United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Tiana E. Grant; Raymond M. Grant, III; both individually and on behalf of the interest of minor children involved, Plaintiffs,
South Carolina Department of Social Services, CPS; Adrea Reynolds, DSS HSC 1; Kamaria Delaney, DSS worker, Daphne Curry McDaniel, DSS Supervisor, Sasserie Miles, Guardian Ad Litem, Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION
RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R &
R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 25) recommending
the Court dismiss Plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R & R
as the Order of the Court and dismisses Plaintiffs'
claims with prejudice.
Tiana Grant and her father Raymond Grant, III
("Plaintiffs") bring this action pro se on
behalf of themselves and Ms. Grant's minor children.
Plaintiffs allege that on March 31, 2016, the South Carolina
Department of Social Services ("SCDSS") improperly
removed Ms. Grant's children from her custody on the
basis of an unfounded ex parte custody order and placed them
in foster care where they suffered mental and physical harm.
The children were returned to Ms. Grant's custody in June
2016 after a South Carolina family court determined that
SCDSS had not proved by a preponderance of the evidence that
the children were abused or neglected. Plaintiffs bring four
claims: violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, defamation/slander/libel, frivolous or
fraudulent claim/false reporting of abuse and neglect, and
malfeasance in office. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages
"due to the unjust stress and mental anguish acquired by
the minor children for counselling and further mental
evaluation," punitive damages "due to the flagrant
and unjust nature of the Defendant(s)' deceptive acts and
their gross misrepresentation of the law," and a letter
of apology and admittance of wrongdoing from Defendants.
(Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 14, 42.)
Magistrate Judge makes a recommendation to the Court that has
no presumptive weight and the responsibility to make a final
determination remains with the Court. Mathews v.
Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court may
"accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate
judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Where there are
no objections to the R & R, the Court reviews the R &
R to "only satisfy itself that there is no clear error
on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory
committee's note; see also Camby v. Davis, 718
F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983) ("In the absence of
objection ... we do not believe that it requires any
Magistrate Judge ably addressed the issues and correctly
determined that Plaintiffs' claims are subject to
dissmissal. Plaintiffs did not object to the Magistrate
Judge's R & R.
Claims Brought On Behalf Of The Minor Children Are
initial matter, Plaintiffs' claims are subject to
dismissal both as improperly brought on behalf of minor
children and pursuant to Rule 41. "[N]on-attorney
parents generally may not litigate the claims of their minor
children in federal court." Myers v. Loudoun Cnty.
Public Schs., 418 F.3d 395, 401 (4th Cir.
2005). Moreover, the Magistrate Judge twice
notified Plaintiffs of this deficiency and directed them to
obtain counsel for the children (Dkt. Nos. 8, 17), but
Plaintiffs failed to respond to the Proper Form Orders after
two extensions. Plaintiffs' lack of response to the
Magistrate Judge's directives indicates their intent not
to prosecute the case and subjects the claims to sua
sponte dismissal. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) ("If the
plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or
a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or
any claim against it."); Link v. Wabash R.R.
Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-31 (1962) ("The authority of
a court to dismiss sua sponte for lack of
prosecution has generally been considered an 'inherent
power,' governed not by rule or statute but by the
control necessarily vested in courts to manage their own
affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious
disposition of cases."); Bollard v. Carlson,
882 F.2d 93, 95-96 (4th Cir. 1989) (district court's
dismissal following failure to respond to a specific
directive is not abuse of discretion).
The Claims Are Dismissed For Lack of Jurisdiction
Court also lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims,
even when accorded an appropriately liberal construction
afforded to pro se litigants. Plaintiffs assert
jurisdiction on the basis of the first cause of action
arising under federal law for violation of civil rights. For
that claim, Plaintiffs first allege that Defendants violated
Mr. Grant's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights by
"placing Mr. Grant in Double Jeopardy" when
referencing his twenty-year old expunged criminal proceedings
"to obtain false probable cause for the Complaint for Ex
Parte Custody." (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 18.) This allegation
fails to state a claim under federal law because Plaintiffs
do not assert any facts to support that the civil family
court custody proceeding constituted Mr. Grant being re-tried
for a prior criminal offense. Plaintiffs also allege that
they were denied due process and their rights under the Sixth
Amendment because they were "not privy to the person or
persons alleging the allegations" of neglect.
(Id. ¶ 24.) But the Sixth Amendment right to
witness confrontation does not generally apply to civil
cases, such as a family court custody dispute. Austin v.
United States, 509 U.S. 602, 608 (1993). Therefore,
Plaintiffs' first cause of action is dismissed.
the federal question claim dismissed, Plaintiffs' three
remaining South Carolina law claims are also subject to
dismissal. The Court may decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over a state law claim if "the district
court has dismissed all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1367; see also
Yashenko v. Harrah's NC Casino Co., 446 F.3d 541,
553 n.4 (4th Cir. 2006) ("Once a district court has
dismised the federal claims in an action, it maintains wide
discretion to dismiss the supplemental state law claims over
which it properly has supplemental jurisdiction.")
(internal quotation marks omitted). In declining to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction, the Court considers
"convenience and fairness to the parties, the existence
of any underlying issues of federal policy, comity, and
considerations of judicial economy." Shanaghan v.
Cahill, 58 F.3d 106, 110 (4th Cir. 1995). Here, the
Court is unable to find that the parties would be
inconvenienced or unfairly prejudiced by declining to
exercise jurisdiction over causes of action two, three and
four, nor does the Court find any underlying issues of
federal policy involved in these state law claims. The comity
factor further weighs in faavor of declining to exercise
jurisdiction, as do considerations of judicial economy. As a
result, the second, third and fourth causes of action are