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Smith v. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 23, 2018

Paul Smith, Plaintiff,
v.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, et. al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Sean F. Cox United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff has brought a multitude of § 1983 claims against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and various State Defendants relating to child abuse and neglect proceedings that were initiated against him. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons below, the Court concludes on each count that Plaintiff has either failed to state a claim or that his claims are barred by absolute or qualified immunity. Therefore, the Court shall grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Paul Smith is a resident of Macomb County. Amended Complaint, ¶ 1. In August 2014, Plaintiff brought his ten-month old daughter to a Farmington Hills Urgent Care facility for evaluation of injuries that she had suffered the day before. Id. at ¶ 20-21. She had significant bruising on her face and showed signs of left ankle discomfort. Id. at ¶ 21. Based on these injuries, personnel at the facility filed a suspected child abuse and neglect report with the Macomb County office of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Id. at ¶ 22.

         The Department initiated an investigation. Defendant Katherine Oren, a child protective services social worker, arrived at the urgent care facility and interviewed Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 27. Oren then sought Plaintiff's compliance with a voluntary safety plan. Id. at ¶ 28-29. To induce compliance, she threatened: to revoke the visa status of Plaintiff's wife, that criminal child abuse proceedings could be initiated against Plaintiff, and that deviations from the plan would result in the removal of Plaintiff's children from the home. Id. at ¶ 222. Plaintiff agreed to the plan, which provided that he would leave his home during the investigation and that he would not have unsupervised contact with his children. Id. at ¶ 28-29, 224.

         The next day, Defendant Jennifer Rein, another child protective services social worker, became the lead investigator on the case, under the supervision of Defendant Lashonda Reed. Id. at ¶ 9, 38. During the investigation, Plaintiff was placed on the Central Child Abuse and Neglect Registry as a perpetrator. Id. at ¶ 166. Based on Rein's investigation, the Department filed petitions seeking to terminate Plaintiff's parental rights to his children and requesting an order removing Plaintiff from his home. Doc. # 21, Ex. A.[1] The petitions alleged that Plaintiff had failed to comply with the voluntary safety plan and that his daughter was severely injured while in his care. Id.

         In November 2014, following a preliminary hearing, the Macomb County Circuit Court entered an order authorizing the petitions and finding that there was probable cause to believe one or more of the allegations in the petitions were true. Doc # 21, Ex. B. The Court ordered that Plaintiff could not be present in any home, at any time, where his children were residing. Id. The Court also ordered Plaintiff to leave his home and have no contact with his children except for supervised visits. Doc # 21, Ex. C.

         In March 2015, a jury trial was held to determine whether the court would acquire jurisdiction over the minor children. Amended Complaint, ¶ 70. The jury returned a verdict dismissing all of the petitions against Plaintiff and the Department closed its case. Id. at ¶ 71-72. The next month, Plaintiff was advised that he was being removed from the Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry. Id. at ¶ 73.

         Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and his three minor children, has sued the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Department Director Nick Lyon, Macomb County Director Valerie Nunn, Macomb County Director of Children's Services Michael Patterson, and child protective services workers Lashonda Reed, Jennifer Rein, and Katherine Oren. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff raises the following § 1983 claims:

Counts 1-3:
Plaintiff alleges that Rein's CPS investigation, with Reed's approval, denied him his due process right to be free from interference with familial associations and relationships and violated the Equal Protection Clause because Defendants' made arbitrary and capricious determinations. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that his rights were violated by Defendants' filing of the petitions and by their failure to properly investigate the allegations against him with respect to his children K.G (Count One), E.S. (Count Two), and J.S. (Count Three).
Count 4:
Plaintiff alleges that Lyon, Nunn, and Patterson failed to properly supervise the CPS investigation, violating the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
Count 5:
Plaintiff alleges that Rein and Reed illegally released investigative reports to the mothers of his children, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
Count 6:
Plaintiff alleges that Reed, Rein, and Oren's implementation of the voluntary safety plan violated his right to use of his property, in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
Count7:
Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief finding that the implementation of the voluntary safety plan was unconstitutional. He also requests that the Court order the Department to ensure that safety plans are not arbitrarily implemented without recourse for review, nullification, or ...

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