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Jones v. Chandrasuwan

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

December 30, 2014

LANNA CHANDRASUWAN and BRIAN HOLBROOK, in their individual capacities, Defendants

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William L. Osteen Jr., United States District Judge.

Presently before this court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 8) filed jointly by Defendants Lanna Chandrasuwan and Brian Holbrook (collectively, " Defendants" ). Plaintiff Stanley Jones (" Plaintiff" ) has responded in opposition (Doc. 13), and Defendants have replied (Doc. 15). Plaintiff alleges damages under two causes of action: a state law malicious prosecution claim (Count I) and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights (Count II).

Defendants, who are both North Carolina probation officers, assert they did not violate Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights, or, alternatively, qualified immunity shields them from liability. Upon the request of this court (Doc. 16), both parties filed supplemental briefing on several issues. This motion is now ripe for adjudication, and for the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted.


The following facts are undisputed. In October of 2009, Plaintiff, a public school teacher, was arrested and charged with offenses stemming from improper relations with a student. (Complaint (" Compl." ) (Doc. 3) ¶ ¶ 6-7; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (" Pl.'s Resp." ), Aff. of Stanley Jones (" Jones Aff." ) (Doc. 13-1) ¶ 5.) In July 2010, Plaintiff accepted a plea in his criminal case. (Jones Aff. (Doc. 13-1) ¶ 10.) As a result of the plea, Plaintiff was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for two years. (Id.)

As one of the conditions of his probation, the Guilford County Superior Court ordered that Plaintiff pay $471.50 in court costs and fines, with the schedule of payment to be determined by a probation officer. (Pl.'s Resp., Judgment (Doc. 13-3) at 1.) Along with the judgment, the clerk of court gave Plaintiff a " Bill of Costs" with a due-by date of " 7/7/2012." (Jones Aff. (Doc. 13-1) ¶ ¶ 12, 14.). After entering his plea, Plaintiff had an intake meeting with a North Carolina probation officer. (Id. ¶ 11.) Both parties agree that Plaintiff,

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at that meeting, did not complete a DCC-2,[1] the internal form that the Department of Community Corrections (" DCC" ) uses to set up a payment schedule.

During the pendency of the criminal charges, Plaintiff resigned his teaching position and began working for a mobile phone company, Prime Communications, in its Greensboro, North Carolina store. (Id. ¶ ¶ 6-7.) Three months before he accepted his plea, Plaintiff was promoted and transferred to a position with Prime Communications in Augusta, Georgia. (Id. ¶ ¶ 8-9.)

Because of the move, the superior court allowed Plaintiff to transfer his supervision from North Carolina to Georgia. (Id. ¶ 10.) In light of Plaintiff's North Carolina conviction and Georgia residency, the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision (" Interstate Compact" or " ICAOS" ) governed Plaintiff's multi-state probation. (See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. (" Defs.' Mem." ), Aff. of Karl Waller (" Waller Aff." ) (Doc. 9-2) ¶ 5.) The Interstate Compact is a formal agreement between all fifty states allowing for the transfer of probation supervision between states for adult offenders.[2] (Id. ¶ ¶ 5-8.) Pursuant to the terms of the Interstate Compact, North Carolina, the " sending state," retained revocation and enforcement authority over Plaintiff's probation while Georgia, the " receiving state," supervised the probation. (Id. ¶ ¶ 11-12.) Plaintiff paid his monthly supervision fee to Georgia; however, the authority and responsibility to collect the $471.50 remained with North Carolina. (Jones Aff. (Doc. 13-1) ¶ ¶ 18-20.)

In late 2010, Prime Communications transferred Plaintiff to a new position in Savannah, Georgia. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff had his probation transferred to the Savannah office, and Jeff Kreiss was assigned as Plaintiff's new probation officer. (Id. ¶ ¶ 20-24.) Throughout his residency in Georgia, there were no reported violations of Plaintiff's probation from the Georgia authorities.

The events that transpired and led to Plaintiff's arrest for violating his probation began in early 2012, roughly seven months before Plaintiff's supervised release was to end. According to Defendants, in January 2012, Jay Lynn, an official in the North Carolina Interstate Compact Office (" NCICO" ) in Raleigh, conducted a routine review of Plaintiff's probation file. (Waller Aff. (Doc. 9-2) ¶ ¶ 28-29.) During the review, Lynn determined that Plaintiff's court costs and fines remained unpaid. (Id. ¶ 29.) Lynn informed Karl Waller, the Interstate Compact District Coordinator, of the unpaid costs and confirmed this outstanding balance with Greensboro Chief Probation and Parole Officer Brian Holbrook (" Defendant Holbrook" ). (Id. ¶ ¶ 4, 29.)

