GARWOOD, Circuit Judge:
Plaintiff-appellant Laurene Cuvillier (Cuvillier) brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting a deprivation of rights secured by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 651-669b. Because we conclude that the provisions Cuvillier relies on do not give rise to individual rights, we affirm the district court's dismissal of this suit.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW
In 1983, Robert and Anne Harrison were granted a divorce by decree entered in Atlanta, Georgia. Anne Harrison subsequently changed her name to Laurene Cuvillier. As part of the divorce decree, Robert Harrison (Harrison) was required to pay $3,000.00 monthly in child support to Cuvillier. Harrison failed to do so. In 1990, Cuvillier terminated Harrison's parental rights for abandonment and failure to pay child support.
In December of 1993, Cuvillier attempted to collect the past due child support through the Georgia Department of Human Resources (GDHR). By that time, however, Harrison no longer lived in Georgia; he resided in Hazlehurst, Copiah County, Mississippi, where he owned a home and business. Accordingly, in February of 1994, GDHS forwarded a request for collection of the arrears of $261,000.00 to the Copiah County Child Support Enforcement Office (CCCSEO), a subdivision of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS).
Cuvillier alleges that she made "repeated inquiries" regarding the status of her claims, but that CCCSEO failed to pursue them. On or after June 12, 2002, however, CCCSEO filed a court action against Harrison to collect the child support.
Cuvillier (proceeding pro se, here and below) filed this suit on Monday, June 13, 2005, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various CCCSEO employees and MDHS officials: Donald Taylor, Executive Director of MDHS; Johnnie Sullivan, supervisor of CCCSEO Child Support Enforcement; Elmira Williams and Sherry Jackson, both CCCSEO caseworkers; Hugh Redhead, attorney for CCCSEO Child Support Enforcement; Richard Harris, Director of Child Support Enforcement at MDHS; and Betty Polk, the MDHS Regional Director of Child Support Enforcement MDHS. Cuvillier asserted a deprivation of rights secured by various provisions of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 651-669b, and 45 C.F.R. §§ 303.3, 303.6, alleging specifically that:
On August 8, 2005, Defendants moved for dismissal of Cuvillier's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, arguing that Title IV-D did not create a privately enforceable federal right, as indicated by Blessing v. Freestone, 520 U.S. 329, 117 S.Ct. 1353, 137 L.Ed.2d 569 (1997). Cuvillier filed a reply to the motion on August 25, 2005. On September 23, 2005, Defendants filed "Defendants' Second Motion To Dismiss," under Rule 12(b)(6) urging as additional grounds that—even if the relevant Title IV-D provisions secure individual rights—the applicable statute of limitations and Eleventh Amendment immunity barred Cuvillier's claim. Cuvillier filed a response to the second motion on October 5, 2005.
The district court granted Defendants' second motion to dismiss in an opinion and order filed November 15, 2005.
The district court entered final judgment and dismissed the action with prejudice on November 15, 2005. Cuvillier timely filed notice of appeal on December 14, 2005.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
We review de novo a district court's dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).
II. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Because Congress has not specified a limitations period for section 1983 suits, in such cases "federal courts borrow the forum state's general personal injury limitations period." Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 51 F.3d 512, 514 n. 5 (5th Cir. 1995). The relevant limitations period in Mississippi is three years from the day the cause of action accrues. MISS.CODE ANN. § 15-1-49 (2003)
We decline to decide this case on statute of limitations grounds. First, we find it unnecessary to do so since, as we explain below, Cuvillier has not asserted a federal right enforceable under section 1983. Second, it is less than clear that the 12(b)(6) dismissal on limitations grounds was appropriate. Using the same standard as the district court, we "must look only at the pleadings and accept all allegations in them as true." St. Paul Ins. Co. v. AFIA Worldwide Ins. Co., 937 F.2d 274, 279 (5th Cir.1991) (contrasting the standard for Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss with that for summary judgment motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56). Cuvillier alleges in her complaint and on appeal that when she made inquiries regarding attempts to collect the past due child support, CCCSEO officials assured her that they were taking action and fraudulently concealed from her the claims alleged in her complaint. She claims that consequently she was unable to discover her claims before June 12, 2002.
