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Way v. Tulsa East Child Support Services

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 17, 2017

STEVEN EDWARD WAY, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
TULSA EAST CHILD SUPPORT SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James H. Payne United States District Judge

         Now before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Karen S. Smith and Catina R. Drywater (Dkt.# 133). Plaintiff, Steven Edward Way, Sr., brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants contend they are entitled to summary judgment. After consideration of the pleadings, affidavits, and briefs, the Court finds Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History.

         On September 19, 2014, Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a “Motion for Injunction Relief and or Claim of Denial of Due Process and, or Fraud” (Dkt.# 1) in the District Court for the Southern District of California. On that same date, the District Court sua sponte dismissed this action without prejudice to refiling. Plaintiff then filed an “Amended Motion for Injunction Relief and or Claim of Denial of Due Process and or Fraud” (Dkt.# 5) which the District Court again sua sponte dismissed for failure to state a claim (Dkt.# 12). On June 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint (Dkt.# 19). Named as Defendants were the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (“OKDHS”), Tulsa East Child Support Services, San Diego Child Support Services, and two OKDHS child support enforcement attorneys, Karen S. Smith (“Smith”) and Catina R. Drywater (“Drywater”). Plaintiff complains primarily that Defendants have tried to collect child support payments that he does not owe, have “stonewalled” his efforts to challenge or correct defendants' error, and have wrongly informed other entities that he owes child support payments. He alleges that Defendants' actions have, among other harms, precluded him from obtaining a passport. As relief, Plaintiff seeks “27, 600, 000, 000.00” in damages.

         On August 21, 2015, the District Court entered an “Order Conducting Sua Sponte Review and Denying Plaintiff's Motions for a Hearing and for a Temporary Restraining Order” (Dkt.# 25) which dismissed all of the claims against all of the Defendants except for his procedural due process claim asserted against Tulsa East Child Support Services, Smith, and Drywater set out in “Count Four” of “Claim Two” of his Second Amended Complaint. “Count Four” of “Claim Two” of the Second Amended Complaint reads in its entirety:

         “COUNT No. 4 Denial of Due Process

The Plaintiff, Steven Edward Way, Sr., has on many occasions over the last 12 years (all dates not specified, but clearly referred to in writing by the Defendant(s)) until this very day, has continually demanded hearings to resolve this matter with Tulsa East Child Support Services, Karen S. Smith, Catina R. Drywater and other case workers (to be named specifically after discovery is complete). In almost each instance to be denied and or totally ignored by the Defendant(s) and being a denial of the Plaintiff's right to due process of law.”

Dkt.# 19 at pp. 19-20.

         After concluding that this claim survived initial review, the District Court directed Plaintiff to serve the remaining Defendants. Upon being served, the remaining Defendants moved for dismissal. The District Court denied the dismissal request of Smith and Drywater and converted Tulsa East Child Support Services' motion to one for summary judgment and allowed for supplemental briefing. Following supplemental briefing, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Tulsa East Child Support Services on the basis that it was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as it is an arm of OKDHS, which is an arm of the State of Oklahoma (Dkt.# 73). On October 19, 2016, Smith and Drywater filed a motion to transfer this case from the Southern District of California to this Court. On October 28, 2016, the District Court granted that motion and transferred the case to this Court (Dkt.#s 129-131). Following transfer to this Court, Defendants Smith and Drywater filed their Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff has responded in opposition and Defendants submitted a reply brief.

         B. Factual Background.[1]

         Smith and Drywater are attorneys employed at the Tulsa East Child Support Services Office. Plaintiff is a child support obligor. His child support case was assigned to the Tulsa East Child Support Offices in 2000. The evidence shows that Plaintiff has had multiple hearings over a number of years regarding his child support obligations. Plaintiff has failed to pay court ordered child support payments and as a result is substantially in arrears in an amount over $67, 000.00. Smith and Drywater came into contact with Plaintiff during the course of their employment due to their attempted enforcement of Plaintiff's child support obligations.

         Despite the fact that Plaintiff is unable or unwilling to pay his child support obligations, he desires to travel internationally. However, due to his substantial child support arrearages, the U.S. Secretary of State has refused to issue him a passport (Dkt.# 19 at p. 11; 42 U.S.C. § 652(k)(2)). Despite Plaintiff's claim that he has been denied hearings to allow him to dispute the amount owed, the evidence shows otherwise. For example, in 2009, Drywater advised Plaintiff by letter of the actions that he would need to take in order to dispute the balance. There is no evidence that Plaintiff took those actions.

         Smith then informed Plaintiff that a hearing was set on November 21, 2011, in which, amongst other issues, the issue of the amount of child support arrearages due and owing would be determined. Plaintiff appeared at the hearing telephonically. As a result of that hearing, an Administrative Enforcement Order was entered determining child support arrearage owed by Plaintiff in the principal amount of $32, 940.92, along with $20, 580.69 in interest, for the time period of November 2002 through October 2011, for a total of $53, 521.61. The Administrative Enforcement Order notified Plaintiff of his right to appeal ...


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