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Smith v. Delaware State Police

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

July 8, 2014

GORDON SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE STATE POLICE, CORPORAL JUSTIN GALLOWAY, CORPORAL STEPHEN FAUSEY, and CORPORAL WILLIAM MILLER, Defendants.

Submitted: May 15, 2014

Gordon Smith, Pro Se.

Michael F. McTaggart, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendants.

ORDER

Young, J.

SUMMARY

Defendants Corporal Justin Galloway ("Defendant Galloway"), Corporal Stephen Fausey ("Defendant Fausey"), Trooper William Miller ("Defendant Miller"), and the Delaware State Police (collectively "Defendants") move the Court for summary judgment pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 56. Gordon Smith's ("Plaintiff") Complaint pursues nineteen claims against Defendants, which arise from: 1) Plaintiff's arrest by Defendants on January 14, 2010 on a charge of Criminal Contempt of an Order of Protection from Abuse ("PFA") ("the January 14, 2010 Incident"); 2) an alleged comment made by Plaintiff's ex-wife that accused Plaintiff of being a suspect in her alleged rape on June 30, 2010; 3) a warrant against Plaintiff for the harassment of his ex-wife on July 16, 2010; 4) and a Breach of Release complaint filed against Plaintiff by his ex-wife on August 9, 2010.

Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all nineteen claims for the following reasons. Plaintiff was arrested pursuant to a warrant for each of the incidents alleged in the instant matter. With regard to Plaintiff's claims for false arrest and false imprisonment, under Delaware law, an action on these grounds cannot be permitted for the January 14, 2010 Incident, where police had a valid warrant for both charges of Breach of Release and Criminal Contempt against Plaintiff. The valid arrest warrants against Plaintiff also defeat Plaintiff's claim of malicious prosecution.

Plaintiff's claims for negligent infliction of emotional harm, intentional infliction of emotional harm, negligence, nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance, and the failure to train properly and/or to supervise are all tort actions barred by the State Tort Claims Act pursuant to 10 Del. Code § 4001, which requires at least gross negligence, to proceed with a tort action against the State. Plaintiff does not establish any of the elements for his claims of assault. Therefore, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the claims for assault and battery.

With regard to Plaintiff's claim for defamation, Plaintiff fails to produce any statements published to support his claim. Plaintiff's claim for tortuous interference with child custody and/or child parenting time is not viable, because there is no such civil cause of action that can be brought to this Court under Delaware law. Plaintiff's claim for civil contempt also fails, because Delaware case law does not recognize civil contempt as a cause of action.

Plaintiff's constitutional civil rights claims are barred against the Delaware State Police under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, Plaintiff has no standing to challenge the constitutionality of Delaware's stalking statute, 11 Del. Code § 1312, when the underlying warrants for Plaintiff's arrest were not for charges of stalking. Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages, court costs, attorneys fees, and related costs, because they relate to Plaintiff's negligent and intentional tort claims noted above. Defendants are also entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity, because that is relevant only to a showing of damages for establishing the negligent and intentional tort claims, again as noted. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

On January 14, 2010, Plaintiff was arrested by Defendant Galloway of the Delaware State Police on a charge of Criminal Contempt of a PFA. Plaintiff went to the local Justice of the Peace Court on that date to settle a traffic matter when the Criminal Contempt warrant appeared in the system. Defendant Galloway arrived at the Justice of the Peace Court to take custody of Plaintiff, transporting him to Delaware State Police Troop #3, where Plaintiff was arraigned before a Magistrate. After a review of the warrant, the Magistrate, finding that the warrant was valid, video-arraigned Plaintiff on the charge of Criminal Contempt. The warrant had been obtained by Corporal Owen of the Delaware State Police, and was also in the DELJIS system.

Plaintiff was committed in default of bond. Defendant Galloway then transported Plaintiff to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("JTVCC"). Defendant Galloway left for JTVCC at 3:58 p.m., after Plaintiff was held in default of bail. Plaintiff claimed that Defendant Galloway told the receiving officer that Plaintiff was a "troublemaker, " a charge which Defendant Galloway denied in his deposition.[1] Plaintiff also alleged that he had bail money on the way to the Troop, arguing that Defendant Galloway should have waited before transporting him to JTVCC.[2] Defendant Galloway testified that he had a court order, which required him to transport Plaintiff to JTVCC.[3] Defendant Galloway also testified that no one told him Plaintiff had posted bail or was going to post bail.[4] According to Defendant Galloway's deposition, his involvement was limited to arraigning Plaintiff on the charge investigated by another officer.[5]

On June 30, 2010, Plaintiff's ex-wife, Tiffany Smith, reported an alleged rape to the Delaware State Police. Defendant Fausey of the Delaware State Police interviewed Plaintiff as a possible suspect in the alleged rape. During this time, Defendant Fausey advised Plaintiff that Tiffany Smith did not wish to be contacted by Plaintiff.[6] Defendant Fausey investigated the alleged rape, later determining that the suspect was unknown. According to his deposition, Defendant Fausey did not mention to anyone that Plaintiff was a suspect.[7] Tiffany Smith expressed to Defendant Fausey that Plaintiff constantly contacted her through phone calls and texts. She stated that she "wanted it to stop."[8] Defendant Fausey informed Plaintiff about Tiffany Smith's comment, stating that she did not want Plaintiff to be arrested.[9]

Plaintiff had a custody order involving his children. He needed to appear at the Family Court to address issues regarding enforcement of that order. Defendant Fausey advised Plaintiff that he could contact his children, but not Tiffany Smith. After this conversation between Defendant Fausey and Plaintiff, Plaintiff called Tiffany Smith on July 16, 2010 ("the July 16, 2010 Incident"), telling her that he had a religious experience with god.[10] Based on this exchange, Corporal Minear of the Delaware State Police prepared a warrant for harassment, which was presented to and signed by a judge.[11]

On August 9, 2010, Plaintiff responded to Troop #3 to be processed and arraigned on the harassment warrant from the July 16, 2010 Incident. On August 9, 2010, Defendant Miller of the Delaware State Police also responded to Troop #3 to interview Tiffany Smith, who wanted to file a Breach of Release complaint against Plaintiff. Tiffany Smith reported to Defendant Miller that Plaintiff parked across the street from her house and watched their two children play in the yard. Based on this report, Defendant Miller obtained an arrest warrant for Plaintiff's arrest for the charge of Breach of Release in violation of 11 Del. Code § 2113 (c)(2) ("the Breach of Release Incident").

On August 2, 2010, an outstanding Family Court PFA was issued and served on the Plaintiff, which prohibited contact with Tiffany Smith, specifying a minimum distance of 100 yards. Tiffany Smith stated that the Breach of Release Incident was reported as taking place at 1:00 p.m. Later, after talking to her father, Tiffany Smith stated that the incident took place at 12:45 ...


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