Hooks v. Hooks

Decision Date23 August 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84-5043,84-5043
Citation771 F.2d 935
PartiesMarsha HOOKS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Stephen R. HOOKS, Bill Hooks, Charlotte Hooks, Gene Mullins, Don Churchill, Lt. Robbie Webb, Patrolman Bob Gardner, Donna Wheeler, Susan Dunn, Maxiene Stinnett and Ken Cornett, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

James M. Crain, argued, Knoxville, Tenn., for plaintiff-appellant.

Frank L. Flynn, Jr., Knoxville, Tenn., for Hooks.

Dennis G. Brewer, Sr., Irving, Tex., Richard Krieg, Linda Hamilton, Knoxville, Tenn., for Mullins.

Frank Q. Vettori, argued, Knoxville, Tenn., for Webb, Gardner, Wheeler, Dunn & Stinnett.

William B. Hubbard, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Dianne Stamey, Nashville, Tenn., for Cornett.

Before KENNEDY and WELLFORD, Circuit Judges, and WEICK, Senior Circuit Judge.


This case was brought by the plaintiff, Marsha Hooks, under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, against the defendants, Stephen Hooks, her ex-husband; Bill and Charlotte Hooks, Stephen's parents; Gene Mullins and Don Churchill, purported to be friends of Stephen Hooks; Lt. Robbie Webb and Patrolman Bob Garner 1 of the Blount County, Tennessee Sheriff's Department; Donna Wheeler, Susan Dunn and Maxiene Stinnett, civilian employees of the Blount County Sheriff's Department; and Ken Cornett, an employee of the State of Tennessee Department of Human Services, alleging that the defendants conspired to and did deprive her of the custody of her children, Katonya Denise Hooks and Stephen Roy Hooks II, without due process of law and in violation of the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980 (PKPA), Pub.L. No. 96-611, 94 Stat. 3504 (codified at 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1738A). Joined with her civil rights action is a state law cause of action to recover debts from defendants Churchill and Mullins. 2 She appeals from the judgment of the District Court, granting defendants' various motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, and ordering that the case be dismissed.


Consideration of the issues raised in this case necessitates a detailed account of the facts and procedural steps leading to this appeal. Plaintiff and Stephen Hooks were granted a divorce in Texas on May 29, 1980. Plaintiff was awarded custody of their two children. In January 1983, she decided to move from Dallas County, Texas, to Blount County, Tennessee. 3

She alleges in her complaint that in anticipation of her move to Tennessee, she approached defendant Churchill regarding liquidation of an interest that she held in his business, and he agreed to repurchase her interest for $30,000, to be paid in installments. She alleges that she received certain checks toward this amount from Churchill prior to her departure from Texas on January 12, 1983, two of which, in the total amount of $850.00, were cashed for her by defendant Mullins.

After having relocated in Tennessee, plaintiff was informed by Mullins that the checks he had cashed for her had been returned NSF. She paid him $607.00 toward making good the amount, and authorized him to collect a $500.00 debt owed her by a third party in Texas. She alleges receiving additional checks from Churchill in Tennessee. Her Tennessee bank informed her that these were dishonored by the payor bank on the basis of affidavits of forgery executed by Churchill.

In April 1983, Mullins charged plaintiff in Texas with forgery of the checks he had cashed. He neither threatened her with such action prior to filing charges, nor informed her after doing so. In May 1983, Charlotte Hooks came to Tennessee to accompany the children back to Texas for an eight-week visit with their father and grandparents. In June 1983, indictments were returned by a Dallas County grand jury charging Marsha Hooks with forgery. At approximately the same time, she alleges, the Hooks defendants began to cut off her contact with her children, refusing to allow her to speak to them on the telephone and returning her letters unopened. She alleges that in July, defendants told her that the children would not be returned to her. On August 12, 1983, plaintiff drove to Grand Prairie, Texas, and surreptitiously removed the children back to Tennessee.

