United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Defendants, Indiana
Department of Child Services (IDCS), Derek Bolka, and Terry
Stigdon, Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and
Failure to State a Claim [ECF No. 95] pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
Plaintiff, Janet Wehmeyer, individually and as next friend of
her children, E.W. and C.W. brings this action asserting
various claims against the Defendants. The Plaintiff first
filed a pro se Complaint against the Defendants on January
11, 2018 [ECF No. 1]. The Plaintiff subsequently obtained
legal counsel [ECF No. 48] and the Plaintiff's First
Amended Complaint [ECF No. 59], filed on May 16, 2018, is now
the operative complaint in this case. The Plaintiff's First
Amended Complaint centers around involvement of the
Defendants in an investigation of alleged child abuse between
August 2015 and January 2016, the removal of her children and
their placement into foster care, and the alleged abuse her
children endured during their time in foster care.
Plaintiff brings five counts against the Defendants: Count I
is a First Amendment Retaliation claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; Count II is a Fourth Amendment claim alleging
that the Defendants violated the Plaintiff's right to be
free from unreasonable search and seizure pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983; Count III is a Fourteenth Amendment due
process claim alleging violation of the Plaintiff's
liberty interest in familial relations pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; Count IV is a Fourteenth Amendment due process
claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and Count V is a
state-law assault and battery claim.
IDCS, Bolka, and Stigdon filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack
of Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim [ECF No. 95] on
April 16, 2019. The Defendants argue that subject-matter
jurisdiction is barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Further, the Defendants argue in the alternative
that the Plaintiff failed to state a claim as Defendant IDCS
is entitled to immunity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment,
and the Plaintiff's official and individual capacity
claims against Defendants Stigdon and Bolka are deficient.
Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 2, ECF No. 96. The Plaintiff
filed several responses in opposition [ECF Nos. 98-101],
which did not address the Defendants' jurisdictional
arguments. The Defendants filed a reply [ECF No. 102] and the
matter is now ripe for review.
Defendant alleges that the Plaintiff's First Amended
Complaint is deficient for a lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and, in the
alternative, fails to state a claim pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1), the Defendant argues that the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of
subject matter jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's
Complaint because the requested relief would require the
Court to disrupt a final judgment of the state court. Rule
12(b)(1) provides that a party may assert the defense of lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction by motion. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). “Subject-matter jurisdiction is the first
question in every case, and if the court concludes that it
lacks jurisdiction it must proceed no further.”
Illinois v. City of Chi., 137 F.3d 474, 478 (7th
Cir. 1998). When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, a court must accept as true all
well-pleaded allegations and draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the plaintiff. Alicea-Hernandez v. Catholic
Bishop of Chi., 320 F.3d 698, 701 (7th Cir. 2003).
12(b)(6), on the other hand, “challenges the viability
of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A.
Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014).
The Court presumes that all well-pleaded allegations are
true, views these well-pleaded allegations in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiffs, and accepts as true all
reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations.
Whirlpool Fin. Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc., 67 F.3d
605, 608 (7th Cir. 1995). Surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
“requires more than labels and conclusions . . .
Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
The First Amended Complaint, which was filed when the
Plaintiff was represented by counsel, that is the subject of
the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Regardless of the
Plaintiff's representation status, the Plaintiff remains
responsible for proving that jurisdictional requirements have
been met. Ctr. For Dermatology & Skin Cancer, Ltd. V.
Burwell, 770 F.3d 586, 588 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court is
obligated to monitor its own jurisdiction and dismiss the
case if the Court lacks jurisdiction. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(1); Baker v. Kingsley, 387 F.3d 649,
656 (7th Cir. 2004).
Plaintiff's Federal Claims
Plaintiff brings various federal claims against the
Defendants, which the Defendants maintain the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1). Under the Rooker- Feldman doctrine, lower
federal courts lack jurisdiction to review the decisions of
state courts in civil cases. See Gilbert v. Ill. Bd. of
Educ., 591 F.3d 896, 900 (7th Cir. 2010) (first citing
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. 280, 283-84 (2005); then citing Johnson v. Orr,
551 F.3d 564, 568 (7th Cir. 2008)). The doctrine
“prevents a state-court loser from bringing suit in
federal court in order effectively to set aside the
state-court judgment, ” and applies “even though
the state court judgment might be erroneous or even
unconstitutional.” Gilbert, 591 F.3d at 900
(citations and quotation marks omitted). The doctrine
“bars federal claims in two instances. The first
involves a plaintiff's request of a federal district
court to overturn an adverse state court judgment. The
second, and more difficult instance, involves federal claims
that were not raised in state court or do not on their face
require review of a state court's decision.”
Brown v. Bowman, 668 F.3d 437, 442 (7th Cir. 2012)
(citing Taylor v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n,
374 F.3d 529, 532-33 (7th Cir. 2004)). In the second case,
“Rooker-Feldman will act as a jurisdictional
bar if those claims are ‘inextricably intertwined'
with a state court judgment.” Id. (quoting
Taylor, 374 F.3d at 533). Although the Seventh
Circuit has described the inextricably intertwined inquiry as
“a somewhat metaphysical concept, ” a district
court must determine whether it “is in essence being
called upon to review the state-court decision.”
Taylor, 374 F.3d at 533 (quotation marks omitted).
“In order to determine the applicability of the