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Koger v. State

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 31, 2014

AMANDA Z. KOGER, and MEGAN E. KOGER, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK, BRONX COUNTY FAMILY COURT JUSTICES; JUSTICE MAUREEN A. McLEOD, JUSTICE GAYLE P. ROBERTS, JUSTICE CLARK V. RICHARDSON, each one in their official and individual capacity, LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF NEW YORK; law guardian, VICKI LIGHT, in her official and individual capacity, CITY OF NEW YORK, ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN'S SERVICES (ACS); caseworker DARLENE JACKSON, in her official and individual capacity, NEW YORK CITY CORPORATION COUNSEL; SPECIAL ASSISTANT, LE LANI HINES, in her official and individual capacity, BRONX COUNTY FAMILY COURT; LEGAL COUNSEL FOR ACS, JENNIFER LEVINE, in her official and individual capacity, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Amanda Z. Koger ("Amanda") and Megan E. Koger ("Megan") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), proceeding pro se, bring this suit against the City of New York, the State of New York, the Bronx County Family Court, Bronx County Family Court Judges Maureen McLeod, Gayle Roberts, and Clark Richardson, the Legal Aid Society of New York ("Legal Aid"), Legal Aid law guardian Vicki Light, the City of New York Administration for Children's Services ("ACS"), ACS caseworker Darlene Jackson, New York City Corporation Counsel, Corporation Counsel for ACS Jennifer Levine, and Corporation Counsel Special Assistant Lelani Hines (collectively, "Defendants"). In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege violations of their constitutional and civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") and various state law claims, arising out of educational neglect proceedings instituted against Plaintiffs' parents in 2002. Defendants move to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

I. Background[1]

A. December 2002 Educational Neglect Petitions

On December 20, 2002, ACS caseworker Darlene Jackson ("Jackson") brought two petitions before Bronx County Family Court Judge Maureen McLeod to commence educational neglect proceedings against Roslyn Drew ("Roslyn") and Frederick Koger ("Frederick"), Plaintiffs' parents. Dkt. 22 ("Toews Decl.") Ex. A (the "December 20 petitions"). At the time, Amanda was age 10, and Megan was age seven.[2] Dkt. 15 ("Am. Compl.") Ex. A. The petitions stated that Plaintiffs had missed a significant amount of school, and that their parents had failed to attend required meetings regarding the absences and to follow the correct procedures for home-schooling. Id. That same day, Judge McLeod issued an arrest warrant for Roslyn. Toews Decl. Ex. B. Plaintiffs allege that they were brought to the Bronx County Family Court by New York City police officers, and, while their parents appeared before Judge McLeod, were "detained in an interrogation room and questioned about [their] home life and why [they] weren't in school" by Jackson and Vicki Light ("Light"), a Legal Aid law guardian. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. After two hours, Plaintiffs returned home with their parents. Id.

On January 10, 2003, Judge McLeod entered two orders directing temporary removal of Plaintiffs from their parents into ACS custody, pending further proceedings with respect to the December 20 petitions. Toews Decl. Ex. C; Toews Decl. ¶ 5. Plaintiffs later returned to the courthouse with their parents. There, they were again "interrogated about home, family, and school, " before being "whisked... out a back entrance into a waiting car" and told that they were being placed in foster care "because [their] parents were refusing to cooperate with the judge." Am. Compl. ¶ 12. The following day, Plaintiffs were taken to the Catholic Children's Charities agency, before spending the next 10 days being "shifted between two foster care family homes." Id. ¶¶ 13-14. According to Plaintiffs, during the time spent at these homes, they were not allowed to have contact with their parents, received no educational instruction, and were subject to "negligent and indifferent care and treatment." Id. ¶¶ 14-15.

Plaintiffs were returned to their parents 11 days after removal. Id. ¶ 16. They allege that their foster care experience left them in need of medical and psychiatric attention "for months afterwards, " and that they continue to require counseling. Id. According to Plaintiffs, Judge McLeod ordered Plaintiffs' parents to re-enroll them in their former school, where they faced "insults, bullying, and physical injury." Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiffs also claim that following their return to their parents, they "were subjected to an unjustified monitoring of [their] home and school circumstances for the next 2 years" by Jackson. Dkt. 27 ("Pl. Opp. Br.") at 2.

