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Deuerlein v. State

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 10, 2015

WILLIAM L. DEUERLEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEBRASKA, DANA SEARS, NDHHS, FURNAS COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, NATALIE NELSON, Guardian Ad Litem, KEVIN URBOM, and TOM PATTERSON, Furnas County Attorney, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN M. GERRARD, District Judge.

Plaintiff William L. Deuerlein ("Plaintiff") filed his Complaint (Filing No. 1) on January 13, 2015. This court has given him leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The court now conducts an initial review of his Complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

Plaintiff sues the State of Nebraska, state and county officials, and others involved in the judicial proceedings leading to the termination of Plaintiff's parental rights. Plaintiff alleged the state took custody of Plaintiff's minor children on July 12, 2008, and later in July, placed them in foster care and accused Plaintiff of abuse and neglect. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 2.) On December 14, 2009, the state filed a petition for the termination of Plaintiff's parental rights, and Plaintiff's rights were ultimately terminated on June 21, 2010. (Id. )

Plaintiff alleged the state, and others involved, falsely accused him of being an alcoholic and drug addict, and of suffering from mental health issues. (Id. ) Plaintiff alleged Defendants "Shang Highed" him of his parental rights, and acted with bias and malice toward him. (Id. ) For relief, Plaintiff seeks the "return of [his] minor children as well as damages of 5 million dollars." (Id. at CM/ECF p. 3.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to "nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, " or "their complaint must be dismissed." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.").

"The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'" Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, "[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties." Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Liberally construed, Plaintiff here alleges federal constitutional claims. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993).

III. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS

A. Rooker-Feldman

The court does not have jurisdiction to reverse the state court's judgment terminating Plaintiff's parental rights. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits lower federal courts from exercising appellate review of state court judgments. Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies where, as here, a case is brought by a loser in a state court action, complaining of injuries caused by the state court's judgment rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting the district court to review and reject that judgment. See Exxon Mobile Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005).

Here, Plaintiff is challenging the state court's decision to terminate his parental rights. He explicitly asks that his children be returned to him. Any review of Plaintiff's claims would require this court to review the specific issues addressed in the state court proceedings. This court does not have jurisdiction to review the state court proceedings or grant the relief Plaintiff seeks. Accordingly, the court will dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In ...


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