United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
&. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Dwane
L. Tinsley for submission of proposed findings of fact and
recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B). On April 9, 2019, Magistrate Judge Tinsley
submitted his Proposed Findings and Recommendation [ECF No.
7] (“PF&R”). The PF&R recommends the
court dismiss this civil action and deny the plaintiffs'
Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs
[ECF No. 1]. On April 24, 2019, the plaintiffs-Machelle
Parsons and Darius Grose-timely submitted objections [ECF No.
8] to the PF&R. For the reasons that follow, the court
OVERRULES the plaintiffs' objections and
ADOPTS the PF&R in full.
the plaintiffs make no objections to the PF&R's
procedural history, the court ADOPTS the
Magistrate Judge's procedural history.
district court “shall make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This court is not, however,
required to review, under a de novo or any other standard,
the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge as
to those portions of the findings or recommendation to which
no objections are addressed. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 150 (1985). In addition, this court need not conduct a
de novo review when a party “makes general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a
specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). When reviewing portions of the report
de novo, this court will consider the fact that the
plaintiffs are acting pro se, and their pleadings will be
accorded liberal construction. Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d
1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978).
Complaint in this matter appears to allege violations of the
plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth, Sixth, and
Fourteenth Amendments based on the defendants' removal of
and denial of visitation rights with the plaintiffs'
minor child. The plaintiffs seek the “immediate
return” of the child. Compl. [ECF No. 2] 6. The
Magistrate Judge proposed that the court find (1) that the
defendants, in their official capacity, are immune from suit
under the Eleventh Amendment and (2) that the court should
abstain from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over this
matter under the “Younger-abstention doctrine,
” and the “domestic relations
exception, ” even if the plaintiffs could overcome the
Eleventh Amendment bar.
their objections to the PF&R, the plaintiffs first
contend that the defendants are being sued in both their
individual and official capacities. The plaintiffs also state
that “presently” there are “ongoing state
judicial proceedings” concerning the minor child's
custody. Pls.' Objs. [ECF No. 8] 7. Specifically, the
plaintiffs state that “[t]he [state court] judge
ordered a parental evaluation for both plaintiffs Machelle
Parsons and Darius Grose. . . . She ordered no reinstatement
of improvement period, and continue no contact with [the
minor child]. Our next hearing is scheduled for May
16, 2019[.]” Id. at 4-5 (emphasis added). The
plaintiffs' objections reiterate that they seek
“injunctive relief commanding defendants to return [the
minor child] to her biological parents.” Id.
the plaintiffs' objections-to the extent they direct the
court to a specific error in the PF&R-only provide
additional support for the Magistrate Judge's application
of the Younger-abstention doctrine and the domestic
relations exception. Moreover, these doctrines apply
regardless of whether the defendants are sued in their
individual or official capacities.
the domestic relations exception precludes federal
jurisdiction in this case. In Ankenbrand v.
Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 703-04 (1992), the Supreme Court
We conclude, therefore, that the domestic relations
exception, as articulated by this Court since
Barber, divests the federal courts of power to issue
divorce, alimony, and child custody decrees. . . .
Not only is our conclusion rooted in respect for this
long-held understanding, it is also supported by sound policy
considerations. Issuance of decrees of this type not
infrequently involves retention of jurisdiction by the court
and the deployment of social workers to monitor compliance.
As a matter of judicial economy, state courts are more
eminently suited to work of this type than federal courts,
which lack the close association with state and local
government organizations dedicated to handling issues that
arise out of conflicts over divorce, alimony and child
custody decrees. Moreover, as a matter of judicial expertise,
it makes far more sense to retain the rule that federal
courts lack power to issue these types of decrees because of
the special proficiency developed by state tribunals over the
past century and a half in handling issues that arise in the
granting of such decrees.
Id. at 703-04 (emphasis added); see also Becker
v. Clarke, No. DKC-12-1214, 2012 WL 1570139, at *2 (D.
Md. May 2, 2012) (“federal courts do not have the power
to intervene with regard to . . . ...