After the children were taken, Stephen Hooks alleges that he contacted the local police, who purportedly informed him that they could only act if there was some outstanding criminal charge against Marsha Hooks. Stephen alleges that it was only after receiving this advice that he discovered the forgery warrant against Marsha, whereupon he contacted the Blount County authorities. On August 17, 1983, while plaintiff was in her automobile with her children, she was arrested by defendants Webb and Garner. She was taken to the County Jail and made two court appearances, first executing a waiver of extradition, then subsequently being permitted to withdraw it. She came in contact with Wheeler, Dunn and Stinnett during her processing. She was released from custody on her own recognizance within a few hours of her arrest, but during this interval her children were turned over to Stephen, who immediately left with them for Texas. According to the Sheriff's Department defendants, they acted at the direction of defendant Ken Cornett, with whom Stephen had made contact prior to Marsha's arrest.

Shortly after these events, Mullins filed an affidavit with the District Attorney of Dallas County stating that restitution had been made by plaintiff and that he did not wish to prosecute the matter further. On August 25, 1983, the Dallas County Sheriff's Department notified the Blount County Sheriff's Department that charges against plaintiff were being dropped, and on August 30 the indictments were dismissed. On September 2, 1983, Stephen filed a motion in the Texas court requesting that the decree of divorce be modified to give him custody of the children.

On September 7, 1983, plaintiff filed a sworn complaint initiating the instant suit. On October 5, 1983, defendant Cornett filed a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). On October 6, the Hooks defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On October 18, plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to Cornett's motion to dismiss. On October 20, the Blount County Sheriff's Department defendants filed a motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment with supporting affidavits, in which they contend that they did not conspire with Stephen or pressure Marsha in any way, and were only following the directions of defendant Cornett in turning the Hooks children over to Stephen. On October 28, the Hooks defendants filed affidavits in support of their motion for summary judgment, in which they denied knowing or having any connection with Mullins and Churchill or conspiring in any way to obtain custody of the children by unlawful means.

On November 7, 1983, the District Court filed its memorandum and order granting defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. In his memorandum, the District Judge stated that plaintiff's first cause of action alleged false arrest, and held that since she was arrested pursuant to a valid warrant, the Blount County Sheriff's Department defendants were entitled to good faith immunity from suit. He held that while Cornett would also be entitled to such immunity, the complaint failed to state a claim against Cornett since it did not allege any unlawful action by him (presumably because he did not participate in the arrest). The civil rights count was dismissed as to the Hooks defendants, Mullins and Churchill, since the court held that it did not appear that they were acting under color of state law. The state law claim against Mullins (seeking to recover that portion of the $500 debt allegedly collected by him, above the amount necessary to make restitution on the $850.00) was dismissed since it did not equal or exceed the jurisdictional amount. The claim to recover the amount allegedly owed to Marsha by Churchill was dismissed for lack of in personam jurisdiction. 4

On the same day, November 7, plaintiff filed a memorandum with supporting affidavit in opposition to the motions to dismiss and for summary judgment of the Hooks and Blount County Sheriff's Department defendants. 5 In her affidavit, she alleged various facts establishing a link between Mullins and Churchill and the Hooks defendants; that at the time of her arrest, before she was taken to the County Jail, she asked if she could make arrangements for the care of her children, and was told by Lt. Webb, " 'No, they're going back to Texas with their father,' or words to that effect;" and that while at the jail she was treated in a derogatory manner and induced to sign the waiver of extradition by defendant Wheeler's promise that if plaintiff did so, her children would be returned to her, and that after so consenting, she was told by Wheeler that the children were on their way to Texas and plaintiff would never see them again. She also stated that subsequent to the filing of her complaint, she represented herself at a hearing in state court in Texas on Stephen's motion to amend the decree of custody, pursuant to which among other things the children were returned to her pending the outcome of an investigation of their home life.

On November 16, 1983, plaintiff filed a motion for rehearing with the District Court, pointing out to the court that her civil rights claim was based on the deprivation of the custody of her children, not on false arrest. She contended that private persons conspiring with state actors to effect a deprivation of civil rights do act under color of state law; that the claim against Mullins could be joined with the civil rights claim against him under Fed.R.Civ.P. 18; and that the court erred in dismissing her claim against Churchill, arguing that knowingly mailing a bad check into another state did establish the minimum contacts with that state necessary to create in personam...

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