Brent v. Wayne County Department of Human Services, 082318 FED6, 17-1428

Docket Nº:17-1428, 17-1811
Opinion Judge:KAREN NELSON MOORE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Party Name:Nathaniel Brent; Robert Brent, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Wayne County Department of Human Services et al., Defendants, Mia Wenk; Shevonne Trice; Heather Decormier-McFarland; Monicia Sampson; Charlotte McGehee; Joyce Lamar, Defendants-Appellants. Nathaniel Brent; Robert Brent, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Wayne County Department of Human Services; ...
Attorney:Lisa C. Geminick, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellants. Nathaniel Brent, Robert Brent, Detroit, Michigan, pro se. Lisa C. Geminick, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN, Lansing, Michigan, for State of Michigan Appellees. Christyn M. Scott, DYKEMA GO...
Judge Panel:Before: MOORE, THAPAR, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:August 23, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Nathaniel Brent; Robert Brent, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Wayne County Department of Human Services et al., Defendants,

Mia Wenk; Shevonne Trice; Heather Decormier-McFarland; Monicia Sampson; Charlotte McGehee; Joyce Lamar, Defendants-Appellants.

Nathaniel Brent; Robert Brent, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Wayne County Department of Human Services; Mia Wenk; Shevonne Trice; Heather Decormier-McFarland; Monicia Sampson; Charlotte McGehee; Joyce Lamar; Emina Biogradlija; Michael Bridson; Detroit Police Department; Two Unknown Detroit Police Officers; Methodist Children's Home Society; The Children's Center; Leslie Smith, Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 17-1428, 17-1811

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 23, 2018

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Ann Arbor. No. 5:11-cv-10724-Judith E. Levy, District Judge.

ON BRIEF IN 17-1811:

Lisa C. Geminick, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellants.

Nathaniel Brent, Robert Brent, Detroit, Michigan, pro se.

ON BRIEF IN 17-1428:

Lisa C. Geminick, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN, Lansing, Michigan, for State of Michigan Appellees.

Christyn M. Scott, DYKEMA GOSSETT PLLC, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellee Methodist Children's Home Society. David M. Saperstein, MADDIN, HAUSER, ROTH & HELLER, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellee The Children's Center.

Sheri L. Whyte, CITY OF DETROIT, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees City of Detroit, Emina Biogradlija, and Michael Bridson. Nathaniel Brent, Robert Brent, Detroit, Michigan, pro se.

Before: MOORE, THAPAR, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

KAREN NELSON MOORE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

This case marks the latest appeal in the nearly eight-year-long litigation between the Brent family and the various entities involved in the State of Michigan's temporary removal of Nathaniel and Sherrie Brent's children from their home in 2010. After six years and 270 docket entries, the district court ultimately entered judgment in all the various defendants' favor. We now AFFIRM in part, REVERSE in part, and REMAND this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

On January 17, 2010, fifteen-year-old Robert Brent ran away from home and arrived at a Detroit Police station wearing no shirt, no shoes, and a pair of shorts. R. 222 (Second Am. Compl. at 5) (Page ID #5174). This ultimately led employees of Wayne County Department of Health Services ("DHS")-including child-protective-services caseworker Mia Wenk, supervisor Monica Sampson, and intern Heather Decormier-McFarland-to open an investigation into Robert's parents, Nathaniel and Sherrie Brent, for potential child abuse and child neglect. Id. at 5-8 (Page ID #5174-77). During the course of their investigation, DHS employees visited the Brents' home on two occasions. Id. During the second visit, Sampson and Decormier- McFarland allegedly took photographs of the interior of Brents' home without the Brents' consent. Id. at 8 (Page ID #5177).

On February 18, 2010, the DHS employees petitioned the Family Division of the Third Judicial Circuit Court for Wayne County ("Family Court") for an order authorizing the removal of the five Brent children from their home. Id. at 14-15 (Page ID #5183-84). Wenk drafted and submitted the petition, and Sampson and Sampson's supervisor, Joyce Lamar, co-signed the petition. Id. at 50 (Page ID #5220). In a page of "Allegations" accompanying the petition, Wenk detailed the poor conditions of the Brents' home, her concerns about lead-based paint on the walls, and her concerns about the Brents' youngest child, who was ten-years old and appeared to have a severe speech impediment. R. 231-1 (Petition at 2) (Page ID #5324). According to plaintiffs, Wenk knowingly included false information in the petition and withheld other relevant information. R. 222 (Second Am. Compl. at 12, 14) (Page ID #5181, 5183). Plaintiffs further allege that the Family Court judge whose signature appeared on the order, Judge Leslie Smith, never actually reviewed or approved the order. Id. at 12-13 (Page ID #5181-82). Instead, according to plaintiffs, Judge Smith instituted a policy allowing probation officers to use a rubber stamp bearing her name to approve child removal orders, and that policy was purportedly followed in this case. R. 115 (Pl. Mot. for Reconsideration at 3-4) (Page ID #2376-77).

