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Proctor v. Title 4-D

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 17, 2018

RAPHEAL PROCTOR, Plaintiff,
v.
TITLE 4-D, Child Support Enforcement Agency, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On September 21, 2017, pro se plaintiff Rapheal Proctor filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia agency he referred to as "Title 4-D Child Support Enforcement Agency, "[1]Aggie Rhodes, one of the agency's employees, Adia L. Melendez, a D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge, and Donald Wills, [2] who plaintiff identifies as his employer. Compl. [Dkt. # 1], Plaintiff appears to be challenging the initiation and enforcement of a child support order. See generally id.

         Plaintiff bases his claim on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and he alleges that the child support order violates his constitutional right to due process, his right to equal protection under the law, and his right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself. Compl. at 1-3, 6, 8 ("I'm filling [sic] this complaint resulting from child support hearing where my constitutional rights have been violated I've been jailed and force[d] to enter into a contract."). He also seems to bring a defamation claim against the agency. Id. at 9-10 (defining "defamation" and alleging that he has "been stalked[, ] labeled an obligor, and dead beat dad which are false statements, my property and my public image has been tarnished and vandalized ... as a result of the child support enforcement agencies [sic] tactics to enforce an unfair and bias[ed] contract"). In his complaint, plaintiff seeks injunctive relief "to put a stop to ongoing income with holdings [sic] and repeated conduct that violates [his] rights," as well as $75, 000 dollars in damages. Id. at 10.

         Pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss: one filed by defendant Wills on October 16, 2017, and one filed on November 22, 2017 by defendants CSSD and Rhodes. Wills Mot.; Defs.' Mot.; Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 12] ("Defs.' Mem."). Defendant Wills argues that the case against him should be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim because the complaint "lacks any allegations that [he] individually took or has taken any action against the [p]laintiff" Wills Mot. at 2. The other defendants moved to dismiss the case under both Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) arguing that: (1) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the matter under the domestic relations exception; (2) under the Younger abstention doctrine, the Court should not interfere with an ongoing Superior Court proceeding; (3) defendant CSSD is non sui juris and therefore cannot be sued, but substituting the District of Columbia as the proper defendant would be futile because plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim for municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) the complaint does not allege any wrongdoing by defendant Aggie Rhodes; and (5) Magistrate Judge Melendez is entitled to absolute immunity for actions taken in her judicial capacity. See Defs.' Mot. at 1.

         The Court informed plaintiff on November 2, 2017, and again on November 22, 2017, that if he did not file a timely response to either motion to dismiss, the Court would treat the motions as conceded and dismiss the case. Order [Dkt. # 11]; Order [Dkt. # 13]. Plaintiff filed a single opposition on November 27, 2017, Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 14] ("PL's Opp."), and both defendants replied. Defs.' Reply in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 15] ("Defs.' Reply"); Donald Wills Reply in Supp. of Wills Mot. [Dkt. # 16] ("Wills Reply").

         Because the Court cannot hear the case under the domestic relations exception to federal court jurisdiction as well as under the Younger abstention doctrine, and the Magistrate Judge is absolutely immune, the Court will grant defendants' motions and dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a party to an ongoing child support proceeding in D.C. Superior Court. See Ex. 1 to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 12-1] ("Superior Court Docket").[3] On July 14, 2017, that court determined that plaintiff was the father of a minor child based on genetic test results. Id. at No. 17. At the same hearing, Magistrate Judge Melendez entered a Temporary Support Order requiring plaintiff to pay $1, 080.00 per month in child support. Id. at No. 16.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was held in contempt of court by Magistrate Judge Melendez, and that he was then jailed and "forced to enter into a contract with the child support enforcement program via [a] [c]ourt ordered DNA test which [he] didn't consent to." Compl. at 3. After the DNA test, plaintiff claims that CSSD issued an income withholding order, without a judicial signature, to his employer defendant Wills. Id. The complaint alleges that the order is "fraudulent" because it requires him to pay $1, 080.00 per month "without [having] inquired] [into his] ability to pay." Id.

         Despite his alleged attempts to put a stop to the withholding order "via email and faxes and trips delivering a deprivation of rights warning to the child support enforcement agency," plaintiff claims that defendant Wills continues "to send [his] compensation for [his] labor to the wage with holding [sic] unit at the child support collection agency." Compl. at 3. Further, plaintiff alleges that he has been falsely labeled a "dead beat dad," that his "public image has been tarnished," and that he has "been threatened and targeted at [his] home and at [his] work place" by media "as a result of the child support enforcement agenc[y's] tactics to enforce an unfair and bias[ed] contract." Id. at 9-10. The complaint alleges that this "[d]efamation has negatively impacted [plaintiffs] performance at [his] job," and it caused him to be terminated. Id. at 10.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), the Court must "treat the complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant plaintiff 'the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted), quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979); see also Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011), quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Nevertheless, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiffs legal conclusions. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002).

         I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife,504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); Shekoyan v. Sibley Int'l Corp., 217 F.Supp.2d 59, 63 (D.D.C. 2002). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am.,511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. EPA,363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004) ("As a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with an examination of our jurisdiction."). "[B]ecause subject-matter jurisdiction is 'an Art[icle] III as well as a statutory requirement ... no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal ...


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