United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sandy Byrd, Jonathan Ponstein, Leeann Ponstein, A.P., Monica
Hardman, and Matthew Lawrence allege that Alabama Department
of Human Resources (“DHR”) officials deprived
them of procedural due process in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and committed several state law torts.
Plaintiffs' claims arise out of DHR placing their names
on a Central Registry that catalogues the outcome of child
abuse and neglect allegations, disclosing that information
from the Central Registry to third parties, and failing to
provide Plaintiffs with due process hearings to challenge the
information on the Central Registry. Before the court is
Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, moving
the court to compel DHR officials Nancy Buckner, Kim Mashego,
and Carla Emmons to remove Plaintiffs' name from the
registry until Plaintiffs have a due process hearing. (Doc. #
2.) This motion is due to be denied.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
matter jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, and 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Personal jurisdiction and venue are not contested.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
seeking a preliminary injunction must establish four
elements: “(1) a substantial likelihood of success on
the merits; (2) a substantial threat of irreparable injury;
(3) that its own injury outweighs the injury to the
nonmovant; and (4) that the injunction would not disserve the
public interest.” Thompson v. Alabama, No.
2:16-cv-783, 2017 WL 3223915, at *4 (M.D. Ala. July 28, 2017)
(quoting Siegel v. LePore, 234 F.3d 1163, 1176 (11th
Cir. 2000)). “A preliminary injunction is an
extraordinary and drastic remedy not to be granted unless the
movant establishes the burden of persuasion as to the four
prerequisites.” Am. Civil Liberties Union of Fla.,
Inc. v. Miami-Dade Cty. Sch. Bd., 557 F.3d 1177, 1198
(11th Cir. 2009). “The chief function of a preliminary
injunction is to preserve the status quo until the merits of
the controversy can be fully and fairly adjudicated.”
Powers v. Sec'y Fla. Dep't of Corr., 691
Fed.Appx. 581, 583 (11th Cir. 2017) (quoting Ne. Fla.
Chapter of Ass'n of Gen. Contractors of Am. v.
City of Jacksonville, Fla., 896 F.2d 1283, 1284 (11th
as here, the plaintiff seeks a mandatory preliminary
injunction, the burden of persuasion is even higher. See
Thompson, 2017 WL 3223915, at *4. A mandatory injunction
“goes well beyond simply maintaining the status quo[, ]
is particularly disfavored and should not be issued unless
the facts and law clearly favor the moving party.”
Powers, 691 Fed.Appx. at 583 (quoting Martinez
v. Mathews, 544 F.2d 1233, 1243 (5th Cir. 1976)).
“Only in rare instances is the issuance of a mandatory
preliminary injunction proper.” Harris v.
Wilters, 596 F.2d 678, 680 (5th Cir. 1979).
certain exceptions not applicable in this case, DHR is the
state agency in Alabama responsible for investigation of all
reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. Ala. Code
§ 26-14-6.1. Pursuant to its statutory authority, DHR
has propounded regulations and established procedures for
investigation and disposition of child abuse reports and for
review, recording, and disclosure of the outcome of child
abuse investigations. Ala. Code § 26-14-12; Ala. Admin.
Code r. 660-5-34-.01, et seq.
a report of suspected child abuse/neglect has been received,
it must be investigated.” Ala. Admin. Code r.
660-5-34-.04. Upon receipt of a report of child abuse or
neglect, the state or county DHR promptly begins an
investigation, which includes research into previous reports,
home visits, interviews with the child and custodial parents,
and so forth. Ala. Code § 26-14-7; Ala. Admin. Code r.
660-5-34-.05. After completing the investigation, the
investigating DHR social worker reaches a disposition as to
whether the child experienced abuse or neglect and the
identity of the person responsible for the abuse or neglect.
Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.07. The worker assigns one of
the following dispositions to the report of abuse and to the
person alleged to be responsible for the abuse: (1)
“Indicated, ” which means that “a
preponderance of the credible evidence . . . and the
professional judgment of the worker indicate that
abuse/neglect has occurred;” (2) “Unable to
Complete;” or (3) “Not Indicated, ” which
means that “a preponderance of the credible evidence
and professional judgment does not substantiate that
abuse/neglect has occurred.” Id.; see
also Ala. Code § 26-14-8 (defining
“indicated” and “not indicated”).
county DHR submits a complete written report of the
investigation and disposition to DHR's statewide Central
Registry for reports of child abuse and neglect. Ala. Code
§ 26-14-7(d); Ala. Code § 26-14-8; Ala. Admin. Code
r. 660-5-34-.09. All persons who have been assigned an
“indicated” disposition are given an opportunity
to disagree with DHR's findings “through either a
CA/N hearing or an administrative record review.” Ala.
Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.08 (1)-(4). Some individuals qualify
for a CA/N hearing based on the nature of their employment;
the rest qualify only for administrative record review. Ala.
Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.08(4). The accused is afforded ten
DHR working days from receipt of the notice to submit a
written request for either a CA/N hearing or an
administrative record review, whichever of the two is
available to that person. Ala. Admin. Code r.
660-5-34-.08(4). If DHR receives no written request for
review by the end of the ten-day period, the accused is
considered to have waived review, and the
“indicated” disposition is entered on the Central
Registry. Id. Once an “indicated”
disposition is entered on the Central Registry, it is
confidential, but it may be released under certain
circumstances to employers, prospective employers, licensing
and certifying agencies, etc. Ala. Code §
26-14-8; Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.08(4); Ala. Admin.
Code r. 660-5-34-.09.
certain persons - for example, those certified to care for
children, such as teachers and educators, and those employed
by certified child care facilities, such as day care
workers-are entitled to a CA/N hearing. A CA/N hearing is
“an internal investigatory hearing that is fact finding
in nature and designed to elicit the facts in an atmosphere
that allows the person responsible for the abuse/neglect to
contest the evidence presented against him [or her].”
Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5- 34-.08(6); see also Ala.
Code § 26-14-7.1 (providing due process rights for
certain persons (such as educators) who have come under DHR
investigation for child abuse or neglect). DHR bears the
burden of persuasion at the CA/N hearing. Ala. Code §
26-14-7.1; Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.08(6).
majority of Alabama citizens (everyone who is not a teacher,
day care worker, or other person who falls within the narrow
qualifications for entitlement to a CA/N hearing), only an
administrative record review is available to challenge an
“indicated” disposition. Ala. Admin. Code r.
660-5-34-.08(3)-(4). Unlike a CA/N hearing, which is
“fact finding in nature” and allows the accused
to directly challenge the “indicated” disposition
using evidence outside the administrative record, an
administrative record review is limited to consideration of
whether the DHR's own administrative record
“contains sufficient documentation based on a
preponderance of credible evidence to support the
‘indicated' disposition of child
abuse/neglect.” Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.08(3).
“Administrative record reviews are conducted by [DHR]
staff who are not involved with the case.” Ala. Admin.
Code r. 660-5-34-.08(7). “The [administrative record]
reviewers have the authority to overturn the dispositional
finding of the worker and supervisor, and their decision
is final.” Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.08(7)
the conclusion of the CA/N hearing or administrative record
review, there are no further procedures available for
challenging the ...