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Nooshin Sampson v. Sgt. Shane Sampson

June 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle


SIMANDLE, District Judge:


Plaintiff, Nooshin Sampson, brings this lawsuit against her ex-husband, Defendant Shane Sampson, who is a Camden City police sergeant, as well as other police officers and the City of Camden over an incident involving Nooshin Sampson's arrest for violation of a child custody order.*fn1 The matter is before the Court on Shane Sampson's motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. [Docket Item 12.] The principal issue is whether the Complaint adequately alleges that Shane Sampson was acting under color of state law when he allegedly conspired with the other Defendants, swore a misleading criminal complaint, and was present at Plaintiff's arrest by the New Jersey State Police.


Plaintiff alleges that the individual Defendants conspired to have Plaintiff improperly arrested and held in police custody in retaliation for a custody dispute Plaintiff was having with her ex-husband, Shane Sampson, who is a Camden City police sergeant.

At the time of this incident, Nooshin and Shane Sampson were in a dispute over custody of their two year old daughter. (Compl. ¶ 17.) In early December 2009, Plaintiff was granted permission by the Camden County Superior Court to take the child on a week-long vacation to Florida, which was originally scheduled to run from December 15, 2009 until December 22, 2009. (Compl. ¶ 26.) On December 21, 2009, while in Florida, Plaintiff alleges that she was taken to a hospital in Tampa, Florida for injuries sustained during a fall. (Compl. ¶ 27.) She was advised to not travel for at least three to four days. (Compl. ¶¶ 28-29.)

Upon discharge from the hospital in Florida on December 21, 2009, Plaintiff says that she promptly contacted the chambers of the family court judge who had granted permission for the vacation and advised the court staff of her situation, and she also left messages with Mr. Sampson and his lawyer. (Compl. ¶¶ 31, 33.) According to the Complaint, Mr. Sampson responded by text message and advised that he wanted the child dropped off at his house on Thursday, December 31, 2009. (Compl. ¶ 35.)

On December 28, 2009, Plaintiff arrived from Florida at the Atlantic City Airport, along with her daughter. (Compl. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff was immediately arrested by a New Jersey State Police officer, who advised her that a complaint-warrant for her arrest had been issued by the Camden City Police Department. (Compl. ¶ 39.) Plaintiff indicates that Mr. Sampson was present for the arrest and that "Plaintiff has no idea how Defendant Shane Sampson came to be present at the Atlantic City Airport during her arrest by the state police, or whether or not he was 'on duty' at the time." (Compl. ¶ 59.)

The warrant for her arrest shows Sgt. Shane Sampson as the complaining witness and his colleague Defendant McCray as having administered an oath, but it is not signed by any judicial officer. (Compl. Ex. A.) Plaintiff alleges that "Rather, in signing this complaint-warrant, Defendant Shane Sampson and Defendant McCray took advantage of their position as police officers and a provision of New Jersey law which allows municipal police officers to sign a complaint-warrant without a prior probable cause finding by a judge." (Compl. ¶ 44.) The complaint-warrant signed by Defendants Sampson and McCray states that Plaintiff was in violation of 2C:13-4A, the criminal prohibition against custodial interference.*fn2

After being held in Atlantic City for four hours, Plaintiff alleges that she was transferred to the custody of a Camden City Police Officer who put her in the back of a van and shackled her legs. (Compl. ¶¶ 70-74.) She was taken to the Camden City police headquarters and held for a few more hours until she was released at 2:40 a.m. on December 29, 2009. (Compl. ¶ 86.) Plaintiff states that "[t]he 'charge' against Plaintiff alleged in the complaint-warrant signed by Defendants Shane Sampson and Sgt. McCray was dismissed as unfounded at the request of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office." (Compl. ¶ 96.)

Although Plaintiff is represented by counsel, her claims are somewhat vague. Count I of the Complaint is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Sampson, McCray, and Davila, stating that Plaintiff suffered various injuries in violation of her rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, but without specifying any particular analogous cause of action (e.g., false arrest) and without identifying the particular parts of those Amendments that are relevant. Count II is a similarly vague 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the City of Camden, alleging that her injuries were caused by the City of Camden's deliberate indifference to the protection of Plaintiff's rights, privileges and immunities as guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

In the present motion, Defendant Sampson treats the claim as one for false arrest or possibly malicious prosecution, and makes three arguments. First, Mr. Sampson argues that he was not acting under color of state law when taking any of the acts alleged in the Complaint. Second, he argues that there was probable cause to believe Plaintiff had committed custodial interference. And finally, presumably in the alternative to his argument that he was not acting under color of state law, Sampson invokes qualified immunity. Because the Court finds that ...

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