Radabaugh et al v. Corporation Trust Company, The et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE 2 ; overruling Plaintiff's objections 7 ; summarily dismissing without prejudice Complaint 1 ; denying as moot Plaintiff's request for an in-camera hearing 18 (Written Opinion). Signed by Chief Judge John R. Tunheim on 09/13/2017. (JMK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Civil No. 17-1559 (JRT/BRT)
DAWN MARIE RADABAUGH,
CORPORATION TRUST COMPANY,
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION,
MINNESOTA STATE BAR, STATE OF
MINNESOTA, DISTRICT COURT
HENNEPIN COUNTY CIVIL
DIVISION, DISTRICT COURT
HENNEPIN COUNTY JUVENILE
DIVISION, CHILD PROTECTION
SERVICES, HENNEPIN COUNTY
ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, JOHN DOE,
JOANN LISA KARETOV, AMY
JOHNSON, JOANNE GRUBER,
JANINE MOORE, LUIS
BARTOLOMEI, LISA GORDON,
CHRISTINA MARTENSON, MICHAEL
O. FREEMAN, KACY WOTHE, KARIN
L. CHEDISTER, MICHELLE ANN
LARKIN, RANDOLPH PETERSON,
TRACI SMITH, ERIC S. REHM, PAT
TIMPANE, and SHEILA THOMAS,
OPINION AND ORDER
ADOPTING THE REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION OF THE
Dawn Marie Radabaugh, 100 50th Street East 8996, Hastings, MN 55033,
Plaintiff Dawn Marie Radabaugh filed a Complaint under various common-law
theories arising from the termination of her parental rights over her child S.M.R.K. This
matter is now before the Court on Radabaugh’s objections to the Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson. 1 The
Court has conducted a de novo review of Radabaugh’s objections pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will overrule Radabaugh’s
objections and adopt the R&R.
In March 2015, Hennepin County (the “County”) petitioned the Hennepin County
District Court to terminate Radabaugh’s parental rights.
In re Welfare of Child of
D.M.R., No. A15-0494, 2015 WL 6113511, at *1 (Minn. Ct. App. Oct. 19, 2015). The
County alleged that Radabaugh abandoned S.M.R.K. and “failed to satisfy the duties of
the parent-child relationship.” Id. The court held a termination trial that spanned two
months and ultimately “ruled that termination of [Radabaugh’s] parental rights [was] in
[S.M.R.K.’s] best interests.” Id. at *2; (see also Compl. ¶ 69, May 10, 2017, Docket
No. 1 (noting the trial dates)). Radabaugh appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals,
who affirmed the state district court in October 2015. Id. at *1.
On May 10, 2017, Radabaugh filed the Complaint in this Court asserting claims
against the State of Minnesota, certain state-government agencies, divisions of Hennepin
On May 31, 2017, Radabaugh filed a document titled “Writ of Error Quae Coram Nobis
Residant” (“Writ of Error”). (Writ of Error, May 31, 2017, Docket No. 8.) In the Writ of Error,
Radabaugh primarily claims the magistrate judge does not have authority to issue orders in this matter.
(Id. at 7.) But the Court is statutorily permitted to refer motions to the magistrate judge for an R&R. See
28 U.S.C. § 636; D. Minn. LR 72.1. Further, with regard to the magistrate judge’s order extending the
time for Defendants to answer the Complaint in light of the R&R, (see Order, May 25, 2017, Docket No.
6), the magistrate judge has the authority to grant a motion for extension of time if good cause is shown.
E.g., Heide v. LaHood, No. 10-61, 2010 WL 962319, at *2 (D. Minn. Mar. 12, 2010).
The remaining objections made in the Writ of Error relate the magistrate judge’s use of the terms
“pro se” and “Plaintiff.” Such objections do not go to either the findings or the recommendations of the
magistrate judge. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1).
County District Court, the American Bar Association (“ABA”), the Minnesota Bar
Association (“MSBA”), Corporation Trust Company, and a list of individuals who were
involved in the termination proceedings. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Radabaugh’s claims are titled
“Trespass” or “Trespass on the Case,” but are largely framed as Constitutional violations
for wrongful termination of parental rights. (See id. ¶¶ 24-88.)
The magistrate judge submitted an R&R on May 22, 2017. (R&R, May 22, 2017,
Docket No. 2.) The magistrate judge recommended the Court dismiss the Complaint sua
sponte on three grounds: (1) some claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine;
(2) some claims are barred by the doctrine of prosecutorial and judicial immunity; and
(3) the remaining claims are wholly frivolous. (Id. at 2-3.) Radabaugh filed timely
objections to the R&R. (Obj. to R&R, May 31, 2017, Docket No. 7.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
After a magistrate judge files an R&R, a party may file “specific written
objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2);
accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1). “The objections should specify the portions of the
magistrate judge’s report and recommendation to which objections are made and provide
a basis for those objections.” Mayer v. Walvatne, No. 07-1958, 2008 WL 4527774, at *2
(D. Minn. Sept. 28, 2008).
For dispositive motions, the Court reviews de novo a
“properly objected to” portion of an R&R. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. LR
72.2(b)(3). “Objections which are not specific but merely repeat arguments presented to
and considered by a magistrate judge are not entitled to de novo review, but rather are
reviewed for clear error.” Montgomery v. Compass Airlines, LLC, 98 F. Supp. 3d 1012,
1017 (D. Minn. 2015).
OBJECTIONS TO R&R
Radabaugh first objects to the magistrate judge’s recommendation that the RookerFeldman doctrine bars some of her claims. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, federal
courts do not have subject-matter jurisdiction over challenges to state-court decisions.
See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283-84 (2005). The
doctrine is narrow and applies to “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of
injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Riehm
v. Engelking, 538 F.3d 952, 964 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at
284). The magistrate judge found that, to the extent the Complaint asks the Court to find
the state courts lacked jurisdiction over the custody proceedings or erred in its conclusion
regarding the termination of Radabaugh’s parental rights, the claims were barred by the
Radabaugh claims the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply to her claims
because the state courts were acting outside the scope of their jurisdiction. But, to the
extent Radabaugh asks the Court to “overturn various state court orders,” the RookerFeldman doctrine precludes review even if Radabaugh challenges the state court’s
jurisdiction. Cassell v. Cty. of Ramsey, No. 10-4981, 2012 WL 928242, at *1-2, 4 (D.
Minn. Mar. 19, 2012), aff’d, 490 F. App’x 842 (8th Cir. 2012). For this reason, the Court
will overrule Radabaugh’s objection and adopt the R&R’s recommendation that
Radabaugh’s claims seeking to overturn state-court orders regarding termination of
parental rights are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Judicial and Prosecutorial Immunity
Radabaugh next objects to the R&R’s recommendation that claims against a state
district court judge and three state court of appeals judges (collectively, “judicial
Defendants”), and government attorneys and the attorney for the guardian ad litem
(collectively “attorney Defendants”) must be dismissed because these Defendants are
entitled to either judicial or prosecutorial immunity. Specifically, Radabaugh asserts that
the Complaint alleges the judicial and attorney Defendants acted outside the scope of
their judicial functions and, therefore, are not entitled to immunity.
Beginning with judicial immunity, the claims against judicial Defendants are
barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity. Under both federal and state law, judges are
immune from civil lawsuits based on their conduct during the performance of judicial
functions. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-57 (1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S.
547, 553-54 (1967); Hoppe v. Klapperich, 28 N.W.2d 780, 788 (Minn. 1947) (“‘[A]
judicial officer cannot be called to account in a civil action for . . . determinations and
acts in [a] judicial capacity, however erroneous or by whatever motives prompted.’”
(quoting Stewart v. Case, 54 N.W. 938, 938 (Minn. 1893))).
Reviewing the allegations in the Complaint, all of the alleged acts and omissions
related to judicial Defendants occurred while judicial Defendants were serving in their
judicial capacity, presiding over the termination proceedings and appeal; and there are no
allegations or supporting facts to suggest that judicial Defendants acted “in the complete
absence of jurisdiction” over the case. Nazario v. Quaintance, No. 12-554, 2012 WL
3612098, at *6 (D. Minn. Aug. 3, 2012), R&R adopted, No. 12-0554, 2012 WL 3612063
(D. Minn. Aug. 22, 2012).
With respect to prosecutorial immunity, the Eighth Circuit has held officials acting
in a functionally comparable role to a prosecutor during child-protection proceedings are
immune from liability to the extent they participate in the proceedings. Thomason v.
