United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JOHN Z. LEE, District Judge.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") removed K.C., a four-year-old child, from the residence of Plaintiff Christel Van Dyke, who is K.C.'s maternal grandmother and former foster parent, based upon allegations of abuse. Consequently, Van Dyke brought this action against DCFS, the DCFS Director,  Lutheran Social Services of Illinois ("LSSI"), and LSSI employees Linda Fultz ("Fultz"), Renee Stewart ("Stewart"), and Melissa Johnson ("Johnson") (collectively "Defendants"), claiming that the allegations were unfounded. In doing so, Plaintiff contends that all Defendants violated her substantive due process rights and Defendants Fultz, Stewart, and Johnson, in particular, violated her Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Plaintiff also brought a supplemental state-law claim pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Review Law, 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-101 et seq., seeking this Court's review of a final DCFS administrative action denying her request to return K.C. to her home. In addition, Plaintiff filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction ordering Defendants to return K.C. to her home. In her reply, Plaintiff also asks this Court to appoint a special master to investigate K.C.'s well-being.
For their part, Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendants also oppose Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's substantive due process claim, unreasonable seizure claim, and claim for administrative review. The Court denies Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's unreasonable search claim. The Court also denies Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and appointment of a special master.
Van Dyke is the maternal grandmother of K.C., a minor who was three years old at the time of the events in question. (2d. Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) Defendant DCFS temporarily placed K.C. in Van Dyke's care as a foster child in 2011. ( Id. ¶ 6.) K.C. was adjudicated a neglected minor in 2012, and the DCFS Guardianship Administrator was appointed guardianship of K.C. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. B, Op. Admin. Law Judge 4.)
K.C.'s biological father, R.C., was allowed to visit K.C. even though Van Dyke alleges R.C. had been incarcerated for drug-related offenses. (2d. Am. Compl. ¶ 13.) While K.C. was under Van Dyke's care, the juvenile court issued an order requiring her to permit with visitation between R.C. and K.C., not speak ill or be critical of R.C. in front of K.C., and provide documentation from a healthcare provider if an illness prevented K.C. from visiting R.C. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. D, Jan. 15, 2013 Winnebago Cnty. Order.) The juvenile court also determined that the permanency goal for K.C. was to return home with his parents. ( Id., Ex. C, Jan. 15, 2013 Winnebago Cnty. Order Following Permanency Hearing.)
Van Dyke alleges that K.C. told her that he had been sexually abused during visits with R.C. (2d. Am. Compl. ¶ 13.) She also claims that her reports of sexual abuse to the DCFS were ignored. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Accordingly, Van Dyke petitioned the juvenile court to intervene and suspend R.C.'s visitation rights pending an investigation. ( Id. ¶ 17.) Subsequently, an administrative law judge ("ALJ") found Van Dyke's allegations of sexual abuse to be without merit. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. B, Op. Admin. Law Judge 6.)
In her complaint, Van Dyke further alleges that Johnson directed Fultz to remove K.C. from her home in retaliation for her petition to the juvenile court. (2d. Am. Comp. ¶ 18.) According to Van Dyke, under the false pretense of conducting a wellness check, Fultz, a police officer, and a DCFS employee gained access to Van Dyke's home. ( Id. ) Once inside her home, Defendants conducted a search, made allegations of abuse against Van Dyke, took K.C. without providing the legally required fourteen-days notice, and placed K.C. with other relatives. ( Id. ) Van Dyke claims the allegations of abuse were based upon a paper cut and were later unfounded. ( Id. )
After K.C. was removed from her home, Van Dyke was allowed limited visits with him. ( Id. ¶ 20.) During these visits, she observed and reported possible signs of physical abuse on K.C., including cuts on his wrist, mosquito bites, blood clots under his finger nails, a dirty appearance, weight loss, a depressed and reserved demeanor, and what appeared to be cigarette burns on his body. ( Id. ¶ 21.)
On March 12, 2013, Van Dyke filed an emergency petition in the Winnebago County Juvenile Court seeking an order to compel the DCFS to place K.C. back in her home. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. F, Emergency Pet. for Writ of Mandamus and for Hearing Instanter.) After a hearing, the Winnebago County Juvenile Court denied her petition. ( Id., Ex. G, Juvenile Division Order.)
Van Dyke then requested a Clinical Placement Review for K.C. ( Id., Ex. B, Op. Admin. Law Judge 5.) It was determined that it remained in K.C.'s best interest not to be returned to Van Dyke's home. ( Id. ) In response, Van Dyke filed an appeal, and the appeals hearing was completed on June 24, 2013. ( Id. )
On July 11, 2013, the ALJ recommended denying Van Dyke's appeal and found that she was unwilling to cooperate with the DCFS and the juvenile court in furthering the goal of returning K.C. to his biological parents. ( Id. 8.) The ALJ noted that Van Dyke's allegations of physical and sexual abuse against R.C. were "not believable or supported by any facts" and "misguided, vitriolic attempts to impede [R.C.'s] service plan and the Juvenile Court's reunification goal." ( Id. ) Six days later, the DCFS adopted the ALJ's recommendation and issued a final administrative decision denying Van Dyke's appeal for the return of K.C. to her home. ( Id. 11.) Van Dyke now brings substantive due process and Fourth Amendment claims against Defendants. As a supplemental state-law claim, she asks this Court to review and overturn DCFS' decision denying her appeal. Van Dyke also seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to return K.C to her home.
Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The purpose of a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Christensen v. Cnty. of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 457 (7th Cir. 2007); Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Rule 12(b)(1) requires dismissal of claims over which the federal court lacks the "statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case." United States v. Lawrence, 535 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2008).
Rule 12(b)(6) requires dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under the federal notice pleading standards, "a plaintiff's complaint need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim and its basis." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule ...