Harnden v. State of Michigan Department of Human and Health Services et al
OPINION & ORDER Overruling Plaintiff's Objections (Dkt. 19 ), Accepting the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Dkt. 18 ) in Part, and Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 10 ). Signed by District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith. (Sandusky, K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
PAMELA S. HARNDEN,
Case No. 16-cv-13906
HON. MARK A. GOLDSMITH
STATE OF MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT
OF HUMAN & HEALTH SERVICES, et al.,
OPINION & ORDER
OVERRULING PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTIONS (Dkt. 19), ACCEPTING THE
MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (Dkt. 18) IN PART,
AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS (Dkt. 10)
This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of
Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti (Dkt. 18), which recommends granting Defendants’ motion to
dismiss (Dkt. 10). Plaintiff Pamela Harnden timely filed objections to the R&R (Dkt. 19), to
which Defendants filed a response (Dkt. 20). Because oral argument will not aid the decisional
process, the objections to the R&R will be decided based on the parties’ briefing. See E.D.
Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2); Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b).
For the reasons discussed fully below, the Court overrules Harnden’s objections, accepts
the recommendation contained in the R&R in part, and grants Defendants’ motion to dismiss.
The factual and procedural background, along with the standard of decision and legal
principles governing motions to dismiss, have been adequately set forth by the magistrate judge
and need not be repeated here in full. In brief summary:
This is one of four lawsuits filed in this Court in pro per by Pamela
Sue Harnden, in the past two years, stemming from actions taken
by state and local child protective services officials and peace
officers, resulting in the questioning and/or temporary removal of
the Harndens’ natural, adoptive and foster children. Plaintiff
alleges that she and her husband ultimately prevailed at the
conclusion of various state court proceedings which sought to
remove the children from their care and custody.
specifically and pertinent to this motion, she alleges that March 15,
2010 — the date on which the government’s second case against
them was closed — “concludes the nightmare that we had lived for
5/31/2017 R&R at 2-3 (emphasis omitted).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court reviews de novo any portion of the R&R to which a specific objection has
been made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); Alspaugh v. McConnell, 643 F.3d
162, 166 (6th Cir. 2011) (“Only those specific objections to the magistrate’s report made to the
district court will be preserved for appellate review; making some objections but failing to raise
others will not preserve all the objections a party may have.”). Any arguments made for the first
time in objections to an R&R are deemed waived. Uduko v. Cozzens, 975 F. Supp. 2d 750, 757
(E.D. Mich. 2013).
A. Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity
In the R&R, the magistrate judge first concluded that the Michigan Department of Health
and Human Services enjoys sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment and, as such,
any claims asserted against the Department should be dismissed without prejudice because the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. R&R at 15. The magistrate judge reached the same
conclusion for any claims against the 13 individual Defendants to the extent that they were sued
in their official capacities as government employees. Id. at 16-17.1
Harnden objects to these conclusions for several reasons.2 Harnden first argues that
Defendants are not entitled to sovereign immunity under the plain language of the Eleventh
Amendment. Pl. Objs. at 2. Specifically, Harnden states that, because she is a citizen of the
State of Michigan, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar her suit against a Michigan
government agency and its employees in either their official or individual capacities. Id. Citing
Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), Harnden then contends that government employees are
not shielded by sovereign immunity “when those employees act outside of their official
capacity.” Pl. Objs. at 3. According to Harnden, the allegations in the complaint sufficiently
demonstrate that the individual Defendants are liable in their individual capacities. Id. Harden
also argues that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because “it has
been determined that it is proper to bring charges against any offender, no matter their job
description, and in both their official and individual capacities.” Id. at 13 (appearing to cite to
O’Donnell v. Brown, 335 F. Supp. 2d 787 (W.D. Mich. 2004)). Finally, Harnden argues that the
doctrine of sovereign immunity does not bar her daughter S.H.’s claims because the Court
“previously ruled that her claims have merit as to immunity” when the Court dismissed those
claims without prejudice in a different case. Id. at 2.
