285 F.Supp.2d 1229 (N.D.Cal. 2003), C 02-3448, Doe v. Mann

Docket Nº:C 02-3448 MHP.
Citation:285 F.Supp.2d 1229
Party Name:Mary DOE, Plaintiff, v. Arthur MANN in his Official Capacity, Robert L. Crone, Jr. in his Official Capacity, Lake County Superior Court Juvenile Division, Mr. D, Mrs. D. and Department of Social Services of Lake County, Defendants.
Case Date:September 29, 2003
Court:United States District Courts, 9th Circuit, Northern District of California

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285 F.Supp.2d 1229 (N.D.Cal. 2003)

Mary DOE, Plaintiff,


Arthur MANN in his Official Capacity, Robert L. Crone, Jr. in his Official Capacity, Lake County Superior Court Juvenile Division, Mr. D, Mrs. D. and Department of Social Services of Lake County, Defendants.

No. C 02-3448 MHP.

United States District Court, N.D. California.

Sept. 29, 2003

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Henry Weismann, Esq., Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

Jeffrey L. Bleich, Munger Tolles & Olson, San Francisco, CA.

Truc-Linh N. Nyguyen, Esq., Arnold & Porter, Los Angeles, CA.

Alicia C. Park, Esq., Law Office of Nicholas G. Soter, San Francisco, CA.

CAmeron L. Reeves, Lake County Counsel, Lakeport, CA.

Mr. D., Nice, CA.

Mrs. D., Nice, CA.

Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians, Delbert Thomas, Clearlake, CA.


PATEL, Chief Judge.

Plaintiff Mary Doe ("Doe") brings an action against defendants Arthur Mann and Robert L. Crone, Jr. in their official capacity as California Superior Court judges, Lake County Superior Court's Juvenile Division, Mr. and Mrs. D., and the Department of Social Services of Lake County ("DSS"). Doe alleges that the state child custody proceedings involving her daughter, Jane Doe ("Jane"), violated the Indian Child Welfare Act ("ICWA"), 25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq., the Due Process Clause, and state child custody law. Now before the court are two separate motions, one brought by Mann, Crone and the Superior Court (collectively "state court defendants") and the other by DSS, to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Mr. and Mrs. D, Jane's adoptive parents, join in both motions. Having considered the arguments presented, and for the reasons set forth below, the court rules as follows.


Doe is a member of the Elem Indian Colony in Lake County, California. Her

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daughter Jane is also eligible for tribal membership. Except for two brief periods, Jane lived on the tribe's reservation. In April 1998, when Jane was five, she began living with Doe's aunt and Doe's brother and his wife. Jane confided to her mother on June 8, 1999, that she had been sexually abused on several occasions by a male cousin. Doe called DSS the next day to request abuse services for her daughter. By the end of the day, DSS had removed Jane from her relatives' home.

On June 14, 1999, DSS initiated a petition under section 300 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code ("WIC"), alleging that Doe inadequately protected and supervised Jane by failing to provide alternate living arrangements when Doe knew or should have known that Jane could be sexually abused. Notice of the hearing and petition was sent to the home of Doe's aunt. Doe did not appear at the hearing. Superior Court Judge Mann, who conducted the hearing on the petition, determined that Jane should be placed in DSS custody.

On June 22, 1999, DSS mailed a "Notice of Involuntary Child Custody Proceeding Involving an Indian Child" to a post office box that Doe allegedly did not own and could not access. The hearing concerned the court's jurisdiction over Jane under section 300 of WIC. When Doe did not appear at the hearing, Judge Mann continued the matter to July 26, 1999. Doe again alleges that she did not receive proper notice about the continuance and so was not present. At the hearing on July 26, Judge Mann found that the court had jurisdiction but did not make any findings concerning Jane's status as an Indian child under ICWA.

On August 9, 1999, Doe appeared in court for the first time for a hearing on the appropriate disposition of Jane under WIC section 358. Judge Mann appointed Robert Wiley as Doe's counsel. The hearing was then continued several times until October 4, 1999. Doe alleges that she did not attend the October 4 hearing because she did not receive proper notice from anyone, including her attorney. At the disposition hearing, Judge Mann determined that Jane was a dependent child of the court and requested that DSS place her in foster care. DSS placed Jane with Mr. and Mrs. D., who are not members of the Elem Indian Colony. Doe had requested that Jane be placed with Doe's great aunt, an Elem Indian who had a licensed foster care home. DSS also did not grant foster placement preference to Doe's brother and his wife, who wanted to adopt Jane.

