DCS wins judgment following allegations of caseworker taking unpermitted photos

The Indiana Department of Child Services won a judgment from the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Indiana on Friday following allegations from a man who claimed a caseworker entered his home to take photos without permission, which resulted in the removal of his children.

Homeowner Iredell Sanders sued DCS in August 2020 after one of its caseworkers, April Monique Jones, entered his house in June 2016 and allegedly took pictures without his consent.

Sanders alleged that after investigating the conditions of his home following Jones’ visit, DCS removed his children. He therefore argued Jones’ entry onto his property violated his Fourth Amendment rights because it was without probable cause and consent.

He also sought $124 million in damages in addition to a cease-and-desist order.

Before filing the suit at hand, Sanders filed a similar suit solely against DCS in April 2019, alleging DCS investigated him, “took photographs of the home, and questioned his children,” which resulted in his children being taken away and being placed with a guardian.

In that case, DCS was granted its motion to dismiss and the Northern District Court found Sanders was barred from suing DCS under the Eleventh Amendment, which the 7th Circuit affirmed.

Sanders pared down the number of defendants in his August 2020 suit from 15 to two, including DCS and Jones. Due to his failure to timely file a response to the defendants’ motions for judgment on the pleadings, the district court granted the motions and dismissed Sanders case in a Friday decision.

In Iredell Sanders v. Indiana Department of Child Services, April Monique Jones, 3:20-CV-674, the defendants argued multiple claims, including that Sanders’ claims were barred by res judicata. In ruling for the defendants, the district court found that all three elements of res judicata were met as to both parties.

The district court found that there was a final judgment on the merits in an earlier action and that the dispute in the instant suit arose from the same transaction as that previous suit and was nearly identical to its factual allegations. It found the same litigants were involved because DCS was a party in the previous litigation and Jones is in privity with DCS.

Finally, the court also concluded because Sanders explicitly referenced Jones’ title, alleged actions of Jones which involve her doing her job as a caseworker, and sought injunctive relief as a remedy, that Jones was being sued in her official capacity alone.

“Because all three elements of res judicata have been met as to both parties, the Court finds that Mr. Sanders’ claims against both DCS and Ms. Jones cannot be relitigated,” Chief Judge Jon DeGuilio wrote.

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