The individual Defendants include Williams Weston, Joseph Linert, Jennifer Hutkowski,
Marnie DeBell, Sarah Meddaugh, Kim Irwin, Chiquita Ford-White, Samantha Pietrykowski,
Mandy Dalrymple, Amy Sherrod, Christina Moses, Jennifer Henderson, and Melisa Hazen.
Although Harnden does not clearly identify the titles or responsibilities for each of these
Defendants, they all appear to be employees of the Michigan Department of Health and Human
Services or some other state agency.
Because the arguments raised in Harnden’s first, second, and tenth objections all concern the
applicability of the doctrine of sovereign immunity, they will be considered together for purposes
of this opinion.
Upon de novo review, the Court agrees with the magistrate judge. “Sovereign immunity
is the privilege of the sovereign not to be sued without its consent.” Va. Office for Prot. &
Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 253 (2011). The Eleventh Amendment, which specifically
bars “any suit in law or equity, commended or prosecuted against one of the United States by
Citizens of another State,” U.S. Const. amend. XI, confirmed “the structural understanding that
States entered the Union with their sovereign immunity intact,” Stewart, 563 U.S. at 253.
Because sovereign immunity applies to state agencies, as well as state officials sued in their
official capacities, Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989); Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985), the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and
the individual Defendants (to the extent those government officials were sued in their official
capacities) are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See Brent v. Wayne Cnty.
Dep’t of Human Servs., No. 11-10724, 2014 WL 3956730, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 13, 2014)
(“Federal district courts within the State of Michigan have repeatedly determined that county
offices of the Department of Human Services are arms of the state.”).3 The U.S. Supreme Court
When a suit is brought against a state official, the “question arises as to whether that suit is a
suit against the State itself.” Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101
(1984). In general, state sovereign immunity extends to a state official who is sued for money
damages in his or her official capacity. Will, 491 U.S. at 71; Cory v. White, 457 U.S. 85, 89-91
(1982); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). This is because such suits “generally
represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an
agent,” and, therefore, they “should be treated as suits against the State.” Hafer v. Melo, 502
U.S. 21, 25 (1991).
On the other hand, the Eleventh Amendment provides no immunity against officers in their
individual and personal capacities. Id.; Hutsell v. Sayre, 5 F.3d 996, 1003 (6th Cir. 1993).
Unlike official-capacity suits, which seek “to impose a liability which must be paid from public
funds in the state treasury,” Edelman, 415 U.S. at 663, relief in individual-capacity suits is
sought from the official’s personal assets, see, e.g., Graham, 473 U.S. at 166-168; Scheuer v.
Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 238 (1974); Ford Motor Co., 323 U.S. at 462. Whether or not an official
can be sued in his or her individual capacity does not depend on whether the official was acting
outside the scope of his or her employment. See Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Commerce
has also held that the doctrine of sovereign immunity extends to suits brought against a state by
one of its own citizens. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 15 (1890). Thus, insofar as Harnden
argues that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar her suit because she is a citizen of Michigan,
her contention lacks merit.
There are three exceptions to a state’s sovereign immunity: (i) when the state has
consented to suit; (ii) when Congress has properly abrogated a state’s immunity; and (iii) when
the exception first set forth in Ex parte Young applies. See S & M Brands, Inc. v. Cooper, 527
F.3d 500, 507 (6th Cir. 2008). The State of Michigan has not expressly consented to suit in this
case, and Congress did not abrogate Michigan’s immunity here. Although Harnden cites to Ex
parte Young in her objections, that exception is not applicable in this case.
Under the Ex parte Young exception, federal courts may, consistent with the Eleventh
Amendment, entertain suits seeking prospective equitable or declaratory relief for violations of
federal law against a state officer sued in his or her official capacity. Caspar v. Snyder, 77 F.
