Albea et al v. Bunn et al
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 11/16/17. (mbm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
JERRY ALBEA, and
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This action for deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for
injuries suffered under Tennessee law arises from the response of law enforcement to a custodial
dispute between the mother of a minor child and the paternal grandparents of that minor child.
The mother reported an assault and kidnapping to Madison County law enforcement. After an
initial investigation, Madison County Sherriff’s Deputy Dennis Ifantis contacted the Gibson
According to Defendants’ Answer, Plaintiffs have incorrectly identified Defendant
Rhonda Bonds as Rhonda Bunn. Answer, at 1 n.1, Feb. 26, 2016, ECF No. 20. The Clerk is
DIRECTED to correct Defendant Rhonda Bonds’s name as shown.
According to Defendants’ Answer, Plaintiffs have incorrectly identified Defendant
Daniel Miller as Danny Miller. Answer, at 1 n.2, ECF No. 20. The Clerk is DIRECTED to
correct Defendant Daniel Miller’s name as shown.
County’s Sheriff’s Department for assistance because the grandparents resided in Gibson
County. Two deputies of the Gibson County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the grandparents’
residence and ultimately arrested them before taking them back to Madison County to be charged
with custodial interference, domestic assault, and contribution to the delinquency of a minor. A
grand jury dismissed all of the charges. The grandparents subsequently filed this suit against
Madison and Gibson Counties as well as the Sheriffs’ deputies involved. Now before the Court
is the Motion of Defendants Rhonda Bonds, Daniel Miller, Dennis Ifantis, David Travis, and the
Counties of Madison and Gibson, Tennessee, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27) on the
claims raised in the grandparents’ Complaint (ECF No. 1). Plaintiffs Jerry Albea and Carolyn
Albea, the aforementioned paternal grandparents, have filed a Response in Opposition to the
instant Motion (ECF No. 31), to which Defendants then filed a Reply (ECF No. 33). Thus, the
Court finds the instant Motion ripe for decision. For reasons set forth below, the Defendants’
Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
The following facts are undisputed by the parties unless otherwise noted. See Defs.’
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Mar. 9, 2017, ECF No. 27-2 [hereinafter “Defs.’
Statement of Facts”]; Pls.’ Answers to Defs.’ Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Apr. 6,
2017, ECF No. 31-2 [hereinafter “Pls.’ Statement of Facts”]; Defs.’ Resp. to Pls.’ Add’l Material
Facts, Apr. 20, 2017, ECF No. 33-1 [hereinafter “Defs’ Statement of Add’l Facts”]. Plaintiffs’
son, D’Metric Albea, and Courtney Hammond (“Hammond”) are the parents of a minor child,
who was four years old at the time of the events described in the Complaint. Madison County
Juvenile Court awarded D’Metric Albea visitation with the minor child in a permanent parenting
plan from the Madison County Juvenile Court (the “Order”).
Despite the Order granting
D’Metric Albea visitation, Hammond refused to comply with the Order on multiple occasions.
Plaintiffs had traveled to pick up the minor child in accordance with the Order at the time of the
events giving rise to this dispute. The Order, referenced and cited to by all parties, states that the
minor child is to be picked up by Plaintiffs but that D’Metric Albea must be present during the
visitation. Dep. of Dennis Ifantis, Ex. 5, ¶ 2, Oct. 12, 2016 [hereinafter “Ifantis Dep.”].3
On or about Saturday, November 29, 2014, Defendant Madison County Sherriff Deputy
Dennis Ifantis (“Ifantis”) received a call over the radio, reporting a possible child kidnapping.
When Ifantis arrived at the scene, Hammond was hysterical. Hammond claimed that “people”
had taken her two-year-old child. After a few moments, Hammond was finally able to articulate
to Ifantis that the “people” were the minor child’s paternal grandparents, Plaintiffs Jerry Albea
and Carolyn Albea. But at that time, Hammond could not recall or state Plaintiffs’ full names to
Ifantis. Hammond could only recall that Jerry Albea’s name was “Jerry” and she believed
Plaintiffs lived in Humboldt, Tennessee.4 Hammond additionally claimed that Jerry Albea,
along with his two juvenile daughters, physically attacked Hammond, allowing Plaintiffs to take
the minor child without Hammond’s permission.
The parties dispute whether Hammond
specifically told Ifantis that Carolyn Albea was also involved in these acts, and the portions of
the record cited by the parties are not sufficiently clear to permit the Court to make a
determination. Pls.’ Statement of Facts, at 2; Ifantis Dep. 47:24–48:5. Plaintiffs also take issue
with the characterization of the removal of the minor child “by force” rather than “against
[Hammond]’s wishes.” Pls.’ Statement of Facts, at 2. The portions of the deposition cited by the
The parties have provided different excerpts from Defendant Dennis Ifantis’s deposition
(ECF Nos. 27-9 & 31-6) including exhibits such as a copy of the Order.
Plaintiffs evidently did not reside in Humboldt. See Pls.’ Statement of Facts, at 7.
parties are not clear on this point either. Ifantis Dep. 46:6–49:12. Carolyn Albea, however, did
pick up the minor child, who came to her, and attempted to return to her vehicle. Hammond then
requested that Carolyn Albea return the minor child to her. Plaintiffs were aware that Hammond
did not want them to have possession of the minor child. A physical altercation then took place
between Hammond and one of Plaintiffs’ juvenile daughters in which Hammond attempt to
recover the minor child. The parties dispute who escalated the altercation, but they are in
agreement that the result was a “beatdown” of Hammond. Pls.’ Statement of Facts, at 3; Defs’
Statement of Add’l Facts, at 3–4. In any event, Plaintiffs then left with their juvenile daughters
and the minor child, and they all traveled back to their residence in Gibson County, Tennessee.
Hammond informed Ifantis of the existence of the Order and that it required D’Metric
Albea to be present during visitation rights. D’Metric Albea, however, was in East Tennessee at
Hammond stated that, because D’Metric Albea was not present at the time of
Plaintiffs’ arrival, she refused to relinquish custody of the minor child. Ifantis then asked
Hammond for a copy of the parenting plan, but Hammond explained that she did not have a copy
of the documents at that time. The parties dispute whether Hammond showed visible signs of
injury at that time.
