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Annette v. Haslam

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

August 12, 2019




         TO: Honorable Eli J. Richardson, District Judge

         By Order entered January 11, 2019 (Docket Entry No. 7), this pro se case was referred to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Court.

         Pending before the Court is the motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No. 17) filed by Defendants Charles Barry Tatum and John Gwin. Plaintiff opposes the motion. See Docket Entry Nos. 52 and 93. For the reasons set out below, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the motion be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Hollie Annette (“Plaintiff') filed this lawsuit pro se on August 29, 2018, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the case was subsequently transferred to this Court.[1]After the Court denied Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis, she paid the filing fee and summons were issued for 25 defendants: former Tennessee Governor William Edward Haslam; the State of Tennessee; the Tennessee Department of Children's Services; Jane Bradley; Robbie Beal; Heather Jeffries; Tonya Lyles Reed; Claudia Bonnyman; Judy Robbins Scott; Brenda Pierce; Lester Wayne Pierce; Jason Scott Robbins; Cheryl McAdams; Benton County, Tennessee; John Whitworth; the City of Dickson; Scott Hull; the City of Franklin; Becky Johnson; the City of Lebanon; Nathan Beatty; Charles Barry Tatum; John Gwin; and two “John Doe” defendants. See Docket Entry Nos. 8, 10, and 55.

         Plaintiff states that she brings her lawsuit “for redress of grievances for the theft and holding hostage, without authority, of my sons and daughters and the ongoing and continuous malicious prosecution against me.” See Complaint at 4, ¶ 1. In a 68-page complaint, Plaintiff recounts a litany of events that began in September 2011when Jane Bradley (“Bradley”) initiated an investigation on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (“DCS”). Plaintiff alleges that during 2011 and 2012, she was the victim of wrongful and illegal activities at the hands of DCS employees Bradley, Heather Jeffries (“Jeffries'), and Cheryl McAdams (“McAdams”), which led to the temporary removal of her son and daughter from her custody in December 2011, their placement with Judy Robbins Scott (“Judy Scott”) and Jason Scott Robbins (“Jason Robbins”), [2] and their permanent removal from her custody.[3] Id. at 10-25, ¶¶ 27-146. Among other things, Plaintiff alleges that: (1) she was denied proper judicial and administrative proceedings before Charles Barry Tatum (“Tatum”) and John Gwin (“Gwin”), both of whom she alleges acted improperly; (2) false criminal charges were lodged against her because of her attempts to regain custody of her children; (3) she was subjected to illegal searches and seizures of her person and property, false arrests, and assaults by Franklin Police Department Detective Becky Johnson (“Johnson”), Dickson Police Department Officer Scott Hull (“Hull”), and Lebanon Police Department Officer Nathan Beatty (“Beatty”); and, (4) Robbie Beal (“Beal”) had her arrested and involuntarily committed for a mental health examination. Id.

         Plaintiff next recounts a series of events occurring in 2014 that culminated in the removal of another one of her children from her custody. Id. at 25-29, ¶¶ 147-175 and 32-34, ¶¶ 208-219. Plaintiff alleges that: (1) she was illegally seized on September 3, 2014, and was interrogated and held in custody for 21 days by two unnamed officers of the Benton County Sheriff's Office; (2) DCS employee Tonya Lyles Reed (“Reed”) “stole” her 18 month old son from a local hospital on September 3, 2014, and thereafter filed a petition for temporary custody of the child; (3) Reed, along with foster parents Brenda Pierce and Lester Wayne Pierce, wrongfully and illegally took custody of the child; and, (4) John Whitworth (“Whitworth”) signed orders enforcing the removal of her son from her custody and directing that a “delayed birth certificate” be issued for the child. Id.

         Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Claudia Bonnyman (“Bonnyman') failed to act as a judicial officer with respect to several filings that Plaintiff made in 2016 and 2018, and acted improperly by: (1) denying Plaintiff legal remedies; (2) attempting to collect fees and information from Plaintiff; (3) failing to enforce the law; and, (4) ignoring the criminal activity of state employees. Id. at 31-32, ¶¶ 192-207.

         Plaintiff asserts that she has exhausted all available state administrative remedies and has no recourse in the state courts. Id. at 25, ¶¶ 145-146. Alleging violations of her federal constitutional rights and her rights under the Tennessee constitution, Plaintiff seeks an award of damages for the various wrongdoings that she alleges she and her children have suffered at the hands of Defendants. She also seeks punitive damages, declaratory relief, and various forms of injunctive relief. For example, she requests orders directing that her three children be immediately returned to her custody and orders that “the State of Tennessee, its agents, and municipalities” cease and desist from taking certain actions against her and against other “men, women, and their offspring.” Id. at 60-67.


         On February 25, 2019, Defendants Tatum and Gwin (hereinafter referred to collectively as “Defendants”) responded to the complaint by filing the pending motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting that Plaintiff fails to state viable claims for relief against them. First, they contend that Plaintiff has not shown that she served them with process. Second, they argue that any claims against them are barred by the applicable statute of limitations because the most recent events alleged against them occurred in 2012. Finally, they argue that the claims against them are barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity because the alleged conduct at issue occurred during judicial proceedings over which they presided as a General Sessions Judge and a Juvenile Judge for Wilson County, Tennessee. See Memorandum in Support (Docket Entry No. 18).

         Plaintiff responds in opposition, making several arguments against the motion to dismiss and in support of her underlying claims against Defendants. See Response (Docket Entry No. 52). Also before the Court are Defendants' reply, see Docket Entry No. 56, and Plaintiff's affidavit, which essentially buttresses the content of her response. See Docket Entry No. 93.


         Defendants' motion to dismiss is reviewed under the standard that the Court must accept all of the well pleaded allegations contained in the complaint as true, resolve all doubts in Plaintiff's favor, and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the pro se Plaintiff. See Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684 (6th Cir. 2006); Boswell v. Mayer, 169 F.3d 384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999); Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 11-12 (6th Cir. 1987). However, Plaintiff must provide the grounds for her entitlement to relief and this “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (abrogating Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). Plaintiff's factual allegations must be enough to show a plausible right to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-61. The well pleaded factual allegations must "do more than create speculation or suspicion of a legally cognizable cause of action; they must show entitlement to relief." League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         IV. ...

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