Supp. 3d 616, 633 (E.D. Mich. 2015) (citing Will, 491 U.S. at 71 n.10); see also Johnson v.
Unknown Dellatifa, 357 F.3d 539, 545 n.1 (6th Cir. 2004) (plaintiff can avoid the “sovereign
immunity bar by suing for injunctive or declaratory relief, rather than monetary relief”).
Harnden is not seeking any prospective equitable or declaratory relief. See generally Compl.
(Dkt. 1-1). Rather, she is seeking only monetary relief in the amount of $100,000,000. Id. at
126. Therefore, the Ex parte Young exception is not applicable in this case.
Harden’s reliance on O’Donnell v. Brown, 335 F. Supp. 2d 787 (W.D. Mich. 2004), fares
no better. Although the court denied summary judgment for the Ingham County Child Protective
Services caseworkers on the individual-capacity claims in that case, it agreed with those
Corp., 337 U.S. 682, 714 (1948); Harrington v. Grayson, 764 F. Supp. 464, 468 (E.D. Mich.
defendants that any claims against them in their official capacities under § 1983 would be barred
by the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 829; see also id. at 815 (dismissing official-capacity claims
against City of Lansing police officers).
Finally, although Harnden is correct that this Court previously dismissed her daughter
S.H.’s claims without prejudice, in part, because those claims were subject to Michigan’s infancy
saving provision, see Harnden v. Croswell-Lexington Cmty. Schs., No. 15-cv-12738, 2016 WL
2731188, at *4-6 (E.D. Mich. May 11, 2016), the Court expressed no opinion as to whether those
claims had merit in general, or whether the defendants in that case were similarly immune under
the Eleventh Amendment in particular. Moreover, Harnden, as an individual plaintiff, cannot
represent the interests of others. See Warth v. Seldon, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975) (“[T]he plaintiff
must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal
rights or interests of third parties.”). S.H. is not a party to this action and a ruling on her claims
at this juncture would amount to an advisory opinion, which the Court cannot provide. See
Fialka-Feldman v. Oakland Univ. Bd. of Trustees, 639 F.3d 711, 715 (6th Cir. 2011) (“The ‘case
or controversy’ requirement prohibits all advisory opinions, not just some advisory opinions, and
not just advisory opinions that hold little interest to the parties or the public.”).4
Therefore, the Court concludes that the Eleventh Amendment bars suit against the
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the individual Defendants in their
official capacities. Because no exception to sovereign immunity applies in this case, the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over these claims. See Russell v. Lundergan-Grimes, 784 F.3d
Even if S.H. were a party to this matter, Harnden still could not represent her. See Thompson
v. Mohammed, No. 13-CV-12388, 2013 WL 4747537, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 4, 2013) (“The
law is well settled that a parent may not represent the interests of a minor child pro se because a
minor’s personal cause of action is her own. . . . While Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c)
allows the guardian of an incompetent person to sue on the incompetent’s behalf, the rule does
not allow the guardian to appear pro se.”).
1037, 1046 (6th Cir. 2015) (holding sovereign immunity, guaranteed under the Eleventh
Amendment, “deprives federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction when a citizen sues his own
State unless the State waives its immunity or Congress abrogates that sovereign immunity”).
Harnden’s objections on this issue lack merit and are overruled.
Although the individual Defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity under the
Eleventh Amendment in their official capacities, they are not entitled to sovereign immunity for
the claims asserted against them in their personal capacities. Nonetheless, those claims will be
dismissed for the reasons discussed below.
B. No Private Right of Action for “Kidnapping” Under Any Federal Statute
In the R&R, the magistrate judge concluded that there is no private cause of action for
kidnapping under federal statutory law. See R&R at 1, 10, 23. Harnden’s reliance on 18 U.S.C.