Pls.’ Statement of Facts, at 5.
But a neighbor present at the scene
substantially corroborated Hammond’s portrayal of the events, also reporting that she, the
neighbor, heard what sounded like “bloody murder” during the incident. Hammond’s sister
partially corroborated Hammond’s portrayal as well, but the parties dispute the degree to which
Hammond’s story was supported. Id. at 6. After Hammond had identified Plaintiffs as the minor
child’s paternal grandparents, Ifantis considered the investigation to be one into a custodial issue
rather than a potential kidnapping.
Ifantis was eventually able to make contact with D’Metric Albea, and they discussed the
issues concerning the taking of the minor child. Ifantis does not recall asking D’Metric Albea
whether he was required to be present for the pick-up of the minor child. At that time D’Metric
Albea advised Ifantis of his location, which is disputed by the parties.
established telephone contact with Jerry Albea. The parties dispute whether Jerry Albea refused
to return to the scene. Id. at 7. But Jerry Albea provided his address to Ifantis and corroborated
the existence of a parenting plan outlining the custody rights concerning the minor child. At this
point, Ifantis informed Jerry Albea that a Gibson County Sheriff’s Officer would be sent to
Plaintiffs’ residence to confirm the well-being of the minor child and to review the purported
court order. Ifantis told Jerry Albea that if the Order stated that Plaintiffs were to pick-up the
minor child, “everything would be fine.”
Ifantis then reached out to the Gibson County Sheriff’s Department and requested the
assistance of its officers. Ifantis was then put in contact with Defendant Gibson County Sheriff
Deputy Daniel Miller (“Miller”). Ifantis informed Miller that there was a child custody dispute,
that Plaintiffs and their juvenile daughters had allegedly assaulted Hammond, and that Plaintiffs
had allegedly taken the minor child in violation of a court order.5 Miller, along with Gibson
County Sheriff Deputy Rhonda Bonds (“Bonds”), then traveled to Plaintiffs’ residence.
Upon their arrival, Miller and Bonds were allowed in by Jerry Albea. Plaintiffs claim
this was for the stated purpose of verifying the minor child’s wellbeing and the contents of the
court order despite the actual purpose being to gain entry to the residence in order to arrest
Plaintiffs. Pls.’ Statement of Facts, at 9; Defs’ Statement of Add’l Facts, at 6. Miller and Bonds
The parties describe these events in different terms, but the evidence cited in their
statements supports Plaintiffs’ description, which is given here.
then saw that the minor child was “perfectly fine.” Miller was presented with an unsigned copy
of the purported custody Order. Miller then spoke with D’Metric Albea, who was en route to the
visitation but had been delayed in traveling from his home in Knoxville. D’Metric Albea
explained that he was in possession of the signed Order that he had taken a screenshot of and
sent to Plaintiffs by text message. At this point, Miller was presented with said screenshot and
later stated that he had no reason to believe that it was not an accurate and true copy of the very
Order Plaintiffs possessed. Miller then contacted Ifantis and explained that the child was fine
and that he had seen an unsigned, physical copy of the Order as well as the signed, digital copy.
Ifantis believed he had probable cause to arrest Plaintiffs for simple domestic assault, custodial
interference, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.6 Ifantis then instructed Miller and
Bonds to arrest Plaintiffs.
Relying on Ifantis’s probable cause determination, Miller and Bonds effected a
warrantless arrest of Plaintiffs in their homes. Plaintiffs were then placed into a Gibson County
Sheriff patrol car and transported to the Gibson County-Madison County line at the Humboldt
Municipal Airport by Bonds. Ifantis met Bonds at the Airport and obtained custody of Plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs dispute this account, asserting that Carolyn Albea was taken into custody
solely for “custodial interference,” Defendants lacked sufficient probable cause to arrest either
Plaintiff for domestic assault, and that Hammond made no allegation that Carolyn Albea
contributed to the delinquency of a minor. Pls.’ Statement of Facts, at 9–10. But in his
deposition, which was relied on by Defendants in making their statement, Ifantis notes this
characterization as correct.
. . . . “This defendant [Ifantis] made the determination that there was
probable cause to arrest the plaintiffs for domestic assault, custodial interference,
and a contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”
Okay. So that’s accurate?
Ifantis Dep. 64:15–22. There may have been and appear to be issues with this initial
determination, particularly as to its legal conclusions, but the evidence provided is quite
clear as to what Ifantis thought at that moment.
At that time, Ifantis handcuffed Plaintiffs, placed them in the back seat of his patrol car, and
transported them to the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex. Plaintiffs were then booked
Prior to the conclusion of his shift that evening, Ifantis completed an
investigation report and narrative concerning the arrest of Plaintiffs.
fourteen hours, Plaintiffs made an $8,000 bail via a bail bondsman and were released.
On the following Monday, December 1, 2014, Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy David
Travis (“Travis”) reviewed the investigation report and narrative concerning the arrest of
Plaintiffs drafted by Ifantis and attested to the Clerk of Madison County General Sessions Court
that Ifantis had articulated sufficient facts in his reports to establish probable cause concerning
Ifantis’s determination to arrest Plaintiffs.7 Travis had no personal interaction with Plaintiffs
whatsoever. Plaintiffs admitted that they do not know Travis or remember ever seeing or
interacting with him. They further admitted they do not even know why Travis was even named
in this action.
Jerry Albea was charged with simple domestic assault, contributing to the delinquency of
a minor, and custodial interference.
Carolyn Albea was charged with contributing to the
delinquency of a minor and custodial interference.
Plaintiffs’ mugshots were published
subsequent to their arrest. Plaintiffs then hired an attorney to represent them on their criminal
charges. Following two appearances in the Madison County General Sessions Court, Plaintiffs
waived their cases to the Madison County Grand Jury. And the Grand Jury found that there was
insufficient evidence to support any of the charges against Plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs dispute this statement on the grounds that Travis relied completely on Ifantis
in making his statements to the Clerk, but this does not appear to be in conflict with Defendants’
statement. See id. at 12.
