Ginsbach v. Bullock et al
Memorandum Opinion and Order: For all of the foregoing reasons, this action is dismissed. Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. (Doc. No. 2 .) The Court certifies that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1915(a)(3), an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. (Related Doc. No. 1 ). Judge Sara Lioi on 1/18/2017. (P,J)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
RACHELL BULLOCK, et al,
CASE NO. 5:17cv57
JUDGE SARA LIOI
Plaintiff pro se Robert Ginsbach (“plaintiff” or “Ginsbach”) brings this in forma pauperis
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Rachell Bullock (“Bullock”), Attorney
Tara Wright-Timberlake (“Wright-Timberlake”), Guardian Ad Litem Donovan Hill (“Hill”),
Linda Kate (“Kate”), Joy Reed (“Reed”), Clinical Social Worker Barbara Schwartz
(“Schwartz”), and the Chrysalis Counseling Center, Inc. (“Chrysalis Counseling”). (Doc. No. 1
(Complaint [“Compl.”]).) For the reasons that follow, this case is dismissed.
The complaint is somewhat difficult to follow. Defendant Bullock is the mother of
plaintiff’s son. Plaintiff asserts a number if allegations against defendant Wright-Timberlake,
including claims that she: (1) caused emotional distress and breakdown of the family relationship
by denying plaintiff access to his son; (2) caused criminal charges to be filed against him, but not
against defendant Bullock for removing the child from Indiana where plaintiff resides; and (3)
engaged in ex parte communication with the court. Plaintiff also alleges that defendant Hill
illegally gained access to plaintiff’s medical records and improperly revealed information
contained therein in order to bring harm to plaintiff and his son. According to plaintiff,
defendants Kate and Reed knowingly allowed the above-alleged conduct to occur. Plaintiff
claims that defendants’ conduct intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him, and violated
his First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights, HIPAA, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction
Enforcement Act, and right to privacy, along with various other federal and state statutes.
For relief, plaintiff seeks return of his minor child by Bullock with no visitation rights, as
well as termination of Wright-Timberlake’s employment with the New Philadelphia Law
Director’s Office, termination of Kate’s and Reed’s employment with Tuscarawas County, and
termination of Schwartz’s employment with Chrysalis Counseling. He also seeks money
damages and an order requiring defendants provide pro bono services to single fathers.
B. Plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim
Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364,
365, 102 S. Ct. 700, 70 L.Ed.2d 551 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520,
92 S. Ct. 594, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1972), the district court is required to dismiss an in forma
pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 109 S.
Ct. 1827, 104 L. Ed. 2d 338 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk
v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law
or fact when it is premised on an indisputably meritless legal theory or when the factual
contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. A cause of action fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted when the complaint lacks plausibility. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007).
A pleading must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677–78, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868
(2009). The factual allegations in the pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above
the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but
must provide more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. A pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not meet this pleading standard. Id. In reviewing a complaint, the Court
must construe the pleading in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bibbo v. Dean Witter
Reynolds, Inc., 151 F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998).
Plaintiff’s complaint consists only of very generalized factual allegations and bald legal
conclusions. Therefore, even construing the complaint liberally, the Court concludes that
plaintiff simply does not set forth a valid federal claim. See, e.g., Lillardv. Shelby Cnty. Bd. of
Educ., 76 F.3d 716, 726 (6th Cir. 1996) (court not required to accept summary allegations or
unwarranted legal conclusions in determining whether complaint states a claim for relief).
C. This Court lacks jurisdiction
Moreover, to the extent that plaintiff asserts a claim concerning a domestic relations
matter, federal courts generally lack jurisdiction over such matters, which are within the
exclusive jurisdiction of state courts. Danforth v. Celebrezze, 76 F. App’x 615, 616 (6th Cir.
2003) (citations omitted). “The field of domestic relations involves local problems ‘peculiarly
suited to state regulation and control and peculiarly unsuited to control by federal courts[,]’” and
state courts “have developed a proficiency and expertise in these cases [.]”
Cleveland Trust, 654 F.2d 1212, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981) (internal citation omitted).
The domestic relation exception applies where a plaintiff sues in federal court for
divorce, alimony, or child custody, or seeks to modify or interpret an existing divorce, alimony,
or child-custody decree. Alexander v. Rosen, 804 F.3d 1203, 1205 (6th Cir. 2015), cert. denied,
136 S. Ct. 2392, 195 L. Ed. 2d 767 (2016) (citations omitted). This exception to federal
jurisdiction does not apply to civil actions that merely have domestic relations overtones, but to
cases “where the action is a mere pretense and the suit is actually concerned with domestic
relations issues.” Danforth, 76 F. App’x at 616.
Based on the relief sought by plaintiff, it appears that this exception may apply to certain
issues in this case. The complaint purports to raise claims pursuant to § 1983, but is grounded in
plaintiff’s disagreement with custody matters concerning his son. Plaintiff asks this Court to
order Bullock to return the child to him and to impose certain limitations on visitation. This
request appears to place certain claims directly within the domestic relations exception to federal
jurisdiction. See Alexander, 804 F.3d at 1205–06. In this event, the Court lacks jurisdiction over
these issues. See Partridge v. State of Ohio, 79 F. App’x 844, 845 (6th Cir. 2003) (district court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over case where plaintiff asserts civil rights claims that
challenge child custody and divorce decisions and seeks relief in the form of shared custody)
For all of the foregoing reasons, this action is dismissed. Plaintiff’s motion to proceed in
forma pauperis is granted. (Doc. No. 2.)
The Court certifies that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), an appeal from this decision
could not be taken in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: January 18, 2017
HONORABLE SARA LIOI
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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