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Affordable Bail Bonds, Inc. v. Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 3, 2019

AFFORDABLE BAIL BONDS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,



         Before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Complaint (Doc. 16). Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims against them should be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiffs have submitted a Response (Doc. 17), and Defendants have filed a Reply (Doc. 18).

         I. Plaintiffs' Allegations

         The following is a summary of Plaintiffs' factual allegations:

         Plaintiff Roberta Dampf-Aguilar ("Dampf-Aguilar") is a licensed professional bail bondsman, and she operates her bail bond business through Affordable Bail Bonds, Inc. ("Affordable"), located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Plaintiff Terry J. Horton ("Horton") was an employee of Affordable during the relevant time. Horton had previously been a licensed bail bondsman but was not licensed at the time.

         Plaintiffs allege that Affordable and Dampf-Aguilar received disparate treatment from the Tulsa County Sheriffs Office ("TCSO") for many years. They believe that this treatment stems from animosity between Dampf-Aguilar and another bail bondsman, Rusty Roberts ("Roberts"). Roberts, in turn, allegedly received preferential treatment from the TCSO, which included being allowed to distribute business cards at the Jail.

         On or about February 14, 2014, members of the TCSO entered Affordable's business and arrested employee Jack Scheving ("Scheving") on an outstanding warrant relating to unpaid fines. Scheving was then interrogated by the TCSO and pushed to cooperate with TCSO's investigation of Dampf-Aguilar and Affordable. On February 19, 2014, the TCSO obtained a search warrant to search Affordable's business. According to the search warrant, law enforcement officers were permitted to search for and collect the following: computers, computer systems, data, and other computer-related property; any locked compartment, file cabinet, desk drawer, safe, or closet capable of storing paper documents; employee records; employee work schedule histories; policies and procedures that reflect Affordable's day-to-day operations; and files relating to business transactions on bonds generated by individuals employed at Affordable.

         The search warrant was obtained based on an affidavit sworn by Defendant Greg Brown ("Brown"), a detective with the TCSO. The affidavit stated that there was probable cause for the issuance of the warrant because Scheving was a convicted felon who would construct and prepare bail bond contracts without being given the power to do so by the State of Oklahoma. The affidavit also stated that it was common practice at Affordable to accept payments from individuals despite having knowledge that those individuals had ICE holds and would not be released. Lastly, the affiant asserted that he "strongly believe[d] Mr. Scheving was within the scope of his employment and signed bail bonds on behalf of Mrs. Roberta Ann Dampf-Aguilar during his assigned shift as a supervisor with Affordable Bail Bonds." (Doc. 3-2 at 3).

         Defendant Major Thomas Huckeby ("Huckeby") led a group of about ten members of the TCSO who executed the search warrant on February 19, 2014. The group searched Affordable's premises and confiscated numerous files and other property, including computers and a server. The TCSO officers also utilized a K-9 during the search. At the conclusion of the search, Horton was arrested on allegations that he was performing acts of a bail bondsman without a license, in violation of Okla. Stat. tit. 59, § 1311.3(A). Horton was booked in the Tulsa County Jail on a felony complaint and was initially held without bond. Later, his bail was set by a Tulsa County District Court Judge at $5, 000.

         The next day, on February 20, 2014, the TSCO arrested Dampf-Aguilar on a charge of permitting Horton to perform acts of a bail bondsman without a license. Dampf-Aguilar's license to act as a bail bondsman was temporarily suspended until the Tulsa County District Court held that the prosecution lacked probable cause to charge either her or Horton with a crime.

         II. Dismissal Standards

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, "the court must liberally construe the pleadings and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party." Broker's Choice of Am., Inc. v. NBC Universal, Inc., 861 F.3d 1081, 1105 (10th Cir. 2017). However, plaintiffs must plead sufficient factual allegations "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1104 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint that merely "'tenders naked assertions]' devoid of' further factual enhancement'" does not satisfy the pleading standard. Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         III. Analysis

         A. Preliminary Issue

         The first named defendant in Plaintiffs' Complaint is the "Tulsa County Sheriffs Office." (See Doc. 1). As noted by Defendants, the Sheriffs Office is not a legally suable entity. See Lindsey v. Thomson, 275 Fed.Appx. 744, 747 (10th Cir. Sept. 10, 2007) (unpublished); Reid v. Hamby, No. 95-7142, 1997 WL 537909, at *6 (10th Cir. Sept. 2, 1997) (unpublished) ("We now hold that an Oklahoma 'sheriffs department' is not a proper entity for purposes of a § 1983 suit."); Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992) ("Sheriffs departments and police departments are not usually considered legal entities subject to suit[.]"). In fact, under Okla. Stat. tit. 19, § 4, suits against a county in Oklahoma must be brought against the board of county commissioners.

         Plaintiffs have requested leave to amend, but the Court finds such amendment unnecessary where Plaintiffs are already bringing the same claims against the Tulsa County Sheriff in his official capacity. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985) ("As long as the government entity receives notice and an opportunity to respond, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity."). For this reason, the Court denies Plaintiffs request and hereby dismisses Plaintiffs' claims against the Tulsa County Sheriff s Office.

         The Court will now proceed by examining the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' factual allegations as to former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz in his individual capacity and current Sheriff Vic Regalado in his official capacity. The Court will then address Plaintiffs' claims as to the remaining individual defendants: Thomas Huckeby, Eric Kitch, and Greg Brown.

         B. Stanley Glanz-Individual Capacity

         In order to state a plausible claim against Glanz in his individual capacity, Plaintiffs must allege facts showing that Glanz was personally involved in the underlying constitutional violation through his own participation or supervisory control. Moya v. Garcia, 895 F.3d 1229, 1233 (10th Cir. 2018). The only allegations in the Complaint specifically mentioning Glanz are the following:

- "Defendant Stanley Glanz is the elected Sheriff of Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma." (Doc. 1 at ¶5).
- "Despite knowledge of the ongoing disparate treatment of Affordable, Dampf-Aguilar and Horton, TCSO and Sheriff Stanley Glanz have failed to sufficiently monitor and supervise those empowered by the badge and rank bestowed upon them by TCSO and Glanz." (Id. at ¶ 51).
- "Further, Affordable and Dampf-Aguilar's constitutional rights were violated by the acts of the TCSO, Glanz, Huckeby, Kitch and Brown as described here in above, including but not limited to the seizure of computers, electronics, documents and files unrelated and unnecessary for the matters set forth in the Affidavit for Search Warrant." (Id. at ¶ 57).
- "Affordable's and Dampf-Aguilar's constitutional rights were violated by the acts of the TCSO, Glanz, Huckeby, Kitch and Brown, including but not limited [to] the seizure of computers, electronics, documents and files based upon a false and ...

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