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Hockbein v. Pine County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 8, 2019

Judy A. Hockbein, Plaintiff,
v.
Pine County; and Denise Christiansen and Jami Tuve, Pine County employees, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          Zorislav R. Leyderman, Esq., The Law Office of Zorislav R. Leyderman, counsel for Plaintiff.

          Margaret A. Skelton, Esq., and Timothy S. Christensen, Esq., Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., counsel for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Judy Hockbein sued Pine County (“County”) and two Pine County probation office employees (“Individual Defendants”), alleging violations of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as malicious prosecution and negligence under state common law. This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2016, Hockbein was charged with disorderly conduct in Pine County, Minnesota, for which she was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation and payment of $100 in court costs. (Doc. No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 10-11.) Hockbein's probation was set to expire on June 12, 2017. (Id. ¶ 11.) The sentencing order directed Hockbein to pay $100 within six months, i.e. June 12, 2017. Defendant Christiansen, a Pine County Probation employee, also sent two letters to Hockbein detailing the conditions of Hockbein's unsupervised probation. (Doc. No. 21 (“Christiansen Aff.”) ¶ 3, Ex. 2; ¶ 4, Ex. 3; see also Compl. ¶¶ 12-13.) Both letters specifically stated that Hockbein must pay $100 by June 12, 2017. Neither letter indicated that Hockbein needed to fulfill any part of that financial obligation before June 12, 2017.

         As of May 2017, Hockbein had not satisfied the financial obligation of her probation. Pine County Probation Policy 5-610 states that “[v]iolation reports should be filed 60 days prior to expiration of probation.” (Christiansen Aff. ¶ 5, Ex. 4.) Consequently, on May 17, 2017, Christiansen and Tuve filed a Probation Violation Report concerning Hockbein with the Pine County District Court (the “PVR”). (Compl. ¶ 19; Christiansen Aff. ¶ 6, Ex. 5.) In a section titled “ALLEGED VIOLATION, ” the PVR stated: “1. Failure to pay court ordered fine, ” and “2. Failure to cooperate with probation.” (Id. (emphasis in original).) The PVR further stated:

The defendant was sentenced on 12/12/2016 and given a stay of adjudication with the condition of paying 100 dollars in court costs. A letter was sent to the defendant on 4/13/17 reminding her of outstanding conditions. As of today no contact has been made with probation and no payment has been made.

(Id.) Christiansen and Tuve also filed a Proposed Probation Violation Summons or Warrant. (Christiansen Aff. ¶ 7, Ex. 6.) On May 19, 2017, the Honorable Krista Martin, Pine County District Judge, summoned Hockbein to appear at a June 23, 2017 hearing to respond to the PVR. (Compl. ¶ 21; Christiansen Aff. ¶ 8, Ex. 7 (“Summons”).) Although the Summons was addressed to the same address at which Hockbein received Christiansen's earlier letters, Hockbein denies receiving the Summons. (Id.)

         On June 8, 2017, Hockbein made a $200 payment to Pine County Court Administration over the telephone. (Compl. ¶ 15; Christiansen Aff. ¶ 9, Ex. 8.) The payment is reflected on Hockbein's court file, No. 58-CR-16-614, and Receipt No. 0058-2017-00857 was issued for it. (Christiansen Aff. ¶ 9, Ex. 8.) At the end of her unsupervised probation on June 12, 2017, Hockbein had satisfied all the conditions of her unsupervised probation. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Hockbein was not aware, however, of the PVR and Summons. (Id.)

         On June 23, 2017, the Honorable Heather Wynn, Pine County District Judge, held a hearing concerning the PVR, but Hockbein did not appear. (Compl. ¶ 22; Doc. No. 22 (“Skelton Aff.”) ¶ 2, Ex. 1.) Following the hearing, Judge Wynn issued a warrant for Hockbein's arrest because “[o]n 06/23/2017, [Hockbein] failed to obey the order/summons of the court to appear for Probation Violation Hearing.” (Compl. ¶ 22; Christiansen Aff. ¶ 10, Ex. 9.) Consequently, on July 16, 2017, White Bear Lake Police arrested Hockbein after a traffic stop and transported her to the Ramsey County jail. (Compl. ¶¶ 23-24.) Hockbein, who had never been arrested, was strip-searched, booked into the Ramsey County jail, and spent the night in a cell with an inmate undergoing heroin withdrawal. (Id. ¶¶ 23-30.) The Pine County Sheriff's Office transported Hockbein to the Pine County jail the next day, where she was again detained overnight. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         On July 18, 2017, when Hockbein appeared before the Honorable Jonathan Jasper, Pine County District Judge, the prosecutor explained that Hockbein had satisfied her financial obligations on June 8, 2017-four days before the deadline established by her sentencing order-and requested that Judge Jasper dismiss the probation violation and close the file. (Id. ¶ 33; Skelton Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 2.) Judge Jasper did so and ordered that Hockbein be released immediately. (Id.) Hockbein was transferred back to the Pine County jail and released shortly thereafter. (Compl. ¶ 33.)

         On November 27, 2017, Hockbein filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state common law, alleging that Pine County and Pine County Probation Office employees Denise Christiansen and Jami Tuve (collectively, “Defendants”) violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, committed malicious prosecution, and were negligent in investigating her probation violation. (Id. ¶¶ 36-56.)[1] As a result, Hockbein alleges that she suffered loss of freedom and liberty, severe emotional trauma and distress, nightmares, general fear and insecurity, fear of driving, fear of leaving the house, stress, anxiety, depression, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, ...


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