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Dyke v. Fultz

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 29, 2018

LINDA FULTZ and MELISSA JOHNSON, individually and officially as employees of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Defendants.


          John Z. Lee, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Christel Van Dyke is the maternal grandmother and former foster parent of K.C., a minor. In 2013, employees from Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (“LSSI”) and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) came to Plaintiff's home and removed K.C. from the home.

         Based upon these events, Plaintiff, now proceeding pro se, has sued Defendants Linda Fultz and Melissa Johnson, two LSSI employees. Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth and First Amendments, alleging that Defendants unreasonably entered her home to remove K.C. and retaliated against her for exercising her right to free speech. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion is granted.

         Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff is the former foster mother and maternal grandmother of a minor named K.C. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 1, ECF No. 180. At the time of the events in question, Defendant Fultz worked as a case worker for LSSI, id. ¶ 3, and Defendant Johnson worked as a manager for LSSI, id. ¶ 4.

         DCFS took protective custody of K.C. in November 2011, after K.C. became the subject of juvenile court proceedings in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, Illinois. Id. ¶ 7. DCFS contracted with LSSI to provide child welfare services to K.C. and his family. Id. ¶ 8. Accordingly, LSSI placed K.C. in foster care with Plaintiff in December 2011. Id. ¶ 9. At that time, Plaintiff signed a Relative Caregiver Placement Agreement, which forbade Plaintiff from, among other things, allowing K.C.'s birth parents to reside in Plaintiff's home without DCFS's knowledge and approval, or arranging medical treatment for K.C. without approval. Id. ¶ 11. In January 2012, Plaintiff also signed the Foster Parent Placement Agreement, which stated that LSSI reserved the right to remove K.C. from Plaintiff's home if it were deemed to be in the child's best interests. Id. ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff alleges that, during the time K.C. was under her foster care, he reported to her that his biological father, R.C., was sexually abusing him during his court-ordered visitation hours. Id. ¶¶ 14-15; 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 13, ECF No. 115. Plaintiff reported this alleged sexual abuse to Defendants, the DCFS child abuse hotline, and the police. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 15. Plaintiff refused to permit further required visits between K.C. and his father, [2] but the juvenile court ordered her to allow the visits to continue. Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff then petitioned the juvenile court to suspend R.C.'s visitation rights. Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff failed to appear with K.C. at the February 2013 hearing to address Plaintiff's compliance with R.C.'s visitation rights.[3] Id. ¶ 18. Soon thereafter, Defendant Johnson determined to remove K.C. from Plaintiff's foster care. Id. ¶ 20.

         Accordingly, on February 26, 2013, Fultz went to Plaintiff's residence to remove K.C. from Plaintiff's care, and Plaintiff answered the door.[4] Id. ¶¶ 26-27. Whether Plaintiff then gave Fultz permission to enter her residence remains unclear. Plaintiff suggests that she cracked the door open slightly and that Fultz then pushed the door and entered without consent. Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 27. Defendants deny that Fultz entered without consent. Defs.' Resp. Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 26, ECF No. 211.

         At some point, two Tinley Park Police Department officers were called to the scene. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 28. In their depositions, the officers stated that, upon their arrival, Plaintiff did not complain of any unprofessional conduct on Fultz's part and that the officers did not see any signs of a forced entry into Plaintiff's apartment. Id. ¶¶ 30-32.

         At some during Fultz's visit to Plaintiff's home, Fultz provided Plaintiff with a notice of Change of Placement of K.C., id. ¶ 33, and Fultz eventually left Plaintiff's residence with K.C., id. ¶ 35.

         Legal Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To survive summary judgment, the nonmovant must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and instead must “establish some genuine issue for trial such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor.” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2012).

         The evidence considered for summary judgment “must be admissible if offered at trial, except that affidavits, depositions, and other written forms of testimony can substitute for live testimony.” Malin v. Hospira, Inc., 762 F.3d 552, 554-55 (7th Cir. 2014). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court gives the nonmovant “the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that could be drawn from it.” Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th Cir. 2013).

         Moreover, Rule 56 “requires the district court to grant a motion for summary judgment after discovery ‘against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'” Silverman v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chi.,637 F.3d 729, 743 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). The moving party has the initial burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has sufficiently demonstrated the absence of a ...

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