Cooper v. Johnson

Decision Date30 December 2011
Docket Number1:11cv102
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of North Carolina
PartiesTHALIA D. COOPER, et al., Plaintiffs, v. LISA JOHNSON, et al. Defendants.


Pending before the Court are numerous motions filed by Defendants and Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985 alleging a vast conspiracy between state and federal actors to infringe Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. The crux of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint is that Defendants unlawfully conspired to take Melvin E. Swanson Jr. from his father over two decades ago and sold him for a profit in order to benefit fellow "craft members." All of the Defendants that have been served move to dismiss the Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs move to strike the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. In addition, Plaintiffs move for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. The Court DENIES the Motions to Strike [# 28, # 31, # 44, # 47, # 56, & # 58] and Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint [# 37] and RECOMMENDS that the District Court GRANT the Motions to Dismiss [# 18, # 24, # 33, # 41, # 51, & # 54].

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiff Thalia Cooper initially brought this action pro se against Defendants Lisa Johnson, Transylvania County, and Dotti D. Harris for the alleged deprivation of her constitutional rights.1 (Pl.'s Compl. p. 1-2.) Subsequently, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint adding Melvin E. Swanson Sr. and Melvin E. Swanson Jr. as additional pro se plaintiffs. Plaintiff Cooper also added Scott Peterson, Joy Barton, Paul Averette, Larry Johnson, North Carolina, Gresham Barrett, Lindsey Graham, and the United States Legislature as defendants in this action. To date, however, Plaintiffs have not served Defendants Peterson, Barton, and Johnson. (Pls.' Memo. Support Mot. Dismiss at p. 3.)

The Amended Complaint asserts seven causes of action against Defendants. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985 by depriving and/or conspiring to deprive Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights as provided by the First, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-119.) The Amended Complaint seeks various forms of declaratory relief, $300 million in compensatory damages, $300 million in punitive damages, $300 million in conspiracy damages, $6 million in special damages, and $6 million in attorney's fees. (Id. ¶¶ 120-141.)

Each of the Defendants that Plaintiffs served, then independently moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on a number of grounds [# 18, # 24, # 33, # 41, # 51, & # 54]. Plaintiffs responded to each of the Motions to Dismiss by moving to strike the motions [# 28, # 31, # 44, # 47, # 56, & # 58]. Meanwhile, Plaintiffs requested leave to file a Second Amended Complaint under Rule 15 [# 37]. Plaintiffs also moved for the entry of default judgment against Defendant Barrett [# 40] and for a $700 million default judgment against Defendants Graham and the United States Legislature [# 49]. Finally, Plaintiffs move to dismiss the claims asserted against Defendants Scott Johnson, Joy Barton, and Larry K. Johnson without prejudice prior to service [# 50].

II. Factual Background

Plaintiff Cooper is a South Carolina resident and the biological grandmother to Plaintiff Melvin E. Swanson Jr. (Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff Melvin E. Swanson Sr. is also a resident of South Carolina and the biological father of Swanson Jr. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff Swanson Jr.'s whereabouts are currently unknown. (Id. ¶ 7.)

In 1983, the Transylvania County Department of Social Services ("DSS") took custody of Swanson Jr., who was three years old at the time. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) DSS alleged that Plaintiff Swanson Sr. abused Swanson Jr. and failed to provide him with his medication. (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiffs, however, contends that DSS drugged Swanson Jr. with "psychotropic drugs" after taking custody of the child. (Id. ¶ 7.) In addition, Plaintiffs contend that DSS is "a branch of the Crucifer'sorganization with members that worship Lucifer. . ." (Id. ¶ 83.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff Swanson Sr.'s parental rights were terminated in a 1986 Court proceeding. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs contend that DSS social worker Dotti D. Harris committed perjury during this 1986 proceeding and lied to the Court. (Id.) Defendant Paul Averette was the attorney for DSS during these proceedings. (Id. ¶ 13.) Defendant Joy Barton was also a social worker for DSS who allegedly conspired with Defendants Harris and Averette to remove Swanson Jr. from his father. (Id. ¶ 12.) Similarly, Defendant Larry K. Johnson, the director for DSS, allegedly conspired with Defendant Averette by committing perjury during another proceeding so that "a stonemason's son could be sold under color of state law." (Id. ¶ 14.)

Defendant Scott Johnson was the public defender that advised Plaintiff Cooper and/or Plaintiff Swanson Sr. during this process. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 77.) Plaintiffs contend that Defendant Johnson was ineffective, misrepresented the law to them, and destroyed evidence. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 77.)

At some point after DSS obtained custody of Swanson Jr., he was adopted. (Id. ¶¶ 8.) As a result, Plaintiff Cooper is not allowed to visit her grandson. (Id. ¶ 38, 41.) Plaintiffs contend that Defendants conspired against Swanson Sr. in order to terminate his parental rights and take his son because he refused to serve Crucifer's organization and because "he is an original independent stonemason and not [a] member of the craft like [the] attorneys and officials that run the government. . . ." (Id. ¶¶ 40, 83.)

After his adoption, Plaintiff Cooper requested adoption records from Defendant Lisa Johnson, a social services commissioner for the North Carolina Division of Social Services. (Id. ¶ 8.) Defendant Johnson refused to provide Plaintiff Cooper with the adoption records for Swanson, Jr. and failed to forward a letter him. (Id.) In addition, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants Transylvania County and the State of North Carolina have either removed from the court house or allowed to be removed, various records related to these proceedings. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 15, 22.)

Finally, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants Gresham Barrett, Senator Lindsey Graham, and the United States Legislature knew that the States were depriving thousands of United States citizens of their constitutional rights and failed to take action to prohibit these deprivations. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that North Carolina and the United States Legislature are conspiring together to allow States to take children from their families and allow for the adoption of children in return for financial payments. (Id. ¶¶ 51, 58, 60-61, 65.) These acts are allegedly undertaken for the benefit of "craft members" and their associates. (Id. ¶¶ 51-52, 57-58.) The Amended Complaint alleges a hosts of alleged wrongs committed by the United States Legislature for the benefit of craft members in the United States and abroad. (see e.g. Id. ¶¶ 57, 100-9.)

III. Legal Standard

The central issue for resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. See Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d186, 189 (4th Cir. 2009). In considering a defendant's motion to dismiss, the Court accepts the allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v., Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009); Giacomelli, 588 F.3d at 190-92. Although the Court accepts well-pled facts as true, it is not required to accept "legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement . . . .", 591 F.3d at 255; see also Giacomelli, 588 F.3d at 189. The Court, however, must liberally construe a complaint filed by a pro se litigant and should not hold a pro se pleading to the same standard as one drafted by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007).

The complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations," but must contain sufficient factual allegations to suggest the required elements of a cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007); see also, 591 F.3d at 256. "[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S. Ct. at 1965. Nor will mere labels and legal conclusions suffice. Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ____, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

The complaint is required to contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S. Ct. at 1974;see also, 591 F.3d at 255. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. ____, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; see also, 591 F.3d at 255.

The mere possibility that the defendants acted unlawfully is not sufficient for a claim to survive a motion to dismiss., 591 F.3d at 256; Giacomelli, 588 F.3d at 193. Ultimately, the well-pled factual allegations must move a plaintiff's claims from possible to plausible. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S. Ct. at 1974;, 591 F.3d at 256

IV. Analysis
A. The Motions to Strike

Plaintiffs responded to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss by filing Motions to Strike. Plaintiffs contend that the Court should strike the various Motions to Dismiss pending before the Court. Plaintiffs, however, have not set forth sufficient grounds for striking these motions. Pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal...

To continue reading

Request your trial

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