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First Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion in M v. DONALD L. CARCIERI

First Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion in M v. DONALD L. CARCIERI

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Published by Beverly Tran
On June 28, 2007, Mary Melvin, Kathleen J. Collins, and Gregory C. Elliott (collectively, the proposed Next Friends), filed a class action suit on behalf of foster care children who are under the legal custody of Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleged that by maintaining systemic deficiencies in Rhode Island's child welfare and foster care systems, the state has deprived plaintiffs of their rights under the United States Constitution and several federal statutes.
On June 28, 2007, Mary Melvin, Kathleen J. Collins, and Gregory C. Elliott (collectively, the proposed Next Friends), filed a class action suit on behalf of foster care children who are under the legal custody of Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleged that by maintaining systemic deficiencies in Rhode Island's child welfare and foster care systems, the state has deprived plaintiffs of their rights under the United States Constitution and several federal statutes.

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Published by: Beverly Tran on Jun 22, 2010
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08/20/2013

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The Hon. David H. Souter, Associate Justice (Ret.) of the
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Supreme Court of the United States, sitting by designation.
United States Court of Appeals
For the First Circuit
No. 09-1759SAM and TONY M., by Next Friend Gregory C. Elliott;CAESAR S., by Next Friend Kathleen J. Collins; DAVID T.,by Next Friend Mary Melvin; BRIANA, ALEXIS, CLARE, andDEANNA H., by Next Friend Gregory C. Elliott; andDANNY and MICHAEL B., by Next Friend Gregory C. Elliott;for themselves and those similarly situated,Plaintiffs, Appellants,v.DONALD L. CARCIERI, in his official capacity as Governorof the State of Rhode Island; JANE A. HAYWARD, in herofficial capacity as Secretary of the Executive Office ofHealth & Human Services; and PATRICIA MARTÍNEZ, in herofficial capacity as Director of the Department ofChildren, Youth and Families,Defendants, Appellees.APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND[Hon. Ronald R. Lagueux, U.S. District Judge]BeforeTorruella, Circuit Judge,Souter, Associate Justice,
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and Stahl, Circuit Judge.Susan Lambiase, Children's Rights, with whom Marcia RobinsonLowry, Shirim Nothenberg, Jessica Polansky, John W. Dineen, VernonWinters, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Jametta O. Alston, Rhode
 
- 2 -Island Office of the Child Advocate, were on brief for appellants.Erik S. Pitchal, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, SuffolkUniversity Law School, for amici curiae the National Association ofCounsel for Children, the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles,Youth Law Center, the Hofstra Child Advocacy Clinic, the Legal AidSociety, the Children's Advocacy Institute, Children's Law Centerof Massachusetts, Lawyers for Children, Prof. Don Duquette, theRutgers Child Advocacy Center, Children's Law Center of Minnesota,the University of Miami School of Law's Children & Youth LawClinic, National Center for Youth Law, First Star, and Prof.Michael Dale, in support of appellants.Andrew B. Prescott, Steven M. Richard, Nixon Peabody LLP, foramici curiae Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil LibertiesUnion, in support of appellants and in favor of reversal.Seema A. Misra, Jennifer C. Arnett, Stroock & Stroock & LavanLLP, for amici curiae The Field Center for Children's PolicyPractice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania, in supportof appellants and in support of reversal.Brenda D. Baum, Assistant Attorney General, with whom PatrickC. Lynch, Attorney General, and James R. Lee, Assistant AttorneyGeneral, Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General, were onbrief for appellees.June 18, 2010
 
The complaint initially named ten children as Plaintiffs.
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However, three of the children were subsequently adopted andtherefore, they are not currently under DCYF custody. The districtcourt concluded that the children's adoption rendered their claimsmoot and Plaintiffs have not challenged this conclusion on appeal.After the district court rendered its opinion, Plaintiff Deanna H.was adopted and thus her claims are also moot. The remaining namedPlaintiffs, who are identified by pseudonyms to protect theiridentities, are Sam and Tony M, David T., Danny and Michael M., andCaesar S.- 3 -
TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.
This appeal raises importantquestions regarding an individual's capacity to sue as arepresentative of minors in state foster care custody allegingviolations of their civil rights.On June 28, 2007, Mary Melvin, Kathleen J. Collins, andGregory C. Elliott (collectively, the proposed Next Friends), fileda class action suit on behalf of foster care children who are underthe legal custody of Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youthand Families (DCYF). The complaint sought declaratory andinjunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleged that bymaintaining systemic deficiencies in Rhode Island's child welfareand foster care systems, the state has deprived plaintiffs of theirrights under the United States Constitution and several federalstatutes. The proposed Next Friends sought to pursue the presentcivil rights case on behalf of foster care children who are unableto sue for themselves due to their minority. The district court
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dismissed the complaint finding that the Next Friends lackedcapacity to sue on behalf of Plaintiffs.

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