STANDARD OF LAW
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court
must review all the evidence, viewing it in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and
also drawing all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Roell v. Hamilton Cty., 870 F.3d
471, 479 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Watson v. Cartee, 817 F.3d 299, 302 (6th Cir. 2016));
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The Court “may
not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746
F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014). “The burden is generally on the moving party to show that no
genuine issue of material fact exists, but that burden may be discharged by ‘showing . . . that
there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.’” Bennett v. City of
Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 817 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
324 (1986)). When the motion is supported by documentary proof such as depositions and
affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but, rather, must present some
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324;
Eastham v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 754 F.3d 356, 360 (6th Cir. 2014). These facts must
be more than a scintilla of evidence and must meet the standard of whether a reasonable juror
could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict in
his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). The Court must enter
summary judgment “against a party who fails to . . . [meet the burden] that party will bear . . . at
trial.” Celotex Corp, 477 U.S. at 322.
Plaintiffs’ § 1983 Claim for Deprivation of Constitutional Rights8
Defendants move for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claims on the
basis of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a doctrine that “shields officials from civil
liability if their conduct ‘does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.’” Darrah v. Krisher, 865 F.3d 361, 374 (6th Cir.
2017) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). Its purpose is to provide some
protection from suit to government officials that perform discretionary functions. Beard v.
Whitemore Lake Sch. Dist., 402 F.3d 598, 602–03 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). The doctrine applies to police officers. Jefferson v. Lewis, 594 F.3d
454, 459 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hills v. Kentucky, 457 F.3d 583, 587 (6th Cir. 2006)). A
qualified-immunity analysis has two steps: “(1) whether, considering the allegations in a light
most favorable to the party injured, a constitutional right has been violated, and (2) whether that
right was clearly established.” Estate of Carter v. City of Detroit, 408 F.3d 305, 310–11 (6th Cir.
2005) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)). In Pearson, however, the Supreme
Court abandoned the requirement that the lower courts must perform this analysis sequentially
because it often forced the courts to unnecessarily decide constitutional questions. Jefferson, 594
F.3d at 460 (citing Pearson, 555 U.S. 223). But the Supreme Court thought the prior statement
Defendants first argue in their memorandum that Plaintiffs have failed to state a
colorable claim under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Plaintiffs reference this
Clause in their Complaint but do not respond in opposition to Defendant’s argument. The Court
therefore finds that Plaintiffs have failed to support any such claim if they indeed intended to do
so and Defendants are entitled to summary judgment. Accordingly, any claim brought against
Defendants under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is hereby DISMISSED.
of the test was “still appropriate and a correct statement of the test for qualified immunity.” Id.
And in this instance, this Court finds it appropriate to follow the previously prescribed sequence.
Whether a Constitutional Right Has Been Violated
The Fourth Amendment, which is applied to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment,
Ondo v. City of Cleveland, 795 F.3d 597, 610 n.4 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S.
643, 650–55 (1961)), provides first that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
U.S. Const., amend. IV. It further states that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the
persons or things to be seized.” Id. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ rights as
guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in three respects.
First, Plaintiffs claim that Ifantis, Bonds, and Miller violated Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment
rights by acting in concert to enter their home to arrest them without a warrant or a valid
exception to the warrant requirement. Second, Plaintiffs claim that Ifantis, Bonds, and Miller
violated Carolyn Albea’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from false arrest and false
imprisonment by arresting Carolyn Albea without probable cause.9 Third, Plaintiffs argue that
Ifantis and Travis violated the Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from malicious
prosecution by prosecuting Plaintiffs without probable cause. The Court will address each of
these alleged violations in turn. But the Court must also note that stating a violation of his
constitutional rights is insufficient for a plaintiff to recover damages under § 1983. Plaintiffs
Plaintiffs expressly concede Jerry Albea’s claim of false arrest and false imprisonment.
Mem. in Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 17, Apr. 6, 2017, ECF No. 31-1. Accordingly,
the Court grants Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment as to that claim, and it is hereby
“must [have] allege[d] with particularity facts that demonstrate what each defendant did to
violate the asserted constitutional right.” Heyne v. Metro. Nashville Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 556,
564 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Lanman v. Hinson, 529 F.3d 673, 684 (6th Cir. 2008)). Thus, the
Court “cannot ascribe the acts of all [law-enforcement-officer] Defendants to each individual
defendant.” Id. (citing Landman, 529 F.3d at 684–88; Hull v. Cuyahoga Valley Joint Vocational
Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 926 F.2d 404, 512–`5 (6th Cir. 1991)).
Instead, Plaintiffs must
demonstrate each Defendant’s personal involvement in the violation. Copeland v. Machulis, 57
F.3d 476, 481 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 375–76 (1976)).
Warrantless Entry of Plaintiffs’ Home
Plaintiffs assert that Miller and Bonds deceitfully entered their home in collaboration
with Ifantis and, while therein, effected a warrantless arrest without probable cause. At the
outset, the Court notes “the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home that has been
embedded in our traditions since the origins of the Republic.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S.
573, 602 (1980). Plaintiffs, in setting forth their argument, rely on a number of excellent
descriptions of the contours of the Fourth Amendment in this particular area. “At the very core
of the Fourth Amendment stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free
from unreasonable governmental intrusion.” Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 31 (2001)
(quoting Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511 (1961)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “The Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house.” United
States v. Thomas, 430 F.3d 274, 276 (6th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). But Plaintiffs admit a
well-settled and common-sense exception to this otherwise ironclad protection of a citizen’s
home: that citizen’s consent. United States v. Carter, 378 F.3d 584, 587 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing
Davis v. United States, 328 U.S. 582, 593–94 (1946)); see also United States v. Jenkins, 92 F.3d
430, 436 (6th Cir. 1996) (“An officer with consent needs neither a warrant nor probable cause to
conduct a constitutional search.”); Guerra v. Rodriguez, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7838, at *40
(E.D. Ky. Jan. 24, 2012) (quoting Slough v. Telb, 644 F. Supp. 2d 978, 990 (N.D. Ohio 2009)
(“A warrantless search and seizure does not violate constitutional rights where the individual has
voluntarily consented to the search.”).
