Joseph A. et al. v. Ingram et al., No. 00-2136

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
Writing for the CourtEBEL
Citation275 F.3d 1253
Parties(10th Cir. 2001) JOSEPH A., by next friend Corrine Wolfe; JOSEPHINE A., by next friend Corrine Wolfe; MICHAEL B., by next friend Lucy Gale McMurray; MICHELLE C., by next friend La Donna Harris and Lucy Gale McMurray; JOEL D., by next friend Lucy Gale McMurray; SUSAN E., by next friend Barbara Burns; DONALD E., by next friend Barbara Burns; Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. LAWRENCE B. INGRAM, MARGARET LARROGOITE, DAROLD CHRISTIANSEN, and JANET BRYAN, in their individual capacities, NORA BUCHANON, in her official capacity as County Office Manager of the Bernalillo County office of the Children Youth & Families Department, DEBORAH HARTZ, in her official capacity as Director of the Protective Services Division of the Children, Youth & Families Department, HEATHER WILSON, in her official capacity as secretary of the Children, Youth & Families Department, LINDA S. GARCIA, in her official capacity as the County Office Manger of the Santa Fe County office of the Children, Youth & Families Department, Defendants-Appellees
Decision Date07 January 2002
Docket NumberNo. 00-2136

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275 F.3d 1253 (10th Cir. 2001)
JOSEPH A., by next friend Corrine Wolfe; JOSEPHINE A., by next friend Corrine Wolfe; MICHAEL B., by next friend Lucy Gale McMurray; MICHELLE C., by next friend La Donna Harris and Lucy Gale McMurray; JOEL D., by next friend Lucy Gale McMurray; SUSAN E., by next friend Barbara Burns; DONALD E., by next friend Barbara Burns; Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
LAWRENCE B. INGRAM, MARGARET LARROGOITE, DAROLD CHRISTIANSEN, and JANET BRYAN, in their individual capacities, NORA BUCHANON, in her official capacity as County Office Manager of the Bernalillo County office of the Children Youth & Families Department, DEBORAH HARTZ, in her official capacity as Director of the Protective Services Division of the Children, Youth & Families Department, HEATHER WILSON, in her official capacity as secretary of the Children, Youth & Families Department, LINDA S. GARCIA, in her official capacity as the County Office Manger of the Santa Fe County office of the Children, Youth & Families Department, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 00-2136
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS TENTH CIRCUIT
January 7, 2002

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico (D.C. No. CIV-80-623-JC/DJS) (D.C. No. CIV-80-623-JC/DJS) (D.N.M.)

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Marcia Robinson Lowry, Susan Lambiase, and Rose E. Firestein of Children's Rights, Inc., New York, New York; and Robert Levy of Greer, Wissel & Levy P.A., Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Timothy V. Flynn-O'Brien of Bryan & Flynn-O'Brien, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Patricia A. Madrid, Attorney General and John H. Clough, Assistant Attorney General, New Mexico Attorney General's Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before EBEL, Circuit Judge,McWILLIAMS, Senior Circuit Judge, and BRIMMER,* District Judge.

ORDER

EBEL, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs-Appellants' Petition for Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc is granted in part and denied in part. The Panel Opinion filed August 22, 2001 is withdrawn and the judgment is vacated. The attached Panel Opinion is issued in its place. The request for rehearing en banc is denied. The Appellees' Motion for Leave to File a Surreply to Appellants' Reply is granted.

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OPINION

This civil rights class action reaches this court for the second time after more than twenty years of litigation and seventeen years of federal court oversight of New Mexico's Department of Human Services and its successor, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (collectively "the Department"). Appellants brought suit in 1980 alleging that a variety of systemic problems within the Department led to failures to make timely decisions, which effectively denied them meaningful access to adoption services and a chance to be raised in permanent, stable families.

Three years after the suit was filed and certified as a class action, the parties entered into a consent decree. The first decree was vacated and replaced with a second decree in September 1998. The following year, Appellants moved the district court to hold the Department in contempt for failing to comply with the second decree, and the Department countered with a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the suit is barred by New Mexico's sovereign immunity and that the district court should abstain from hearing the case pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). The district court rejected the Department's Eleventh Amendment argument, but nonetheless dismissed the case pursuant to the Younger abstention doctrine. Appellants appeal the dismissal of the case, and the Department cross-appeals the district court's rejection of its Eleventh Amendment argument.

In an opinion filed August 22, 2001, this court ruled that the Eleventh Amendment and the Younger abstention doctrine preclude Appellants from pursuing their claims. Appellants filed a petition for rehearing, which we have granted in part. On rehearing, we conclude that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar Appellants' claims, but the Younger abstention doctrine does bar at least some of the claims. On remand, the district court must determine which provisions of the consent decree pose enforcement problems under Younger. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the district court's judgment in part, VACATE in part, and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

In spite of the extensive history of this case, the background to this appeal is relatively straightforward. Appellants, children who became wards of the state after experiencing abuse or neglect, filed suit against the Department seeking damages and injunctive relief to prevent the Department from causing children to spend unreasonable amounts of time in foster care. The district court certified a plaintiff class representing all those children committed to the Department's custody because of parental neglect or abuse. The Department filed an unsuccessful motion requesting that the court abstain from hearing the case, and the parties subsequently entered into a settlement in which the Department agreed to undertake systemic reforms in exchange for Appellants dropping their request for damages. The district court approved the settlement and entered a consent decree ("Original Consent Decree") to govern the ongoing relationship among the parties and class members.

The Department moved to have the action dismissed in 1994, arguing that it had substantially complied with the terms of the Original Consent Decree, and the district court granted the motion. We reversed, however, and the case was remanded to a special master who recommended that the Department be held in contempt for violating the terms of the

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settlement. See Joseph A. v. N.M. Dep't of Human Servs., 69 F.3d 1081, 1083-84 (10th Cir. 1995).

In 1998, the parties negotiated a second settlement that was approved by the court to replace the Original Consent Decree. This new settlement was called the "Stipulated Exit Plan" ("SEP"), and it set forth specific benchmarks that would allow the Department to remove itself from the court's jurisdiction, step by step, as each individual benchmark was met. The SEP imposed the following obligations upon the Department:

• Provide caseworkers, supervisors, and adoption specialists with specific training at the time they are hired and periodically during their service in the Department;

• Conduct an individual assessment conference to develop an assessment plan for each child prior to appearing at an initial custody hearing that is held before the New Mexico Children's Court ("Children's Court"), see N.M. Stat. 32A-4-18(A);

• Conduct a Treatment Planning Conference to develop an individualized treatment plan for each child prior to an adjudicatory hearing held before the Children's Court, see N.M. Stat. 32A-4-19(B);

• In developing individualized assessment and treatment plans, desist from selecting emancipation as a discharge goal for any child under thirteen years of age "unless the children's court so orders, against the documented recommendation of the Department," and provide counseling to any children between the ages of twelve and fourteen for whom such a goal is selected;

• In developing individualized assessment and treatment plans, desist from selecting long-term foster care as a discharge goal for any child except under specified conditions;

• In developing individualized assessment and treatment plans, desist from retaining a discharge goal of "return-home" for any child that has been in foster care for more than fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months, except in certain specified circumstances including when "[t]he Children's Court has ordered the plan, against the documented recommendation of the Department";

• Review each child's individualized treatment plan no less frequently than every six months;

• File papers with the Children's Court necessary to initiate the termination of parental rights within ninety days of the date that a child's discharge plan is changed to adoption;

• If a child with a plan of adoption is in a conversion home, within sixty days of a child's being freed for adoption, obtain a placement agreement from foster parents who plan to adopt children placed in their home, and, if that is unsuccessful, refer the case to the Department's Central Adoptions Unit;

• If a child with a plan of adoption is not in a conversion home, within thirty days identify three prospective families for adoption, and, if no match is found, assign the case to an adoption recruitment specialist to conduct a child-specific search for an adoptive home;

• Complete home studies of prospective adoptive parents within 150 days of the date of application;

• Require private contractors to comply with the provisions of the Consent Decree;

• Maintain a computerized record system containing certain information specified in the Consent Decree;

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• Employ only staff members with certain enumerated qualifications;

• Comply with New Mexico state law and Department regulations concerning Citizen Review Boards; and

• Provide a "Neutral Third Party" appointed by the court to monitor the Department's compliance with the Consent Decree with certain specified information to facilitate oversight.

