United States District Court, District of Columbia
D. BATES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
filed a civil complaint in the Superior Court of the District
of Columbia on December 9, 2016 and an Amended Complaint, ECF
No. 1-1, on December 12, 2016. He named as defendants the
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
(“DHHS”) and the Florida Department of Revenue
and the Office of the State Attorney, Eleventh Judicial
Circuit (collectively “State
Defendants”). DHHS removed the case on March 3,
2017. This matter has come before the Court on
the State Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss, ECF No.
5, plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint, ECF No. 8, and
Defendant U.S. Department of Health & Human Services'
Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 12. For the reasons discussed
below, the Court denies plaintiff's motion to amend and
grants defendants' motions to dismiss.
January 2000, child support proceedings against plaintiff
commenced in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Circuit in and
for Dade County, Florida (“Florida Court”).
See generally State Defs.' Renewed Mot. to
Dismiss (“State Mot.”), Ex. A. On May 1, 2000,
the Florida Court ordered plaintiff to pay $202.97 by-weekly.
See generally id., Exs. B-D. Although the Florida Court
reduced the payment on April 23, 2010, see generally
id., Ex. E, it entered an order on June 20, 2015,
increasing plaintiff's child support obligation to $
675.00 monthly, see id., Ex. F.
apparently had a second child. “Around or about April
26, 2016, the plaintiff had learn[ed] of a new child that had
been added to [his] case within the State[.]” Am.
Compl. ¶ 4. Plaintiff sought review by a state agency of
his child support obligation on or about May 5, 2016 because
of these changed circumstances. See id. ¶ 6.
The agency had plaintiff submit “additional pay stubs
for extensive review to consider the modified support
order.” Id. ¶ 14; see id. ¶
8. Plaintiff complied, see id. ¶¶ 9-11,
15, and the agency appears to have found that plaintiff's
child support payment should be reduced to $ 380.40 monthly,
see id. ¶ 12. It advised:
Your support order was entered by the Circuit Court. We will
ask our attorney to file a petition and Proposed Modified
Support Order with the Circuit Court based on our review. If
filed, you and the other party will receive a copy of our
petition and the proposed order . . . . If you requested the
review, you will receive the petition and proposed order by
regular mail. You will have 30 calendar days from . . . the
date the petition and proposed order [were] mailed to you
to request a court hearing. Otherwise the court may modify
the support order in accordance with the terms of the
Proposed Modified Support Order without a hearing.
Id., Ex. A (Results of Support Order Review).
Nevertheless, the agency declined to submit a proposed
modified support order, id. ¶ 15, yet issued no
“written response or reason for the rejection of the
proposed support order, ” id. ¶ 16. Thus,
plaintiff remained obligated not only to pay $ 675.00 monthly
for the first child, but also to pay an additional $ 370.00
monthly for the second child. Id., Exs. B-C
(respectively, Statement of Obligor's Rights, Remedies
and Duties For Immediate Income Deduction, CSE Case Numbers
1120436559 and 2000806267).
styles his first cause of action “Tort.” Am.
Compl. at 3. He claims that the State Defendants violated 45
C.F.R. § 303.8(b), see Am. Compl. ¶¶
17-18, which requires a State to have procedures for the
review of a child support order on a parent's request
“if the amount of the child support award under the
order differs from the amount that would be awarded in
accordance with the guidelines[, ]” 45 C.F.R. §
303.8(b)(1), and to make a “downward change in the
amount of child support, ” id. §
303.8(b)(3)(ii)(A), if the circumstances warrant. The Court
presumes that plaintiff refers to regulations implementing
Part D of Title IV of the Social Security Act (Title IV-D)
pertaining to child support and establishment of paternity.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 651-669b. His second
cause of action, styled “Dignitary Tort, Abuse of
Process, ” Am. Compl. at 5, arises from the State
Defendants' collection and disbursement of child support
payments, id. ¶ 20.
was to make payments by direct deduction from his pay check
to the State Disbursement Unit until his child reached
emancipation on July 18, 2017. See, e.g., State
Mem., Ex. B (Income Deduction Notice to Payor). In November
2016, plaintiff contacted the Florida Department of Revenue
“regarding a request to terminate income deduction
orders, and to request an Employer to be added as the primary
[payor] to satisfy future income deduction orders.”
