United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
APRIL J. FLOM, et al., Plaintiffs,
OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District
Plaintiffs filed the pro se complaint in this action
on February 20, 2018. ECF No. 1. The complaint names April J.
Flom, Stuart A. Flom, Rachel K. Flom, Rebecca P. Flom, and
Rose J. Flom as plaintiffs, but only April and Stuart signed
the pro se complaint. Id. at 3, 7. As
defendants, the complaint names Outagamie County; the
Outagamie County Departments of Health and Human Services,
Child Protective Services, and Probation and Parole; ten
individual county employees; four individual county
prosecutors and public defenders; two individual Probation
and Parole employees; and one or more unnamed insurance
companies. Id. at 1-3. The Plaintiffs seek to
proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. The Court has
reviewed the affidavit submitted in support of the motion and
concludes that Plaintiffs lack sufficient income and/or
assets to pay the filing fee.
courts are permitted to screen every complaint, regardless of
a plaintiff's fee status. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B);
Hoskins v. Poelstra, 320 F.3d 761, 763 (7th Cir.
2003). Prompt screening of a complaint prior to service,
especially when the plaintiff is pro se, serves the
important function of protecting putative defendants from
unnecessary fear and anxiety and the expense of hiring an
attorney in order to respond to patently frivolous claims
brought either out of ignorance of the law or with intent to
embarrass or harass. In screening a complaint, the court must
determine whether it complies with the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and states at least plausible claims for which
relief may be granted.
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts, and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers
“labels and conclusions” or “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint's
allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first
“identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id. The court is obliged to give
the plaintiff's pro se allegations, however
inartfully pleaded, a liberal construction. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).
and Stuart Flom are apparently the parents of Rachel,
Rebecca, and Rose Flom. See ECF No. 2 at 1. The
complaint alleges that “[t]he Plaintiffs had their
family separated from each other, without a warrant, on
[approximately] 2/29/12 and 3/12/12. The family was
fraudulently separated and/or kept separated from each other
for 14 months.” ECF No. 1 at 4. The complaint alleges
that workers from Child Protective Services (CPS) made
fraudulent statements to the Plaintiffs and to courts.
Id. It also alleges that CPS workers and officers
from Probation and Parole colluded to separate the family.
Id. Plaintiffs further allege that members of the
family were prevented from speaking with each other, that the
children were placed in separate schools and foster homes,
and that all communications between the parents and children
were monitored under threat of jail time for the parents.
Id. at 4-5. Further, the complaint alleges that
“Defendants fraudulently entered into a contract with
the Flom Family and Defendants had no intention of fulfilling
the contract, ” that CPS perpetually changed criteria
for family reunification, and that the children were told
that their parents were not trying to recover custody of
them. Id. at 5.
state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that (1) he was deprived of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) the
deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons
acting under the color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v.
Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.2d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d
856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo,
446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). Under Monell v. Department of
Social Services of the City of New York, a municipality
may be liable under § 1983 only “when execution of
a government's policy or custom, whether made by its
lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said
to represent official policy, inflicts the injury.” 436
U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Accordingly, the Seventh Circuit has
identified three ways in which a municipality might violate
(1) through an express policy that, when enforced, causes a
constitutional deprivation; (2) through a “wide-spread
practice” that although not authorized by written law
and express policy, is so permanent and well-settled as to
constitute a “custom or usage” with the force of
law; or (3) through an allegation that the constitutional
injury was caused by a person with “final decision
Calhoun v. Ramsey, 408 F.3d 375, 379 (7th Cir. 2005)
(citing McTigue v. City of Chi., 60 F.3d 381, 382
(7th Cir. 1995)).
assuming that the complaint implicates parental rights of a
constitutional dimension, the complaint fails to state a
claim for which relief can be granted, despite the liberal
construction that the court must give to it. By stating
general claims against groups such as “CPS workers,
” “officers of Probation and Parole, ” and
“Defendants, ” the complaint lacks the
particularity necessary to put the individual defendants on
notice of the Plaintiffs' claims against them. The claims
against Outagamie County and its subsidiary entities are
likewise insufficient. The complaint does not identify any
policy that allegedly caused the asserted constitutional
deprivations by the municipality, and acts by individuals
employed by the municipality cannot be a basis for holding
the municipality liable. See Monell, 436 U.S. at
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Plaintiffs' motion
to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (ECF No. 2)
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint is dismissed
for failure to state a claim as required under Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a). Plaintiffs may file an amended complaint within thirty
days from the date of this order. If they fail to do so, the
action will be dismissed without prejudice. The court notes
that, in the United States federal courts, “one pro se
litigant cannot represent another.” Nocula v. UGS
Corp., 520 F.3d 719, 725 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing 28
U.S.C. § 1654). Accordingly, if ...