C.A. v. Lowndes County Dept. of Family & Children, No. 1:99CV162-D-D

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtDavidson
Citation93 F.Supp.2d 744
PartiesC.A., et al., Plaintiffs, v. LOWNDES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND CHILDREN SERVICES, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 1:99CV162-D-D
Decision Date13 March 2000
93 F.Supp.2d 744
C.A., et al., Plaintiffs,
No. 1:99CV162-D-D
United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division.
March 13, 2000.

Page 745

David E. Rozier, Jr., Rozier Law Firm, P.C., Jackson, MS, for plaintiffs.

Maudine Gatlin Eckford, Mississippi Atty. General's Office, Jackson, MS, for Lowndes County Dept. of Family and Children Services, Donna Reeves, Janice Stockman, Tessa Hannah, defendant.

Page 746

H. Lee Morrison, Jr., Tubb, Stevens & Morrison, West Point, MS, for Sally Kate Winters Memorial Children's Home, defendant.


DAVIDSON, District Judge.

Presently before the court is the motion of the State Defendants1 to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. Upon due consideration, the court finds that the motion should be granted.

A. Factual Background

In the spring of 1996, the Lowndes County Department of Public Welfare placed Y.H., a fifteen year old male foster child, in the Sally Kate Winters Memorial Children's Home (the Winters Home), a privately funded group home. Shortly thereafter, officials at the Winters Home requested that Y.H. be removed from the home due to serious behavioral problems.

Following Y.H.'s removal from the Winters Home, Defendant Tessa Hannah (Hannah), a Lowndes County social worker, contacted Plaintiff Ms. Johnnie Bradford (Bradford) to request that Bradford take Y.H. into her home as a foster child. About a half hour later, Hannah and Y.H. arrived and Y.H. was formally placed into Bradford's home. Shortly thereafter, on June 11, 1996, Y.H. sexually assaulted and sodomized C.A., Bradford's six year old grandson. Bradford immediately reported the incident and Y.H. was promptly removed from the Bradford home.

The Plaintiffs brought the current action on April 16, 1999, pursuant to, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Plaintiffs allege that, as a result of the placement of Y.H. into Bradford's home, the State Defendants deprived the Plaintiffs of their liberty without due process of law in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Plaintiff also has state law claims pending against the Winters Home. The State Defendants have now moved to partially dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Because matters outside the pleadings were presented to the court in conjunction with this motion, the court treated the motion as one for partial summary judgment as provided for in Rules 12(b) and 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

A party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Under Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to "go beyond the pleadings and by ... affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. That burden is not discharged by "mere allegations or denials." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(e). While all legitimate factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.

Page 747

242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Before finding that no genuine issue for trial exists, the court must first be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could find for the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

C. Discussion
1. Eleventh Amendment

The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." The Eleventh Amendment thus negates federal jurisdiction over covered suits, including federal suits against a state brought by the citizens of that state. See Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10 S.Ct. 504, 33 L.Ed. 842 (1890).

The Eleventh Amendment's reach is not limited to suits where a state is formally named as a defendant; any suit in which a state is the "real, substantial party in interest" is barred. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101, 104 S.Ct. 900, 908, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1356, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974) ("[A] suit by private parties seeking to impose a liability which must be paid from public funds in the state treasury is barred by the Eleventh Amendment."); Earles v. State Bd. of Certified Pub. Accountants of Louisiana, 139 F.3d 1033, 1036 (5th Cir.1998). Thus, this immunity covers state agencies that may be properly characterized as arms of the state. Porche v. St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office, 67 F.Supp.2d 631, 632 (E.D.La.1999). Moreover, the Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages when the claimant seeks damages from the state's officers in their official capacities and the damages would be paid out of the state treasury. Chrissy F. by Medley v. Mississippi Dep't of Pub. Welfare, 925 F.2d 844, 849 (5th Cir.1991).

Identifying when a state is the real, substantial party in interest is often not an easy task. In determining whether a given agency operates as an arm of the state or is a purely local political subdivision, courts consider the following factors:

(1) Whether the state, through statutes or case law, views the entity as an arm of the state;

(2) the source of the entity's funding;

(3) the entity's degree of local autonomy or degree of authority independent from the state;

(4) whether the entity is concerned primarily with local as opposed to statewide problems;

(5) whether the entity has the authority to sue and be sued in its own name; and

(6) whether the entity has the right to hold and use property.

Hudson v. City of New Orleans, 174 F.3d 677, 681 (5th Cir.1999). A defendant need not possess each of the above attributes to receive Eleventh Amendment immunity. Id. at 681-82. Nor are the factors equal to one another; the second factor is the most important. Id.

The first factor the court must consider is whether state statutes and case law characterize the entity as an arm of the state. Mississippi Code Annotated § 43-1-9 creates the Lowndes County Department of Human Services (Public Welfare) as a county department within the Mississippi Department of Human Services, which is itself created at § 43-1-2. Naturally, the Mississippi Department of Human Services is considered a state agency. Mississippi Dep't of Human Servs. v. Barnett, 633 So.2d 430, 432 (Miss. 1993). The State Division of Family and Children Services is created within the Mississippi Department of Human Services

Page 748

at § 43-1-51. And § 43-1-53 mandates that the Division of Family and Children's Services shall be formed at each level of the Department of Human Services, including at the county level.

The State Department of Human Services is responsible for developing policy, providing training and overseeing the implementation of services provided by the county divisions. Miss.Code Ann. § 43-1-53. Furthermore, the State Department of Human Services is specifically authorized, empowered and directed to provide child welfare services for the entire State of Mississippi. Miss.Code Ann. § 43-15-3. Finally, the State Department of Human Services has the authority and duty to administer or supervise all public child welfare services, including those services, responsibilities, duties and powers with which the county departments are charged. Miss.Code Ann. § 43-15-5.

In light of the foregoing statutory authority and case law, the court finds that this factor weighs in favor of the application of Eleventh Amendment immunity. Clearly, the State of Mississippi views the county departments of human services as arms of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 cases
  • Bowen v. Keys, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:20-CV-296-DPJ-FKB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • July 23, 2020
    ...DHS/CPS departments are likewise entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. See C.A. v. Lowndes Cty. Dep't of Fam. & Child. Servs., 93 F. Supp. 2d 744, 747-49 (N.D. Miss. 2000). In sum, the Eleventh Amendment bars federal suit under §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 against the Simpson County Chancery ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT