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Hopkins v. Osborn

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 8, 2019

BARBARA HOPKINS et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN D. OSBORN et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a lawsuit by a former DEA agent who claims that a federal judge and several law enforcement officers in Arizona wrongly divulged untrue and life-threatening information about her. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. I will grant the motion on two grounds. First, as to the individual defendants, I conclude that there is no personal jurisdiction over them in the District of Connecticut. Second, as to the remaining claims against the DEA and the U.S. Marshals Service, I conclude that the Court has no subject matter jurisdiction because of sovereign immunity.

         Background

         Plaintiff Barbara Hopkins used to be a DEA agent in Arizona but now lives in Connecticut with her fiancé and her minor son (co-plaintiffs “John Doe 1” and “John Doe 2”). The defendants are a federal judge (U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Fine), two federal law enforcement agencies (the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service), and three federal law enforcement officers (John D. Osborn of the U.S. Marshals Service, Kevin Manning of the DEA, and Michael Pope of the DEA). All the individual defendants live and work in Arizona.

         The following facts are alleged in the amended complaint. Doc. #30. In January 2014, Hopkins was a DEA agent in Arizona and took part in the arrest of a drug trafficker named Marco Ochoa-Gonzalez. More than two years later, Ochoa-Gonzalez filed a federal civil lawsuit in the District of Arizona stemming from this arrest, and his lawsuit named as one of the defendants a DEA agent named “Barbara Brown.”

         The Ochoa-Gonzalez lawsuit was referred to the docket of Judge Fine. At Judge Fine's direction, efforts were made through the Clerk's Office and the U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona to serve the summons and complaint on the named defendant “Barbara Brown.”

         As a Deputy U.S. Marshal, Osborn was tasked with trying to serve process on “Barbara Brown.” According to the complaint, he documented his efforts on a USM-285 form. The Court takes judicial notice of the USM-285 form that is used as a matter of course for federal court proceedings. At the top of the USM-285 form, a plaintiff must fill out information for the process server to use regarding the lawsuit and the name and address of the defendant to be served. At the bottom of the form, the process server from the U.S. Marshals Service must document whether service of process has been successful or unsuccessful. If service has been unsuccessful, the form has a box for the process server to mark with an “X” stating: “I hereby certify and return that I am unable to locate the individual, company, corporation, etc. named above (See remarks below).” Then the form has an additional space below under a heading “REMARKS” for the process server to explain why he or she has not been able to serve process.

         Osborn went to a DEA office in Yuma, Arizona but was unable to locate and serve the named defendant “Barbara Brown.” He recorded the following in the “REMARKS” section of the USM-285 form:

1st Endeavor: Above address is not longer a valid address for DEA in Yuma, AZ. Located current DEA address and spoke with DEA employees. No. knowledge of a Barbara Brown at this location.
2d Endeavor: Spoke with current DEA Supervisor. Supervisor states he has no knowledge of a Barbara Brown ever working for the DEA in Yuma, AZ. Supervisor stated that there was a Barbara J. Hopkins who worked for DEA in Yuma, AZ in the past, but has left the agency on 5/7/2016. Hopkins is believe[d] to currently be located in Hamden, CT. A DEA employee has advised that Hopkins is known to have serious mental issues and may pose an officer safety concern is [sic] approached.

Doc. #30 at 3 (¶ 6).

         Although Osborn's notation does not identify any of the DEA agents with whom he spoke, the complaint alleges that it was Manning and Pope who reported this information to Hopkins. On July 1, 2016, Osborn filed the completed USM-285 form with the court in the District of Arizona in the Ochoa-Gonzalez case.

         On August 1, 2016, in light of the failure to serve “Barbara Brown, ” Judge Fine entered an order to show cause against Ochoa-Gonzalez why the action against “Barbara Brown” should not be dismissed. The order to show cause that was entered by Judge Fine quoted the second paragraph above (“2d Endeavor”) from Osborn's service-of-process form, including the information reported to Osborn that there was someone named Barbara Hopkins who had worked for the DEA in Yuma, Arizona, that Hopkins was now located in a particular town in Connecticut, and that Hopkins was “known” to have serious mental health issues and to be a concern for officer safety if approached.

         Ochoa-Gonzalez used this information as disclosed on the court docket to file an amended complaint, now naming Hopkins as a defendant instead of “Barbara Brown.” The damages action by Ochoa-Gonzalez was eventually dismissed against Hopkins in May 2017, but according to Hopkins, “the damage was forever done, ” because Ochoa-Gonzalez “now had the whereabouts of former ...


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