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Hart v. County of Hillsdale

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 31, 2017

ANTHONY HART, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF HILLSDALE, et al., Defendants.




         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Anthony Hart's (“Hart”) complaint that he was wrongfully convicted for failing to register his proper residency with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry (“SOR”). Defendants Marci Kelley (“Kelley”) and Melissa Marinoff (“Marinoff”) have filed a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The motion to dismiss was fully briefed, and the Court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss on September 14, 2016.


         In 2001, Hart violated MCL § 750.520(e) and was convicted of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct. At the time of the crime, Plaintiff was 17 years old, and the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act, MCL § 28.721 (“SORA”), required that he register his address bi-annually for 25 years due to his offense. SORA was amended as of July 1, 2011, and offenders adjudicated of that offense as juveniles were no longer required to register. It is undisputed that, because Hart was 17 years old at the time of his crime, as of July 1, 2011, he no longer had an obligation to register his residency with the SOR.

         Michigan State Police (“MSP”) employees were required to remove Hart from the SOR following the 2011 SORA amendment. MSP employees did not properly remove Hart's name from the list, nor did anyone from the MSP inform Hart that he was no longer legally required to register his residency. The Hillsdale County Sheriff Department also did not remove Hart's information from the SOR or take any action to cause such a removal. From July 2011 through July 2013, Hart continued to register on the SOR, including identifying his address. On July 5, 2013, unaware that he was no longer required to register his address with the SOR, Hart erroneously registered his address as “79 Bulldog” in Hillsdale. Hart's actual address was “76 Bulldog” in Hillsdale.

         On July 17, 2013, Hillsdale County Sheriff Deputy Lieutenant Timothy Parker (“Lieutenant Parker”) arrested Hart for violating SORA by listing an incorrect address. Lieutenant Parker had examined Hart's criminal history and the SOR documents, all of which indicated Hart was 17 years old in 2001. Although this meant that Hart no longer needed to register his residency with the SOR (because of the 2011 SORA amendment), Lieutenant Parker signed a warrant request charging a violation of SORA and sent it to the Hillsdale County Prosecutor's Office. The warrant was approved by the Hillsdale County Prosecutor's Office on July 18, 2013. On August 14, 2013, Hart entered a plea of nolo contendere, was found guilty of one count of failure to register pursuant to SORA (MCL § 28.279), and was placed on probation. From July 2013 through December 2013, Hart continued to register as a sex offender with local registering authorities (Hillsdale County).

         On January 23, 2014, Lieutenant Parker advised Defendant Shelby Rathbun (“Rathbun”) that Hart failed to verify his address and falsely accused Hart of criminal acts. On February 18, 2014, pursuant to the advice of his attorney (Defendant Kimberly Burger), Hart pled guilty to the felony of failure to register. On March 17, 2014, Hart was sentenced to 16-24 months in state prison and ordered to pay $1, 026.94 in fines, costs, and restitution. Hart served 19 months at the Jackson state prison before someone realized that Hart should not have been charged with failing to register in 2013 and 2014.

         On April 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”).


         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. Accepting all factual allegations as true, the court will review the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Eidson v. Tennessee Dep't of Children's Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007). As a general rule, to survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state sufficient “facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The complaint must demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that the defendant's conduct was unlawful. Id. at 556. Claims comprised of “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. Rather, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         B. Plaintiff's Claims Against Kelley and Marinoff

         Hart first claims the State Defendants were responsible for the Hillsdale officials falsely arresting him, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. For a Plaintiff to have a viable false arrest claim under Section 1983, he must ...

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