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Howell v. Cumberland County Department of Social Services

United States District Court, District of Maryland

February 4, 2015

LAKESHIA HOWELL Plaintiff
v.
THE CUMBERLAND COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES Defendant

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

On January 30, 2015, the Clerk received a complaint signed by self-represented plaintiff Lakeshia Howell, claiming that her three children were seized from her during a weekend visit to Fayetteville, North Carolina in October of 2011.[1]ECF No. 1. p. 2. Howell, a Maryland resident who brings this claim based on diversity jurisdiction, [2]seeks money damages from the Cumberland County, North Carolina. Department of Social Services and requests "full custody with pick up with no contact with father(s)." ECF No. 1, p. 3. Howell's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) accompanied the complaint and shall be granted. Her emergency motion requesting she be permitted to immediately "pick up" her children (ECF No. 3) shall be denied and the complaint dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Child custody matters may not be heard in this court. [3]See Raftery v. Scott, 756 F.2d 335, 343 (4th Cir. 1985) (domestic relations exception to federal courts' jurisdiction based on idea that state has a stronger, more direct interest); Wasserman v. Wasserman, 671 F.2d 832 (4th Cir, 1982) (diversity jurisdiction does not include power to grant divorces, determine alimony or support obligations, or decide child custody rights); Cantor v. Cohen, 442 F.3d 196 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing Cole v. Cole, 633 F.2d 1083, 1087 (4th Cir. 1980) (noting federal courts "generally abstain from child custody matters")). The merits of the decisions made regarding the taking of Howell's children by North Carolina authorities are inextricably intertwined in every claim asserted in the complaint; such review by this court is not permitted. The case will be dismissed by separate order.


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