United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MARY E. SANDOVAL, et al., Plaintiffs,
CHRISTINA M. BEESON, et al., Defendants.
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on pro se
Plaintiffs' Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and
Emergency Motion for Return of Child. Dkt. #10. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the motion and
DISMISSES this action for lack of subject matter
have brought this matter before the Court alleging civil
rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the
Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that a minor child has been
unlawfully removed from the custody of her maternal
grandmother without due process of law. Dkt. #9. They name as
Defendants two social workers for Washington's Department
of Health and Human Services. They further allege that these
social workers lied to the state court in a series of motions
pertaining to the removal of two minor children from the care
of their former caregivers. Id. Plaintiffs state
that a hearing for the termination of parental rights with
respect to one of the children is scheduled for June 4, 2018.
Id. As a result, Plaintiffs asks this Court to issue
an Order declaring that Defendants have violated the
Constitution, issue an injunction enjoining Defendant from
engaging in unconstitutional acts, return one child to the
custody of his biological parents and the other child to the
custody of her maternal grandmother, and order Defendants to
correct all of the documents with respect to the races of the
mother and children. Dkt. #9 at 4.
federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that his or her
case is properly filed in federal court. Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct.
1673, 1675, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994); In re Ford Motor
Co./Citibank (South Dakota), N.A., 264 F.3d 952, 957
(9th Cir. 2001). This burden, at the pleading stage, must be
met by pleading sufficient allegations to show a proper basis
for the federal court to assert subject matter jurisdiction
over the action. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance
Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S.Ct. 780, 785, 80 L.Ed.
1135 (1936). Under Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, when it appears that subject matter
jurisdiction is lacking, the Court “shall dismiss the
action” and may do so on its own initiative. Munoz
v. Mabus, 630 F.3d 856, 860 (9th Cir. 2010) (explaining
that even if not raised by the parties, a federal court has
an independent obligation to address subject matter
jurisdiction before turning to the merits); Csibi v.
Fustos, 670 F.2d 134, 136 n.3 (9th Cir. 1982) (noting
that “[l]ack of subject matter jurisdiction can be
raised by a court's own motion at any time”). An
action may be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, without leave to amend, when it is clear that
the jurisdictional deficiency cannot be cured by amendment.
May Dep't Store v. Graphic Process Co., 637 F.2d
1211, 1216 (9th Cir. 1980). “A pro se litigant must be
given leave to amend his or her complaint unless it is
absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could
not be cured by amendment.” Karim-Panahi v. L.A.
Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988).
case, the Court finds that it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' Complaint because, although
captioned as one arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
Plaintiff fails to actually allege such a claim or any other
basis for federal jurisdiction. On a § 1983 claim, a
plaintiff must show that (1) the conduct complained of was
committed by a person acting under color of state law, and
(2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a federal
constitutional or statutory right. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A
review of the instant Complaint reveals no facts supporting
such a claim, even when construed liberally toward these
pro se Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs have failed to allege
facts sufficient to support any alleged violation of a right
guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Further, given
the nature of the Complaint, which appears to be related to a
custody dispute and child protective proceedings, the Court
can find no other basis for federal jurisdiction.
“[u]nder Younger abstention, federal courts
may not grant declaratory or injunctive relief that would
interfere with state criminal or civil proceedings, including
state administrative proceedings that are judicial in
nature.” San Remo Hotel, 145 F.3d at 1103;
see also Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct.
746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). “Absent extraordinary
circumstances, Younger abstention is required if the
state proceedings are (1) ongoing, (2) implicate important
state interests, and (3) provide the plaintiff an adequate
opportunity to litigate federal claims.” Id.
“When the case is one in which the Younger doctrine
applies, the case must be dismissed.” H.C.,
203 F.3d at 613. The Court finds that all three
Younger requirements are satisfied in this case.
First, there appears to be ongoing state court proceeding.
For the purposes of Younger abstention, the critical
question is whether the state proceedings were underway
before initiation of the federal action. Kitchens v.
Bowen, 825 F.2d 1337, 1341 (9th Cir. 1987). Here,
Plaintiffs allege that state court proceedings were underway
prior to the filing of this matter, and there is at least one
more hearing scheduled for June. Second, this case implicates
important state interests. Plaintiffs' action arises from
child protective proceedings initiated by the State of
Washington. Third, Plaintiffs have an adequate opportunity to
raise their federal constitutional claims in state court.
Under Younger, federal courts “must assume
that state procedures afford an adequate remedy, in the
absence of unambiguous authority to the contrary.”
Baffert v. Cal. Horse Racing Bd., 332 F.3d 613, 619
(9th Cir. 2003). Moreover, Younger abstention
applies “even if the constitutionality of the pending
proceeding is at the heart of [p]laintiff's claim.”
Id. Here, Plaintiffs' alleged constitutional
violations are inextricably intertwined with the ongoing
child protective proceedings in state court, and they can
seek redress in that court. For all of these reasons, the
Court also finds that amendment would be futile.
Accordingly, the Court hereby finds and ORDERS:
Plaintiffs' Petition and Emergency Motion (Dkt. #10) is
DENIED and this matter is DISMISSED for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
This case is now CLOSED.
CLERK shall forward a copy of this Order to pro se