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Skillings v. Crowder

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 26, 2019

FLOYD CROWDER, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendants Floyd Crowder and D.T. “Duck” Adams' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (Doc. 50). In their Motion, Defendants Crowder and Adams argue that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint should be dismissed as to them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) and (6) for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, respectively. Plaintiff Shemika N. Skillings submitted a Response in Opposition, which included a Motion to Strike Defendants' Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(f) and to Admonish Defendants' Counsel to Comply with the Oklahoma Bar's Standard of Professional Conduct and a Motion to Grant Leave to Amend in Lieu of Dismissal (Doc. 72, 73). Defendants Crowder and Adams subsequently filed a Reply (Doc. 89).

         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         The following is a summary of Plaintiff's factual allegations, with an emphasis on her allegations against the movants, Defendants Crowder and Adams. These allegations are contained in her Amended Complaint (Doc. 22) and must be taken as true at the dismissal stage.

         On or about March 6, 2016, Plaintiff brought her four-year-old daughter from Virginia to Oklahoma. According to Plaintiff, she had an agreement with her ex-husband that allowed for this trip. On March 7, Defendant Floyd Crowder, an investigator and Sheriff's Deputy for Dinwiddie County, Virginia, called Plaintiff several times demanding that she bring the child back to Virginia. Plaintiff told Crowder of her agreement with her ex-husband and also informed him “that all matters pertaining to the custody of [the] child would be discussed amongst their civil attorney[s].” (Doc. 22 at ¶ 18). Plaintiff also sent an email to Defendant Linda Johnson, a lawyer representing Plaintiff's ex-husband, telling her that she would bring the child back to Virginia on March 11, 2016.

         According to Plaintiff, Defendant Crowder and Defendant D.T. “Duck” Adams, the Sheriff of Dinwiddie County, “fraudulently investigated and maliciously issued a warrant for kidnapping against the plaintiff.” (Id. at ¶ 42). Subsequently, Broken Arrow police officers arrived at Plaintiff's home on March 11, 2016, and arrested her. She spent approximately 36 hours detained in the Broken Arrow municipal jail. She was then transferred to Wagoner County jail and was booked on a “Fugitive from Justice” charge. Soon thereafter, a copy of the Virginia felony warrant for kidnapping was faxed to the Wagoner facility. Ultimately, four days after her arrest in Broken Arrow, Plaintiff was released on a $20, 000 bond. Plaintiff then appeared before a magistrate judge in Dinwiddie County, and the kidnapping charges were dismissed.

         Plaintiff brings several claims against Defendants Crowder and Adams: claims of “fraudulent investigation, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and unlawful seizure and by Defendants in violation of procedural and substantitive [sic] due process rights guaranteed to Plaintiff by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ” brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II); claims of “unlawful seizure by arrest, detention and incarceration under void process by Defendants in violation of the procedural and substantitive [sic] rights guaranteed to Plaintiff by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United Constitutions, ” also brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III); and a claim of conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's civil rights, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count IV). (Doc. 22 at 7-10). Count I of the Amended Complaint, “deprivation of rights under the United States Constitution, ” is also brought against Defendant Adams. (Id. at 6-7).

         II. Legal Standards

         It is undisputed that both Defendant Crowder and Defendant Adams are residents of the State of Virginia. (See Doc. 50-12 at ¶ 2; Doc. 50-13 at ¶ 2). For a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of facts satisfying both the forum's long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. See Niemi v. Lasshofer, 770 F.3d 1331, 1348 (10th Cir. 2014). “Because Oklahoma's long-arm statute permits the exercise of any jurisdiction that is consistent with the United States Constitution, the personal jurisdiction inquiry under Oklahoma law collapses into the single due process inquiry.” Intercon, Inc. v. Bell Atl. Internet Solutions, Inc., 205 F.3d 1244, 1247 (10th Cir. 2000) (citing Rambo v. Am. S. Ins. Co., 839 F.2d 1415, 1416 (10th Cir. 1988)); see also Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 2004(F).

         “In order to evaluate whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with due process, ” the court “must first assess whether ‘the defendant has such minimum contacts with the forum state that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.'” Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348 (quoting Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618 F.3d 1153, 1159-60 (10th Cir. 2010)). The minimum-contacts standard is satisfied by either general or specific jurisdiction. Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348. “General jurisdiction is based on an out-of-state defendant's ‘continuous and systematic' contacts with the forum state . . . .” Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1072 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Trujillo v. Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1218 n.7 (10th Cir. 2006)). The Court finds no evidence that Defendant Crowder or Defendant Adams has sufficient affiliations with Oklahoma to support general jurisdiction, (see Doc. 50-12 at ¶ 4; Doc. 50-13 at ¶ 4), and Plaintiff does not appear to argue that such jurisdiction exists here.

         Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, exists “if the defendant has purposefully directed his activities at residents of the forum, and the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities.” Intercon, 205 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985)). Under what is known as the Calder “effects test, ” purposeful direction may be established by showing that an out-of-state defendant committed “(a) an intentional action . . . that was (b) expressly aimed at the forum state . . . with (c) knowledge that the brunt of the injury would be felt in the forum state.” Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1072 (citing Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984)). The Tenth Circuit, in interpreting Calder, has emphasized that the forum state must be the “focal point” of the alleged tortious conduct. Id. at 1074-75.

         In addition to determining the existence of minimum contacts with the forum state, the district court must also analyze whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants would “comport with ‘fair play and substantial justice.'” Equifax Servs. Inc. v. Hitz, 905 F.2d 1355, 1359 (10th Cir. 1990) (quoting Burger King, 417 U.S. at 476). The following factors guide this analysis:

(1) the burden on the defendant, (2) the forum state's interest in resolving the dispute, (3) the plaintiff's interest in receiving convenient and effective relief, (4) the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies, and (5) the shared interest of the several states in furthering fundamental social policies.

Trujillo, 465 F.3d at 1221 (quoting Pro Axess, Inc. v. Orlux Distrib., Inc., 428 F.3d 1270, 1279-80 (10th Cir. 2005). “[T]he weaker the plaintiff's showing on minimum contacts, the less a defendant need show in terms of unreasonableness to defeat jurisdiction.” Pro Axess, Inc., 428 F.3d at 1280 (quoting OMI Holdings, Inc. v. Royal ...

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