United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
DOUGLAS D. HOWARD, Plaintiff,
GILES COUNTY D.S.S., Defendant.
MICHAEL F. URBANSKI CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pro se, plaintiff Douglas D. Howard filed die
instant complaint against die Giles County D.S.S.,  seeking
leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Because he
appears to be indigent, the court will GRANT Howard's
motion to proceed in forma pauperis. However, after
reviewing the complaint, die court will DISMISS this case
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), district courts have a duty
to screen initial filings and dismiss a complaint filed in
forma pauperis at any time if die court determines
that die action "(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii)
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief." In his complaint, Howard takes issue
with D.S.S.'s decision to leave his three children in the
care of their mother, which he claims has happened every time
he has gone to court since 2010. Compl., ECF No. 2. Howard
asks the court to award him custody of his children,
"that the people that work for D.S.S. resign from their
position, " and he wants $10 million.
court is mindful of its obligation to construe pro se filings
liberally. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). Nevertheless, this liberal construction requirement
does not mean the court can ignore a clear failure to allege
facts setting forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Serv., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir.
1990) ("The 'special judicial solicitude' with
which a district court should view such pro se complaints
does not transform the court into an advocate. Only those
questions which are squarely presented to a court may be
properly addressed."). "A complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim of relief that is plausible on its face."'
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)); see generally id. at 684-87
(outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure for "all civil actions").
Howard asserts no basis for this federal court's
jurisdiction over this matter.See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) ("Federal
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only
that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is
not to be expanded by judicial decree." (internal
citations omitted)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (a
pleading that state a claim for relief must contain a short a
plain statement of the grounds for the court's
jurisdiction). The face of the complaint alleges no
constitutional violation or violation of federal statute that
would give rise to federal question jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1331. Nor are the few facts alleged suggestive
of any other viable claim for relief, to the extent diversity
jurisdiction may be inferred under § 1332.
base, Howard's dispute appears to be with an unnamed
state court's custody ruling rather than with the Giles
County D.S.S. Such a claim would be barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which provides that a court
may not entertain a complaint where "the losing party in
state court file[s] suit in federal court after the state
proceedings ended, complaining of an injury caused by the
state-court judgment[.]" Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi
Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291 (2005);
see also Johnson v. DeGrandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06
(1994) ("[A] party losing in state court is barred from
seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the
state judgment in a United States district court, based on
the losing party's claim that the state judgment itself
violates the loser's federal rights.").
to the extent Howard's complaint could be construed as
stating a viable claim for relief against the Giles County
D.S.S., courts in this district have found that local social
services boards and their departments are arms of the state
under Virginia law and are therefore shielded from liability
by the Eleventh Amendment. See Bell v. Charlottesville
Dep't of Child Protective Servs., No. 3:15CV00031,
2015 WL 5316769 (W.D. Va. Sept. 11, 2015); Kincaid v.
Anderson, No. L14CV00027, 2015 WL 3546066 (W.D. Va. June
8, 2015); Nelson v. Herrick, No. 3:11cv00014, 2011
WL 5075649 (W.D. Va. Oct. 26, 2011); Doe v. Mullins,
No. 2:10cv00017, 2010 WL 2950385 (W.D. Va. July 22, 2010):
see also Perry v. Carter, No. CIVA297-CV-893, 1998
WL 1745365 (E.D. Va. July 27, 1998).
Howard's complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted and/or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant that is immune from suit, the court will dismiss
his case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). An
appropriate Order will be entered.
 Howard references in the style
of his complaint an individual named Amy Woodruf, whom the
court presumes works for Giles County D.S.S.S., but he does
not set forth any specific allegations against her. ECF No.
The civil cover sheet that
accompanies Howard's complaint cites the basis for
jurisdiction as "U.S. Government, plaintiff." ECF
No. 2-1. Plainly, die U.S. Government is not ...