United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
BENNETH O. AMADI, Plaintiff,
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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