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Amadi v. Department of Children and Families

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 28, 2017

BENNETH O. AMADI, Plaintiff,


          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge

         This case arises from a child custody dispute. Plaintiff Benneth Amadi (“Amadi” or “plaintiff”) alleges that defendants, employees of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) and the Massachusetts Juvenile Court (“the Juvenile Court”), are, inter alia, conspiring to violate his constitutional rights, preventing him from seeing his children and obstructing his access to court.

         Plaintiff's motions for injunctive relief, an order to show cause and to strike are currently before the Court. For the reasons that follow, those motions will be denied. Defendants' motion to dismiss the case is also before the Court but before deciding it, the Court will accept briefing as to whether the case should be stayed pending a decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals (“First Circuit”) in plaintiff's prior action.

         I. Factual Background

         Pro se plaintiff Amadi is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts. Defendants are the DCF, DCF Commissioner Linda Spears, DCF Attorney Sean Bernard (“Attorney Bernard”), DCF Manager Roger Randall, DCF Social Workers Sean Ferrick and Ronald Strand and a Massachusetts Juvenile Court Judge, Garrett McManus (“Judge McManus”). This case is related to a lengthy dispute over the custody of plaintiff's four minor children. In July, 2013, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, which has jurisdiction over divorces and child custody, granted plaintiff temporary custody of his children.

         In January, 2014, DCF filed a care and protection case concerning the children in Juvenile Court. Contemporaneously, the children were removed from plaintiff's custody and temporarily placed in foster care. According to defendants, the removal occurred after two reports from mandated reporters alleged that plaintiff was neglecting or abusing the children and his refusal to cooperate with the investigation of the reports. Plaintiff contends that DCF “fraudulently and illegally” removed the children because its employees had “the dubious intention of transferring the custody to [the mother]”.

         In defendants' recounting of the facts, after the children were placed in foster care, the DCF developed “service plans” for the parents to complete in order to regain custody.

         Defendants assert that the mother completed her plan and cooperated with DCF whereas plaintiff did neither. In May, 2014, DCF returned physical custody of the children to their mother because of her cooperation but it retained legal custody.

         Plaintiff contends that the mother regained custody as a result of gender discrimination and a conspiracy between Judge McManus and DCF. In support of those allegations, plaintiff claims that in May, 2014, Sara Garofalo, a DCF supervisor, told him that he lost custody because he is a man. Plaintiff also contends that at the June, 2015 Juvenile Court proceeding, Attorney Bernard admitted in open court that DCF had no case against him and that the dispute is between the parents and belongs in Probate Court.

         Defendants strenuously deny plaintiff's version of the facts. Ms. Garofalo has submitted an affidavit stating that she “told Mr. Amadi exactly the opposite of what he alleges [she] said”. She states that she

[s]pecifically told Mr. Amadi that [DCF] does not take custody of children because of the gender of the parent[.]

         Attorney Bernard submitted an affidavit stating that plaintiff “misconstrues” his statements in the Juvenile Court. He explains that when he said “this is really the mother's case against the father” he meant that DCF had determined that the mother was a fit parent and would therefore support her in a custody dispute.

         The care and protection case in Juvenile Court is ongoing and Judge McManus apparently plans to set a trial date after this Court decides plaintiff's motions for injunctive relief.

         II. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff has filed two lawsuits in this Court concerning the ongoing custody proceedings. He filed the first complaint in May, 2016. This Court dismissed that case based on the Younger doctrine in July, 2016. Amadi v. McManus, et al., No. 16-cv-10861-NMG, 2016 WL 3814597, at *5 (D. Mass. July 11, 2016), appeal docketed, No. 16-1960 (1st Cir. Jul. 27, 2016) [hereinafter “the prior action”]. Plaintiff's appeal of that decision is now pending before the First Circuit. Id.

         In September, 2016, plaintiff filed his complaint in this case and moved for a preliminary injunction. Amadi v. Dep't Child. & Fam., et al., 16-cv-11901-NMG (D. Mass. filed Sept. 19, 2016). Shortly thereafter, he moved for injunctive relief ex parte and defendants filed a motion to dismiss and their opposition to injunctive relief. Plaintiff ...

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