United States District Court, D. Delaware
Michael Diggins ("Diggins") and Ambra Hensley
("Hensley") (together "Plaintiffs"), who
reside in Conway, Arkansas, proceed pro se and have
been granted in forma pauperis status. The commenced
this action alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution.Plaintiff have
filed seven motions for issuance of subpoenas. (D.I. 11-17)
of Plaintiffs' children were removed from their custody
by the Arkansas Division of Family Services
("ADFS"). (D.I. 3 at 6). Plaintiffs moved to
Delaware and were living with Diggins' mother, and their
fourth child, a son, was bom on March 21, 2017.
(Id.) On April 19, 2017, Defendant Delaware Division
of Family Services ("DDFS") investigator Shannon
Smith ("Smith") visited their residence to conduct
a wellness check. (Id. at 4-5) Because their three
children had been removed by ADFS, Plaintiffs were afraid
DDFS was going to remove their son who was three weeks old.
(Id.) Therefore, they did not open the door and
later they left the premises. (Id.)
evening Smith returned, and searched Diggins'
mother's home and the room Plaintiffs had stayed in.
(Id. at 5) Plaintiffs spoke to Smith by telephone
and a meeting was scheduled for Plaintiffs to meet with her
at the DDFS office in Wilmington, Delaware the next day.
(Id. at 6) During the meeting, Smith and her
supervisor indicated they had been in contact with ADFS and
it had provided information surrounding the removal of
Plaintiffs' three children. (Id. at 6-7)
Plaintiffs allege the information is false. Smith then
informed Plaintiffs she had obtained an ex parte custody
order for their son after Plaintiffs had failed to open the
door at their Delaware residence and based upon the
information received from ADFS. (Id. at 7) DDFC took
the child into custody. (Id. at 8) Plaintiffs were
told to undergo drug testing and, if they tested clean, their
son would be returned to them. (Id.)
Plaintiffs tested clean and, on Monday, informed Smith of the
results. (Id. at 8) Smith advised Plaintiffs that a
probable cause hearing was scheduled for Wednesday at 10:30
a.m. that they needed to attend. (Id.) Plaintiffs
arrived about thirty minutes early to attend the hearing,
only to discover that it had already taken place.
(Id. at 8-9) Plaintiffs allege that Smith told them
the time had been changed at the last minute, she did not
have enough time to call them, she had informed the court of
the situation, and that it was not Plaintiffs' fault.
(Id. at 9) Plaintiffs allege their due process
rights were violated because they were not given the right
and opportunity to be present and defend themselves or
present evidence to the court. (Id.)
Plaintiffs received a copy of what had taken place during the
probable cause hearing, and it did not show that Smith or
anyone else had informed Plaintiffs of the wrong hearing
time. (Id.) The document stated because the parents
(I.e., Plaintiffs) were not present, their son was
ordered to remain in custody. (Id.) Plaintiffs
allege all their children were unlawfully seized and, to
date, they have not had an opportunity to tell their side of
the story. (Id.) Plaintiffs further allege the
presiding Family Court Judge is biased. (Id. at 10)
They seek an opportunity defend themselves and prove to
higher courts and authorities that the actions taken against
them are cruel and unusual. (Id. at 10-11)
Plaintiffs ask the Court to intervene and give them the
opportunity to defend themselves in this Court. (Id.
at 11) They seek six million dollars in damages.
Standard of Review.
federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under
the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) if
"the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief."
Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013).
The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint
as true and take them in the light most favorable to a
pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008);
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because
Plaintiffs proceed pro se, their pleading is
liberally construed and their Complaint, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).
action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a court may dismiss a complaint as
frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless
legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or
"fantastic or delusional" factual scenario.
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; Wilson v.
Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see,
e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92
(3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison
officials took an inmate's pen and refused to give it
legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is
identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule
12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d
236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before dismissing a complaint
or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915, the Court must grant Plaintiffs leave to amend
their Complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or
futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d
103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).
well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and
conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that
a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City
of Shelby, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A
complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect
statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.
See Id. at 346.
Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and
Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a
complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the
elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2)
identify allegations that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and
(3) assume the veracity of any well-pleaded factual
allegations and then determine whether those allegations
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly
v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016)
(internal citations and quotations omitted). Elements are
sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint
"show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a
"context-specific task that requires the reviewing court
to draw on its judicial experience and common