§ 3299, which states that, “[n]otwithstanding any other law, an indictment may be found or an
information instituted at any time without limitation for any offense under section 1201
involving a minor victim,” did not alter the magistrate judge’s conclusion because that “statute
relates to the time frame for filing a criminal indictment or information; it has nothing to do with
civil actions.” R&R at 23 (emphasis in original).
Harnden objects to these conclusions and maintains that there is a private right of action
for kidnapping under federal statutory law.5 Harnden recognizes that the Federal Kidnapping
Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1201, defines the act of kidnapping and “does not contain language in regards
to the civil action.” Pl. Objs. at 15. However, Harnden argues that § 3299, which she states
“falls under the umbrella of § 1201,” does “contain [a] civil action for kidnapping.”
Because the arguments raised in Harnden’s fourth, ninth, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth
objections all concern Harnden’s purported kidnapping claim, they will be considered together
for purposes of this opinion.
According to Harnden, the language of § 3299 “expresses two different options for kidnapping”
— an “indictment” (civil) “or” an “information” (criminal). See id. at 5 (emphasis omitted).
Harnden contends that “indictment” should be interpreted in accordance with a definition she
found on Google as “a thing that serves to illustrate that a system or situation is bad and deserves
to be condemned.” Id. at 5, 14. Based on this definition, Harnden states that an indictment is
civil, not criminal, because “[i]t does not make sense to utilize the word ‘or’ if both subjects in
the same sentence were the same (criminal).” Id. at 5; see also id. at 14 (stating that her
“previous case did not contain the theory under § 3299 and the obvious civil action allowed as
evidenced by the definition of indictment and the conjoining word ‘or’”).
Upon de novo review, the Court agrees with the magistrate judge; there is no private right
of action for kidnapping under any federal statutory law. See Harnden, 2016 WL 2731188, at *2
Overlooking the fact that Harnden never claimed that she herself was
kidnapped, as opposed to her children (who are not parties to this action), Harnden’s new
“theory” that a private right of action is found in § 3299 lacks merit.
Harnden fails to appreciate the legal difference between an indictment and an
information. On the one hand, an indictment is a “formal written accusation of a crime, made by
a grand jury and presented to a court for prosecution against the accused person.” Black’s Law
Dictionary 842 (9th ed. 2009); see also Rothgery v. Gillespie Cnty., Tex., 554 U.S. 191, 221
(2008) (Thomas, J., dissenting) (“Blackstone defined an ‘indictment’ as ‘a written accusation of
one or more persons of a crime or misdemeanor, preferred to, and presented upon oath by, a
grand jury.’”); United States v. Fawcett, 115 F.2d 764, 767 (3d Cir. 1940) (same); cf. U.S. Const.
amend. V (“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless
on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval
forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger. . . .” (emphasis
added)).6 On the other hand, an information is a “formal criminal charge made by a prosecutor
without a grand-jury indictment.” Black’s Law Dictionary 849 (9th ed. 2009). Because an
indictment and an information are two distinct methods of initiating a criminal proceeding, see
Rothgery, 554 U.S. at 198 (“[T]he initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings . . .
[commence] by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or
arraignment.”), Congress’s use of the conjunction “or” was entirely appropriate when drafting
§ 3299 and does not suggest the creation of a civil cause of action for kidnapping.
Furthermore, Harnden does not provide any evidence that Congress meant anything other
than the traditionally understood legal definition of indictment when it drafted § 3299 of the
federal criminal code, or that a different definition of indictment, such as one Harnden found on
Google, should control in this case. Nor does Harnden argue that, in addition to a private right,
§ 3299 also creates a private remedy. See Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 286-287 (2001)
(“Like substantive federal law itself, private rights of action to enforce federal law must be
created by Congress.
The judicial task is to interpret the statute Congress has passed to
determine whether it displays an intent to create not just a private right but also a private
remedy. Statutory intent on this latter point is determinative. Without it, a cause of action does
not exist and courts may not create one, no matter how desirable that might be as a policy matter,
or how compatible with the statute. Raising up causes of action where a statute has not created
them may be a proper function for common-law courts, but not for federal tribunals.”).
