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Carpenter-Jenkins v. Scotta

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

September 26, 2019

ANTHONY J. SCOTTA, et al., Defendants.

          Stephanie Dawkins Davis, Magistrate Judge



         J.A.K.B. is the biological, minor daughter of Carina M. Carpenter-Jenkins and Thomas Dennis Burns Sr. In April 2015, J.A.K.B. was taken from Burns’ custody and placed with J.A.K.B.’s aunt, Denise Burns. Carpenter-Jenkins maintains that Denise Burns has a track record of not being able to provide for her children. Carpenter-Jenkins maintains that she was not given a fair opportunity to maintain legal custody over J.A.K.B. In particular, Carpenter-Jenkins says that she was not given proper notice of parental-rights hearings in December 2016 and January 2017. And, says Carpenter-Jenkins, at the December 2016 proceeding that terminated her parental rights, false statements were made about her parenting qualifications, including that she was deceased. So, without aid of an attorney, Carpenter-Jenkins sued those she believes helped unlawfully terminate her parental rights over J.A.K.B. (See ECF No. 1, 9, 71, 90.) Among the dozen or so defendants are state-court judges and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services social workers and caseworkers. (See ECF No. 9, PageID.32.)

         The Court referred all pre-trial matters to Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis, and Carpenter-Jenkins now takes issue with two of the Magistrate Judge’s orders and one of her reports and recommendations. In particular, Carpenter-Jenkins objects to Magistrate Judge Davis’ recommendation to dismiss her case in its entirety. (ECF No. 112.) Carpenter-Jenkins also objects to the Magistrate Judge’s order denying several motions seeking a default judgment. (ECF No. 106.) Third, Carpenter-Jenkins objects to the Magistrate Judge’s order denying her request for Defendants to be indicted by a grand jury. (ECF No. 111.)

         As explained below, the Court has reviewed Carpenter-Jenkins’ objections and finds no reason to revisit the Magistrate Judge’s determinations.


         Carpenter-Jenkins has filed five motions for “default judgment” (ECF No. 40, 46, 75, 85, 98) and one seeking leave to file a motion for default judgment (ECF No. 84). Prior orders by the Magistrate Judge resolved the first two such motions (see ECF No. 43, 56); the Magistrate Judge’s June 2019 order denied Carpenter-Jenkins’ three most recent motions for default judgment and her request for leave (ECF No. 105). Carpenter-Jenkins now objects to the June 2019 order. (ECF No. 106.)

         For two reasons, the Court will overrule Carpenter-Jenkins’ objection and affirm the Magistrate Judge’s June 2019 order.

         For one, Carpenter-Jenkins’ objections to that order are not timely. The Magistrate Judge denied Carpenter-Jenkins’ three most recent motions for a default judgment and the motion for leave on June 26, 2019, and mailed Carpenter-Jenkins her order that day. (See ECF No. 105.) Because service was by mail, Carpenter-Jenkins had three additional days, seventeen in all, to file objections. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a), (d). And because the seventeenth day was a Saturday, Carpenter-Jenkins had until the following Monday, July 15, 2019, to file her objections. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(1)(C). Yet the date stamp from the Clerk’s Office is July 16, 2019. So Carpenter-Jenkins’ objections were filed a day late.

         And even if this Court were to forgive a day, it would overrule Carpenter-Jenkins’ objection because she has not shown that there is a basis for a default judgment. First, no defaults have been entered which is a prerequisite for obtaining a default judgment. See Devlin v. Kalm, 493 F. App’x 678, 685–86 (6th Cir. 2012). Also according to Defendants Tiana Chatman, Toni Day, Sharon Wheeler, and Rhondi Keller, they were served with the complaint on February 26, 2018. (ECF No. 17, PageID.186.) Carpenter-Jenkins has not shown otherwise. Michigan Third Circuit Judges Virgil Smith and Karen Braxton say there were served on February 26, 2018, and Michigan Third Circuit Referee Raeigen Evans says she was served on March 15, 2018. (ECF No. 18, PageID.193–194.) Carpenter-Jenkins has also not shown otherwise. So these seven defendants, except for Evans, were required to file a responsive pleading by March 19, 2018 (Evans had more time). Then, on March 19, these seven defendants asked for an extension of time to respond, which the Magistrate Judge later granted. (ECF No. 17, 18, 25.) Before that extension period expired, these seven defendants filed motions for more definite statement. (ECF No. 27, 30.) As the Magistrate Judge indicated (ECF No. 105, PageID.1101), a motion for more definite statement stops the twenty-one-day responsive-pleading clock, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(4), (e); Arthur R. Miller, et al., 5C Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1378 (3d ed.) (“The pendency of a motion for a more definite statement postpones the movant’s obligation to file his responsive pleading.”). The Magistrate Judge ultimately granted the motions for more definite statement, and following Carpenter-Jenkins’ filing of a more definite statement, the seven defendants filed timely motions to dismiss. (ECF No. 71, 72, 73.) As such, Carpenter-Jenkins has not established a basis for entering a default judgment.


         Carpenter-Jenkins also objects to the Magistrate Judge’s order denying her motion for grand-jury indictments. (ECF No. 111.)

         Similar to her objections to the order denying default judgment, Carpenter-Jenkins’ objection to the order on grand-jury indictments appears to be two days too late. (See ECF No. 109 (August 9, 2019 order denying motion); ECF No. 111 (August 28, 2019 objection to order).)

         And if the objection were timely (or if the Court were to excuse the tardy filing), the Magistrate Judge was correct to deny the motion. The decision to seek a grand-jury indictment is left to state and federal prosecutors. See Bordenkircher v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 364 (1978) (“In our system, so long as the prosecutor has probable cause to believe that the accused committed an offense defined by statute, the decision whether or not to prosecute, and what charge to file or bring before a grand jury, generally rests entirely in his discretion.”); Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973) (“[A] private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another.”); Maehr v. ...

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