Id. ¶ 21. He intended to terminate a former
employer, YRC Freight, and “add Lacaster Foods as an
employer to satisfy child support payments with CSE case
number 1120436559, ” id. ¶ 23, and to
“add Ruan Transport Service as an employer to satisfy
child support payments with CSE case number 2000806267,
” id. ¶ 22. According to plaintiff, the
state agency “failed to apply or process” his
request, id. ¶ 25, and instead “order[ed]
both employers to submit full payments” in November
2016, id. ¶ 24. As a result, plaintiff paid a
“double support payment” in a single month, and
he was left “without the option to seek
reimbursement.” Id. ¶ 26 (emphasis
removed). These failures allegedly have violated 45 C.F.R.
§ 305.60(b), see Am. Compl. ¶ 20, pursuant
to which the State Defendants are obligated to “conduct
audits to determine the financial management of the State
IV-D program, including assessments of . . . [w]hether
collections and disbursements of support payments are carried
out correctly and are fully accounted for, ” 45 C.F.R.
demands “reimbursement of all monthly overpaid support
. . . payments and failed adjustments, ” and correction
of the “income deduction orders selecting employers
specifically to satisfy a specific CSE case as [he] directed
. . . to satisfy one obligation.” Am. Compl. at 6.
Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint
moves to amend his complaint by adding a new defendant,
Hearing Officer Valerie Tomkins, who allegedly committed
official misconduct when she denied plaintiff's motion to
modify a child support order in March 2016. See
generally Mot. to Am. Compl., Ex. (“Proposed
Second Am. Compl.”), ECF No. 8-1 ¶¶ 29-35.
Plaintiff alleges that he sought a downward modification of a
support order in August 2015, and his motion did not comply
with the Florida court rules. Proposed Second Am. Compl.
¶¶ 39-30; see id., Ex. O. He faults the
court clerk for failing to correct his error, see
id. ¶¶ 31, 34, and Hearing Officer Tomkins for
dismissing the matter or, alternatively, for failing to
continue the matter so that plaintiff could file the proper
papers, see id. ¶ 33, 35. Plaintiff demands
monetary damages and correction of income deduction orders.
Id. at 7 (page number designated by the Court). In
all other respects, the proposed amended pleading is
substantially similar to the Amended Complaint.
State Defendants oppose plaintiff's motion on multiple
grounds, see State Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in
Opp'n to Glass's Mot. for Leave to File Second Am.
Compl., ECF No. 11 at 2, two of which are dispositive. First,
a state court judge enjoys absolute immunity from liability
for damages for acts taken in her judicial capacity. See
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 364 (1978) (concluding
that state judge was “immune from damages liability
even if his [decision] was in error”). Without
question, Tomkins' dismissal of plaintiff's case is
an action taken in her judicial capacity. See Burger v.
Gerber, No. 01-5238, 2001 WL 1606283, at *1 (D.C. Cir.
Nov. 20, 2001) (per curiam) (affirming dismissal on judicial
immunity grounds of appellant's claim against United
States Tax Court Judge where “[t]he action about which
appellant complains - ruling on a motion to dismiss a tax
court petition - was well within the judge's judicial
capacity”); Thomas v. Wilkins, 61 F.Supp.3d
13, 19 (D.D.C. 2014) (finding that “judge's
decision to file or deny a party's motions or requests is
an action routinely performed by a judge in the course of
litigation, and thus would constitute a judicial act immune
from suit”), aff'd, No. 14-5197, 2015 WL
1606933 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 23, 2015). Absent any showing by
plaintiff that Tomkins' “actions [were] taken in
the complete absence of all jurisdiction, ” Sindram
v. Suda, ...