United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE
Aimee Lewis, appearing pro se, filed a complaint pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging her federal constitutional or
statutory rights were violated by the defendants: “(1)
A declaratory decree was violated; (2) the State of South
Dakota revoked my parental rights ‘without any'
preponderance of evidence; (3) Violation of the Due Process
Clause of the 14th Amendment; (4) Violations of the First,
Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments; (5) 18 USC
Ch. 224: Protection of Witnesses - Section 3524[, ] 28 U.S.
Code 1738 A; (6) Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1
Stat. 73. 92.” (Docket 1). Ms. Lewis asserts a
Bivens claim, but does not identify which
defendant is a federal actor acting under color of federal
law. Id. at p. 8. The claims are premised on a state
court custody dispute concerning plaintiff's minor son.
Id. at p. 10. Ms. Lewis asks this court to restore
him to her custody. Id. Defendants filed separate
motions to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b). (Dockets 15, 27, 29, 32 & 35). Plaintiff filed
supplements to her complaint and two motions in response to
defendants' motions. (Dockets 18, 20, 33, 37 &
to a standing order of April 1, 2018, the matter was referred
to United States Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). See also Docket 22. On
November 28, 2018, the magistrate judge issued a report
recommending the court dismiss the complaint without
prejudice. (Docket 42 at p. 9). Ms. Lewis filed
objections to the report and recommendation in the form of
letters to the magistrate judge. (Dockets 43 & 50).
During the same time, plaintiff filed additional supplements
to her complaint. (Dockets 44-47 & 49). Defendants filed
responses to plaintiff's initial objection. (Dockets 48
& 51-54). No. further objections were filed to the report
and recommendation of the magistrate judge and the time for
doing so has passed. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
court reviews de novo those portions of the report and
recommendation which are the subject of objections. Thompson
v. Nix, 897 F.2d 356, 357-58 (8th Cir. 1990); 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). The court may then “accept, reject,
or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
objections to the report and recommendation (R&R) are
summarized as follows:
1. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), is only applicable
to criminal proceedings;
2. Plaintiff's constitutional rights have already been
violated in the state court proceedings, so Younger is
3. Plaintiff is being forced to choose between filing
objections or participating in the hearings in state court.
(Dockets 43 & 50).
was the United States Supreme Court decision which directed
federal courts to consider whether to abstain from exercising
jurisdiction under the principals of federal-state comity.
Younger directed federal courts to avoid “a violation
of the national policy forbidding federal courts to stay or
enjoin pending state court proceedings except under special
circumstances.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 41.
Younger abstention doctrine is an exception to the general
rule that “federal courts ordinarily should entertain
and resolve on the merits an action within the scope of a
jurisdictional grant.” Sprint Communications, Inc. v.
Jacobs, 571 U.S. 69, 73 (2013). “Circumstances fitting
within the Younger doctrine . . . include [state] civil
proceedings involving certain orders that are uniquely in
furtherance of the state courts' ability to perform their
judicial functions.” Id. (citing New Orleans
Public Service, Inc. v. Council of the City of New Orleans,
491 U.S. 350, 367-68 (1989)).
R&R analyzed the application of the Younger abstention
doctrine in child custody cases. See Docket 42 at pp. 5-7.
“Ms. Lewis' case is precisely the type of case
suited to Younger abstention. . . . Therefore, as it pertains
to Ms. Lewis' equitable and injunctive relief that her
son be returned to her custody, the court must abstain
pursuant to the Younger doctrine.” Id. at p. 7
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Lewis claims the state court and the individual defendants
have already violated her constitutional and statutory rights
so the Younger abstention doctrine should not be applied. Ms.
Lewis' objection is misplaced. Abstention is still
appropriate because Ms. Lewis has “an opportunity to
litigate [her] claims in the South Dakota courts, ”
including the South Dakota Supreme Court. Oglala Sioux Tribe
v. Fleming, 904 F.3d 603, 613 (8th Cir. 2018). “State
courts are competent to adjudicate federal constitutional
claims . . . and when a litigant has not attempted to present
[her] federal claims in related state-court proceedings, a
federal court ...