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Aimee Hankins v. Dennis Burton

August 3, 2012

AIMEE HANKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DENNIS BURTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sara Darrow United States District Judge

E-FILED Friday, 03 August, 2012 03:23:25 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

ORDER

Plaintiff Aimee Hankins ("Hankins") filed her Complaint in this Court alleging various civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against three states, four state agencies, and several individual state employees involved with supervising her probation in Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois. The named Defendants, which Hankins alleges are each jointly and severally liable, include: (1) the State of Arkansas ("Arkansas"); (2) the Sharp County Arkansas Probation Office ("Sharp (AR) Probation Office"); (3) Sharp County (AR) Probation Officer Dennis Burton ("Burton"), a resident of Arkansas; (4) the Baxter County Arkansas Probation Office ("Baxter (AR) Probation Office"); (5) Baxter County (AR) Probation Officer Gene Forsyth ("Forsyth"), a resident of Arkansas; (6) Baxter County (AR) Probation Officer Dusty Smith ("Smith"), a resident of Arkansas; (7) the State of Missouri; (8) the Division of Probation and Parole of the Department of Corrections of the State of Missouri; (11) Missouri Department of Corrections Probation Officer Craig Chronister, a resident of Missouri; (12) the State of Illinois ("Illinois"); (13) Mercer County Probation and Court Services, an agency of the State of Illinois ("Mercer (IL) Probation and Court Services"); (12) Illinois Department of Corrections Parole Officer Tim Lowe, a resident of Illinois; (13) the Ozark, Missouri County Sheriff's Office; and (14) Ozark (MO) Sheriff Raymond Pace ("Pace"), a Missouri resident.

Presently before the Court are five distinct Motions to Dismiss. The moving Defendants seek dismissal based on sovereign immunity and/or lack of personal jurisdiction. (See ECF Nos. 35, 41, 51, 54, 56.) Because the moving parties are either immune from this lawsuit or beyond the jurisdiction of this Court, the Court GRANTS all of the motions.

I.BACKGROUND

Hankins was released from prison on March 2, 2007, and placed on probation. Hankins' time on probation included transfers between four counties and three states pursuant to an interstate compact allowing the transfer of paroled or probationary prisoners to be monitored in different states.*fn1 Initially, Hankins' probation was monitored in Arkansas by Officer Dennis Burton of the Sharp County (AR) Probation Department. (Compl. ¶¶ 25-27.) Hankins claims that Burton took an "immediate dislike to her" because he was friends with her ex-husband, who was involved in the domestic violence that led to her imprisonment. (Id.)

Hankins' first probation transfer was within Arkansas, from Sharp County (AR) to Baxter County (AR). (Compl. ¶ 29.) Hankins alleges that this transfer was necessary because of "the meanness and spite with which . . . Burton dealt with her." (Id.) Despite the transfer, Burton continued to supervise her probation status and maintain custody of her records. (Compl. ¶ 28.) In Baxter County (AR), Hankins' probation was monitored by Officers Gene Forsyth and Dusty Smith. (Compl. ¶¶ 29-31.)

In 2008, Hankins was transferred to Howell County, Missouri. In Howell County (MO), her supervision was monitored by Officer Craig Chronister of the Missouri Department of Corrections, Division of Probation and Parole. (Compl. ¶ 32.) Thereafter, in 2009, Hankins requested a transfer to Illinois to be closer to her children. (Compl. ¶ 34.) Her transfer was granted, and she was placed under the supervision of Officer Tim Lowe and, Hankins claims, the Mercer County Probation and Court Services of the State of Illinois. (Compl. ¶ 34.) Hankins concedes that she was treated "fairly" by Officers Forsyth, Smith, Chronister, and Lowe, but asserts that each was under an affirmative duty to maintain complete and accurate probation records. (Compl. ¶¶ 30, 33, 35.)