At a status review hearing on March 27, 2000, Judge Mann ended DSS services designed to reunify Doe and Jane. Doe did not attend this hearing because notice was allegedly sent to the same post office box that she could not access. After several continuances, Judge Mann held a hearing on February 16, 2001 in which he terminated Doe's parental rights under WIC section 366.26. Doe allegedly did not receive proper notice of the hearing and thus did not attend. Two expert witnesses gave conflicting testimony about the best interests of Jane. An ICWA consultant stated that Jane should remain with her mother, while the DSS expert witness recommended placement with Mr. and Mrs. D. Doe alleges that the DSS expert not have knowledge about tribal family customs or the prevailing social and cultural standards of childrearing in the Elem Indian Colony.

On November 17, 2000, the Elem Indian Colony Tribal Council issued a tribal resolution declaring that the tribe's prevailing social and cultural standards, as well as Jane's interests, would best be served by placing her for adoption with Doe's brother and sister-in-law. On September 28, 2001, however, Judge Crone granted the

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request by Mr. and Mrs. D. to adopt Jane. Judge Mann then dismissed Jane's dependency petition on October 3, 2001.


I. 12(b)(1) Motion

"It is a fundamental precept that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374, 98 S.Ct. 2396, 57 L.Ed.2d 274 (1978). When, as here, defendants bring a facial attack to a court's subject matter jurisdiction, the court construes allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff but does not infer allegations to support jurisdiction. Trentacosta v. Frontier Pacific Aircraft Industries, Inc., 813 F.2d 1553, 1558-59 (9th Cir.1987). The court looks to the complaint and attached documents, as well as to facts that are judicially noticeable or undisputed. Id. Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Thompson v. McCombe, 99 F.3d 352, 353 (9th Cir.1996).

II. 12(b)(6) Motion

"It is axiomatic that the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted." Gilligan v. Jamco Dev. Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 249 (9th Cir.1997) (internal quotes omitted). Such dismissal is only proper in "extraordinary" cases. United States v. Redwood City, 640 F.2d 963, 966 (9th Cir.1981). The motion will be denied unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would entitle him or her to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Parks Sch. of Bus. Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir.1995); Fidelity Fin. Corp. v. Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, 792 F.2d 1432, 1435 (9th Cir.1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1064, 107 S.Ct. 949, 93 L.Ed.2d 998 (1987). All material allegations in the complaint will be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir.1986).


Doe alleges in her complaint that the California Superior Court lacked jurisdiction over the proceedings because ICWA grants exclusive jurisdiction over such civil actions to Indian tribes. In the alternative, Doe alleges that the state court defendants and DSS violated myriad procedural and substantive requirements in sections 1911, 1912, and 1915 of ICWA. Doe also brings a claim against the state court defendants under section 1983, 42 U.S.C.§ 1983, alleging that ineffective assistance of counsel denied Doe the right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, Doe claims that DSS did not properly follow WIC requirements during the proceedings.

In this motion, defendants first contend that this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits inferior federal courts from reviewing state court decisions. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983). Secondly, defendants argue that the action is barred by principles of preclusion. Even if the action is not precluded, defendants contend thirdly that the state court had jurisdiction over the underlying child custody proceedings pursuant to the Act of Aug. 15, 1953, Pub.L. No. 83-280, 67 Stat. 588 (codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1163; 28 U.S.C.§ 1360(a)), commonly known as Public Law 280. Fourthly, defendants argue that the state proceedings comported with ICWA requirements. Finally, defendants contend that Doe's section 1983 claim is barred by the one-year statute of limitations, and ask this court to strike the

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request for attorneys' fees against Superior Court Judge Mann.

I. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

The Ninth Circuit recently explained the Rooker-Feldman doctrine as follows: "If claims raised in the federal court action are 'inextricably intertwined' with the state court's decision such that the adjudication of the federal claims would undercut the state ruling or require the district court to interpret the application of state laws or procedural rules, then the federal complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction."...

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