HENDERSON v. HOBBICK et al
ORDER granting 10 Motion to Dismiss - For the reasons explained, the defendants' motion to dismiss 10 is granted. The plaintiff's claims are dismissed with prejudice. Final judgment in accordance with this decision shall issue. Copy sent to Plaintiff via US Mail. SEE ORDER. Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 3/1/2017. (JRB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
DAVID EUGENE HENDERSON,
Entry Granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
The plaintiff brought this action against the defendants, four employees of the Indiana
Department of Child Services (“DCS”), alleging unspecified violations of federal law. The
defendants move to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims under Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6). The
plaintiff did not respond to the defendants’ motion, and the deadline to do so has long passed,
leaving the defendants’ motion unopposed. For the reasons explained, the defendants’ unopposed
motion to dismiss [dkt. 10] is granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must accept all well-pled facts as true and
draw all permissible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Active Disposal, Inc. v. City of Darien,
635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court will not accept legal conclusions or conclusory
allegations as sufficient to state a claim for relief. See McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611,
617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual allegations must plausibly state an entitlement to relief “to a degree
that rises above the speculative level.” Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012). This
plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on
its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.
The following allegations are drawn from the plaintiff’s complaint and are taken as true for
the purposes of the defendants’ motion.
On September 9, 2016, the plaintiff was interacting with two police officers. The officers
contacted DCS employee and defendant Jamie Hobbick to report that the plaintiff was “homeless
with children.” Filing No. 1 at 2. The plaintiff was on the phone with his sister, and Ms. Hobbick
said that if his sister could give him money for a hotel room he “could have the children back.”
Id. Ms. Hobbick further reported that the plaintiff had a known history with CPS including charges
of neglect and sexual abuse. The plaintiff asserts that Ms. Hobbick’s statements, including those
about his CPS history, were all lies. The charges, says the plaintiff, are attributable to his children’s
mother, not him. The plaintiff alleges that Ms. Hobbick’s statements were “race based because of
my ethnicity.” Id. at 3.
Defendant DCS employees Patrick McCoskey and Melinda Rangle confirmed to the police
officers and the plaintiff that the CPS charge history was correct and attempted to explain why that
is so. The defendants’ actions, say the plaintiff, were “motivated by th[ese] white case worker[s]
because I was homeschooling my child, plus I was homeless and African American.” Id.
The plaintiff asserts that, based on the foregoing allegations, the defendants violated federal
law, but he does not explain the particular right he contends they violated. He seeks forty-five
million dollars in compensatory damages for the trauma the situation caused and the termination
of the defendants’ employment with DCS.
It is difficult to discern the nature of the plaintiff’s claim. This is made more difficult by
his failure to respond to the defendants’ motion to dismiss. As an initial matter, the defendants are
correct that the plaintiff alleges that they were “negligent.” The defendants maintain that the
plaintiff’s reference to negligence shows he is asserting state-law claims. If this is the case, the
defendants are correct that the plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed for lack of federal jurisdiction.
But because the plaintiff explicitly invokes federal law as the basis for his claim, the Court
concludes that it is more proper to assess defendants’ motion by evaluating whether the plaintiff
has stated a viable federal claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
The Court agrees with the defendants that, liberally construed, the most likely federal claim
raised by the plaintiff is an equal protection claim, given that the plaintiff twice alleges that the
defendants’ actions were motivated by his race. “The Equal Protection Clause guards against
government discrimination on the basis of race and other immutable characteristics.” Brunson v.
Murray, 843 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2016).
The plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient to state an equal protection claim. His only
allegations regarding race are entirely speculative. Without any context or explanation, he simply
asserts that the defendants’ purported lies regarding his prior CPS charges were “race based,” given
that the defendants are white and he was “homeschooling my child, plus I was homeless and
African American.” Filing No. 1 at 3. In short, the plaintiff speculates that the defendants
statements regarding his past CPS charges were race based.
Notably, the plaintiff does not even deny that the past CPS charges exist, he just says they
should be attributable only to his children’s mother. The plaintiff acknowledges in his Complaint
that defendant Ms. Rangle explained why the charges were to attributable to him. And the
defendants explain at length why, pursuant to Indiana law, they are attributable to him unless he
utilizes the legal process to have those charges disassociated with him. See Filing No. 11 at 5 n.1.
Thus it is not even plausible that the defendants were lying to the plaintiff, let alone that they lied
to the plaintiff because of his race.
In order to state a claim for relief, the plaintiff’s allegations must state an entitlement to
relief “to a degree that rises above the speculative level.” Munson, 673 F.3d at 633. The plaintiff’s
allegations fail to do more than speculate that his rights under the Equal Protection Clause were
violated. Accordingly, he has failed to state a claim and the defendants’ motion to dismiss pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6) must be granted.
For the reasons explained, the defendants’ motion to dismiss [dkt. 10] is granted. The
plaintiff’s claims are dismissed with prejudice. Final judgment in accordance with this decision
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DAVID EUGENE HENDERSON
2519 40th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46205
William Hackl Brainard
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
Matthew Keith Phillips
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?