And Defendants first argue that no constitutional
violation occurred when Miller and Bonds entered Plaintiffs’ home because Plaintiffs consented
to that entry when Jerry Albea invited Miller and Bonds into the home. Plaintiffs, however,
counter that any “consent” secured by Defendants was ineffective because it was achieved
through trickery and deceit.
Consent may be given in “words, gesture, or conduct.” Carter, 378 F.3d at 587 (quoting
United States v. Griffin, 530 F.2d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 1976)). But regardless of the form, it must
be given freely and voluntarily. Id. (citing Bumper v. North Carolina, 391 U.S. 543, 548
(1968)). The question here is whether consent was freely and voluntarily given by the Plaintiffs.
And this determination is a question of fact based on the totality of the circumstances. Id.
(quoting Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 227 (1973)). Thus, the Court “may not make
credibility determinations or weigh the evidence,” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714,
726 (6th Cir. 2014), and may only resolve the question in the moving parties’ favor if a
reasonable juror could, based upon the undisputed facts before the Court, only find in favor of
Defendants. Cf. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Defendants, as
Counties of the State of Tennessee and the officers thereof, would bear the burden of proving
that consent was given voluntarily in the criminal context of a motion to suppress. United States
v. Ivy, 165 F.3d 397, 402 (6th Cir. 1998) (citing Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at 219; United States v.
Kelly, 913 F.2d 261, 265 (6th Cir. 1990)). And while the Courts of Appeals disagree on which
party bears the burden of proof regarding voluntary consent in a civil case, Valance v. Wisel, 110
F.3d 1269, 1278 (7th Cir. 1997) (collecting cases), the Sixth Circuit, by which this Court is
bound, has held that the government defendants invoking consent as an exception to the warrant
requirement also bear the burden of proof in civil cases. Andrews v. Hickman County, 700 F.3d
845, 854 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Bumper, 391 U.S. at 548; Tarter v. Raybuck, 742 F.2d 977, 980
(6th Cir. 1984)). Several factors should be considered when determining the voluntariness of a
given consent such as the age, intelligence, and education of the individual; whether the
individual understands the right to refuse consent; and whether the individual understands his
constitutional rights. Ivy, 165 F.3d at 402 (citing United States v. Jones, 846 F.2d 358, 360 (6th
Cir. 1988)). The Court also considers the details of the detention, such as its nature and length
and the use of any coercive conduct by the officers involved, Id. (citing Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at
226), as well as any “more subtle forms of coercion that might flaw [an individual’s] judgment.”
Id. (quoting United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 424 (1976)).
“[T]he Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments require that consent not be coerced, by
explicit or implicit means, by implied threat or covert force.” Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at 227.
“The Fourth Amendment can certainly be violated by guileful as well as by forcible intrusions
into a constitutionally protected area.” Hoffa v. United States, 385 U.S. 293, 301 (1966) (citing
Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298 (1921)); see also United States v. Boyd, 910 F. Supp. 2d
995, 1002 (W.D. Mich. 2011) (noting that “the use of trickery, deception, and lies by police to
gain entry into a home is a relevant factor in the consent analysis”). “For, no matter how subtly
the coercion was applied, the resulting ‘consent’ would be no more than a pretext for the
unjustified police intrusion against which the Fourth Amendment is directed.” Schneckloth, 412
U.S. at 228. To that point, the Supreme Court has restated its “classic admonition” on this
It may be that it is the obnoxious thing in its mildest and least repulsive
form; but illegitimate and unconstitutional practices get their first footing in that
way, namely, by silent approaches and slight deviations from legal modes of
procedure. . . . It is the duty of courts to be watchful for the constitutional rights
of the citizen, and against any stealthy encroachments thereon.
Id. at 228–29 (quoting Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 635 (1886)).
The undisputed facts show that, as Plaintiffs argue, Ifantis told Jerry Albea that he was
sending a Gibson County deputy to check the well-being of the child and verify the contents of
the Order. Ifantis further told Jerry Albea that, if the Order stated that they were to pick up the
minor child, “everything would be fine.” But then Ifantis spoke with Miller—before verifying
the contents of the Order or the wellbeing of the child—telling him to go to Plaintiffs’ home,
arrest Plaintiffs, and transport them to the county line. And after they indeed verified the
contents of the Order and the wellbeing of the minor child, Miller and Bonds nonetheless
arrested Plaintiffs based upon Ifantis’s initial probable cause determination. Plaintiffs argue that,
because Defendants’ obtained consent to enter by intentionally misleading Jerry Albea, the
consent was not free and voluntary—and therefore it was ineffective to satisfy the Fourth
Amendment’s general warrant requirement. Defendants—inexplicably, in light of bearing the
burden of proof—muster only a single string citation in support of the proposition that the
consent exception to the warrant requirement indeed exists. They present no authority or even
argument that Ifantis’s deception does not deprive Jerry Abea’s “consent” of voluntariness.
They rely solely on the undisputed fact that Jerry Albea invited Miller and Bonds into Plaintiffs’
residence even in their second chance to address the issue in their Reply. Plaintiffs on the other
hand have provided the Court with ample authority supporting the conclusion that consent
achieved by trickery can deprive the consent of its voluntariness. The Court has been presented
with no evidence regarding Jerry Albea’s “age, intelligence, and education . . . ; whether [he]
understands the right to refuse to consent; [or] whether [he] understands his or her constitutional
rights.” Ivy, 165 F.3d at 402. The detention, of course, was not coercive in any traditional sense
as it constituted only the conjunction of Ifantis’s phone call and Miller and Bonds arriving on
Plaintiffs’ porch. But because the Court is presented with authority that Ifantis’s deceit as to
why Miller and Bonds were coming to Plaintiffs’ residence may deprive a consent of
voluntariness and Defendants bear the burden of proving that consent was given freely and
voluntarily, the Court cannot rule in Defendants’ favor on this issue. The Court is of course
mindful that deception of some degree is often a necessary tactic in law-enforcement operations.
But where the Constitution has afforded such clear protections of the home that may only be
overridden in specific circumstances, a strict demonstration of the circumstances constituting an
exception is required. The Court therefore finds, for the purposes of this Motion, that the
consent exception to the warrant requirement is not met.
Defendants may have had another constitutional basis, however, for entering the home
without a warrant. Generally speaking, “the police must . . . obtain an arrest warrant before
entering a man’s house to seize his person.” Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 477
(1971). It is a “‘basic principle of Fourth Amendment law’ that searches and seizures inside a
home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551, 559
(2004) (quoting Payton, 445 U.S. at 586–87). “[A] search or seizure carried out on a suspect’s
premises without a warrant is per se unreasonable, unless the police can show that it falls within
one of a carefully defined set of exceptions based on the presence of ‘exigent circumstances.’”
Coolidge, 403 U.S. at 474–75 (emphasis added). Probable cause is insufficient to enter a home
and arrest its occupants. Payton, 445 U.S. at 590; see also State v. Felix, 811 N.W.2d 775, 785
(Wis. 2012) (citing Payton, 445 U.S. at 590) (“[E]ven if police have probable cause to arrest a
defendant, entering the defendant’s home without a warrant to accomplish an arrest violates the
Fourth Amendment.”). But Defendants make no argument as to the presence of an exigent
circumstance. Thus, for the purposes of this Motion, the Court concludes that no exigent
circumstance was present.
The Court is next concerned with which Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional
rights. Without one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement—again, for the purposes of this
motion—Miller and Bonds’s entry of the home in order to arrest Plaintiffs necessarily violated
Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights as afforded by the Fourth Amendment. The parties dispute what
occurred on the porch of Plaintiffs’ home before Jerry Albea let Miller and Bonds inside.
According to Defendants, who rely on Jerry Albea’s deposition, no party said anything before
Jerry Albea invited Miller and Bonds into Plaintiffs’ residence. Defs.’ Reply to Pls.’ Resp. in
Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 4, Apr. 20, 2017, ECF No. 33 (citing Dep. of Jerry Albea
79–80, Oct. 11, 2016 [hereinafter “Jerry Albea Dep.”]). Plaintiffs, however, claim that Miller
repeated what Ifantis had told Jerry Albea regarding the purpose of Miller and Bond’s arrival at
Plaintiffs’ home, and Plaintiffs’ point to Miller’s deposition in support of this claim. Pls.’ Resp.
in Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 10–11 (citing Dep. of Daniel Miller 82:8–24, Oct. 12,
2016 [hereinafter “Miller Dep.”]). They further assert that Bonds knew the truth of the matter
but remained silent while Miller deceived Jerry Albea. Id. at 11 (citing Dep. of Rhonda Bonds
19:9–24, 32:13–23, Oct. 12, 2016; Miller Dep. 30:11–31:23). These differing accounts present a
question of material fact.
Taken in a light favorable to Plaintiffs, the evidence supports
Plaintiffs’ allegations that Miller and Bonds violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. The Court
has not been convinced that, even if Miller and Bonds did not repeat Ifantis’s deception, Miller
and Bonds did not violate Plaintiffs’ rights. But based on the foregoing dispute between the
parties as to what occurred on Plaintiffs’ front porch, the Court need not resolve that question
today. In light of Plaintiffs’ allegations and supporting evidence that Miller and Bonds entered
Plaintiffs’ home to arrest them without a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances, Plaintiffs
have sufficiently demonstrated a violation of their rights to be free from warrantless entry for the
purposes of a motion for summary judgment.
The next question is whether Ifantis also participated in this violation. Defendants argue
that Ifantis never entered Plaintiffs’ home and that “there is no evidence whatsoever that Ifantis
gave any type of orders/instructions/commands for any individual to enter . . . Plaintiffs’ home at
any time.” Defs.’ Reply to Pls.’ Resp. in Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 4 n.1, ECF No.
33 (citing Jerry Albea Dep. 81; Ifantis Dep. 93). Ifantis’s statements to Jerry Albea certainly
undermined the subsequent consent procured by Miller and Bonds, but are those statements and
his request that Miller and Bonds arrest Plaintiffs sufficient to constitute personal involvement?
The Court thinks so. Ifantis is essential to the occurrence of a violation at all since his actions
precluded the Court from finding that the consent was voluntary. Further, the Court finds it
unlikely that Ifantis was unaware that Miller and Bonds would be entering Plaintiffs’ home in
order to arrest them after sending Miller and Bonds to Plaintiffs’ residence. Ifantis Dep. 86:1–
18. Ifantis appeared to be dismissive of the idea of getting warrant in his deposition. See id.
87:6–10. And Ifantis’s effort to deceive Jerry Albea belies any thought that Miller and Bonds
would properly get consent to enter.
Therefore, the Court is convinced that Ifantis was
personally involved to a sufficient degree for Plaintiffs’ claim for violation of Plaintiffs’ Fourth
Amendment right to be free from warrantless entry into their home to survive this Motion.
False Imprisonment and False Arrest
“False arrest and false imprisonment overlap; the former is a species of the latter. ‘Every
confinement of the person is an imprisonment, whether it be in a common prison or in a private
house, or in the stocks, or even by forcibly detaining one in the public streets; and when a man is
lawfully in a house, it is imprisonment to prevent him from leaving the room in which he is.’“
Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388–89 (2007) (quoting Martin L. Newell, A Treatise on the Law
of Malicious Prosecution, False Imprisonment, and Abuse of Legal Process § 2 (1892)).
“Success on a Fourth Amendment false-arrest claim requires the plaintiff to prove the defendant
officer arrested him despite lack of probable cause to believe the plaintiff committed a crime.”
Beckham v. City of Euclid, 689 F. App’x 409, 414 (6th 2017) (citing Robertson v. Lucas, 753
F.3d 606, 618 (6th Cir. 2014)).
