United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge.
a non-prisoner, filed her Complaint in this matter on June 7,
2016. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff has been given leave
to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 5.) The
court now conducts an initial review of Plaintiff’s
claims to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
sues the Juvenile Court of Nebraska and four individuals
requesting that everyone who is proceeding in forma pauperis
in the Nebraska Juvenile Court be provided a free bill of
exceptions for appeal and that she, in particular, needs a
bill of exceptions free of charge “to vindicate our
constitutional rights of Due process/equal Protection.”
Plaintiff is apparently attempting to appeal a decision of
the juvenile court involving the removal of her child from
her home, but is being required to pay for a bill of
exceptions although she is proceeding in forma pauperis.
(Filing No. 1.)
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to
determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The court must
dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof 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).
DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS
construed, Plaintiff’s Complaint requests injunctive
relief in the form of a directive to the Nebraska Juvenile
Court that it should provide to Plaintiff, free of charge, a
bill of exceptions for purposes of appeal. Although not at
all clear, Plaintiff could also be requesting an injunction
to stop the continuing deprivation of her parental rights.
Finally, Plaintiff could also be challenging a juvenile-court
Domestic-Relations Exception to Federal Jurisdiction
claims for injunctive relief are subject to dismissal under
the domestic relations exception to federal court
jurisdiction. It is well-settled that “the whole
subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent
and child, belongs to the laws of the States and not to the
laws of the United States.” In re Burrus, 136
U.S. 586, 593-94 (1890). Even if this court were to liberally
construe Plaintiff’s Complaint to allege that she
requests relief from the continued deprivation of her
parental rights in violation of her constitutional rights,
the substance of such claims concern state-law domestic
relations matters. This is particularly so where it is clear
from Plaintiff’s allegations that her son’s care
and custody is the subject of a juvenile court case in
Nebraska Juvenile Court that she seeks to appeal. See
Overman v. U.S., 563 F.2d 1287, 1292 (8th Cir. 1977)
(“There is, and ought to be, a continuing federal
policy to avoid handling domestic relations cases in federal
court in the absence of important concerns of a
constitutional dimension. . . . Such cases touch state law
and policy in a deep and sensitive manner and as a matter of
policy and comity, these local problems should be decided in
state courts.”) (internal quotations omitted).
even if this court did not lack jurisdiction based on the
domestic relations exception, this court is without
jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claims for injunctive
relief under the abstention doctrine set out by the Supreme
Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-45
(1971). Under Younger, abstention is mandatory
where: (1) there is an ongoing state proceeding; (2) an
important state interest is implicated; and (3) the plaintiff
has an avenue open for review of constitutional claims in the
state court. See Aaron v. Target Corp., 357 F.3d
768, 774 (8th Cir. 2004) (“Under Younger v.
Harris, federal courts should abstain from exercising
jurisdiction in cases where equitable relief would interfere
with pending state proceedings in a way that offends
principles of comity and federalism.”)
each of the three Younger conditions is satisfied.
First, the state proceeding in the Nebraska Juvenile Court,
and the appeal therefrom, are apparently ongoing. Second,
disputes concerning the care and custody of minors implicate
important state interests. Third, there is no indication that
the state courts could not afford Plaintiff the opportunity
for judicial review of any civil rights challenges.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims for injunctive relief
are dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Carson P. ex rel. Foreman v. Heineman, 240 F.R.D.
456, 529 (D. Neb. 2007) (“‘federal court
oversight of state court operations, even if not framed as
direct review of state court judgments’ . . . is
problematic, calling for Younger abstention. . . .
The relief that the plaintiffs seek would interfere
extensively with the ongoing state proceedings for each
plaintiff.” (quoting 31 Foster Children v.
Bush, 329 F.3d 1255, 1278-1279 (11th Cir. 2003)).