Campbell v. Cochise Cnty.

Decision Date09 February 2023
Docket NumberCV-21-00002-TUC-SHR
PartiesAlec Campbell, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Cochise County, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Arizona

Honorable Scott H. Rash United States District Judge

Pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss: one filed by Defendants Brian and Monica Campbell (Campbell Defendants) (Doc. 64), and one filed by Cochise County (“the County”), Sheriff Mark Dannels, and Sergeant Louie Tartaglia (“County Defendants) (Doc. 60). Also pending is the Campbell Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 77).

Plaintiffs Alec, Mahliya, Kyle, and Brandon Campbell assert various civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a claim for punitive damages against Defendants. (Doc. 59.) Plaintiffs allege eighteen counts against Campbell Defendants, one count against Defendant Dannels, one count against Defendant Tartaglia, and one count against the County. (Id.) Both motions to dismiss are brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 60 at 2; Doc. 64 at 2.) For the reasons below, the Campbell Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted, the County Defendants' Motion to dismiss is granted in-part and denied in-part, and the Campbell Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration is denied.


The following facts are derived from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). The Campbells fostered all four Plaintiffs between 2006 and 2008 and adopted all of them around 2008. (Doc. 59 ¶¶ 23-24.) In April 2009, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) hired Defendant Monica Campbell as a Dispatch Supervisor and she “was responsible for receiving, supervising, and responding to 911 calls.” (Id. ¶ 29.) In August 2015, the State of Arizona Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) hired Defendant Brian Campbell as a Child Safety Specialist, where his duties included “assessing child safety and risk for the most vulnerable children in Arizona, including investigating and reporting suspected child abuse, neglect and/or maltreatment.” (Id. ¶¶ 26 28.)

Plaintiffs allege:

Since the time Plaintiffs were each respectively placed in the Campbells' house as foster children and subsequently adopted, [the Campbells] systematically physically, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically abused and tortured them.
Such acts include, but are not limited to, sexual abuse, child abuse, domestic assault, assault and battery, aggravated assault and battery, defamation, public humiliation, intimidation, depriving Plaintiffs of food and water, threatening to kill Plaintiffs, and prohibiting Plaintiffs from bathing or showering for long periods of time.

(Doc. 59 ¶¶ 32-33.)

Plaintiffs allege the Campbells “abused their respective positions within DCS and the CCSO.” (Doc. 59 ¶¶ 34-35.) Plaintiffs allege the “CCSO is responsible for responding to and investigating reports of child abuse and neglect, yet routinely fails and/or refuses to investigate or bring criminal charges when the abusers are friends, family, and/or fellow colleagues, and did so in this case, as [the Campbells] were fellow friends and colleagues of the CCSO, and were given free rein by the CCSO to abuse and neglect Plaintiffs.” (Id. ¶ 40.) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege the “CCSO deliberately and routinely failed and/or refused to execute search warrants, adequately preserve records and other evidence, assign proper personnel to investigate reports of abuse and neglect, and instructed deputies to intentionally ignore Plaintiffs' reports of abuse and neglect.” (Id. ¶ 41.)

Plaintiffs also allege CCSO employees:

“Conspir[ed] with [the Campbells] by allowing them to abuse Plaintiffs and by subsequently failing to report, investigate, or substantiate such abuse”;
“Fail[ed] to enact, provide, and/or follow proper practices, policies, and procedures in their individual and/or official capacities to protect Plaintiffs, including assigning ‘friends' and colleagues to investigate Plaintiffs' reports of abuse and neglect”;
Act[ed] with willful, wanton, and deliberate indifference to the basic needs and rights of Plaintiffs; and
“Engag[ed] in the widespread failure to properly report, investigate, and substantiate clear and convincing indications of child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment of Plaintiffs and other children in similar situations throughout Cochise County and the State of Arizona.” (Doc. 59 ¶ 42.)

Plaintiffs allege several specific dates of abuse reports and inadequate investigations. (Doc. 59 ¶¶ 43-47.) This includes Mahliya Campbell's February 2012 statement to “DCS Child Safety Specialist George Watkins that Plaintiffs would be ‘popped in the mouth with a hand or smacked in the back of the head. Sometimes [we] get spanked with a belt.” (Id. ¶ 43.) Plaintiffs also allege there is a March 2012 report where school officials reported suspected abuse to the DCS hotline due to Mahliya's bruised face, and a December 2016 report where Alec informed school officials that he and Mahliya “had been forced by their parents to stand naked in front of their siblings while being videotaped, and that they had been choked and subjected to death threats by their parents.” (Id. ¶¶ 44-47.)

