United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
R. Leichty United States District Judge
Iredell Sanders filed a pro se complaint containing
a host of allegations against the Indiana Department of Child
Services (DCS). ECF 1. The County has now moved to dismiss
the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
claiming Mr. Sanders' claims are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment and that DCS is not a “person” subject
to suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF 7. The court
must grant the motion for the reasons here.
all well-pleaded allegations as true and taking all
reasonable inferences in Mr. Sanders's favor, the
following facts emerge. Some time ago, DCS received
allegations of certain behavior inside of the Sanders
household and investigated. ECF 1 at 2. According to Mr.
Sanders, the original concerns DCS had were unfounded;
however, DCS continued its investigation, took photographs of
the home, and questioned his children. Id. DCS then
used the information gathered from the home investigation in
court proceedings that resulted in Mr. Sanders' children
being taken away and placed with a guardian. Id. at
Sanders alleges that this was the beginning of a series of
bad acts by DCS. DCS lied during court proceedings and
coerced Mr. Sanders' wife to make false statements in
procuring a protective order. Id. at 4-6. During a
child-family team meeting, a DCS worker made racist remarks
about Mr. Sanders' children. Id. at 8. Mr.
Sanders repeatedly requested copies of any paperwork
concerning his DCS file and was denied access for various
reasons. Id. at 9. For all these and other acts
allegedly committed by DCS, Mr. Sanders seeks $62, 000, 000
and injunctive relief against the DCS. Id. at 3.
reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and
draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d
1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010). A complaint must contain a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). The statement must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face and raise a right to relief above the
speculative level. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). A plaintiff's claim must be plausible,
not probable. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs.
Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012). Evaluating
whether a claim is sufficiently plausible to survive a motion
to dismiss is “a context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” McCauley v. City of Chicago,
671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678). Of course, because Mr. Sanders is a
pro se plaintiff, the court must liberally
construe his complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007).
Mr. Sanders does not specifically state his legal theory, his
complaint appears to adumbrate constitutional violations
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Sanders is essentially
claiming that DCS violated his due process rights, including
the right to raise his children, under the Fourteenth
Amendment. See, e.g., Berman v. Young, 291 F.3d 976,
983 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Troxel v. Granville, 530
U.S. 57, 65-66 (2000)) (holding that parents have a a
non-absolute due process right to care for and raise their
pursue such a claim in federal court against a state agency,
Mr. Sanders must get beyond the Eleventh Amendment to the
Unites States Constitution. The Eleventh Amendment provides
that “the judicial power of the United States shall not
be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity,
commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by
Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any
Foreign State.” The court sympathizes with Mr.
Sanders' claims, and if true doesn't condone certain
actions; however, the Eleventh Amendment establishes immunity
for the State from suit in federal court under the
circumstances that exist here.
the Eleventh Amendment refers to “Citizens of another
State, ” federal courts have “consistently held
that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in
federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of
another State.” Ind. Prot. & Advocacy Servs. v.
Ind. Family & Soc. Servs. Admin., 603 F.3d 365, 370
(7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S.
651, 662-63 (1974)). This immunity applies to the State and
any of its agencies or departments named in a suit,
regardless of the relief sought. MCI Tele. Corp. v. Ill.
Bell. Tel. Co., 222 F.3d 323, 336 (7th Cir. 2000). DCS
is an arm of the state. Ind. Code § 31-25-1-1.
the Eleventh Amendment bars this particular suit against DCS,
the court GRANTS DCS's motion (ECF 7) and DISMISSES this