The following year, Appellants moved the court to hold the Department in contempt for allegedly persistent violations of portions of the SEP. The Department responded by filing another motion for dismissal, arguing that the district court should abstain pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and that the suit was barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

The district court rejected the Department's Eleventh Amendment argument, but nevertheless dismissed the case in its entirety on the basis of Younger. Appellants then unsuccessfully moved the district court to alter...

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130 practice notes
  • Olivia Y. ex rel. Johnson v. Barbour, No. CIV.A.3:04 CV 251LN.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • November 18, 2004
    ...the reasons that follow, the court is not persuaded that abstention is necessarily required. Joseph A. ex rel. Corrine Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253 (10th Cir.2002), involved the defendants' alleged violation of certain provisions of a federal consent decree. The district court granted the......
  • Johnson ex rel. Estate of Cano v. Holmes, No. CIV 02-1239 JB/KBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • September 30, 2004
    ...§ 671(a)(10) creates a private right of action for enforcement without consideration of § 674(d)(3)(A)). See also Joseph A. v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1264 (10th Cir.2002) (observing that § 674(d)(3)(A) "simply allows an individual aggrieved by adoption related discrimination to bring a suit......
  • Laurie Q. v. Contra Costa County, No. C-96-3483 MHP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 17, 2004
    ...periodic review hearings, constitutes an ongoing state judicial proceeding.") (citations omitted); Joseph A. ex rel. Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1267-68 (10th Cir.2002) (addressing the same foster care system, viz., New Mexico's, at issue in Valdez); cf. Nelson v. Murphy, 44 F.3d 497, 5......
  • Crugher v. Prelesnik, No. 13–2425.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 1, 2014
    ...alone in this holding. See New Orleans & Gulf Coast Ry. v. Barrois, 533 F.3d 321, 330 (5th Cir.2008); Joseph A. ex rel. Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1265 (10th Cir.2002); Burgio & Campofelice, Inc. v. N.Y. State Dep't of Labor, 107 F.3d 1000, 1006 (2d Cir.1997); Guar. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. G......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
129 cases
  • Olivia Y. ex rel. Johnson v. Barbour, No. CIV.A.3:04 CV 251LN.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • November 18, 2004
    ...the reasons that follow, the court is not persuaded that abstention is necessarily required. Joseph A. ex rel. Corrine Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253 (10th Cir.2002), involved the defendants' alleged violation of certain provisions of a federal consent decree. The district court granted the......
  • Johnson ex rel. Estate of Cano v. Holmes, No. CIV 02-1239 JB/KBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • September 30, 2004
    ...§ 671(a)(10) creates a private right of action for enforcement without consideration of § 674(d)(3)(A)). See also Joseph A. v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1264 (10th Cir.2002) (observing that § 674(d)(3)(A) "simply allows an individual aggrieved by adoption related discrimination to bring a suit......
  • Laurie Q. v. Contra Costa County, No. C-96-3483 MHP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 17, 2004
    ...periodic review hearings, constitutes an ongoing state judicial proceeding.") (citations omitted); Joseph A. ex rel. Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1267-68 (10th Cir.2002) (addressing the same foster care system, viz., New Mexico's, at issue in Valdez); cf. Nelson v. Murphy, 44 F.3d 497, 5......
  • Missouri Child Care Ass'n v. Cross, No. 01-3346.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 28, 2002
    ...that the Page 1040 Directors are not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity on this ground. See also Joseph A. ex rel. Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253 (10th Cir.2002) (holding that the CWA does not include a remedial scheme sufficient to preclude an Ex parte Young action); cf. Suter, 503 U.......
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1 books & journal articles
  • GROUPS AND RIGHTS IN INSTITUTIONAL REFORM LITIGATION.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...statutory scheme has traditionally militated in favor of abstention, not against it."). (257) See Joseph A. ex rel. Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1274 (10th Or. 2002) ("We assume without deciding that the Children's Court is not authorized to hear class actions and other representative su......

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