Therefore, Harnden’s objections lack merit and are overruled.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary also defines “indictment” as a “formal written statement
framed by a prosecuting authority and found by a jury (such as a grand jury) charging a person
with an offense.”
Indictment Definition, Merriam-Webster.com, https://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/indictment (last visited July 21, 2017).
C. Time-Barred Claims
In the R&R, the magistrate judge concluded that Harnden’s remaining claims are barred
by the applicable statute of limitations. R&R at 19-20. In analyzing Harnden’s federal claims
brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the magistrate judge properly borrowed Michigan’s three-year
limitations period for personal-injury claims. Id. at 20. The magistrate judge also applied the
three-year limitations period for any purported state-law claims for gross negligence. Id. at 2425. The magistrate judge then found that Harnden’s complaint described Defendants’ actions as
occurring from October 2008 through March 2010 (at the latest), and that Harnden knew or had
reason to know of the alleged acts and the resulting injuries at that time. Id. at 20, 25. Because
the complaint was filed on November 3, 2016 — over three years after the statute of limitations
had run — the magistrate judge concluded that Harnden’s claims were time-barred. Id. The
magistrate judge also noted that a criminal investigation initiated by Harnden neither delayed nor
tolled the limitations period. Id. at 20-22.
Harnden does not object to the length of the statute-of-limitations period for either her
§ 1983 claims or the gross-negligence claims. She also concedes that she knew or had reason to
know of the alleged bad actions of Defendants and the resulting injuries during the timeframe
identified in the R&R. Pl. Objs. at 13. Nevertheless, Harnden objects to the magistrate judge’s
conclusions, arguing that she could not initiate her civil action until the conclusion of the
criminal investigation, which “came to an end November 12, 2014.” Id. at 14; see also id. at 4
(claiming that she was informed “by all attorneys” that “a civil case cannot be filed during a
criminal case as it would not only interfere with the investigation it would also compromise the
civil rights of all parties involved”).7
Upon de novo review, the Court agrees with the magistrate judge that Harnden’s
remaining claims are barred by the statute of limitations, and that any criminal investigation did
not toll that time period. The question of when a federal civil rights claim accrues is one of
federal law. Harnden, 2016 WL 2731188, at *4. “In general, a civil rights claim for relief
accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the basis of his
action,” the latter of which the plaintiff “should have discovered . . . through the exercise of
reasonable diligence.” Id. (quoting Bowden v. City of Franklin, Ky., 12 F. App’x 266, 273 (6th
Cir. 2001)). As noted above, Harnden acknowledges that she was aware of the actions giving
rise to the present action, which ceased on March 15, 2010. As such, Harden had until March
15, 2013 to file her lawsuit. She did not. Instead, she waited until November 3, 2016 — over
three years after the statute of limitations had run.
For Harnden’s claims to still be timely, the limitations period must have been tolled.
Tolling principles are governed by state law. Id. (citing Bowden, 12 F. App’x at 272-273).
“[T]he Michigan Court of Appeals has held that a pending criminal matter does not toll the time
to file a civil action.” Id. (citing Attorney Gen. v. Harkins, 669 N.W.2d 296, 302 (Mich. Ct.
App. 2003); Runions v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 495 N.W.2d 166, 168 (Mich. Ct. App. 1992)).
Harden has not provided any Michigan authority reaching the opposite conclusion.8 Therefore,
Harnden’s objections lack merit and are overruled.
Because the arguments raised in Harnden’s third and eleventh objections all concern the statute
of limitations and any tolling or delay regarding a criminal investigation, they will be considered
together for purposes of this opinion.
Harnden cites non-binding authority for the proposition that a court has the discretion to stay
civil proceedings pending criminal proceedings. As the magistrate judge correctly pointed out in
D. Case Reassignment
At the outset of the R&R, the magistrate judge noted that, in addition to the present
action, Harnden’s two other pending cases — Nos. 16-cv-13904 and 16-cv-13905, both of which
were filed on the same day as the present case — were also reassigned to him and the
undersigned. R&R at 2 n.1.
In her objections, Harnden argues that reassignment of this case to the undersigned
violated Local Rule 83.11(b)(2)-(3), because the parties were not offered an opportunity to
respond and no hearing was held prior to reassignment. Pl. Objs. at 6. The Court construes
Harnden’s objection as a motion for reconsideration of the reassignment order. See Dietrich v.
Patti, 2016 WL 3682957, at *3 (E.D. Mich. July 12, 2016) (construing the plaintiff’s “objection”
to the reassignment of the case as a motion for reconsideration).
Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(h), a motion for reconsideration must be filed within fourteen
days after the entry of the judgment or order. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(h)(1). A party seeking
reconsideration must demonstrate (i) a “palpable defect” by which the court and the parties have
been “misled,” and (ii) that “correcting the defect will result in a different disposition of the
case.” Id. A “palpable defect” is an error that is “obvious, clear, unmistakable, manifest or
plain.” United States v. Cican, 156 F. Supp. 2d 661, 668 (E.D. Mich. 2001).
This case was reassigned from Judge Nancy Edmunds to the undersigned on March 3,
2017, because the case “appeared to be a companion case” to Harnden’s first action, No. 15-cv-
the R&R, however, the concept of a stay “is inapplicable here, as there was no pending civil suit
for which she could have sought a stay during the pendency of the criminal investigation.” R&R
at 22 n.7; see also id. at 9 n.4 (“[T]he line of cases to which Plaintiff cites do not stand for the
proposition that plaintiffs are barred from filing civil cases during the pendency of a criminal
action, and merely address the court’s ability to stay such a case once it has been filed. The
cases to which she cites, therefore, have no bearing on the instant matter.” (emphasis in
12738. 3/27/2017 Order (Dkt. 16). Because Harden’s objection was filed beyond the fourteen
days required under the Local Rule, it is untimely. Nevertheless, even if the Court were to
consider the merits of the objection, Harnden has not demonstrated a palpable defect by which
the Court was misled, nor has she shown that correcting any defect would have resulted in a
Local Rule 83.11(b) provides eight different situations in which a civil case may be
reassigned, including the existence of “companion cases,” which are defined as “cases in which
it appears that: (i) substantially similar evidence will be offered at trial, or (ii) the same or related
parties are present and the cases arise out of the same transaction or occurrence . . . .” E.D.
Mich. LR 83.11(b)(7)(A)(i)-(ii). Because all of her lawsuits stem from actions taken by state and
local child protective services officials and peace officers, which allegedly resulted in the
questioning and/or temporary removal of the Harndens’ natural, adoptive, and foster children,
the cases clearly arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, and substantially similar
evidence will be offered at trial. Therefore, Harnden’s cases qualify as companion cases under
the Local Rule.9
Local Rule 83.11(b) further provides that, “[w]hen it becomes apparent to the Judge to
whom a case is assigned and to a Judge having an earlier case number that two cases are
companion cases, upon consent of the Judge having the earlier case number, the Judge shall sign
an order reassigning the case to the Judge having the earlier case number.” E.D. Mich. LR
83.11(b)(7)(D). In this case, it became apparent to both Judge Edmunds and the undersigned that
this case is a companion to Harden’s earlier case. The undersigned thereafter consented to
The fact that Harnden’s previous case has been terminated does not alter this fact. See E.D.
Mich. LR 83.11(b)(7)(B) (“Cases may be companion cases even though one of them has been
reassignment. Notably, the Local Rule does not require either an opportunity to respond or a
hearing before companion cases are reassigned.
