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Amadi v. McManus

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 26, 2018

BENNETH O. AMADI, Plaintiff,
v.
GARRETT MCMANUS, in his official and individual capacity, THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, LINDA SPEARS, DCF COMMISSIONER, in her official and individual capacity, ANTHONY SEAN BERNARD, in his official and individual capacity, ROdGERS RANDAL, in his official and individual capacity, SEAN FERRICK, in his official and individual capacity, and RONALD STRAND, in his official and individual capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge

         This case arises from a child custody proceeding in the Massachusetts Juvenile Court involving Benneth Amadi (“Amadi” or “plaintiff”) and his four minor children. Amadi claims that a state court judge, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (“the DCF”) and its employees have, inter alia, conspired to violate his constitutional rights, prevented him from seeing his children and obstructed his access to court.

         This Court has already twice rejected plaintiff's claims on the grounds of Younger abstention. See Amadi v. Dep't of Children & Families, 245 F.Supp.3d 316, 322 (D. Mass. 2017) (“Amadi II”); Amadi v. McManus, No. 16-cv-10861-NMG, 2016 WL 3814597, at *4 (D. Mass. July 11, 2016), aff'd, No. 16-1960, 2017 WL 7048503, at *1 (1st Cir. Oct. 16, 2017) (“Amadi I”). Pending before the Court this time is defendants' renewed motion to dismiss the amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Younger abstention still applies and thus plaintiff's claims for injunctive and declaratory relief will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). This Court also concludes that plaintiff's claims for damages are barred by sovereign immunity, absolute immunity and qualified immunity meaning that he has failed to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         I. Background

         A. Facts

         Pro se plaintiff Amadi is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Defendants in this child custody dispute are the DCF, DCF Commissioner Linda Spears (“Commissioner Spears”), DCF Attorney Sean Bernard (“Attorney Bernard”), DCF Manager Randall Rogers, DCF Social Workers Sean Ferrick and Ronald Strand and Massachusetts Juvenile Court Judge Garrett McManus (“Judge McManus”).

         In July, 2013, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, which has jurisdiction over divorce proceedings in the Commonwealth, entered a temporary order granting Amadi sole legal and physical custody of his four children.

         In January, 2014, the DCF began a care and protection proceeding in the Juvenile Court and removed the children from Amadi's custody. He alleges that the DCF did so based on his gender and because its employees had “the dubious intention of transferring the custody to [the mother]”. The DCF defendants respond that they commenced the proceeding and removed the children from Amadi's custody in response to two reports from mandated reporters alleging that plaintiff 1) was neglecting or abusing the children and 2) refused to cooperate with the subsequent investigation of the reports. The children were temporarily placed in foster care and the DCF developed “service plans” for the parents to complete in order to regain custody.

         In May, 2014, the DCF returned physical custody of the children to their mother because of her cooperation with the service plan but it retained legal custody. Defendants assert that plaintiff neither completed his service plan nor cooperated with the DCF.

         Plaintiff submits that the mother regained custody as a result of gender discrimination and a conspiracy between Judge McManus and the DCF. Defendants vehemently deny plaintiff's allegations.

         In March, 2017, the care and protection proceeding in the Juvenile Court concluded and shortly thereafter that Court issued a decision unfavorable to Amadi. Plaintiff has since filed an appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court from that state court decision.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff has filed two lawsuits in this Court concerning the custody proceedings. His first complaint in May, 2016, alleged, inter alia, equal protection and due process violations under the federal and state constitutions. This Court dismissed that case (“the Prior Action”) in July 2016 based on the Younger doctrine. Amadi I, 2016 WL 3814597, at *5, aff'd, 2017 WL 7048503, at *1.

         In September, 2016, plaintiff filed his second complaint reasserting his previous claims but also adding claims for retaliation and conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, intentional infliction of emotional distress, other violations under state law and a preliminary injunction. Amadi alleges that a conspiracy exists between Judge McManus and the DCF to interfere with his constitutional right to raise his children and that the DCF and its employees retaliated against him for filing the Prior Action by placing onerous restrictions on his child visitation rights. Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In October, 2016, plaintiff filed an amended complaint and defendants moved to dismiss again.

         In March 2017, this Court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, citing the Younger doctrine and concluding that plaintiff had no likelihood of success on the merits of either his prior or his new claims. Amadi II, 245 F.Supp.3d at 322. The Court also denied as moot defendants' motion to dismiss the original complaint and directed the parties to submit memoranda on the issue of whether the Court was compelled to stay the case pending a ruling of the First Circuit Court of Appeals on plaintiff's appeal in the Prior Action. Id. In June, 2017, the Court issued an Order 1) staying the case pending a decision by the First Circuit, 2) denying defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint as moot and 3) permitting defendants to file a renewed motion to dismiss after the stay was lifted.

         In October, 2017, the First Circuit affirmed this Court's judgment in the Prior Action and found that it had properly invoked the Younger doctrine. Amadi I, 2017 WL 7048503, at *1. In December, 2017, the Court lifted the stay in the present action and shortly thereafter defendants ...


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