During her time in Illinois, Hankins claims to have questioned the termination date of her probation on several occasions. (Compl. ¶ 36.) According to Hankins, Officer Lowe told her that her probation termination date was determined by Arkansas officials. (Id.) Hankins alleges that she repeatedly requested copies of her Arkansas records but was told that Officer Burton indicated that he "would consider such a request to be a probation violation and use it to throw [Hankins] back in prison." (Compl. ¶ 36.) Hankins further asserts that she was kept on probation at least through February 10, 2011, when she was given a document that purportedly indicated that her probation ended nearly a year earlier, in early 2010. (Compl. ¶ 45.) Hankins therefore claims that she was wrongly kept on probation for a year longer than she should have been and that this represented a severe curtailment of her individual liberty interests in violation of her civil rights. (Compl. ¶ 49.)

In addition to Hankins' allegations arising from her time on probation, Hankins also makes a claim against the Sheriff of Ozark County, Missouri, stemming from an event that occurred after her probation was supposedly over. For this claim, Hankins contends that in April 2011, Raymond Pace, the Sheriff of Ozark County, Missouri, sent patrol officers to the residence where Hankins was living with her grandparents. (Compl. ¶ 51.) Hankins alleges that the officers told her grandparents that there was a warrant for Hankins' arrest. (Id.) Hankins disputes the existence of any such warrant and instead asserts that the threat of arrest was meant to intimidate her, though she does not provide any explanation as to what the Ozark County Sheriff's Office was attempting to accomplish by the alleged act of intimidation. (Compl. ¶ 52.) Regardless, Hankins claims to have suffered "extreme stress and anxiety" upon learning of the threat of an arrest warrant. (Compl. ¶ 53.) Hankins also alleges that her attorney requested a copy of the warrant from Sheriff Pace but never received a reply. (Compl. ¶¶ 54-55.) For their part, Defendants Pace and Ozark County do not dispute that an officer of the Ozark County Sheriff's Office made unsuccessful attempts to serve an arrest warrant, a copy of which they attached to their Motion, on Hankins in Udall, Missouri, on or around April 2011. (Ozark Cnty.'s Mem. at 2, ECF No. 36.) However, they assert that they had no involvement with Hankins' probationary issues. (Id.)

Hankins' Complaint alleges seven § 1983 violations and one count of intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress based on the alleged unauthorized extension of her probation. (Compl. ¶¶ 67-105.) Hankins named as Defendants to these charges: the State of Arkansas; the Sharp County (AR) and Baxter County (AR) probation departments; Arkansas Probation Officers Burton, Forsyth, and Smith; the State of Missouri; the Department of Corrections Division of Probation and Parole of the State of Missouri; Missouri Probation Officer Chronister; the State of Illinois; Mercer County (IL) Probation and Court Services; Illinois Probation/Parole Officer Lowe; the Ozark County (MO) Sheriff's Office; and Sheriff Pace. Hankins contends that she is entitled to money damages arising from each Defendants' breach of their affirmative duty to maintain accurate records of her probation and that "[t]he ongoing intentional misconduct and malfeasance by all defendants . . . was performed with malice and willful and wanton indifference to, and, deliberate disregard for [her] statutory civil rights." (Compl. ¶ 56.) She further alleges that each Defendant is jointly and severally liable for all damages arising from her alleged injuries. (See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 73.)

The Defendants have responded to the Complaint with several motions to dismiss. These motions argue, among other things, that Hankins' Complaint should be dismissed on the grounds of sovereign immunity and lack of personal jurisdiction. In her opposition, Hankins correctly acknowledges that she cannot maintain a suit against the State of Arkansas, the State of Missouri or the State of Illinois as they have immunity from her suit under the Eleventh Amendment or against the Mercer County (IL) Probation and Court Services who were incorrectly included as parties. (Pl.'s Omnibus Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n") 2, 9, ECF No. 62.) Based on this concession, the Court GRANTS the motions to dismiss filed by the State of Arkansas, the ...


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