III. TITLE IV-D and 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Section 1983 makes liable anyone who, "under color of state law, deprives a person `of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.'" Blessing v. Freestone, 520 U.S. 329, 117 S.Ct. 1353, 1359, 137 L.Ed.2d 569 (1997). The Supreme Court has held that this provision protects certain rights conferred by federal statutes. Id. Violation of a federal law is insufficient for redress through section 1983; a plaintiff must assert
Once a plaintiff demonstrates that a federal statutory provision creates an individual right, a rebuttable presumption exists that the right is enforceable under section 1983. Id. at 1360.
In Blessing, five Arizona mothers with children eligible for Title IV-D child support services claimed that the state child support "agency never took adequate steps to obtain child support payments from the fathers of their children." Id. at 1358. The Ninth Circuit had determined that the mothers had an enforceable individual right to have the state's child support program "achieve `substantial compliance' with the requirements of Title IV-D." Id. at 1356.
The Supreme Court disagreed. Id. First, the Court stated that Title IV-D could not be analyzed "so generally." Id.; see also id. at 1360 (commenting that "the lower court's holding that Title IV-D `creates enforceable rights' paints with too broad a brush"). The Court emphasized that the plaintiffs needed to "identify with particularity the rights they claimed, since it is impossible to determine whether Title IV-D, as an undifferentiated whole, gives rise to undefined `rights.'" Id. at 1360 (emphasis added).
Second, the Court held that "Title IV-D does not give individuals a federal right to force a state agency to substantially comply with Title IV-D." Id. at 1356. In making this determination, the Court observed that the five mothers were not intended beneficiaries of the statutory provisions on which they relied: "[T]he requirement that a State operate its child support program in `substantial compliance' with Title IV-D was not intended to benefit individual children and custodial parents, and therefore it does not constitute a federal right." Id. at 1361. The Court explained that the "substantial compliance" standard is "simply a yardstick for the Secretary to measure the systemwide performance of a State's Title IV-D program"; that even when a state meets the substantial compliance standard, "any individual plaintiff might still be among the 10 or 25 percent of persons whose needs ultimately go unmet"; and that, assuming a state falls below the standard, the Secretary can only reduce the state's funding by up to five percent. Id. Title IV-D "may ultimately benefit individuals who are eligible for Title IV-D services, but only indirectly." Id. Further, the Court noted that regulations requiring state child support enforcement units to have "sufficient staff" espouse an "undefined standard" that would strain judicial competence if enforced through section 1983. Id. at 1362.
The Court concluded that, regardless of whether any Title IV-D provisions secure a federal right, the five Arizona mothers had not clearly alleged a violation of any such particular right. See id. (sending the case back to the district court to "determine exactly what rights, considered in their most concrete, specific form, respondents are asserting").
In the instant case, Cuvillier cites several specific statutory provisions that she claims support her contention that Title IV-D gives her a federal right to child support or child support collection. These are: 42 U.S.C. §§ 651-652(a)(1), (h) and 654(4)(B),(13).
Although we have not addressed post-Blessing whether the Title IV-D provisions relied on by Cuvillier give rise to individual federal rights, we note that the Sixth Circuit faced an appeal similar to Cuvillier's in Clark v. Portage County, Ohio, 281 F.3d 602 (6th Cir.2002).
We agree with the Sixth Circuit in Clark that "the simple lack of effectiveness by a state in enforcing support obligations does not alone give rise to an individual right."
