United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
DEANGELO L. HATCH, Plaintiff,
THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, CHIEF JUDGE.
L. Hatch, a Plaintiff proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint
[ECF No. 1] against Defendants, the Indiana Department of
Child Services (“IDCS”), Chrystal Graham,
Jennifer Fletcher, and Louise Dietzer. He also filed a Motion
for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 2]. On August
28, 2017, the Court denied his Motion and dismissed his
Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim [ECF
No. 3]. The Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on October
2, 2017 [ECF No. 4], this time naming only IDCS, Fletcher,
and Graham as Defendants, and a new Motion for Leave to
Proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 5]. For the reasons set
forth below, the Plaintiff's Motion is Granted.
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee to bring an
action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However,
the federal in forma pauperis (IFP) statute, 28 U.S.C. §
1915, provides indigent litigants an opportunity for
meaningful access to the federal courts despite their
inability to pay the costs and fees associated with that
access. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319
(1989). To authorize a litigant to proceed IFP, a court must
make two determinations: first, whether the litigant is
unable to pay the costs of commencing the action, §
1915(a)(1); and second, whether the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief, § 1915(e)(2)(B).
the first inquiry, an indigent party may commence an action
in federal court, without prepayment of costs and fees, upon
submission of an affidavit asserting an inability “to
pay such fees or give security therefor.” Id.
§ 1915(a). Here, the Plaintiff's Motion establishes
that he is unable to prepay the filing fee.
inquiry does not end there, however. In assessing whether a
plaintiff may proceed IFP, a court must look to the
sufficiency of the complaint to determine whether it can be
construed as stating a claim for which relief can be granted
or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief. Id. § 1915(e)(2)(B). District
courts have the power under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to
screen complaints even before service of the complaint on the
defendants and must dismiss the complaint if it fails to
state a claim. Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th
Cir. 1999). Courts apply the same standard under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) as when addressing a motion to dismiss
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Luevano
v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1018, 1027 (7th
state a claim under the federal notice pleading standards, a
complaint must set forth a “short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations are
accepted as true and need only give “fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc.,
496 F.3d 773, 776-77 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
a plaintiff's allegations must show that his entitlement
to relief is plausible, rather than merely speculative.
Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir.
Plaintiff has alleged several causes of action against the
Defendants, which include violations of the Fifth, Sixth, and
Fourteenth Amendments, as well as 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The
Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants violated his Fifth
Amendment rights by attempting to compel him to be a witness
against himself by “regularly ordering [him] to
cooperate with The Department of Child Services and trying to
force [him] to use services [he] [does] not need.”
(Compl., ECF No. 4 ¶ 5.) The Plaintiff alleges that the
Defendants violated his Sixth Amendment rights by using
hearsay evidence gathered from his daughter and that without
this hearsay evidence, the Defendants would not have
successfully petitioned the Indiana state court to remove his
daughter from his custody. The Plaintiff alleges that the
Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to
“custody, care, and management of [his] daughter,
” “to rear [his] child without state
interference, ” and to due process of law.
Plaintiff seeks only injunctive relief in the form of the
immediate return of his daughter to his custody. Thus, the
Court notes that, because the Plaintiff does not seek
monetary damages, IDCS may not invoke sovereign immunity
under the Eleventh Amendment. See Brunken v. Lance,
807 F.2d 1325, 1329-30 (7th Cir. 1986).
Fifth Amendment Claim
Fifth Amendment provides in relevant part that “[n]o
person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a
witness against himself . . . .” U.S. Const. amend. V.
The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants attempted to force
him to “cooperate” with them and to “use
services [he] [does] not need.” (ECF No. 4 ¶ 5.)
However, the Fifth Amendment protects against compelled
testimony “in any criminal case.”
Because the Defendants did not compel the Plaintiff to
testify against himself in a criminal case, the Plaintiff has
failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted under
the Fifth Amendment.
Sixth Amendment Claim
Sixth Amendment provides in relevant part that “[i]n
all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right
. . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him . . .
.” U.S. Const. amend. VI. The Plaintiff alleges that
the Defendants used hearsay evidence gathered from his
daughter. Specifically, his daughter reported that she had
seen the Plaintiff sell marijuana and did not feel safe at
his house. (ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 3.) This is not hearsay
evidence for multiple reasons, including that the
Plaintiff's daughter was not reporting the statement of a
third party. See Fed. R. Evid. 801. Moreover, as
with the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment is applicable
only “[i]n all criminal prosecutions.”