United States District Court, D. Delaware
Dawson, Wilmington, Delaware; Pro Se Plaintiff.
Allison Jean McCowan, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware
Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for
Defendants Angelina Smith, Keith Taylor, Porter Service
Center, Tara Lattomus, Islanda Finamore, and Delaware
Division of Family Services.
L. Reardon, Esquire, and Matthew P. Donelson, Esquire, Eckert
Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, Wilmington, Delaware.
Counsel for Defendants Nykeisha Sewell and Pressley Ridge.
CONNOLLY, U.S. District Judge
Neonza Dawson ("Plaintiff") alleges in this action
violations of her rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, and
Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution. She proceeds pro se and has paid
the filing fee. Plaintiff has filed a motion for leave to
amend, motions for default judgment, and a motion for summary
judgment. (D.I. 11, 18, 28, 30) State Defendants Angelina
Smith ("Smith"), Keith Taylor ("Taylor"),
Porter Service Center ("Porter Center"),
Tara Lattomus ("Lattomus"), Islanda Finamore
("Finamore"),  and the Delaware Division of Family
Services ("DFS") (collectively "State
Defendants") move for dismissal. (D.I. 24) Defendants
Pressley Ridge ("Pressley Ridge") and Nykeisha
Sewell ("Sewell") (together "Pressley Ridge
Defendants") also move for dismissal. (D.I. 36).
commenced this action against a host of individuals,
agencies, and entities, alleging violations of her
constitutional rights following entry of a September 24,
2018, ex parte emergency custody order in the Delaware Family
Court that resulted in the removal of Plaintiff's three
minor children from her custody. (See D.I. 1; D.I.
26, Ex. A) Plaintiff alleges there "was no proof of
immediate danger with the exception of false allegations
knowingly made by Keith Taylor to receive an ex parte [order]
and award DFS custody of [her] 3 children." (D.I. 1 at
4) The Complaint contains wholesale and similar allegations
of violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights by
Defendants Smith, Taylor, Sewell, Rebecca Wheeler
("Wheeler"), Sarah Brunson ("Brunson"),
Phillip Renzulli ("Renzulli"), Lattomus, and
Finamore, such as: engaging in egregious behavior to
manipulate rulings and instructions to defraud the court;
lying and perjury; fabricating evidence; slander/defamation;
deceptive practices including trickery, duress, fabrication
and/or false testimony or evidence, failing to disclose
exculpatory evidence and documents; withholding material
information; misrepresenting facts to the court; violating
the Americans with Disabilities Act; lying in an attempt to
criminalize a civil matter; lying and intimidation in
retaliation for Plaintiff exercising her right to due
process; unlawful and wrongful removal of the children and
placing them in state custody through false imprisonment
based on fabrications; investigating a false abuse
allegation; violations of the Fourth Amendment; helping to
incriminate Plaintiff; failing to properly represent
Plaintiff; misleading representation; and financial loss.
(Id. at 8-13) The body of the Complaint does not
refer to Porter Center, DFS, Pennsylvania Office of Children
and Youth ("Office of Children & Youth") or
seeks compensatory damages. (Id. at 14) She also
wants "these people criminally charged for all of these
criminal acts along with the malicious prosecution."
Court takes judicial notice of the following facts gleaned
from the Family Court Case. On September 24, 2018, Plaintiff
went to the Porter Center seeking housing assistance, but was
deemed ineligible because she was already receiving benefits
from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (D.I. 26, Ex. B)
Plaintiff left the Porter Center before a DFS case worker
could arrive. (Id.) DFS contacted Plaintiff by
telephone, and Plaintiff informed DFS that she was driving to
Pennsylvania to have her benefits transferred to Delaware.
(Id.) While driving to Pennsylvania to close her
services, Plaintiff's vehicle became inoperable on I-95,
and DFS contacted the police. (Id.) DFS transported
Plaintiff and her three children to the DFS office in New
Castle, Delaware. (Id.) There, DFS determined that
Plaintiff was homeless and took steps to obtain an emergency
ex parte custody order. (Id.) On the evening of
September 24, 2018, the Delaware Family Court entered an
order for the immediate removal of the children from
Plaintiff and an award of emergency temporary custody to DFS.
