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Dela Cruz v. Child Welfare Services

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

February 28, 2017

GINA DIANE INDA DELA CRUZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CHILD WELFARE SERVICES; and PATRICE BELL, CHILD WELFARE SERVICES WORKER, Defendants.

          ORDER: (1) DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND; AND (2) DENYING AS MOOT APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN DISTRICT COURT WITHOUT PREPAYING FEES OR COSTS

          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge

         ORDER: (1) DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND; AND (2) DENYING AS MOOT APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN DISTRICT COURT WITHOUT PREPAYING FEES OR COSTS

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On December 22, 2016, Plaintiff Gina Diane Inda Dela Cruz (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed an “Opening Statement, ” ECF No. 1, which the court construes as a Complaint. On January 30, 2017, Plaintiff sought to proceed in forma pauperis by filing an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“IFP Application”), ECF No. 6, and a Statement that provides more detail regarding her financial condition, ECF No. 7. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds these matters suitable for disposition without a hearing. Because Plaintiff's claims are barred by res judicata, and are therefore frivolous and fail to state a claim, the court DISMISSES the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), and DENIES the IFP Application as MOOT.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. The Complaint

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendants Child Welfare Services (“CWS”) and CWS workers Patrice Bell (“Bell”) and Carlene Greenlee (“Greenlee”) (collectively “Defendants”)[1] violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights and conspired to violate Plaintiff's rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985 when Plaintiff's newborn daughter was removed from her custody in 2009. Compl. at 1. More specifically, the Complaint alleges that Greenlee violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights and committed a crime by taking Plaintiff's daughter absent any evidence of harm. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Bell “tr[ied] to get a doctor to wrongfully diagnose me and she wrongfully took my custody away from me.” Id. Further, Bell allegedly “took [Plaintiff's] custody away because of [her exercise of] freedom of speech” in connection with a separate CWS case involving Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff seeks damages of $7 million, and custody of her children. Id.

         B. Prior Federal and State Actions[2]

         On December 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed an earlier action in this court against CWS Director Patricia McManaman (“McManaman”), Greenlee, and Bell, alleging that they violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights in 2009 when Plaintiff's then-newborn daughter (the same child at issue in the current Complaint) was taken into protective custody and Plaintiff was prevented from having unsupervised visits with her other children. See Dela Cruz v. McManaman, 2012 WL 4472260, at 1 (D. Haw. Sept. 26, 2012) (“Dela Cruz 2011”).[3] Plaintiff sought the return of her children and $20 million in damages. Id.

         Dela Cruz 2011 determined that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion, based on the final adjudication of the same claims against the same parties in a prior state court action. Id. at 4-6. Dela Cruz 2011 noted that in 2010, Plaintiff filed an action in state court that (1) alleged claims for “bad faith, negligently interfering parental rights [sic], emotional distress, taking a child with no proof of evidence, no probable cause, invasion of confidentiality and privacy, [and] false police report;” and (2) sought the “return of all seven of her children . . . and $10 million in damages.” Id. at *2. Dela Cruz 2011 further noted that a state court judgment was entered in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff pursuant to an order granting summary judgment with prejudice, and that Plaintiff did not appeal that judgment. Id.

         Dela Cruz 2011 explained that:

First, the Judgment in the State Action is now final. . . . Second, the parties in the State Action are the same as in this action. . . . Third, . . . the claims in this action are the same as those in the State Action. . . . Plaintiff's claims against Greenlee, Bell, and McManaman in this [federal] action clearly arise out of the same series of transactions as those in the State Action -- the removal of Plaintiff's daughter and her interactions with Bell, Greenlee, and CWS. That is, while Plaintiff raises constitutional issues in this action but raised tort law claims in the State Action, “all of the claims arise out of the same series of transactions . . . and are therefore the same claims.” Aganos [v. GMAC Res. Funding Corp., ] 2008 WL 4657828, at *5 [(D. Haw. Oct. 22, 2008)] . . . Moreover, although Plaintiff brings a claim in this action under § 1983 which was not contained in the State Action, Plaintiff could have brought her § 1983 claim in the State Action.

Id. at *5-6. Thus, this court granted Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed the action as to all claims and all parties. Id. at *6. Judgment was entered in favor of Defendants on September 26, 2012. ECF No. 51. Plaintiff did not appeal that Judgment.

         III. STAND ...


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