B. Later Family Court Proceedings

On January 23, 2004, Plaintiffs' parents filed a motion in Bronx County Family Court to dismiss the December 20 petitions. Dkt. 10 ("Sanders Aff.") Ex. B. On March 11, 2004, Judge Gayle Roberts denied the motion to dismiss the petitions, finding that "the petition states a valid cause of action." Id. Plaintiffs' parents appealed this denial to the Appellate Division, First Department. On December 16, 2004, the First Department unanimously affirmed Judge Roberts' denial of the motion to dismiss. Sanders Aff. Ex. C.

On June 28, 2005, the educational neglect proceedings in Family Court came to a "factfinding hearing by inquest, " due to the failure of Plaintiffs' parents to appear before the court. Sanders Aff. Ex. D. Judge Clark Richardson found by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiffs' parents had committed educational neglect and ordered that Plaintiffs be released to their parents' custody, with ACS supervision for six months to ensure their cooperation with referrals made by ACS and the Department of Education. Id.

C. The Prior State Court Action

In or about 2005, Roslyn and Frederick filed a petition in the Supreme Court of New York, Bronx County, seeking dismissal of the educational neglect proceeding then pending in Family Court. Sanders Aff. Ex. F. On April 5, 2005, Judge Dianne Renwick denied the petition, holding that because Plaintiffs' parents had "failed to obtain relief at the Court of Appeals, [they] cannot attack the Appellate Division's ruling by commencing an Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court." Id. Furthermore, the court declined to remove the Family Court proceedings to the Supreme Court of New York, on the ground that "the Family Court is equipped to handle such a dispute." Id. On May 31, 2005, Plaintiffs' parents filed a motion requesting leave to renew and reargue their petition for dismissal of the educational neglect proceeding, and an unspecified preliminary injunction. Sanders Aff. Ex. G. On July 1, 2005, that request was denied. Id.

D. Prior Federal Court Actions

On July 7, 2003, Roslyn and Frederick filed an action in the Supreme Court of New York, Bronx County against a number of the defendants in this case, including ACS, Jackson, and Light, among others, alleging criminally negligent torts and constitutional violations. Sanders Aff. ¶ 9; Sanders Aff. Ex. E. On August 11, 2003, that action was removed to a court in this District. See Koger v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Educ., et al., No. 03 Civ. 6079 (SAS) (S.D.N.Y.), Dkt. 1. On February 18, 2004, the case was voluntarily dismissed. See id. Dkt. 10, 11. On September 5, 2007, Roslyn and Frederick moved for leave to restore and reargue the case; on September 11, 2007, the Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin denied that motion. Id. Dkt. 13.

On January 8, 2008, Frederick filed a separate complaint in this District pursuant to § 1983, against the defendants in the present action, as well as several public school employees, "Board of Education" officials, and the New York City Police Department. Koger v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Educ., et al., No. 08 Civ. 2101 (KMW) (S.D.N.Y.), Dkt. 2. The complaint alleged a conspiracy to violate his family's constitutional and civil rights, and sought $50 million in damages and the termination of all defendants from their positions. Id. On March 3, 2008, then-Chief Judge Kimba M. Wood dismissed the complaint on several grounds. See id. Dkt. 3; Sanders Aff. Ex. E ("2008 KMW Op."). First, the court held that the Bronx County Family Court and the Family Court judges were immune from suit. See 2008 KMW Op. at 3 (citations omitted). With respect to the claims against the court-appointed and Legal Aid attorneys and the City of New York, the court held that the complaint failed to state a cognizable § 1983 claim, as the court-appointed and Legal Aid attorneys were not state actors subject to suit under the statute, and Frederick did not plead facts alleging that his injury was caused by a policy or custom of the City of New York, as is required to state a § 1983 claim against a municipality. Id. at 4-6. The court also noted that many of the claims appeared time-barred. Id. at 7.

On May 23, 2008, Frederick filed a motion to vacate the order and judgment of the court dismissing his complaint. Koger v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Educ., et al., No. 08 Civ. 2101, Dkt. 5. On July 25, 2008, the court denied the motion, and noted that Frederick "will not be allowed to file anything further in captioned manner with the exception of documents directed to the [Second ...


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