(Id. at Ex. A)
September 25, 2018, Taylor, then employed as a DFS
caseworker, filed a Dependency/Neglect Petition for Custody
against Plaintiff. (Id. at Ex. B) The petition
sought placement of the minor children into a foster home.
(Id.) The minor children were placed in a foster
home pending evaluations. (Id.)
22, 2019, Plaintiff filed the Complaint that initiated this
action. On August 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend
the complaint to add as defendants Jennie Conrad
("Conrad") of Children's Choice
("Children's Choice"); Merle Clearfield
("Clearfield"), a psychologist at JPA Center for
Integrative Health; Children's Choice; and the Office of
Pennsylvania State Representative Jared Soloman ("Office
of Soloman"). (D.I. 11) The proposed amended
complaint's allegations against Conrad, Clearfield, and
Office of Soloman are similar to those made in the original
complaint. There are no allegations in the proposed amended
complaint directed towards Children's Choice.
Defendants and Pressley Ridge Defendants move to dismiss
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (D.I. 24; D.I. 36)
reviewing a motion to dismiss filed under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), the Court must accept all factual allegations in a
complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable
to Plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, her
pleading is liberally construed and her Complaint,
"however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers." Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. A court may
consider the pleadings, public record, orders, exhibits
attached to the complaint, and documents incorporated into
the complaint by reference. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues
& Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). A Rule
12(b)(6) motion may be granted only if, accepting the
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing
them in the light most favorable to the complainant, a court
concludes that those allegations "could not raise a
claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).
'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a
complaint must do more than simply provide 'labels and
conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action."' Davis v.
Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir.
2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court
is "not required to credit bald assertions or legal
conclusions improperly alleged in the complaint." In
re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d
198, 216 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint may not be dismissed
"for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting
the claim asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby,
574 U.S. 10 (2014).
complainant must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim
has "substantive plausibility." Id. at
347. That plausibility must be found on the face of the
complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the
[complainant] pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the [accused] is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Id. 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 sense." Id. at
Claims Made on Behalf of Plaintiffs Children
not clear, it appears that Plaintiff attempts to raise claims
(i.e., false imprisonment) on behalf of her
children. As a non-attorney, Plaintiff may not act as an
attorney for other individuals and may only represent herself
in this court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654; see
also Osei-Afriye v. The Medical Coll. of Pennsylvania,
937 F.2d 876 (3d Cir. 1991) (non-lawyer appearing pro
se may not act as attorney for his children).
moving Defendants seek dismissal on the grounds that they are
immune from suit.
Claims Against DFS and Porter Center
Defendants seek dismissal of Porter Center and DFS as barred
by the Eleventh Amendment. "Absent a state's
consent, the Eleventh Amendment bars a civil rights suit in
federal court that names the state as a defendant."
Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir.
1981) (citing Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978)).
The Eleventh Amendment protects states and their agencies and
departments from suit in federal court regardless of the kind
of relief sought. Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984).
Court has previously determined that claims against the
Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youths and
Their Families are barred by the State's Eleventh
Amendment immunity. See Watson v. Department of Services
for Children, Youths and Their Families, 2012 WL
1134512, at *3 (D. Del. Mar. 30, 2012). In addition, the
Porter Center (more properly called the Winder Laird Porter
State Service Center) falls under the umbrella of the
Delaware Health and Social Services, a state agency, that
also has immunity from suit under the Eleventh Amendment.
See Jones v. Delaware Health, 2017 WL 6403014, at *4
(M.D. Pa. Aug. 9, 2017); see also
(last visited Dec. 6, 2019).
has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court.
Although Congress can abrogate a state's sovereign
immunity, it did not do so through the enactment of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. See Brooks-McCollum v. Delaware, 213
Fed.Appx. 92, 94 (3d Cir. 2007). In addition, dismissal is
proper because neither DFS nor Porter Center are persons for
purposes of § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep't
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Calhoun v.
Young, 288 Fed.Appx. 47 (3d Cir. 2008). Therefore, the
Court will grant State Defendants' motion to dismiss the
claims against DFS and Porter Center.
Claims against Smith, Taylor, ...