“[T]he term ‘probable cause,’ according to its usual acceptation, means less than
evidence which would justify condemnation . . . . It imports a seizure made under
circumstances which warrant suspicion.” More recently, we said that “the quanta
. . . of proof” appropriate in ordinary judicial proceedings are inapplicable to the
[determination]. Finely tuned standards such as proof beyond a reasonable doubt
or by a preponderance of the evidence, useful in formal trials, have no place in the
magistrate's decision. While an effort to fix some general, numerically precise
degree of certainty corresponding to “probable cause” may not be helpful, it is
clear that “only the probability, and not a prima facie showing, of criminal
activity is the standard of probable cause.”
Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 235 (1983) (quoting Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410, 419
(1969); Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 173 (1949); Locke v. United States, 11 U.S.
339, 348 (1813)).
Probable cause requires “facts and circumstances within the officer's
knowledge that are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in
believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about
to commit an offense.” Estate of Dietrich v. Burrows, 167 F.3d 1007, 1010–11 (6th Cir. 1999)
(quoting Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 36 (1979)). “An arrest is constitutionally valid if
‘. . . at that moment the facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they had
reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the
petitioner had committed or was committing an offense.’” Legenzoff v. Steckel, 564 F. App’x
136, 142 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Dotson, 49 F.3d 227, 230 (6th Cir. 1995)).
“The analysis takes into account the totality of the circumstances . . . .” Id. (citing Gates, 462
U.S. at 233–34).
Broadly speaking, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants lacked knowledge of articulable facts
that supported the probability that Carolyn Albea violated the custodial-interference statute,
Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-306, or the statute criminalizing the contribution to the delinquency of
a minor, Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-156, when she was arrested.
Defendants rely on the
information available to Ifantis—Hammond’s statements, Hammond’s physical injuries,
Hammond’s neighbor’s statements, Hammond’s sister’s statements, Plaintiffs’ evasiveness, and
Plaintiffs’ direct refusal to return to the scene with the minor child10—as supportive of Ifantis’s
determination that probable cause existed for Plaintiffs for simple domestic assault, custodial
interference, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. It appears to the Court from the
undisputed evidence that Ifantis had a reasonable basis for finding it probable that Carolyn Albea
had participated in the commission of the alleged crimes. Plaintiffs devote a great deal of their
argument as to whether the allegations in the record made by Hammond, Hammond’s sister, and
Hammond’s neighbor support a violation of either statute as a matter of law by Carolyn Albea.
the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness. To be
reasonable is not to be perfect, and so the Fourth Amendment allows for some
mistakes on the part of government officials . . . . . [The courts] have recognized
The Court notes here that Hammond’s injuries and Plaintiffs’ evasiveness and refusal
to return to the scene are all currently disputed with supporting evidence on both sides.
that searches and seizures based on mistakes of fact can be reasonable. . . . . The
limit is that the mistakes must be those of reasonable men. But reasonable men
make mistakes of law, too . . . .
Heien v. North Carolina, 135 S. Ct. 530, 536–38) (2014) (citations omitted) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Plaintiffs admit that Defendants relayed the following information to Miller:
there was a child custody dispute, Jerry Albea, or his daughters at his command, had allegedly
assaulted Hammond, and then Plaintiffs took the minor child in violation of a court order. Miller
admitted in his deposition that custodial interference was the only reason Carolyn Albea was
taken into custody. The allegations known to Ifantis and as transmitted to Miller show at least a
probability that Carolyn Albea committed the crime of custodial interference, even if that
determination was ultimately incorrect. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiffs cannot establish a
violation of Carolyn Albea’s constitutional right to be free from false arrest and false
imprisonment. Defendants are therefore entitled to judgment on Carolyn Albea’s § 1983 claim
for false arrest and false imprisonment as a matter of law, and that claim is hereby DISMISSED.
And finally, Plaintiffs allege that Ifantis and Travis violated their individual rights to be
free from malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment. As Plaintiffs point out, “[t]he
Sixth Circuit recognize[s] a separate constitutionally cognizable claim of malicious prosecution
under the Fourth Amendment, which encompasses wrongful investigation, prosecution,
conviction, and incarceration.” Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 309 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting
Barnes v. Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 715–16 (6th Cir. 2006)). To establish a Fourth Amendment
violation by malicious prosecution, Plaintiffs must demonstrate: “(1) a criminal prosecution was
initiated against the plaintiff and the defendant made, influenced, or participated in the decision
to prosecute; (2) there was no probable cause for the criminal prosecution; (3) as a consequence
of the legal proceeding, the plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty apart from the initial
seizure; and (4) the criminal proceeding was resolved in the plaintiff’s favor.” Robertson v.
Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 616 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Sykes, 625 F.3d at 308–09). Plaintiffs assert and
the undisputed facts show that a criminal prosecution was initiated against Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs
were deprived of liberty because of the prosecution by spending time in jail and being subjected
to the conditions of bail, and that the proceedings were ultimately resolved in Plaintiffs’ favor.
Defendants’ do not address the malicious prosecution directly. Their probable cause discussion
in relation to Ifantis is the only discernible argument against this particular claim.11 Thus, the
only issue for the Court is whether the undisputed facts demonstrate that there was probable
cause for the criminal prosecution.
At the outset, the Court finds that Ifantis and Travis were both personally involved in the
violations claimed by Plaintiffs. Ifantis, by Defendants’ own argument, made the probable-cause
determinations that were the bases for these charges. Travis reiterated the same findings to the
Clerk of the Madison County General Sessions Court. Although Travis merely relied on the
facts as articulated by Ifantis, the Court considers the facts as they were thought to be at that
time, meaning the Court’s determination of reasonableness is made based on those facts known
to Travis. If probable cause did not exist to prosecute a charge against either Plaintiff, it should
have been clear to Travis.
For Carolyn Albea, the Court cannot definitively say that probable cause existed for a
criminal prosecution in light of the existence of the Order. Carolyn Albea was never charged
Defendants’ discussion of Travis, of course, relates to this claim as it is the only claim
Plaintiffs set forth against Travis. But the Court is currently addressing whether a constitutional
violation occurred at all, and Defendants’ argument seems aimed at Travis’s lack of personal
with assault but with custodial interference and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Law
enforcement is permitted the leeway to make reasonable mistakes, but the Court cannot say that
either charge is reasonable after the initial arrest and the formalized process of a prosecution had
begun. Nothing in the record alleges that Carolyn Albea told one of her juvenile daughters to
assault Hammond, the only possible basis for the contribution to the delinquency of a minor in
this case. Ifantis does lump together the Plaintiffs in a summary of the events, but that at most
shows an issue for trial rather than a definitive basis for probable cause. And as for the charge of
custodial interference, Plaintiffs make the case that a cursory look at the Order should have
demonstrated that Plaintiffs were entitled to take the minor child at the time of the incident.
Defendants respond, however, that the only proper recourse for Plaintiffs in light of Hammond’s
refusal to relinquish the child would have been through the court that entered the Order. The
statute Carolyn Albea was charged with, however, does not comport with this argument. The
undisputed facts quite clearly do not show that Plaintiffs sought to “[d]etain the [minor] child . . .
with the intent to violate the rightful custody of [Hammond].” See Pls.’ Mem. in Opp’n to Defs.’
Mot. for Summ. J., at 12–13, ECF No. 31-1 (quoting Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-306) (emphasis
added). For this reason, once Defendants had the additional time to examine all the information
available to them, the Court is not convinced that the existence of probable cause is sufficiently
definitive to find at the summary-judgment stage that Defendants did not violate Carolyn Albea’s
right to be free from malicious prosecution. Accordingly, both of Carolyn Albea’s claims for
malicious prosecution survive this step of the qualified-immunity analysis.
For the same reason, the Court cannot conclude that probable cause definitively existed
for a custodial interference charge against Jerry Albea. Therefore, that claim also survives the
first part of the qualified-immunity analysis.
Plaintiffs, however, concede their claim for
malicious prosecution against Jerry Albea for the contributing to the delinquency of a minor
charge. Thus, summary judgment on that claim is proper, and it is accordingly DISMISSED.
Plaintiffs raise one additional basis for a claim of the malicious prosecution of Jerry Albea:
Plaintiffs point out that domestic assault is defined as “intentionally,
knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to a domestic abuse victim.” Id. 21 (citing Tenn.
Code Ann. § 39-13-111(b)). A domestic abuse victim is defined under the statute as a person
falling within one of six categories set forth in section 39-13-111(a) of the Tennessee Code
Annotated. Plaintiffs assert that Ifantis agreed that subsections (1)–(3) and (5)–6) did not apply,
meaning that Jerry Albea must have “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caus[ed] bodily
injury to” an [a]dult or minor related by blood or adoption.” See Pls.’ Mem. in Opp’n to
Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 20–21, ECF No. 31-1 (citing Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-111(a)(4),
(b); Ifantis Dep. 68:21–69:14, 72:11–22). As before, Defendants rely only on Ifantis’s initial
probable cause determination and Travis’s lack of interaction with Defendants. Thus, Plaintiffs
are uncontradicted in their supported point that the charge was made under subsection (4). No
evidence, however, suggests any such relation between Jerry Albea and Hammond.
domestic feel to the underlying dispute, referenced by Ifantis in the portion of the deposition
cited by Plaintiffs, because the minor child at its center certainly suffices as a reasonable mistake
of law at the time of Plaintiffs’ arrest. But where the heat of moment has cooled, it is no longer
reasonable to suppose that Jerry Albea was related by blood or adoption to the mother of his
son’s child in order to satisfy the statute. Accordingly, this claim also survives the first step of
the qualified-immunity analysis.
Whether the Constitutional Right Was Clearly Established
Having found that Defendants violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, the Court must
now determine whether each right was clearly established. In doing so, the Court “look[s] first
to decisions of the Supreme Court, then to decisions of [the Sixth Circuit, then to] other [district]
courts within our circuit, and finally to decisions of other circuits.” Cummings v. City of Akron,
418 F.3d 676, 687 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Buckner v. Kilgore, 36 F.3d 536, 539 (6th Cir.
1994)). “In order for a constitutional right to be clearly established, there need not be a case with
the exact same fact pattern, or even ‘fundamentally similar’ or ‘materially similar’ facts; rather,
the question is whether the defendants had ‘fair warning’ that their actions were
unconstitutional.” Id. (quoting Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 741 (2002)).
Right to Be Free from a Warrantless Arrest in Home
“The bedrock Fourth Amendment principles announced in Payton and Welsh
demonstrate that the officers’ forced warrantless entry into [Plaintiffs’] home was presumptively
unreasonable.” Id.; see also Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 748 (1984) (quoting United
States v. U.S. District Court (Keith), 407 U.S. 297, 313 (1972)) (“It is axiomatic that the
‘physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment
is directed.’”); Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 590 (1980) (“In terms that apply equally to
seizures of property and to seizures of persons, the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at
the entrance to the house. Absent exigent circumstances, that threshold may not reasonably be
crossed without a warrant.”). As mentioned in the Court’s discussion of the constitutional
violation, “forced” includes less overt methods including guile. Hoffa v. United States, 385 U.S.
293, 301 (1966) (citing Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298 (1921)); United States v. Boyd,
910 F. Supp. 2d 995, 1002 (W.D. Mich. 2011).
Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiffs’
constitutional rights to be free from a warrantless arrest in their home are clearly established in
the Constitution itself and the case law of the Supreme Court. Accordingly, qualified immunity
is not available for Ifantis, Miller, or Bonds on Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim for violation
of their right to be free from warrantless entry into Plaintiffs’ home.
Right to Be Free from Prosecution Without Probable Cause
The Court now examines whether Carolyn Albea’s right to be free from a malicious
prosecution on the charges for contribution to the delinquency of a minor or custodial
interference was clearly established.
