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Edwards v. Mashego

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

June 6, 2019

BOBBI EDWARDS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
KIM MASHEGO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docs. # 3, 13[1]), Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. # 8), and Defendants' Motion to Strike (Doc. # 16). The Motions have been fully briefed (Docs. # 10, 18, 21) and are ripe for decision. After careful review, and for the reasons explained below, the court concludes that although Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. # 8) is due to be denied, Plaintiffs must replead their complaint. As such, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. # 3, 13) and Motion to Strike (Doc. # 16) are due to be denied without prejudice as moot.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs Bobbi Edwards and Christopher Edwards (collectively, “the Parents”) and their two minor children originally filed this action in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Alabama on October 18, 2018. Bobbi Edwards, et al. v. Kim Mashego, et al., 58-cv-20118-900981. In their state court complaint, Plaintiffs named the following employees of the Shelby County Department of Human Resources (“Shelby County DHR”) as Defendants: Kim Mashego, the Director of Shelby County DHR; Corrine Matt; Yolanda Barnes; and Alyssa Partridge. (Doc. # 1 at 10-11).

         Plaintiffs assert the following claims against Defendants in their individual capacities: negligence and wantonness (Count One); suppression of material fact (Count Two); negligent/wanton training and supervision (Count Three); outrageous conduct/intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count Four); malicious prosecution (Count Five); abuse of process (Count Six); civil conspiracy (Count Seven); and damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count Eight). (Id. at 13-22). Specifically, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants, while acting under color of state law, violated their rights in a number of ways including depriving them of their constitutional rights to “privacy” and “due process of law” in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. at 10). In support of these claims, Plaintiffs allege the following facts in their complaint.

         Plaintiffs claim that on February 22, 2016, Partridge contacted the Parents at their home to investigate the potential abuse or neglect of their minor child. (Doc. # 1 at 11, ¶ 8). Partridge and the Parents agreed to a “Safety Plan, ” which Plaintiffs allege “is an agreement made by and between the family and [Shelby County DHR] with respect to certain terms and conditions regarding further activity and involvement by and between the family and [Shelby County DHR].” (Id. at ¶ 9). According to Plaintiffs, the Safety Plan ensured that the minor children would live in the home with their mother, and their maternal grandmother agreed to supervise all contact. (Id. at ¶ 10). The Safety Plan further provided that Mr. Edwards would not live in the home with the children. (Id.). Plaintiffs allege that Partridge, the Parents, and the maternal grandmother all signed the Safety Plan. (Id. at ¶¶ 9, 11).

         Plaintiffs contend that on the following day, Partridge met with Mashego, Matt, and Barnes for a “staffing meeting.” (Id. at 12, ¶ 13). During this meeting, they allegedly decided that the Safety Plan was invalid and that the proper course of action was to “seek authority and approval from the Shelby County Juvenile Court to remove the minor children…from the custody of their parents…and place the minor children into a foster home.” (Id.). Consistent with this decision, Partridge filed a Petition with the Shelby County Juvenile Court and requested an Emergency Pick Up Order, which would allow the children to be taken into emergency protective custody and placed into a foster home. (Id. at ¶ 14). Crucially, Plaintiffs submit that Partridge made “untrue, false, misleading and fraudulent representations, under oath, to the Shelby County Juvenile Court for the purpose of inducing that Court to enter the Emergency Pick Up Order.” (Id. at ¶ 15). The Juvenile Court issued the Emergency Pick Up Order, and Partridge removed the children from the custody of the Parents and placed them in a foster home. (Id. at ¶ 16).

         Plaintiffs further assert that the cases involving the minor children were eventually litigated before the Shelby County Juvenile Court and resolved in their favor. (Id. at ¶ 17). At some point during the litigation, the Juvenile Court ordered the children to be placed into the temporary custody of the maternal grandmother. (Id.). On August 30, 2016, the Juvenile Court returned custody of the children to the Parents. (Id.). Almost one year later, on August 16, 2017, the Juvenile Court dismissed the Petitions filed by Shelby County DHR. (Id.).

         After Plaintiffs filed suit in the Circuit Court of Shelby County on October 18, 2018, Defendant Barnes removed this action to federal court on November 28, 2018. (Doc. # 1). At the time of removal, Defendant Barnes was the only defendant who had been served. (Id. at 2). On December 20, 2018, less than thirty days after the removal, Defendants Mashego and Matt filed a notice of their consent to the removal. (Doc. # 12). Defendant Partridge, however, had still not been served.

         Over the course of the next four months, this court granted Plaintiffs three extensions to complete service upon Defendant Partridge in federal court. (Docs. # 19, 24, 27). Yet, despite the court's warning that failure to properly serve Partridge may result in dismissal of their claims against Defendant Partridge (Doc. # 27), Plaintiffs failed to comply with the court's instructions. Plaintiffs only managed to serve Partridge in the Circuit Court of Shelby County on April 23, 2019. (Doc. # 30). Consequently, on June 3, 2019, the court dismissed without prejudice Plaintiffs' claims against Defendant Partridge due to Plaintiffs' failure to serve Defendant Partridge in federal court after being granted three prior extensions to do so. (Doc. # 34).

         II. Analysis

         As an initial matter, the court concludes that Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is due to be denied because Plaintiffs' complaint squarely presents a federal question under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, the court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' Section 1983 claim and supplemental jurisdiction over their attendant state law claims. However, in light of the court's recent dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims against Defendant Partridge (and because their allegations rely heavily on Partridge's actions), the court finds it appropriate for Plaintiffs to replead their complaint. As a result, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss and Motion to Strike are due to be denied without prejudice as moot.

         A. Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is Due to be Denied

         Plaintiffs argue this case should be remanded to the Circuit Court of Shelby County Alabama “because this case does not present a substantial federal question that merits removal under 28 U.S.C. Section 1441.” (Doc. # 8 at 4-5). Plaintiffs point out that Defendants are state agents, not federal agents or employees, meaning that Defendants acted under color of state law in removing the minor children from the custody of the Parents. (Id. at 5-7). Plaintiffs further contend that the presence of a single federal claim for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 is insufficient to create federal question jurisdiction when all of Plaintiffs' claims involve alleged ...


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