Smith, DSS, and Broome County sufficient for redress under Section 1983. Plaintiff relies on the lenient standards of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(f) to support her arguments.
To determine whether plaintiff has stated a cause of action against defendants, the Court initially must determine the nature of the allegations required by Section 1983. Plaintiff's argues essentially that she is seeking compensation and injunctive relief under Section 1983 for defendants' alleged violation of her due process rights before, during, and after the permanent neglect hearing of July, 24, 1992. Any claim so predicated on a violation of due process must involve the invasion of a recognized life, liberty, or property interest. See DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep't of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 195-96, 103 L. Ed. 2d 249, 109 S. Ct. 998 (1989). Fortunately for plaintiff, an indigent parent's right to the "care, custody, and management of their child" has been held to be a liberty interest entitled to constitutional protection. Van Emrik v. Chemung County Dep't of Social Servs., 911 F.2d 863, 867 (2d Cir. 1990); Gottlieb v. County of Orange, 871 F. Supp. 625, 628 (S.D.N.Y. 1994).
Plaintiff also is correct that a due process claim must allege more than mere negligence on the part of a defendant. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662, 106 S. Ct. 662 (1986). However, the Second Circuit has indicated that an allegation of "deliberate indifference" by a defendant is a sufficient intentional predicate. In other words, state actors may be liable under Section 1983 if their non-feasance of affirmative duties "[was] a substantial factor leading to the denial of a constitutionally protected liberty or property interest and the officials displayed a mental state of deliberate indifference with respect to those rights." P.C. v. McLaughlin, 913 F.2d 1033, 1044 (2d Cir. 1990); Doe v. New York City Dep't of Social Servs., 649 F.2d 134, 141 (2d Cir. 1981), cert. denied sub nom. Catholic Home Bureau v. Doe, 464 U.S. 864, 78 L. Ed. 2d 171, 104 S. Ct. 195 (1983).
Concerning the standards for pleading in federal court, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 dictates that "all pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(f). This provision "is not simply a precatory statement but reflects one of the basic philosophies of practice under the federal rules." 5 Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1286 (1990). Moreover, "lawsuits should be determined on their merits and according to the dictates of justice, rather than in terms of whether or not the averments in the paper pleadings have been artfully drawn." Id. Based on these standards, a court should not require technical exactness but should make a determined effort to understand what a plaintiff is attempting to set forth in his or her pleading. See Alexander v. Unification Church of America, 634 F.2d 673, 678 (2d Cir. 1980) (holding that plaintiff's mislabeling of counts in his complaint was immaterial).
Returning to the Complaint in this case, the Court must address the question of whether, upon the totality of the pleading, plaintiff has set forth allegations sufficient to state a cause of action under Section 1983 for deprivation of her right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court finds that plaintiff has satisfied this burden. In Count Three of the Complaint, paragraphs 49, 50, and 57
clearly name defendants Smith, DSS, and Broome County as parties who contributed to the alleged termination of plaintiff's parental rights without due process of law. Furthermore, outside of Count Three, paragraphs 82-86
also expressly charge that defendants violated due process norms. Finally, while plaintiff failed to use the magic words "deliberate indifference," the Court agrees that the alleged conduct of defendants reasonably could be characterized as indicative of a deliberate indifference to plaintiff's constitutional rights.
On a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the facts alleged by a plaintiff are assumed to be true and must be liberally construed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011, 1014 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 911, 118 L. Ed. 2d 548, 112 S. Ct. 1943 (1992). In sum, a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears, beyond doubt, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him or her to relief. Dahlberg v. Becker, 748 F.2d 85, 88 (2d Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1084, 85 L. Ed. 2d 144, 105 S. Ct. 1845 (1985). With the applicable standards thus established, the Court finds that, if the facts unartfully alleged in the Complaint are true, then defendants arguably have violated plaintiff's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. As a result, plaintiff has stated a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and defendants' motion to dismiss cannot be granted.
Counts Four through Ten of the Complaint are dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) because the Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate them. Furthermore, Counts One, Two, Eleven, and Twelve are dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because they fail to state a cause of action against defendants Smith, DSS, or Broome County. For the foregoing reasons, however, plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim that defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment due process rights is still pending. Because plaintiff still maintains this federal claim, the Court presently will retain jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety is hereby DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
October 17, 1995
Binghamton, New York
HON. THOMAS J. McAVOY
Chief U.S. District Judge