The Court also examines the same for Jerry Albea’s
charges of custodial interference and domestic assault. “A police officer violates a suspect’s
clearly established right to freedom from malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment
‘only when his deliberate or reckless falsehoods result in arrest and prosecution without probable
cause.’” Johnson v. Moseley, 790 F.3d 649, 655 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Newman v. Township
of Hamburg, 773 F.3d 769, 772 (6th Cir. 2014)). “[A] defendant’s participation must be marked
by some kind of blameworthiness, something beyond mere negligence or innocent mistake, to
satisfy the elements of a malicious prosecution claim under the Fourth Amendment.” Id. The
Court finds the Ifantis’s and Travis’s application of law to the facts of this case to be
unreasonable, but it cannot say that their actions rise to level of “deliberate or reckless
falsehoods.” There is no indication in the facts that Ifantis and Travis sought to deliberately
charge Plaintiffs with crimes they had not committed. Nor is there any indication that Ifantis and
Travis were reckless in doing so. Recklessness requires something more than unreasonable
behavior; it requires the callous disregard of the likelihood that harm may result from such
behavior. In Moseley, the Sixth Circuit appears to have ultimately been looking for allegations
that the officers “testified falsely or recklessly” against the plaintiff. Moseley, 790 F.3d at 655.
Though unlike that case, Ifantis and Travis were involved after the arrest. See id. at 655–56. Yet
there is no evidence that Ifantis (or through Ifantis, Travis) relied on any information other than
what was gathered in good faith. The particular statutes that Plaintiffs were charged under based
on this information were unreasonable in certain instances, and while that may have made Ifantis
and Travis negligent, it does not follow that their actions were reckless or deliberate.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs rights were not clearly established under the case law of the Sixth Circuit,
and Ifantis and Travis are entitled to qualified immunity as to the remaining bases for Plaintiffs’
malicious prosecution claims. Ifantis and Travis are therefore entitled to summary judgment on
such claims, and they are hereby DISMISSED.
Plaintiffs’ State-Law Claims
This Court likely lacks jurisdiction over all of Plaintiffs’ state-law claims. The Tennessee
Governmental Tort Liability Act (the “GTLA”) provides that all governmental entities of the
State of Tennessee are immune from suit except by the removal of that immunity by the
provisions of the GTLA. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-201(a). The immunity provided to a
governmental entity extends to its employees. See id. § 29-20-313(a); Cunningham v. Reid, 337
F. Supp. 2d 1064, 1069–70 (W.D. Tenn. 2004) (citations omitted). The law-enforcement-officer
Defendants appear to employees under the GTLA. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-20-102(2), 107(d). The GTLA further provides that claims brought when immunity has been removed must
be in brought in strict compliance with the terms of the GTLA. Id. § 29-20-201(c). The GTLA
vests exclusive jurisdiction over these claims in the Tennessee Circuit Courts. Id. § 29-20-307.
The GTLA states that the starting point from which all immunity must be removed is that “all
governmental entities shall be immune from suit for any injury.” Id. § 29-20-201(a). It does not
refer to any type of action but provides an absolute immunity to actions for damages. The GTLA
further states that “all . . . statutes in conflict with [it] shall only be applicable to governmental
entities exercising their rights under this chapter as provided for by [section] 29-20-103.” Id. §
29-20-104(a). Section 29-20-103 provided a temporary way for governmental entities to exempt
themselves from the provisions of the GTLA. Thus, the GTLA provides that, in Tennessee, all
suits for damages against governmental entities and their employees under state law must pass
through the provisions of the GTLA. While the GTLA’s provisions subsequently remove the
initial immunity and make way for other provisions of Tennessee law, they do not alter the fact
that the Tennessee legislature has vested exclusive jurisdiction of state-law claims against
Tennessee governmental entities and their employees in the Tennessee Circuit Courts.
Plaintiffs argue, however, that the GTLA does not supersede the provision under which
they bring at least some of their state law claims, section 8-8-302 of the Tennessee Code
Annotated. In doing so, Plaintiffs rely on Hunt v. Wayne County, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11126
(M.D. Tenn. Jan. 31, 2012) (holding that the GTLA only superseded other Tennessee statutes
that permitted actions based on negligence).
The Court will not resolve this question of
Tennessee law, however, because it alternatively declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over Plaintiffs’ state-law claims.
A district court may decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction if it has dismissed the claims over which it has original jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c)(3), or if “in exceptional circumstances,” there are “compelling reasons for declining
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(4). The exclusivity provision of the GTLA provides a
compelling reason for this court to decline supplemental jurisdiction here. See 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c)(4); Cunningham, 337 F. Supp. 2d at 1070 (citing Spurlock v. Whitley, 971 F. Supp. 1166
(M.D. Tenn. 1997), aff’d 167 F.3d 995 (6th Cir. 1999)). The Court therefore declines to exercise
jurisdiction over those Defendants subject to the GTLA. And as the Court has stated, this
appears to capture all Defendants. The Court additionally declines to exercise jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3) over Plaintiffs’ state-law claims against the County
Defendants and Defendant Travis because there are no remaining federal claims against those
Defendants. Plaintiff’s argument that section 8-8-302 was not superseded by the GTLA only
applies to the County Defendants because that particular statute permits suit against the county
but not a deputy. But as the Court has declined to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ state-law
claims against the County Defendants on other grounds, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) covers all
Defendants before the Court even if the GTLA’s exclusivity provision does not apply to the
County Defendants.12 Thus, on one or more of the aforementioned grounds, Plaintiffs’ state-law
claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. See Bass v. Parkwood Hosp., 180 F.3d 234, 246 (5th
Cir. 1999) (stating that “the dismissal of the pendent claims should expressly be without
prejudice so that the plaintiff may refile his claims in the appropriate state court”).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED
IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
Plaintiffs’ claims for violation of their Fourth
Amendment right to be free from warrantless entry into their home against Ifantis, Miller, and
Bonds survive this Motion, but all other federal claims are DISMISSED. All of Plaintiffs’ state-
The Court also thinks that Plaintiffs’ claims against the County Defendants may fall
under an additional basis for declining jurisdiction: “the claim[s] raise a . . . complex issue of
State law.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1). But the Court does not rely on that basis today.
law claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. As a result, Travis, Madison County, and
Gibson County are dismissed from this action entirely.
It is so ORDERED.
s/ S. Thomas Anderson
S. THOMAS ANDERSON
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Date: November 16, 2017.
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