Moreover, the language of the statutory provisions cited by Cuvillier belies her assertion that Title IV-D gives her a federal right to child support or child support collection on her behalf. Specifically, the provisions' language does not focus on the individuals benefited, but rather focuses entirely on the state agency and what the agency should be doing. For example, 42 U.S.C. § 654(4) and (13) both focus on the state agency's plan for child and spousal support and the fact that such a plan should provide for enforcement of support, for compliance with other requirements necessary for an effective child support program, and for equal treatment of information requests by residents and non-residents. The subsections do not focus on the individual beneficiaries of the state agency's plan. This lack of focus on individuals like Cuvillier counsels against finding a federal right. See Gonzaga Univ., 122 S.Ct. at 2279 (statutory provisions had an "aggregate, not individual focus"). Compare Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries Inc. v. Hood, 235 F.3d 908, 927 (5th Cir.2000) (finding that Medicaid recipients are intended beneficiaries of Medicaid Act provision 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(30)(A), "because the provision is `phrased in terms' benefiting recipients in that it directly focuses on their access to medical care" (citing Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 110 S.Ct. 2510, 2518, 110 L.Ed.2d 455 (1990))), with id. at 929 (concluding that section 30(A) does not confer an individual right on health care providers "because the section does not focus directly on providers").
The existence of Cuvillier's asserted federal right is all the more clearly foreclosed considering that Title IV-D constitutes spending legislation. As the Court made clear in Gonzaga University, for a particular provision of a funding statute to
Cuvillier's asserted right stands in contrast to the type of situation that the Court in Blessing suggested might—or might not—evidence a Title IV-D based right enforceable under section 1983. See 117 S.Ct. at 1362 (suggesting that the pre-1996 version of 42 U.S.C. § 657(b)(1) might give the plaintiff a "federal right to receive a specified portion of the money collected on her behalf by Arizona"). In the situation referred to by the Court in Blessing, the plaintiff had alleged "that the state agency managed to collect some support payments from her ex-husband but failed to pass through the first $50 of each payment," to which she claimed entitlement until Title IV-D. Id. Thus, the plaintiff in Blessing alleged that the state agency had effectively taken away from her specific funds in its possession which the statute made her property. Here, in Cuvillier's case, the state agency simply did not do anything.
Lastly, we reject Cuvillier's reliance on 45 C.F.R. § 303.3 and § 303.6. Both of these sections are within part 303 of 45 C.F.R. Ch. III (2002). Section 303.00 ("Scope and applicability of this part") states that:
Thus, these regulations are focused on and directed at, and speak to, the State and its program, not at or to individual beneficiaries. Section 303.3 ("Location of noncustodial parents") provides that "the IV-D agency must attempt to locate all noncustodial parents," § 303.3(b), and "[w]ithin no more than 75 calendar days of determining that [knowing the noncustodial parent's] location is necessary [to enforcement] . . . ensure that location information is sufficient to take the next appropriate action in a case." Section 303.6 states that "the IV-D agency must maintain and use an effective system for: . . . (c) Enforcing the obligation by: . . . (2) [t]aking any appropriate enforcement action . . . unless service of process is necessary . . . within no more than 30 calendar days of identifying a delinquency . . . or the location of the noncustodial parent, whichever occurs later. If service of process is necessary . . . service must be completed (or unsuccessful attempts to serve process must be documented . . .), and enforcement action taken if process is served, within no later than 60 calendar days of identifying a delinquency . . . or the location of the noncustodial parent, whichever occurs later." Again, this is directed to the state and its focus is on the state's "maintenance and use" of "an effective system" (emphasis added). The mandate is for the state to maintain a
No doubt Congress meant for individuals like Cuvillier to fall within the sphere of Title-IV's benefits. As Gonzaga University indicates, however, this circumstance is insufficient to find a federal right secured by the statutory scheme. Congress did not intend the provisions Cuvillier relies on to give rise to an individual federal right to child support or child support collection.
Because we find that Cuvillier has not asserted a violation of a federal right for which redress may be sought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, we affirm the district court's dismissal of this suit.
42 U.S.C. § 652(a)(1) states:
Subsection (h) of 42 U.S.C. § 652 states:
The portions of 42 U.S.C. § 654, "State plan for child and spousal support," cited by Cuvillier state: