Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Frank C. Damrell, Senior District Judge, Presiding D.C. No.2:09-cv-01950-FCD-DAD
Argued and Submitted April 14, 2011-San Francisco, California
Before: Sidney R. Thomas and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Circuit Judges, and Cormac J. Carney, District Judge.*fn1
Plaintiff foster children appeal the dismissal of their class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which they allege that the caseloads of the Sacramento County Dependency Court and court-appointed attorneys are so excessive as to violate federal and state constitutional and statutory provisions. The district court abstained from adjudicating Plaintiffs' claims. Based on O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488 (1974), we affirm. See Kaufman v. Kaye, 466 F.3d 83, 84 (2d Cir. 2006).
Plaintiffs filed this action on behalf of themselves and a proposed class of roughly 5,100 foster children in Sacramento County.*fn2 They allege that "crushing and unlawful caseloads" frustrate the ability of Dependency Courts to fairly and adequately hear their cases and of court-appointed attorneys to provide them effective assistance of counsel-all to the childrens' "enduring harm." Their suit "seeks a Dependency Court for Sacramento's abused and neglected children that comports with basic Due Process and the effective, adequate, and competent assistance of counsel for the children of Sacramento County in dependency proceedings."
In their complaint, Plaintiffs assert constitutional and statutory claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as pendent state law claims.*fn3 They seek relief in the form of (1) a declaratory judgment that Defendants have violated, continue to violate, and/or will violate Plaintiffs' rights; (2) injunctive relief, restraining future violations of those rights; and (3) an order "mandating that Defendants provide the additional resources required to comply with the Judicial Council of California and the National Association of Counsel for Children's recommended caseloads for each court-appointed attorney."
Named plaintiffs E.T., K.R., C.B., and G.S. reside in the County of Sacramento and presently are in foster care or are wards of the court. Together, they allege numerous shortcomings of court-appointed counsel, including the failure to conduct meaningful interviews or regular meetings, investigate their cases, and foster contact with social workers and other professionals.
Each named Defendant plays a part in administering the County's foster care courts. The Honorable Tani CantilSakauye, Chief Justice of California, is Chair of the Judicial Council of California. The Judicial Council oversees the statewide administration of justice in the state's courts. As Chair, the Chief Justice directs the Council's work, including its allocation of the judicial branch budget; promulgation of rules of court administration and procedure; and setting of priorities for the system's continual improvement. William C. Vickrey is Administrative Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts ("AOC"), the staff agency of the Council responsible for a variety of programs and services to improve access to a fair and impartial judicial system. The AOC's initiatives include Dependency Representation, Administration, Fund- ing, and Training ("DRAFT"), a program to provide court funding to participating California counties. DRAFT funds pay for childrens' court-appointed counsel in Sacramento County Dependency Court. Finally, the ...