430 F.3d 919 (8th Cir. 2005), 04-4032, Dornheim v. Sholes

Docket Nº:04-4032.
Citation:430 F.3d 919
Party Name:Marybeth DORNHEIM, individually and on behalf of her infant son Tanner Tibbetts; Michael Tibbetts, Appellants, v. Michael SHOLES, individually and as a police officer; John Packett, as Chief of the City of Grand Forks Police Department; Kate Kenna, individually and as Administrator; Patricia Sele, individually and as social worker; Randy Slavens, i
Case Date:December 07, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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430 F.3d 919 (8th Cir. 2005)

Marybeth DORNHEIM, individually and on behalf of her infant son Tanner Tibbetts; Michael Tibbetts, Appellants,

v.

Michael SHOLES, individually and as a police officer; John Packett, as Chief of the City of Grand Forks Police Department; Kate Kenna, individually and as Administrator; Patricia Sele, individually and as social worker; Randy Slavens, individually and as social worker; Keith Berger, as Director of Grand Forks Social Services; Melissa Schmalenberger, individually and as Guardian Ad Litem; Dr. Steven Timm; Dr. Ronald Miller, Appellees.

No. 04-4032.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

December 7, 2005

Submitted: September 14, 2005.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Steven Kraft, argued, Grand Forks, ND, for appellant.

Angela E. Lord, argued, Fargo, ND, for appellees Dr. Steven Timm and Dr. Ron Miller.

Douglas A. Bahr, argued, Bismarck, ND, for appellees Slavens and Kenna.

Ronald F. Fischer, argued, Grand Forks, ND, for appellees Sholes, Packett, Sele and Berger.

Before MURPHY, HANSEN, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

HANSEN, Circuit Judge.

Marybeth Dornheim, on behalf of herself and her minor son, Tanner, and her adult son, Michael, (collectively "the Dornheims") filed a civil rights lawsuit against the police officers, social workers, court-appointed doctors, and Tanner's court-appointed guardian ad litem who were involved in Dornheim's state-court custody dispute with her ex-husband. The Dornheims appeal from the district court's dismissal of the lawsuit, and we affirm.

I.

Because the district court dismissed the lawsuit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, we take the facts from the face of the complaint as true. See Federer v. Gephardt, 363 F.3d 754, 757 (8th Cir. 2004). Dornheim, a social worker herself, was involved in a bitter divorce and custody dispute with her ex-husband, James Tibbetts. The Grand Forks County Social Services Agency (Agency) investigated allegations of domestic violence in October 1998, prior to the divorce. Following the Agency's investigation, which Dornheim characterized as "woefully" inadequate, the Agency found Dornheim partially responsible for the domestic violence. Dornheim made an administrative appeal, which was forwarded to Kate Kenna, a social worker who had supervisory authority over Dornheim when Dornheim worked as a social worker. Dornheim claims that Kenna prevented the appeal from being heard, and that Kenna made defamatory remarks about Dornheim to others in the Agency.

During and following the divorce, both spouses accused the other of abusing Tanner, approximately nine years old at the time, by leaving bruises on him. In July 2000, Tibbetts asked his neighbor, defendant Randy Slavens, another social worker, to look at bruises on Tanner's arm allegedly caused by Dornheim. Slavens filed a report of abuse and neglect and testified at the state-court custody hearing. Detective Michael Sholes investigated the allegations of child abuse and also testified

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in the state custody proceedings in support of Tibbetts.

Patricia Sele, a social worker, was involved in the investigation of the second allegation of abuse which was based on a report made by a doctor at the urgent care clinic Dornheim took Tanner to when Tanner returned from his father's house with facial bruising. According to Dornheim, Sele's investigation, which concluded that both parents "needed services," was inadequate and inappropriate. The finding that Dornheim needed services would have been detrimental to Dornheim's career as a social worker and was ultimately withdrawn before it could be appealed. Nevertheless, during the pendency of the state proceedings, Dornheim lost her job as a social worker.

Ms. Schmalenberger was Tanner's court-appointed guardian ad litem during the divorce and custody proceedings. According to Dornheim, Attorney Schmalenberger interfered with Dornheim's right and ability to make decisions for Tanner, made numerous ex parte communications with the state court judge and Tibbetts' attorney, made counseling recommendations that violated various codes of ethics and were harmful to Tanner, and generally failed to meet her guardian ad litem responsibilities.

Dr. Steven Timm and Dr. Ronald Miller are both medical experts who were appointed by the state court to perform medical evaluations during the custody proceedings. Dr. Timm also held joint counseling sessions with Tanner and his father, which, according to Dornheim, violated various ethics codes because, she asserts, a victim should never be required to receive joint counseling with the perpetrator. Dr. Timm performed an Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) evaluation of Tanner over Dornheim's objections, and he allegedly told Dornheim that his findings had to be consistent with Schmalenberger's conclusions.

Tibbetts commenced divorce proceedings in state court in 1998, and the state district court issued its final order in the divorce proceedings on August 13, 2003...

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