The removal order was executed that same evening. R. 222 (Second Am. Compl. at 13, 53) (Page ID #5182, 5223). Wenk allegedly enlisted the assistance of Detroit Police Officers to execute the order by falsely claiming that previous attempts to remove the children had been unsuccessful. Id. at 13 (Page ID #5182). When the police arrived at the Brents' home, Officer Bridson knocked on the door and told Nathaniel Brent ("Brent") that the police had a warrant to remove the children. Id. at 53 (Page ID #5223). Brent asked to see the warrant, and Officer Michael Bridson refused and stated that the police were "going to secure the area first." Id. He then "pushed his way past" Brent and entered the home, and Officer Emina Biogradlija followed behind him. Id. Five minutes later, two additional officers entered the house and showed Brent the removal order. Id. Brent reviewed the order and told the officers that it was facially defective, but the police officers removed the children nonetheless. Id. at 54 (Page ID #5224). When the youngest child attempted to hold onto his mother, one of the officers "ripped him from his mother and pushed him out the front door." Id. According to Brent, the Detroit Police Department's internal policy bars Detroit Police Officers from serving civil orders. Id.

On February 19, 2010, a preliminary hearing was held before Referee Bobak, and the court appointed guardians at litem and counsel for the parents. R. 163 (Order at 6) (Page ID #4117); R. 222 (Second Am. Compl. at 35) (Page ID #5205). On February 24, 2010, the Family Court held a probable-cause hearing and found probable cause to authorize the petition of removal. R. 113 (Order at 3) (Page ID #2262). Also on that date, Shevonne Trice, a foster-care caseworker with the Wayne County DHS Foster Care Department, was appointed as the caseworker for the Brent family. R. 222 (Second Am. Compl. at 3, 35) (Page ID #5172, 5205).

On March 3, 2010, Trice placed Brent's male children in the home of Michael and Noel Chinavare. Id. at 36 (Page ID #5206). Trice allegedly drafted and gave the Chinavares a document claiming they were the temporary guardians of the children, even though neither the parents nor the court had authorized this guardianship. Id. Brent's male children were later placed with Methodist Children's Home Society ("Methodist"), a "residential care facility licensed and regulated by the State of Michigan for the care, treatment, and detainment of court and state wards." Id. at 56 (Page ID #5226).

While Brent's male children were staying at the Methodist, Robert became ill. Id. at 57 (Page ID #5227). On April 14, 2010, Brent and his wife learned during a family visit with their children that the facility nurse at Methodist, Mary Ann Stokes, had given Robert medication for his cough that had expired in October 2008. Id. The Brents immediately informed Trice, who was also at the family visit, but Trice failed to report Methodist for its allegedly medically negligent treatment of Robert. Id. at 41 (Page ID #5211). The next day, Brent spoke with Stokes and told her that Robert needed to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Id. at 57 (Page ID #5227). On April 16, 2010, Robert's condition worsened and he repeatedly asked to see a doctor. Id. After his requests were denied for several hours, Robert left Methodist and went to a hospital. Id. By that point, Robert was coughing up blood and was diagnosed with acute bronchitis and acute pharyngitis. Id. After Robert returned to Methodist, his condition initially improved and then again worsened. Id. at 58 (Page ID #5228). Brent and Robert repeatedly asked for Robert to see a doctor, but these requests were denied "the entire time [Robert] remained at Methodist." Id.

Meanwhile, Trice had transferred Brent's female children to the home of Renee Samples on April 28, 2010. Id. at 42 (Page ID #5212). Also on that date, Trice transferred supervision of their placement to the Children's Center. Id. On May 2, 2010, the Children's Center, Methodist, and Trice held a conference to set the family's visitation schedule, but neither the children nor the parents were allowed to participate in the conference. Id. at 42-43 (Page ID #5212-13). When Brent complained about the new visitation schedule, the Children's Center told him that this was the set schedule "whether he liked it or not." R. 114 (First Am. Compl. at 77) (Page ID #2359). A few days later, the Brents' sons were late in arriving to the family's first scheduled visit. Id. When the Brents complained to the Children's Center that their sons had not yet arrived, the Children's Center supervisor allegedly told the Brents that if they "didn't stop complaining she would suspend all visitation." Id. Also during this visit, the Children's Center supervisor told the Brents in front of their children that "if they loved their children they would take the plea deal" that had been offered. Id. at 78 (Page ID #2360). When the parents refused to "admit to false allegations," the Children's Center supervisor announced that she was ending all phone contact between the parents and their female children. Id.

Ultimately, a trial was held in Family Court from May 11, 2010 through May 13, 2010, and a jury found that "one or more...

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