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Handley v. Coursey

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

June 5, 2015

NATHAN HANDLEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CASEY COURSEY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GREG N. STIVERS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Joint Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Defs.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal of Pls.' Compl., DN 4). This motion is ripe for a decision, and for the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendants Casey Coursey ("Coursey") and Connie Jessup ("Jessup") are child protective workers employed by Defendant Cabinet for Health and Family Services ("CHFS"). (Compl. 3, DN 1-2; Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal of Pls.' Compl. 1, DN 4-1 [hereinafter Defs.' Mem. in Supp.]). On or about April 14, 2014, Defendants sought the assistance of the Assistant Barren County Attorney to remove K. P. H. and J. T. H. from Nathan Handley's custody, and removed M. L. S. and W. G. S. from Crystal Handley's custody. (Compl. 4). The Assistant Barren County Attorney declined to file a petition for emergency removal, and Defendants nonetheless effected removal of the children by "coercing and forcing" Nathan and Crystal Handley to relinquish custody of the children with the assistance of the Barren County Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies. (Compl. 4-5).

On April 13, 2015, Plaintiffs filed suit in Barren Circuit Court alleging that CHFS, Coursey (in her individual and official capacities), and Connie Jessup (in her individual and official capacities) had violated the right of the Plaintiffs to be free from excessive and unreasonable force, the right of due process, the right of freedom from arbitrary action, the right of freedom from summary punishment, and the right of freedom from interference with the custody, placement, and companionship of their children and family without the due process, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. 5, 7). Plaintiffs seek monetary damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief. (Compl. 7-8).

On April 24, 2015, Defendants removed this action from Barren Circuit Court to this Court and filed a Joint Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Complaint, seeking to dismiss the claims against CHFS and against Coursey and Jessup in their official capacities. (Defs.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal of Pls.' Compl., DN 4). Plaintiffs have responded (Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal of Pls.' Compl., DN 6 [hereinafter Pls.' Resp.]), and Defendants have filed their reply (Defs.' Reply Mem., DN 7). This motion is thus ripe for adjudication.

II. JURISDICTION

Plaintiffs' claims arise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal law. This Court has "original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motions pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) require the Court "to construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept all of the complaint's factual allegations as true, and determine whether the plaintiff undoubtedly can prove no set of facts in support of the claims that would entitle relief." Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998) (citing Meadors v. Cabinet for Human Res., 902 F.2d 474, 475 (6th Cir. 1990)).

IV. DISCUSSION

In their motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs cannot recover from CHFS or Coursey or Jessup in their official capacities due to 1) Eleventh Amendment immunity; 2) sovereign immunity; and 3) the Will doctrine. (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. 2). In their reply, Defendants assert that the additional defense of the justiciability bar to the Ex Parte Young doctrine. (Defs.' Reply Mem. 5-7).

A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity and Sovereign Immunity

"The Eleventh Amendment bars all suits, whether for injunctive, declaratory or monetary relief, against the state and its departments.'" Sefa v. Kentucky, 510 F.Appx. 435, 437 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., ...


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