On January 25, 2012, after confirmation of this unpaid balance, Waller sent a " compact action request" to the Interstate Compact Office in Georgia (the " Georgia Compact Office" ) requesting Plaintiff to pay the outstanding $471.50 by February

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1, 2012. (Id. ¶ 30.) Waller included instructions to pay the outstanding amount by mail. (Id.) On February 4, 2012, the $471.50 in court costs and fines remained unpaid, and Waller subsequently prepared an internal violation report based on Plaintiff's failure to pay the outstanding costs. (Id. ¶ 32.)

On February 9, 2012, the Georgia Compact Office sent two responses to the compact action request. The first read as follows: " Be advised the offender was instructed by his supervision officer to make his payment to SC [superior court]. He stated he was going to contact his lawyer about this amount owed & that he expires in July." (Defs.' Mem., First Compact Action Request (Doc. 9-6).) The second read as follows: " The offender reported on this date & his supervising officer instructedhim [sic] to make his payment. I gave him the information again of the amount owed & the address to mail the payment. He stated he will pay the balance off by the end of the month." (Second Compact Action Request (Doc. 9-7).)

In mid-January of 2012, Waller turned the probation file over to Defendant Holbrook to collect the outstanding $471.50. On or after February 15, 2012, Defendant Holbrook instructed Defendant Lanna Chandrasuwan (" Defendant Chandrasuwan" ), a probation officer under his supervision, to " follow up" with Plaintiff about the probation violation. (Defs.' Mem. (Doc. 9) at 8; Aff. of Lanna Chandrasuwan (" Chandrasuwan Aff." ) (Doc. 9-13) ¶ 15.)

On March 8, 2012, Defendant Chandrasuwan unsuccessfully attempted to directly reach Plaintiff at two phone numbers. (Chandrasuwan Aff. (Doc. 9-13) ¶ 17.) Plaintiff points out that Defendant Chandrasuwan never contacted the Georgia Compact Office concerning the violation, as required by the Interstate Compact guidelines. (See Pl.'s Resp. (Doc. 13) at 6 (citing ICAOS Rule 2.101(d)).) On March 12, 2012, Defendant Chandrasuwan attempted to directly notify Plaintiff by mail of his need to contact her or return to the Greensboro Probation Office to pay the outstanding fines within two weeks. (Chandrasuwan Aff. (Doc. 9-13) ¶ 19.) Also on March 12, 2012, Defendant Chandrasuwan prepared a Violation Report stating that Plaintiff had violated probation due to his failure to timely pay the court costs. (Id. ¶ 18.) On approximately March 27, 2012, " Chandrasuwan's correspondence to Plaintiff had been returned." (Defs.' Mem. (Doc. 9) at 8; Chandrasuwan Aff. (Doc. 9-13) ¶ 20.) On March 27, 2012, Defendant Chandrasuwan prepared an Addendum Violation Report claiming that Plaintiff " had absconded and was avoiding supervision." (Chandrasuwan Aff. (Doc. 9-13) ¶ 23.)

On March 27, 2012, Defendant Chandrasuwan appeared for a probable cause hearing[3] before a Magistrate Judge in Guilford

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County, North Carolina, to secure an order for Plaintiff's arrest based on multiple probation violations. (Id. ¶ ¶ 23-25.) In support of her petition for a probation violator arrest warrant, Defendant Chandrasuwan presented both the March 12th Violation Report and the March 27th Addendum Violation Report. The Magistrate Judge subsequently issued an order for Plaintiff's arrest. (Order for Arrest and Supporting Violation Reports (Doc. 9-11).)

Plaintiff does not dispute these facts recounting the actions of the NCICO officers or Defendants Holbrook or Chandrasuwan, arguing instead that these actions violated procedural requirements. (See Pl.'s Resp. (Doc. 13) at 4-8.) Plaintiff does dispute the reports from the Georgia Compact Office. Plaintiff recalls a conversation with a representative from the Georgia Compact Office consistent with the first response to the compact action request. (Jones Aff. (Doc. 13-1) ¶ ¶ 25-27.) That is, Plaintiff recalls having a brief conversation (lasting less than five minutes) where he stated that he realized he still owed the money, that it was due by July, and that he would contact his attorney to arrange for the payment. (Id.)

However, Plaintiff denies having a second conversation with the representative from the Georgia Compact Office and contends the second message was sent to " cover the compact officer's duty to provide the address to Plaintiff for sending payment." (Pl.'s Resp. (Doc. 13) at 5-6.) Within a few days of the meeting, Plaintiff asserts that he called his lawyer to confirm the money was due in July and that the lawyer's office could make the payment to the clerk after it received the funds from Plaintiff. (Jones Aff. (Doc. 13-1) ¶ 28.)

Understanding that the $471.50 was not due until July, Plaintiff continued his monthly visits with his Georgia probation officer without paying the outstanding sum. Plaintiff had no other contact with the North Carolina ...

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