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Chilton v. Indiana Department of Child Services

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

April 18, 2017

JOHN PATRICK CHILTON, JOHN PATRICK CHILTON as next friend of JPC, a minor, Plaintiffs,
v.
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES, MARY BETH BONAVENTURA, individually and in her official capacity as Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, JOHN KAISER, individually and in his official capacity as Regional Manager of the Clark County Department of Child Services, CINDY MITCHELL, individually and in her official capacity as Family Manager for the Clark County Department of Child Services, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by Defendants Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”), as well DCS Director, Mary Beth Bonaventura (“Bonaventura”), John Kaiser (“Kaiser”) the Clark County Regional Manager, and Case Manager, Cindy Mitchell (“Mitchell”) (collectively, “Defendants”). (Filing No. 46.) Following a raid of Amanda Chilton (“Amanda”) and her husband Harley Jenkins' (“Jenkins”) home, DCS workers involuntarily removed Amanda's three minor children, including JPC. Plaintiff John Patrick Chilton (“Chilton”) is JPC's biological father. On July 7, 2015, Chilton filed this action against the Defendants in their official and individual capacities, asserting violation of 42 U.S.C § 1983, and state law claims of perjury, official misconduct, malicious prosecution, negligence, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Filing No. 1; Filing No. 5.) For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed. In mid-2014, a confidential informant (“CI”) reported to Officer TeJuan Johnson of the Charleston, Indiana Police Department (“Officer Johnson”), that two individuals, Amanda and Jenkins, were selling narcotics from their home in Clark County, Indiana. At Officer Johnson's direction, the CI visited Amanda and Jenkins' home and successfully completed three controlled buys of prescription drugs. During each transaction, JPC and his minor siblings were present in the home. On Friday, July 19, 2014, Officer Johnson obtained a search warrant for Amanda and Jenkins' home and a warrant for the couple's arrest. Before executing the warrants, Officer Johnson called the DCS hotline number and explained that there were three minor children in the home and their parents-the only adults present-were about to be arrested. DCS officials assigned Mitchell as the field case worker to be present during the raid.

         Later that day, Amanda and Jenkins were arrested, and Mitchell transported the minor children, including JPC, to the local DCS office. Amanda is JPC's custodial parent and biological mother. While at the DCS office, JPC informed Mitchell that Jenkins was not his father, and that Chilton was his biological father. JPC provided Mitchell with Chilton's telephone number. During their conversation, JPC also voluntarily offered that Amanda and Jenkins were selling pills and not crack cocaine, and that he was aware of the difference because he watched videos regarding crack cocaine at Chilton's home. JPC demonstrated to Mitchell as if he was snorting something. After JPC's statement, Mitchell had concerns about the fitness of Chilton to have immediate custody, so she did not call Chilton. Mitchell, instead, decided that it was in the best interest of JPC to be placed in foster care until a court could determine the best interest of JPC.

         On Monday, July 21, 2014, following a hearing in the Clark Circuit Court, JPC was released to Chilton. On July 9, 2015, Chilton filed an Amended Complaint against Defendants, asserting violation of 42 U.S.C § 1983, perjury, official misconduct, malicious prosecution, negligence, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Filing No. 5.) Chilton argues that Defendants violated his and JPC's rights when involuntarily removing JPC from his home, placing JPC under DCS care for forty-eight hours, and failing to contact Chilton despite learning that Chilton-rather than Jenkins-is JPC's biological father.

         On August 31, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment as to all allegations in Chilton's Amended Complaint. (Filing No. 46.) Defendants specifically argue that Chilton's state law claims fail as a matter of law. (Filing No. 47 at 4.) Defendants assert that Chilton's Section 1983 constitutional claim fails because: 1) the Eleventh Amendment entitles Defendants to absolute immunity; 2) Defendants are not “persons” as required under § 1983; 3) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; and 4) Bonaventura and Kaiser cannot be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior. Id.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         The purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted). “However, inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). “The opposing party cannot meet this burden with conclusory statements or speculation but only with appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.” Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F.Supp. 1065, 1072 (S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).

         “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         As an initial matter, in his response, Chilton addresses only Defendants' Eleventh Amendment defense and the qualified immunity claim as it relates to Mitchell. His failure to respond to the remaining arguments amounts to waiver. See Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010) (“Failure to respond to an argument . . . results in waiver, ” and “silence leaves us to conclude” a concession.); Myers v. Thoman, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107502, at *11 (S.D. Ind. Oct. 6, 2010) (“The Seventh Circuit has clearly held that a party who fails to respond to points made . . . concedes those points.”). As such, the only issues before the Court are: 1) whether Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment, and 2) whether Mitchell is entitled to qualified immunity. The Court will address each issue in turn.

         A. Eleventh Amendment

         Defendants argue they are entitled to absolute immunity as to Chilton's § 1983 claim because DCS is a state agency and its employees are state officials who, at all times, acted in their official capacity. “The Eleventh Amendment bars a suit against state officials when the state is the real, substantial party in interest.” Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101 (1984) (citations omitted); see Ind. Code § 31-25-1-1 (establishing DCS); see also Holmes v. Marion Cty. Office of Family & Children, 349 F.3d 914, 919 (7th Cir. 2003) ...


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