United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
MYERSCOUGH, U.S. District Judge.
cause is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
(d/e 77) filed by Defendants Joshua Sproat and Scott
Longanecker. Plaintiff does not oppose Defendant
Longanecker's request for summary judgment, and the Court
accepts Plaintiff's concession. Defendant Sproat is also
entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff presented no
admissible evidence that Defendant Sproat acted under color
of law or deprived her of a constitutional right, and
Defendant Sproat is entitled to absolute immunity for the
claim that he lied under oath and presented drug tests
results in court.
December 2015, Plaintiff Coralie Brewer filed pro se an
Amended Complaint (d/e 6) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that numerous defendants deprived her of her
parental rights and removed her children from her care
without a hearing. Plaintiff alleged that, in October 2013,
an investigator with the Department of Children and Family
Services (DCFS) and a counselor with Catholic Charities
removed Plaintiff's children from her home without a
warrant or consent. It appeared, although was not
specifically alleged, that a proceeding under the Juvenile
Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/1-2 et seq.)
remained pending at that time regarding Plaintiff's
children. Plaintiff sought compensatory damages of
$10 million, punitive damages, and such injunctive,
declaratory, or other relief as may be appropriate. Am.
Compl. at 6 (the request for injunctive and declaratory
relief was part of the preprinted complaint form Plaintiff
used and Plaintiff does not identify any injunctive or
declaratory relief sought).
relevant to the pending motion, Plaintiff alleged that
Defendant Joshua Sproat, a child welfare specialist with
Family Service Center, allegedly opened a criminal file relating
to Douglas Young, Plaintiff's boyfriend, without court
permission and which purportedly harmed Plaintiff's case
relating to her children. Plaintiff admits the criminal file
refers to Montgomery County, Illinois, Circuit Court Case No.
2006CF45 pertaining to Douglas Young. See Undisputed Fact No.
9 (d/e 77); Pl. Resp. at 2 (d/e 80). Sproat also allegedly
gave Plaintiff an illegal drug test and lied under oath.
Plaintiff admits that, by alleging that Defendant Sproat lied
under oath, she means that he lied under oath to the judge in
open court in the juvenile court cases. Undisputed Fact No.
17 (d/e 77); Pl. Resp. at 3 (d/e 80).
Scott Longanecker, a Family Service Center supervisor,
allegedly told Sproat to lie under oath and terminate
Plaintiff's visits by giving Plaintiff an illegal drug
test. Longanecker also allegedly threatened Plaintiff's
brother, who had custody of Plaintiff's children, that if
the rest of Plaintiff's family sees the children, Sproat
will take the children away.
Court found that a liberal construction of Plaintiff's
complaint suggested that she stated a claim of a deprivation
of a constitutional right-the fundamental right to make
decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of her
children pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment-against various defendants, including Sproat and
Longanecker. See Opinion at 8-9, 14 (d/e 17)
(finding Plaintiff stated a familial relations substantive
due process right claim against Defendants Sproat and
Longanecker). The Court noted that Defendants Sproat and
Longanecker were not state workers but that a liberal
construction of the Amended Complaint suggested that Sproat
and Longanecker purportedly conspired with state workers to
deprive Plaintiff of her constitutional right. Id.
at 10. In July 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Tom
Schanzle-Haskins appointed counsel to represent Plaintiff.
See July 15, 2016 Text Order.
January 30, 2017, Defendants Sproat and Longanecker filed the
Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 77) at issue herein.
Defendants argue that Plaintiff has no admissible evidence to
show that either of them acted under color of law by
conspiring with a state actor to deprive Plaintiff of her
fundamental right to parent her children. In addition,
Defendants assert that Plaintiff has no evidence that
Defendant Longanecker did anything that deprived Plaintiff of
her “family rights.” Id. at 11. Finally,
Defendants argue that summary judgment is proper against
Defendant Sproat because it was permissible for Sproat to
open a criminal file relating to Young, Plaintiff voluntarily
submitted to Sproat's request for a drug test, and Sproat
is entitled to absolute immunity even if he lied under oath
in the child custody case.
does not oppose the granting of summary judgment on behalf of
Defendant Longanecker. Resp. at 4 (d/e 80). The Court accepts
Plaintiff's concession and grants summary judgment in
favor of Defendant Longanecker.
also does not dispute that Sproat was within his rights to
review a prior, public court file and that Plaintiff
voluntarily submitted to a drug test that she did not believe
was legal. Plaintiff summarily argues, however, that she has
pled and supported a § 1983 claim for interference with
familial relationship against Defendant Sproat. Id.
at 5. Plaintiff also argues that Defendant
Sproat is not entitled to absolute immunity for performing
the investigative functions of a case worker, such as
requesting a drug test and relying on knowingly inaccurate
information. Plaintiff does not directly address
Defendants' argument that Plaintiff lacks admissible
evidence to show that Defendant Sproat conspired with state
judgment is proper if the movant shows that no genuine
dispute exists as to any material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the
court of the basis for the motion and identifying the
evidence the movant believes demonstrates the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
265 (1986). No genuine issue of material fact exists if a
reasonable jury could not find in favor of the nonmoving
party. Brewer v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill.,
479 F.3d 908, 915 (7th Cir. 2007). When ruling on a motion
for summary judgment, the court must consider the facts in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all
reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor.
Woodruff v. Mason, 542 F.3d 545, 550 (7th Cir.
movant can show the absence of some fact the nonmovant would
have to prove at trial, the nonmovant must come forward with
evidence to show that a genuine issue exists. Alexander
v. City of S. Bend, 433 F.3d 550, 554 (7th Cir. 2006).
However, the nonmovant “need only produce evidence
sufficient to potentially persuade any
reasonable jury.” Blasius v. Angel Auto.,
Inc., 839 F.3d 639, 648 (7th Cir. 2016) (emphasis in
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires proof (1) of the
deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of
the United States, and (2) that the alleged deprivation was
committed by a person acting under the color of state law.
See Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. Cnty. of Madison,
Ill., 746 F.3d 766, 775 (7th Cir. 2014); Rodriguez
v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 822 (7th Cir.
2009). The conduct of private actors can constitute state
action where private actors conspire with state actors to
deprive a person of constitutional rights; the state compels
the discriminatory action; the state controls a nominally
private entity; the state is entwined with the private
entity's management or control; the state delegates a
public function to a private entity; or there is such a
“close nexus between the state and the challenged
action that seemingly private behavior reasonable may be
treated as that of the state itself.” Hallinan v.
Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d
811, 815-16 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing cases). The plaintiff