SCAN Volunteer Servs., Inc., 85 F.3d 1365, 1373 (8th Cir. 1996). Thus, to the extent
attorney Defendants acted in a role comparable to a prosecutor during the proceedings
relating to termination of Radabaugh’s parental rights, the Court will overrule
Finally, Radabaugh objects to the magistrate judge’s recommendation that the
claims asserted in the Complaint are frivolous.
The provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, which permit sua sponte dismissal of frivolous complaints for
prisoners or plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis, do not apply here because Radabaugh
paid the requisite filing fee. See Porter v. Fox, 99 F.3d 271, 273 n.1 (8th Cir. 1996).
Nevertheless, federal courts have the inherent authority to dismiss frivolous complaints
on their own accord to preserve judicial resources and ensure proper judicial functioning.
See Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989) (“Statutory provisions may
simply codify existing rights or powers. Section 1915(d), for example, authorizes courts
to dismiss a ‘frivolous or malicious’ action, but there is little doubt they would have the
power to do so even in the absence of this statutory provision.”); Porter, 99 F.3d at 273
(noting that federal courts have the authority to dismiss a frivolous complaint sua sponte);
Fitzgerald v. First E. Seventh St. Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 364 (2d Cir. 2000)
(“[D]istrict courts may dismiss a frivolous complaint sua sponte even when the plaintiff
has paid the required filing fee.”). An action is frivolous if it lacks “an arguable basis
either in law or in fact”—if it is based on an “indisputably meritless legal theory” or
factual allegations that are so “fanciful,” “fantastic,” or “delusional” as to be “clearly
baseless.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 327-28 (1989).
As set forth in detail by the magistrate judge, the Complaint is filled with
allegations illustrating the frivolity of Radabaugh’s claims.
claims rely on allegations including: “adoption . . . is human trafficking” (Compl. ¶ 3;
see also id. ¶ 10 (indicating the State of Minnesota sold S.M.R.K. “for profit”; id. ¶ 19
(alleging S.M.R.K. was separated from Radabaugh “for profit no less”)); Defendants are
part of “a foreign criminal enterprise” to deprive Radabaugh of S.M.R.K. (id. ¶ 5; see
also id. ¶¶ 38-41 (alleging that all members of a bar association “are foreign agents”)); 2
terminating Radabaugh’s parental rights amounts to “withholding [Radabaugh’s] private
property from the true owner” or “slavery” (id. ¶¶ 10, 29; see also id. ¶ 31 (indicating
S.M.R.K. is Radabaugh’s “private property”)); 3 and state courts do not have authority to
See United States v. Petersen, No. 09-87, 2009 WL 3062013, at *4 (D. Minn. Sept. 18, 2009)
(“Defendant claims that all attorneys are part of a ‘bar association’ which he perceives to be an illegal
monopoly. But membership in such associations is purely voluntary and any such organization wields no
economic power such that it could exercise monopoly power.” (citation omitted)).
Epps v. Russell Cty. Dep’t of Human Res., No. 15-25, 2015 WL 1387950, at *7 (M.D. Ala. Mar.
25, 2015) (“Children are not private property and the government is not required to compensate parents
with a fair price (if such a thing could even be imagined) for children removed from their home.”).
terminate parental rights; (id. ¶ 52; see also id. ¶ 46 (“[T]he State does not have authority
or jurisdiction over families”)). 4
All of Radabaugh’s claims are based on the same, or similar, frivolous allegations
and, therefore, the Court will overrule Radabaugh’s objection and adopt the R&R.
Based on the foregoing, and all the files, records, and proceedings herein:
The Court OVERRULES Plaintiff Dawn Marie Radabaugh’s objections
[Docket No. 7] and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
dated May 11, 2017 [Docket No. 2]. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the
Complaint [Docket No. 1] is SUMMARILY DISMISSED without prejudice.
Radabaugh’s request for an in-camera hearing [Docket No. 18] is DENIED
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
DATED: September 13, 2017
at Minneapolis, Minnesota.
____________s/John R. Tunheim____________
JOHN R. TUNHEIM
United States District Court
See Risenhoover v. 3M Co., No. 07-4516, 2008 WL 141777, at *3 (D. Minn. Jan. 14, 2008)
(noting that it “is appropriate for the federal courts to leave delicate issues of domestic relations to the
state courts” including determinations of parental rights and child custody (quoting Elk Grove Unified
Sch. Dist. V. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 13 (2004))).
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