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Mayo v. State, Department of Human Resources Child Support Enforcement Division

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 2, 2018




         Before the court is the pro se complaint of Plaintiff Andrea Nichole Eggleston Mayo. Doc. 8. Also pending is a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. 2. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) this case was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for review and submission of a report with recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law. Doc. 3. For the reasons stated herein, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) be GRANTED, but that the action be DISMISSED with prejudice prior to service of process pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)[1] for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.


         The court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The court finds adequate allegations to support both jurisdiction and venue in the Middle District of Alabama.


         Mayo filed her initial complaint in this matter on March 9, 2018. In response to an Order from the court (Doc. 4), Mayo filed an amended complaint in an attempt to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. 8. In the amended complaint, she requested leave to file yet another complaint, which the court granted. Doc. 9. The deadline to submit this second amended complaint has passed with no word from Mayo. Accordingly, in this recommendation the court addresses the allegations set forth in Mayo's first amended complaint (Doc. 8), and the facts below are those alleged in that complaint.

         Mayo names as defendants in this action the State of Alabama Department of Human Resources, Child Support Enforcement Division (“DHR”); Maurice A. Eggleston; Victoria Stuart; Ayanna Rearden; Judge J. Michael Conaway; and Judge Lori Collier Ingram. Doc. 1. Construing her pro se complaint liberally, Mayo asserts Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection claims. The majority of these claims stem from an ex parte custody hearing held in May 2013 during which Judge Conaway revoked Mayo's custody of her two children and granted custody to her former spouse, Maurice Eggleston. Doc. 8 at 3. According to Mayo, Judge Conaway had no reason to transfer custody to Eggleston, who previously had visitation restrictions placed upon him for his failure to supervise the children properly. Doc. 8 at 3. Eggleston is a Dothan, Alabama police officer. Doc. 8 at 6. At one point, the custody case was transferred to Judge Collier Ingram, but later was returned to Judge Conaway. Doc. 8 at 6.[2]

         Additionally, Judge Conaway ordered Mayo to pay child support at an unspecified time. Doc. 8 at 5. Mayo alleges that she later was found “not guilty” of owing child support but that Judge Conaway “continues to leave the order in place.” Doc. 8 at 5-6. DHR, along with DHR employees Stuart and Rearden, have threatened to suspend Mayo's driver's license if she does not pay the child support ordered by Judge Conaway. Doc. 8 at 5. DHR also issued a warrant, which led to her arrest and the unlawful seizure of her vehicle. Doc. 8 at 7. The outstanding child support payments have negatively affected her ability to use credit, operate financially, obtain employment, and freely travel upon the roads without fear of harassment by DHR. Doc. 8 at 5. Mayo complained about these actions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation but it did not respond to her complaints. Doc. 8 at 2.


         The same standards governing dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) also govern the review of a complaint under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d 1316, 1320 (11th Cir. 2008). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the court must indulge reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor but is “not required to draw plaintiff's inference.” Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005). Similarly, “unwarranted deductions of fact” are not admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of a plaintiff's allegations. Id.

         A complaint may be dismissed if the facts as pleaded do not state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (explaining that “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss”); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561, 570 (2007) (retiring the prior standard allowing dismissal only where “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim”). In Twombly, the Supreme Court emphasized that a complaint “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Factual allegations in a complaint need not be detailed but “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (internal citations omitted). “[U]nadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s]” will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Further, when a successful affirmative defense, such as the statute of limitations, appears on the face of the complaint, dismissal for failure to state a claim also is warranted. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007).

         In addition to the pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal, a plaintiff's pro se status must be considered when evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint. “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Yet any leniency cannot serve as a substitute for pleading a proper cause of action. See Odion v. Google Inc., 628 Fed.Appx. 635, 637 (11th Cir. 2015) (recognizing that although courts must show leniency to pro se litigants, “this leniency does not give a court license to serve as de facto counsel for a party, or to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action”) (internal quotation marks omitted). “While the pleadings of pro se litigants are liberally construed, they must still comply with procedural rules governing the proper form of pleadings.” Hopkins v. St. Lucie Cnty. Sch. Bd., 399 Fed.Appx. 563, 565 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).


         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 imposes liability on any person who, under color of state law, deprives any citizen of the United States “of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws[.]” Because the Fourteenth Amendment does not establish a private right of action, “it is only via the statutory vehicle of . . . § 1983 that a plaintiff may seek to vindicate [her] 14th Amendment rights.” McBride v. Murray, 2006 WL 734542, at *2 (N.D.Ga. Mar. 17, 2006) (citing BellSouth Telecomms., Inc. v. MCImetro Access ...

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