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Dziedzic v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

May 17, 2019




         Plaintiff Andrew Dziedzic appears in this case pro se and in forma pauperis. He filed his original complaint on May 10, 2018, alleging that the Arkansas Department of Human Services ("Arkansas DHS") and several of its employees violated his constitutional rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, when they instituted a child-welfare proceeding and removed his daughter from the family home in June of 2016. He also maintained that shortly after he regained custody of his daughter in early 2017, Arkansas DHS employees interfered in a second child-welfare investigation initiated by the Missouri Department of Human Services. According to Dziedzic, because certain Arkansas DHS workers made unfounded accusations about him and his wife, prosecutors filed false criminal charges against the couple (though the charges were eventually dismissed).

         The Court performed a pre-service screening of the original complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and dismissed Arkansas DHS and multiple individual defendants, finding that the allegations Dziedzic had made against them either failed to state plausible claims or were asserted against individuals or entities that were immune from suit. See Doc. 9. The only claims that remained after the Court's pre-screening Order were individual-capacity ones against Arkansas DHS workers Jededeliah Thompson, Rebecca Mayfield, Clay Reynolds, Sara Ashurst, Kimberly Simmons, and Tina Wood, and against Berryville police officer David Campbell. Id. at 15.

         The Court held a case management hearing on February 13, 2019, and Dziedzic and counsel for the remaining defendants both appeared in person. At that time, Dziedzic informed the Court that he wished to file an amended complaint to add more facts and clarify his various causes of action. The Court granted him leave to do so, see Doc. 31, and Dziedzic filed his Amended Complaint on March 14, 2019 (Doc. 38). The amended pleading names some Defendants that the Court previously dismissed, including Arkansas DHS and Denise Gibson. The pleading also names Defendant David Campbell in the style, but never mentions him in the body of the document.

         The Amended Complaint has not yet been served on any agency or individual named as a Defendant. This is because the Court has not performed its pre-service screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In addition, separate Defendants Ashurst, Mayfield, Reynolds, Simmons, Thompson, and Wood-who appeared in the case after being served with the original complaint-have now filed a Motion to Dismiss the claims made against them in the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Doc. 40.

         At this point, more than six weeks have passed since separate Defendants' Motion to Dismiss was filed of record, and Dziedzic has failed to file a response. The Court has no reason to believe Dziedzic was not properly served, see Doc. 40 at 4 and Doc. 41 at 18 (indicating counsel served copies of the motion and supporting documents on Dziedzic via regular mail).

         With the procedural history of the case out of the way, the Court will next recite the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint and review the legal standards governing pre-screening orders under § 1915(e)(2) and motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained below, all claims in the case will be DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the Amended Complaint, employees and officers of Arkansas DHS falsified records, mischaracterized facts, and committed perjury in investigating and ultimately removing Dziedzic's daughter from his and his wife's custody for a period of time. Dziedzic alleges that he suffered due process violations prior to and after DHS's removal of his daughter from his home in late June of 2016. He was afforded a due-process hearing on July 6, 2016, and was ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and to be evaluated for drug use. His daughter was eventually returned to him on January 21, 2017, but he admits that shortly thereafter, his dog attacked his daughter "without provocation in February 2017," necessitating her emergency transport "to a medical facility in Springfield, MO." (Doc. 38 at 2). Dziedzic further alleges that Defendant Reynolds "took custody" of Dziedzic's daughter during or after her hospitalization without authority to do so. Id. at 3. But it is clear from other facts stated in the Amended Complaint that when Dziedzic accuses Reynolds of "taking custody" of the child, he does not actually mean that Reynolds left the hospital with her. Instead, the Amended Complaint states that DHS officials in Greene County, Missouri, placed a "hold" on Dziedzic's daughter, and his daughter's aunt, Kimberly Freeman, [1] drove from Arkansas and picked up the child from the hospital in Missouri. (Doc. 38 at 3). Dziedzic indicates that the only reason his daughter left the hospital with her aunt as opposed to her parents was because of "false statements" and a "false complaint" lodged with Green County DHS by Defendants Mayfield and Reynolds. Id. He also accuses the Arkansas DHS Defendants of making false statements to police at or around the time of the hospital incident, leading to criminal charges being filed against him and his wife.

         In the instant civil lawsuit, Dziedzic contends his constitutional rights were violated by Arkansas DHS and their employees, who were acting under color of law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His specific claims are that:

(1) Simmons and Ashurst entered his property "without consent, warrant or probable cause" in June of 2016, id.;
(2) Simmons and Ashurst then seized his daughter "without probable cause, by fraud or by falsification of court documents," id.;
(3) Simmons and Ashurst intentionally delayed a probable cause hearing "for far longer than the required statutory period of five business days," id. at 4;
(4) unspecified Defendants tampered with evidence "that resulted in a false positive drug result" that led to the delay in returning his daughter to his custody in 2016, id.;
(5) Thompson and Gibson committed "supervisory neglect" by failing to act on "crimes she [unspecified] knew to have been committed" by ...

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