DCF procedures, DCF workers are
trying deliberately to put her under stress to set her up to
fail in order to terminate her parental rights. Pineda
appears to support this allegation by referencing two
respect to the first incident, Pineda claims that on July 21,
2015, she was home alone with severe depression when the DCF
Social Workers Team (that included defendants Ryan, Franzis,
and Wolf), placed a conference call to her to advise that her
children were being put on a track for adoption. That
information caused her to become anxious and she let the
defendants know that she was going to commit suicide. The
defendants terminated the call but Pineda claims they did not
perform a well-being check or a follow up with her. As a
result, Pineda attempted suicide by laying down on the
commuter rail train tracks. Thereafter, she was hospitalized
and placed in the psychiatric ward for a number of days. She
was diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD. Id. Pineda
claims the doctor contacted DCF and requested that its
workers be cautious when communicating with her, making sure
she had a safe environment as well as continued mental health
and medical treatment.
respect to the second incident, Pineda alleges that on May 3,
2016, the defendants placed a conference call to her
informing her that her infant daughter would not be returned
to her. Apparently, this call from DCF was intended to be a
reply to Pineda's investigation regarding a letter she
previously received informing her of the fact that her
daughter would not be returned. Pineda claims that as a
result, she suffered a severe anxiety attack that caused her
to become depressed and have suicidal thoughts. Id.
contends that she was alone during both of these incidences,
and claims that DCF knew this, but did not attempt to prepare
a safe environment for her to receive their
“frightening decisions.” Id. She further
contends that similar episodes occurred on September 19,
2015, March 14, 2016, October 7, 2016, and October 10, 2016.
Pineda claims that she has been denied services that almost
caused her to lose her life. Attached to the Amended
Complaint, is a letter dated December 6, 2016 from a licensed
social worker advising her of her current diagnosis of PTSD.
Exhibit (Docket No. 8-1).
relief, Pineda again seeks $5 million in damages. She also
seeks to have DCF make changes so that its workers are more
humane and respectful of the values and rights of families.
In the body of the Amended Complaint, she seeks the
appointment of counsel.
Failure to State Plausible Civil Rights Claims Against