United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green
ADAM B. SHOULTS PLAINTIFF
CARRIE E. ENGLER et al. DEFENDANTS
N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court
Adam B. Shoults filed the instant pro se 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action proceeding in forma pauperis.
This matter is before the Court on initial review pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons stated below, the
Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claims upon initial
a convicted inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, sues
Carrie Engler, writing “N/A” where the form
requests her job title, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. On
the § 1983 form, in response to the question asking
“what federal constitutional or statutory right(s) do
you claim is/are being violated by state or local officials[,
]” Plaintiff states, “KRS 403.320 & KRS
403.036 & 8th Amendment.” To
the question asking, “If the events giving rise to your
claim arose in an institution, describe where and when they
arose, ” Plaintiff states, “At county jail in -
Christian County Jail - year: 2011 when child was
born.” In the portion of the form asking the filer to
state the facts underlying his claim, Plaintiff states,
“Carrie Engler has such denied to let me have contact
with my son herein - courts have denied to hold meeting or
give visitation Rights with my son.” Where the form
asks the filer to describe any injuries, Plaintiff writes,
“Emotional Injuries, and such mental emotions
relief, Plaintiff requests, “To Have Visitation Rights
with my son set up & Have a Friend pick him up &
Bring him to visit me . . . .” Where the form asks the
filer for any reason a grievance was not filed, Plaintiff
states, “It's a family matter. This isn't a
matter that involves a grievance process.” He further
states, “I wrote to the courts & filed motions
after motion to get some relief or get visitation rights with
motion, Plaintiff attaches several records which appear to
have been filed in an action in Logan Circuit Court,
including a “motion to visitation rights & hearing
for parental rights & visitation & communcation of
appellant's child.” Therein, Plaintiff identifies
Defendant Engler as the biological mother of his child.
this Court recognizes that pro se pleadings are to
be held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520-21 (1972); Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110
(6th Cir. 1991), “[o]ur duty to be ‘less
stringent' with pro se complaints does not require us to
conjure up unpled allegations.” McDonald v.
Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation
omitted). And this Court is not required to create a claim
for Plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life
Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To
command otherwise would require the Court “to explore
exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se
plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from
its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an
advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most
successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett v.
City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides,
“If the court determines at any time that it lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
action.” It is axiomatic that federal district courts
are courts of limited jurisdiction, and their powers are
enumerated in Article III of the Constitution. Kokkonen
v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377
(1994); Hudson v. Coleman, 347 F.3d 138, 141 (6th
Cir. 2003) (“[I]t is well established that federal
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only
that power authorized by the Constitution and
statute.”). “Jurisdiction defines the contours of
the authority of courts to hear and decide cases, and, in so
doing, it dictates the scope of the judiciary's
influence.” Douglas v. E.G. Baldwin & Assocs.
Inc., 150 F.3d 604, 606 (6th Cir. 1998), overruled
on other grounds by Cobb v. Contract Transp., Inc., 452
F.3d 543, 548-49 (6th Cir. 2006). The party that seeks to
invoke a federal district court's jurisdiction bears the
burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction.
Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377.
claims must be dismissed because this Court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction over this case. Plaintiff
requests the Court to order that he be given visitation
rights with his son. While filing his complaint on a §
1983 form and alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment
rights, Plaintiff is actually challenging the state family
court's child custody proceeding. See Partridge v.
State of Ohio, 79 F. App'x 844, 845 (6th Cir. 2003).
However, federal courts do not have jurisdiction to resolve
domestic relations matters. Ankenbrandt v. Richards,
504 U.S. 689, 703 (1992); Catz v. Chalker, 142 F.3d
279, 290 (6th Cir. 1998); Kelm v. Hyatt, 44 F.3d
415, 420 (6th Cir. 1995). “Even when brought under the
guise of a federal question action, a suit whose subject is
domestic relations generally will not be entertained in a
federal court.” Firestone v. Cleveland Tr.
Co., 654 F.2d 1212, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981).
Chevalier v. Estate of Kimberly Barnhart, 803 F.3d
789 (6th Cir. 2015), the Sixth Circuit clarified that the
domestic relations exception applies only to a “narrow
range” of cases and that it “does not apply
unless ‘a plaintiff positively sues in federal court
for divorce, alimony, or child custody[.]'”
Id. at 795-96 (quoting Catz, 142 F.3d at
292). “When analyzing the applicability of the
domestic-relations exception, we must focus on the remedy
that the plaintiff seeks: Does the plaintiff seek an issuance
or modification or enforcement of a divorce, alimony, or
child-custody decree?” Id. at 797.
Alexander v. Rosen, 804 F.3d 1203 (6th Cir. 2015),
the plaintiff claimed that a federal judge, a Michigan family
court judge, and several state administrative employees
conspired against him in imposing a child support award
against him. The Sixth Circuit held that the domestic
relations exception did not apply to the claims
“because [the plaintiff] does not request that we issue
a ‘divorce, alimony, or child custody' decree or
that we ‘modify or interpret an existing'
decree.” Id. at 1205. Further, the Sixth
[The plaintiff] instead requests that we apply federal law to
determine whether the officials overseeing his child support
case conspired against him-an inquiry that does not require
us to apply Michigan child custody law, question the
state's calculation of child support payments, or
otherwise address the merits of the underlying dispute. We
may thus resolve [the plaintiff's] claims without
entangling ourselves in ...