Moreland v. Prince Georges County Department of Social Services et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paula Xinis on 7/19/2017. (c/m 7/19/2017 aos, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
O/B/O T.D. (MINOR CHILD)
Civil Action No. PX-17-1640
PRINCE GEORGES COUNTY DEP’T OF
PRINCE GEORGES COUNTY OFFICE
LEGAL AIDE OF MARYLAND,
On June 15, 2017, Anne Moreland, who provides an address in in Houston, Texas,
submitted a filing styled as a “42 U.S.C. § 2254 Action” on behalf of her three-year-old son TD,
together with a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. ECF Nos. 1, 2. Based on the
information Moreland provides, she appears to be indigent. The Motion to Proceed in Forma
Pauperis shall therefore be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) (authorizing courts to allow
indigent parties to proceed “without prepayment of fees”). As Moreland is filing for emergency
injunctive relief and appears to intend to file a civil rights complaint, (see e.g., ECF No. 1 at 4)
the most appropriate legal avenue to raise her concerns is by way of a complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, and her filing shall be construed accordingly. 2
The docket will be amended to show the correct spelling of plaintiff’s last name.
To the extent Moreland may have intended to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 42 U.S.C. §2254, that
statute provides federal relief to persons in custody pursuant to a state court judgment where the custody allegedly
violates federal or constitutional law. Section 2254 does not apply to a decision to place a child in foster care.
Further, § 2254 requires exhaustion of state court remedies before the claims may be presented in federal court, and
there is no evidence that this prerequisite is met here.
Title 28 U.S.C. § 1915 directs district courts that they “shall dismiss [a] case” filed by a
Plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis if the Court determines that the action “fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted,” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). This Court is mindful of
its obligation to construe liberally self-represented pleadings. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007). In evaluating such a pleading, the factual allegations are assumed to be true. Id. at
93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555–56 (2007)). Nonetheless, liberal
construction does not mean that a district court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege
facts which set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th
Cir. 1990); see also Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a
district court may not “conjure up questions never squarely presented.”). In making this
determination, “[t]he district court need not look beyond the complaint's allegations . . . It must
hold the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and must
read the complaint liberally.” White v. White, 886 F. 2d 721, 722–23 (4th Cir. 1989). The
Complaint will be dismissed under this standard.
Moreland’s allegations and cause of action are difficult to discern even with liberal
construction. She seems to assert TD was unlawfully “seized” in 2016 without a warrant and
placed in foster care during the time she was living in Prince George’s County, Maryland, by
Child Protective Services, in violation of his constitutional rights, including the Fourth,
Fourteenth Amendment, and of Maryland law. See generally, ECF No. 1. Moreland, who states
that she has been diagnosed with terminal stage-four liver cancer, avers that TD has congenital
adrenal hyperplasia, a disorder of the endocrine gland, and his physical and mental health have
deteriorated since he has been taken into custody by Child Protective Services. She also disputes
the State’s apparent assertions that TD was endangered by his living conditions, that she was
unable to properly care for TD, and that she permitted an unregistered sex offender in violation
of his parole to have access to the child. See e.g., ECF No. 1 at 19, 21–22.3 As relief, she asks
this Court to grant an emergency hearing related to TD’s “illegal detention” by the Prince
Georges County Child Protective Services, and the Maryland Department of Social Services.
As a general rule, the “vast majority” of federal courts do not permit parents, guardians,
or next friends to represent a minor child in federal court. See, e.g., Myers v. Loudoun County
Public Schools, 418 F.3d 395, 400–01 (4th Cir. 2005) (collecting cases). This practice is
designed to protect the interests of the minor by precluding representation from anyone without
legal training necessary to protect the child. The local rules of this Court provide that individuals
who are parties in civil cases may only represent themselves. All parties other than individuals
must be represented by counsel. Local Rule 101.1.a. Thus, Moreland may raise claims on her
own behalf, but not on behalf of her minor child.
Even affording Moreland’s claims liberal construction, and to the extent she is raising
claims on her own behalf, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
This Court does not have original subject-matter jurisdiction over matters concerning paternity,
child support, or child custody. See Raftery v. Scott, 756 F.2d 335, 343 (4th Cir. 1985) (domestic
relations exception to federal courts’ jurisdiction based on idea that state has a stronger more
direct interest). Further, this Court cannot review such a case even where the moving party
establishes diversity jurisdiction. See Wasserman v. Wasserman, 671 F.2d 832 (4th Cir. 1982)
(diversity jurisdiction does not include power to grant divorces, determine alimony or support
obligations, or decide child custody rights); Cantor v. Cohen, 442 F.3d 196 (4th Cir. 2006)
(citing Cole v. Cole, 633 F.2d 1083, 1087 (4th Cir. 1980) (noting federal courts “generally
It appears a second child was placed in state care. That child is not a party in this case.
abstain from child custody matters). Because the Court does not have jurisdiction in child
custody matters, the Complaint will be dismissed. A separate Order shall follow.
Date: July 19, 2017
United States District Judge
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