Therefore, Harnden’s objection to the reassignment of the instant case to the undersigned
is overruled, and any perceived request to have the case reassigned back to Judge Edmunds is
E. Factual Disagreements
In her sixth, seventh, and eighth objections, Harnden challenges several of the magistrate
judge’s factual assertions.10 However, Harnden never explains how correcting any of these facts
would alter the magistrate judge’s legal conclusions in the R&R or result in a different outcome.
As such, these objections lack merit and are overruled.
F. Enjoining Harnden from Future Filing Without Leave or Pre-Filing Screening
In the R&R, the magistrate judge recommended that this Court consider enjoining
Harnden from filing any further lawsuits without leave of the Court or pre-filing screening
because the “allegations and arguments made herein make clear that Plaintiff has not assimilated,
or worse yet has ignored, this Court’s prior rulings on the dispositive issues addressed herein.”
R&R at 25-26; see also id. at 2 n.1 (same).
In her fifteenth objection, Harnden takes issue with this recommendation, which she
considers as “attacking [her] character.” Pl. Objs. at 16. Harnden acknowledges that she made
“many mistakes . . . in the previous case,” but states that she has “not ignored the Court’s
For example, the magistrate judge noted that the complaint made a passing reference to the
kidnapping of “Bobby,” which he believed to be a reference to Harnden’s husband Robert, and
then stated that Harnden could not pursue claims on behalf of other people. See R&R at 5 n.3.
In her objections, Harnden states that “Bobby” refers to her son, not her husband, and suggests
that the magistrate judge may be “plant[ing] evidence that could possibly taint future jurists’
opinions.” Pl. Objs. at 8. Although she contends that her “son was kidnapped from [her],”
Harnden states that she is “not representing anyone other than [herself] in this Complaint.” Id. at
previous rulings” and she has “learned (and [she is] still learning) from them . . . .” Id. at 17.
Harnden also argues that enjoining her would “violate [her] rights as a citizen of this Country.”
Id. at 16. Defendants have not taken any position regarding this issue. See Defs. Resp. at 7.
The Court possesses the inherent authority to enjoin vexatious litigants from filing future
pleadings without first obtaining court approval to do so. See Feathers v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc.,
141 F.3d 264, 269 (6th Cir. 1998) (“There is nothing unusual about imposing prefiling
restrictions in matters with a history of repetitive or vexatious litigation.”); Filipas v. Lemons,
835 F.2d 1145, 1146 (6th Cir. 1987) (entering an order requiring leave of court before the
plaintiffs filed any further complaints was “the proper method for handling the complaints of
prolific litigators”); see also Wrenn v. Vanderbilt Univ. Hosp., 50 F.3d 11 at *3 (6th Cir. 1995)
(table) (“This court has the authority to enjoin harassing litigation under its inherent authority
and the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a).”); Wood v. Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce,
Inc., 705 F.2d 1515, 1524 (9th Cir. 1983) (“The general pattern of litigation in a particular case
may be vexatious enough to warrant an injunction in anticipation of future attempts to relitigate
old claims.”). Nevertheless, upon de novo review, the Court believes that such a drastic remedy
is not needed at this time. The Court is confident that a warning should suffice. Should Harnden
continue to file frivolous complaints concerning the same claims that have been raised and
litigated or could have been raised and litigated in prior proceedings, however, the Court will
reconsider imposing a pre-filing review requirement, as well as any other sanctions that may be
For the reasons stated above, Harnden’s objections (Dkt. 19) are overruled, the
recommendation contained in the R&R (Dkt. 18) is accepted in part, and Defendants’ motion to
dismiss (Dkt. 10) is granted. Any claims against the Michigan Department of Health and Human
Services and the individual Defendants in their official capacities are dismissed without
prejudice. All remaining claims are dismissed with prejudice.
Dated: July 31, 2017
s/Mark A. Goldsmith
MARK A. GOLDSMITH
United States District Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record and
any unrepresented parties via the Court's ECF System to their respective email or First Class
U.S. mail addresses disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on July 31, 2017.
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