Robbins v. Unknown et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: Because the domestic relations exception divests this Court of jurisdiction, Defendants' other arguments for dismissal will not be reached. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED without prejudice. A separate Order of Dismissal will be entered herewith. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 6/29/17. (CSG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
TANYA RENEE ROBBINS, et al.,
LAURIE UNKNOWN, et al.,
Case No. 1:17 CV 54 ACL
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Tanya Renee Robbins brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on her
own behalf and on behalf of two of her minor children. This matter is before the Court upon
the Motions to Dismiss of Defendants Ginger Joyner and Kevin Kinnard. (Docs. 10, 13.)
Robbins filed her pro se Complaint on April 10, 201 7, in which she alleges that
various individuals violated her constitutional rights and the rights of her children during the
course of a state court juvenile investigation that resulted in the removal of her children from
Robbins has also named Edward Gassell and Joseph Robbins as
Plaintiffs. 1 In her request for relief, she seeks to have her children returned to her and
monetary damages for emotional distress.
The Court erroneously assumed from Robbins ' allegations that all four of the individuals named
as Plaintiffs were Robbins ' minor children. Defendant Kinnard states in his Motion to Dismiss
that Edward Gassell and Joseph Robbins are in fact adults and both have fathered children with
Tanya Robbins. This error has no effect on the resolution of the instant motions.
Robbins identifies the Defendants as follows: "Laurie", a "Supervisor"; Joe Tiffany,
"Investigator"; Samantha Faulkner; Savannah Pogue, "Supervisor"; Bria Ward, "IS";
"Brittany", "IS Supervisor"; Gretchen Plaggenburg, "Worker"; Sarah Hill, "IS", "unsure of
which place"; Ginger Joyner, Guardian ad Litem; and Kevin Kinnard, Juvenile Officer.
(Doc. 1 at p. 2-6.)
Her allegations state as follows (in part):
Joe Tiffany-afternoon March 1, 2017 came to my residence and my son Darryl
pull his pants down outside, no permission no search warrant just hotline
report + no exigent circumstances/talked to my son no permission stepped foot
in my house with a 5yr olds permission not mine/March 3, 2011 intimidated
my ex husband in to letting him inside that's where my children were.
(I) My children have been removed. They refused the services, told me I had
to get rid of all my animals, Dria Ward, Samantha Faulkner+ Sarah Hill.
3 Went to Juvenile Officer and defamed mine + the childrens Dad by lying
about smell, condition, what was said, the dad was present.
4 Laurie Joe Tiffanys supervisor when I called to complain about him hung up
the phone + refused to talk to me
5 Juvenile Office Kevin Kinnard gave Gretchen Plaggeburg the paper did not
state who the parents were or described judge to the best of my knowledge did
not put his name out. ..
(Doc. 1 at p. 7.)
In an Order dated April 17, 2017 (Doc. 3), the Court advised Robbins that she may
not represent her children in federal court.
See Osei-Afriyie by Osei-Afriyie v. Medical
College of Pennsy lvania, 937 F.2d 876, 882-83 (3d Cir. 1991) (" (A] non-attorney parent
must be represented by counsel in bringing an action on behalf of his or her child"). The
Court gave Robbins thirty days, until May 12, 2017, to obtain representation in this matter.
To date, no attorney has entered his or her appearance on behalf of the minor children.
On May 23 , 2017, Defendant Ginger K. Joyner filed a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(l) and 12(b)(6). (Doc. 10.) Joyner, a guardian ad litem appointed by the state
court, argues that Robbins' claims should be dismissed because they are barred by sovereign
immunity; this Court lacks jurisdiction under the domestic relations exception; and because
Robbins fails to state a claim against Joyner.
Defendant Jerome K. Kinnard filed a Motion to Dismiss on May 25 , 2017, in which
he argues that Robbins ' claims should be dismissed for the following reasons: Kinnard has
only been named in his official capacity and is not a person under' 1983; Robbins has failed
to state a claim; Robbins has not complied with this Court's Order to obtain counsel to
represent the minor children; and Kinnard is entitled to qualified immunity in his individual
Robbins has not responded to Defendants' Motions.
This case will be dismissed pursuant to the domestic relations exception.
domestic relations exception, first articulated in Barber v. Barber, 62 U.S. 582, 584 (1858),
divests the federal courts of jurisdiction over any action for which the subject is a divorce,
allowance of alimony, or child custody." Khan v. Khan, 21 F.3d 859, 861 (8th Cir. 1994)
(internal citation amended). Even "when a cause of action closely relates to but does not
precisely fit into the contours of an action for divorce, alimony or child custody, federal
courts generally will abstain from exercising jurisdiction." Id.
In the case at bar, Robbins is asking this Court to determine that the Defendants
committed wrongdoing in connection with state child custody proceedings. She requests that
the Court enter an order that changes the children' s custody status. This Court cannot, as
Robbins suggests, change state custodial determinations. See Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504
U.S. 689, 703 (1992) (questions concerning child custody are left entirely to state courts to
Because the domestic relations exception divests this Court of jurisdiction,
Defendants' other arguments for dismissal will not be reached.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED without prejudice.
A separate Order of Dismissal will be entered herewith.
Dated this )
q~day of June, 201 7.
.M · ~ (
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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