United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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]
Doc. #30 at 3 (¶ 6).
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.
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.
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 ...