Plaintiffs allege that in July 2018, Brian Campbell punched Alec in the face, threw him to the ground, and assaulted him with a Taser while sitting on his chest, rendering Alec helpless.” (Doc. 59 ¶ 50.) Alec threatened to kill Brian and himself out of desperation because he knew he would be arrested and taken away from the home. (Id. ¶ 52.) After Monica Campbell called the police; CCSO Deputy Jordan Collins responded, saw footage from surveillance cameras in the Campbell home, and arrested Brian for domestic assault. (Id. ¶¶ 54-55.) In September 2018, Collins executed a search warrant to obtain the surveillance footage from the July 2018 incident. (Id. ¶ 56.) He was unable to obtain the footage because it had been destroyed by then, but he had recorded the footage with his mobile device when he responded to the call in July. (Id. ¶¶ 56-57.)

In September 2018, DCS terminated Brian Campbell, and in May 2019, the Campbell Defendants were criminally charged with child abuse and other crimes related to Plaintiffs' allegations. (Doc. 59 ¶¶ 58, 60, 63.) In March 2020, Monica Campbell resigned from the CCSO and the Campbells consented to the severance of their parental rights as to Plaintiffs a month later. (Id. ¶¶ 61-62.) In January 2021, the Campbells were sentenced to three years in prison based on the May 2019 criminal charges. (Id. ¶ 63.)

In November 2020, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in Cochise County Superior Court, which Defendants Cochise County and Mark Dannels removed to this Court, arguing federal question jurisdiction applied because of Plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 allegations, and supplemental jurisdiction applied to the state-law claims. (Doc. 1 at 1-3; Doc. 1-1 at 1-2; Doc 1-2 at 1-3.) The remaining Defendants joined in and consented to the removal. (Doc. 8; Doc. 10; Doc. 11.)

In March 2021, the Campbell Defendants and the State of Arizona moved to dismiss all counts against them in the First Amended Complaint. (Docs. 24, 26.) The Campbell Defendants argued, among other things, that Plaintiffs had failed to state a § 1983 claim. (Doc. 24.) In February 2022, the Court dismissed the § 1983 excessive-force claim against the Campbell Defendants without prejudice because Plaintiffs [did] not allege the Campbells were on duty in July 2018 when police responded and arrested Alec, nor [did] they allege facts suggesting the Campbells acted in relation to their official duties or within the scope of their authority as government employees.” (Doc. 53 at 8-9.) The Court also dismissed Plaintiffs' § 1983 substantive due-process claim “because it is unclear what specific acts and omissions Plaintiffs are referring to and Plaintiffs appear to merely recite the elements in a conclusory fashion.” (Id. at 9-10.) Because all federal law claims were dismissed against the Campbell Defendants and no federal claims were filed against the State, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' twelve statelaw claims. (Id. at 10-14.) The Court gave Plaintiffs leave to amend their § 1983 claims. (Id. at 14.)

In April 2022, Plaintiffs filed their SAC and raised eighteen counts against Campbell Defendants, one count against Defendant Dannels, one count against Defendant Tartaglia, and one count against the County.[1] (Doc. 59.) The County Defendants subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration asking the Court to reconsider its decision to decline supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims because Plaintiffs had now filed more federal claims than state-law claims. (Doc. 77.)

The Campbell Defendants and the County Defendants also subsequently moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).[2] (Doc. 60 at 2; Doc. 64 at 2.) Campbell Defendants argue Counts One through Eighteen of the SAC fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because the SAC only alleges private goals and actions, and Plaintiffs have not alleged enough facts to plausibly meet the other tests that can establish state action. (Doc. 64 at 4-12.) The County Defendants argue the individualcapacity claims against Dannels and Tartaglia fail to state a claim because the SAC does not plausibly allege Dannels and Tartaglia played any role in Plaintiffs' alleged injuries and, even if they had, the claims should be dismissed because qualified immunity applies. (Doc. 60 at 7-9; Doc. 80 at 4-10.) The County Defendants also argue the official capacityclaims against Dannels and Tartaglia and the claims against the County...

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