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Canfield v. Douglas County

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 16, 2014

DOUGLAS COUNTY, a public entity, DOUGLAS COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, VALERIE ELSON, individual and official capacity, LESA ADAME, individual and official capacity, CHERYL CAPLECHA, individual and official capacity, TRACY MUDGET, individual and official capacity, KRISTINE JOHNSON, individual and official capacity, NICOLE BECHT, individual and official capacity, PATRICK SWEENEY, individual and official capacity, SHERRY HANSEN, individual and official capacity, and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, Defendants.


KATHLEEN M. TAFOYA, Magistrate Judge.

This case involves claims that Defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights and Colorado law. This matter is before the court on Defendants Douglas County Department of Human Services, Lesa Adame, Tracey Mudget, Kristine Johnson, Nicole Becht, Patrick Sweeney, and Sherry Hansen's ("Douglas Defendants") "Motion to Dismiss" (Doc. No. 31 [Mot.], filed May 16, 2014). Plaintiff filed her response on June 20, 2014 (Doc. No. 40 [Resp.]), and Defendants filed their reply on June 27, 2014 (Doc. No. 43 [Reply]). Defendants Valerie Elson and Cheryl Caplecha filed their Joinder in the Motion to Dismiss on August 6, 2014. (Doc. No. 70 [Joinder].) The motion is ripe for ruling.


Plaintiff's claims center around child custody proceedings and Plaintiff's loss of parental rights. ( See Doc. No. 62 [Second Am. Compl.].) Plaintiff sues Douglas County and the Douglas County Department of Human Services ("DHS"), as well as various employees and agents of DHS. ( Id. )

Plaintiff alleges in September 2010 she went to a domestic violence shelter with her two children because she was concerned her now ex-husband was a threat to her children. ( Id., 20-21.) Plaintiff alleges in September 2010 the Arapahoe County DHS received a referral from the domestic violence shelter's therapist, and the investigation into the referral was transferred to the Douglas County DHS because of jurisdictional issues. ( Id., ¶¶ 21-22.) Plaintiff believes during the investigation, her ex-husband told the DHS defendants that Plaintiff had been arrested in 2008. ( Id., ¶ 23.) Plaintiff alleges her ex-husband gave the DHS defendants false and distorted information, but the DHS Defendants believed her husband. ( Id. )

In early September 2010, Plaintiff filed for a temporary restraining order against her ex-husband, and the hearing was held on September 10, 2010. ( Id., ¶¶ 20, 24.) At the hearing, Plaintiff alleges she was confronted by a DHS defendant who expressed concern about Plaintiff's mental health and the safety of her children. ( Id., ¶ 24.) Plaintiff was ordered to return to court with her children on September 10, 2010[1] for further proceedings. ( Id. ) After her return to court with her children, a counselor who had provided marriage counseling to Plaintiff and her ex-husband and DHS case workers testified at the hearing, and the children were removed from Plaintiff's custody. ( Id., ¶¶ 26, 27, 32 on page 9.[2]) Plaintiff alleges she has been denied normal contact with her children since September 2010 "and has had no contact with her children since the ordered [sic] entered in juvenile court on February 24, 2012." ( Id., ¶ 29.)

Plaintiff alleges the DHS filed a Juvenile Dependency and Neglect Petition on October 4, 2010, "based solely on false statements by Mr. Canfiled and the paternal grandmother." ( Id., ¶ 31.) Plaintiff alleges the DHS defendants performed an assessment from September 3, 2010, until October 21, 2010, when Plaintiff received notice of a "finding of Injurious Environment" against Plaintiff. ( Id., ¶ 32 on page 10; ¶ 36.) On December 1, 2010, Plaintiff appeared for a hearing regarding the Dependency and Neglect Petition. ( Id., ¶ 42.) Plaintiff alleges at that time she was "coerced [by the defendants] into accepting" a plea of Stipulated Adjudication, after which Plaintiff was allowed contact with her children through supervised visits with children's paternal grandmother. ( Id., 42-44.)

Plaintiff states she was put on and completed a treatment plan which, according to DHS, would determine Plaintiff's ability to see her children and regain custody. ( Id., ¶¶ 43, 45.) However, "in an effort to prevent Plaintiff from re-establishing her parental rights, DHS forced Plaintiff to undergo a Parental Child Interactional (PCI)" with a biased psychiatric nurse who gave an unfavorable report to DHS. ( Id., ¶ 45.) After continued therapy with DHS examiners, Plaintiff hired two independent examiners who concluded Plaintiff was mentally stable and not a threat to her children. ( Id., ¶ 46.) Plaintiff alleges this exculpatory evidence was withheld by the defendants from the juvenile dependency court as a continuing effort to malign Plaintiff and keep her separated from her children. ( Id. )

On October 27, 2011, a guardian ad litem was appointed to represent Plaintiff in Allocation of Parental Responsibility proceedings. ( Id., ¶ 48.) After hearings in December 2011 and January 2012, the court entered an Order of Allocation of Parental Responsibilities on February 24, 2014, which awarded sole decision-making and allocation of parental responsibilities to the children's father and limited Plaintiff to supervised visitations in a professional facility for three days per week for two to three hours. ( Id., ¶¶ 50-51.) Plaintiff alleges the defendants

have engaged in a campaign of stymying any efforts by Plaintiff to reunify with her children by, but not limited to, the completing of actions... and withholding important information from Plaintiff, failing to properly investigate sources of alleged child abuse... [, ] assigned blame to Plaintiff where none is due, failing to follow the advice of licensed professionals, and refusing to investigat[e] allegations" against the children's father.

( Id., ¶ 54.) Plaintiff states she is involved in ongoing custody proceedings. ( Id., ¶ 56.)

Plaintiff asserts claims for violations of her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ( id. at 22-24), Monell -related claims[3] ( id. at 24-28), various Colorado tort claims ( id. at 28-35), and a claim for declaratory relief ( id. at 35-37).

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint on the bases that (1) this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action; (2) this action is barred by the statute of limitations; (3) the claims are barred by collateral estoppel; (4) there is no Monell -type ...

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