Pinkins v. Mahoning Cnty. Task Force

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Citation176 N.E.3d 76
Docket NumberNo. 20 MA 0110,20 MA 0110
Parties Sonya PINKINS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MAHONING COUNTY TASK FORCE, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date22 June 2021

176 N.E.3d 76

Sonya PINKINS, Plaintiff-Appellee,

No. 20 MA 0110

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning County.

June 22, 2021

Atty. Michael Rossi, Guarnieri & Secrest, P.L.L., 151 East Market Street. P.O. Box 4270, Warren, Ohio 44482, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Atty. Paul J. Gains, Mahoning County Prosecutor, 21 West Boardman Street, 6th Floor, Youngstown, Ohio 44503, Atty. Gina DeGenova Zawrotuk, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Civil Division, Atty. Mark D'Apolito, Asst. Prosecutor/Asst. Law Director, 21 West Boardman Street, 5th floor. Youngstown, Ohio 44503, for Defendant-Appellant.

BEFORE: Carol Ann Robb, Gene Donofrio, Cheryl L. Waite, Judges.


Robb, J.

176 N.E.3d 77

{¶1} Defendant-Appellant Mahoning County Law Enforcement Task Force appeals the decision of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court denying its motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment. The two issues raised in this case are: is Appellant sui juris; and if so, is sovereign immunity applicable? We find Appellant is not sui juris and therefore, the second issue is moot. The trial court's decision denying the motion to dismiss is reversed and the matter is remanded with instructions for the trial court to dismiss the action.

Statement of the Facts and Case

{¶2} Appellee Sonya Pinkins was married to Rickie Pinkins. In 2016, their home in Liberty Township was searched by Appellant in conjunction with a warrant looking for evidence of Rickie Pinkins’ illegal drug activity. Two vehicles, a 2008 Cadillac Escalade and 2002 Chevy Truck, were seized. Rickie Pinkins was indicted on multiple charges including two counts of trafficking cocaine by the Mahoning County Grand Jury. The indictment included forfeiture specifications for the vehicles. The state and Rickie Pinkins agreed that Rickie would provide $10,000 to be held in lieu of the vehicles and that amount represented the vehicles’ fair value. 10/11/16 J.E. Case No. 16-CR-556. The judgment entry indicated, "The Task Force will thereafter release the vehicles to Defendant and hold the $10,000 for the pendency of the case and until disposed of according to law." 10/11/16 J.E. Case No. 16-CR-556. Appellee remitted to Appellant $10,000 by a Cashier's Check on October 24, 2016.

{¶3} Rickie Pinkins and the state entered a plea agreement; he pled to two counts trafficking cocaine and the forfeiture specifications. Rickie was sentenced to 30 months, but there is nothing in the sentencing entry regarding forfeiture. 10/26/17 J.E. Case No. 16 CR 556. The trial court issued a separate judgment entry on forfeiture approximately two weeks after sentencing. 11/15/17 J.E. Case No. 16 CR 556. The trial court ordered the $10,000 forfeited to Appellant in lieu of the vehicles contained in the forfeiture specification to be distributed to Appellant in the amount of $8,000 and to the Prosecutor's office in the amount of $2,000. 11/15/17 J.E. Case No. 16 CR 556.

{¶4} When Appellee's attempts after the plea to get her money back failed, she filed suit against Appellant. The original complaint sounded in replevin and sought the return of the entire $10,000 from Appellant. She argued the vehicles were bought with her own money, not profits from Rickie Pinkins’ (her now ex-husband) drug activity. She also contended the payment was manifestly excessive. 10/4/19 Complaint.

{¶5} Appellant answered and admitted it had received the $10,000, but that the amount was held in exchange for the release of the Cadillac Escalade and Chevy Truck. 10/22/19 Answer.

{¶6} Appellee filed multiple motions to amend the complaint. 12/17/19 Motion to

176 N.E.3d 78

Amend Complaint; 5/6/20 Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint; 8/24/20 Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint. The May 2020 motion to amend sought leave to amend the complaint to include an action for conversion. 5/6/20 Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. Appellant opposed the motion asserting it would be futile because it is not sui juris and thus, the action will not survive a motion to dismiss. 6/3/20 Appellant Motion in Opposition to Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. The trial court granted the May 6, 2020 request to amend and ordered the amended complaint to be filed within 14 days of the judgment. 6/22/20 J.E. The timely amended complaint asserting a conversion claim was filed; Appellee asserted Appellant converted her money ($10,000) for its own use and refused to release it. 7/3/20 Amended Compliant.

{¶7} Appellant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing replevin fails because the money is not subject to a replevin action since it has been spent, co-mingled, or indistinguishable. It further asserted the failure to release the money to her was not wrongful given the court's judgment entries ordering the disbursement of the money on the forfeiture specifications. 4/15/20 Appellant's Summary Judgment Motion. This motion for summary judgment did not address the conversion claim because at the time the motion was filed the complaint had not been amended to include conversion.

{¶8} Appellee filed a motion in opposition to summary judgment. She indicated she did not oppose summary judgment on replevin, but asserted the conversion claim remains. 6/25/20 Appellee Opposition to Appellant's Summary Judgment Motion.

{¶9} Appellant then filed a motion to dismiss the complaint asserting it is not sui juris; it cannot be sued. It alternatively argued, if it could be sued, sovereign immunity applied and as such, it was immune from intentional torts such as conversion. It also argued the two-year statute of limitations had expired on October 24, 2018, two years after she had tendered the payment. 7/20/20 Motion to Dismiss Complaint.

{¶10} Appellee opposed the motion to dismiss asserting Appellant is sui juris and political subdivision immunity does not apply. 8/25/20 Appellee Reply to Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, as to political subdivision immunity, it asserted that it is unavailable to vindicate Appellee's civil rights arising under federal law. 8/25/20 Appellee Reply to Motion to Dismiss.

{¶11} Following the Motion to Dismiss, Appellee moved for leave to amend the complaint again to clarify when Appellant "seized her vehicles, releasing them only upon her payment of the sum of $10,000.00 which it...

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2 cases
  • Hensley v. Wester Chester Twp.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • September 30, 2022
    ...and therefore, it cannot be sued. Under Ohio law, a township police department is not sui juris. Pinkins v. Mahoning Cnty. Task Force, 176 N.E.3d 76, 80 (Ohio Ct. App. 2021) (citing cases). Therefore, the West Chester Police Department's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED; and the West Chester Po......
  • Cook v. Metro. Sewer Dist. of Greater Cincinnati
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 16, 2022
    ...of immunity in its decision does not change this. {¶15} Appellants refer us to Pinkins v. Mahoning Cty. Task Force, 2021-Ohio-2414, 176 N.E.3d 76 (7th Dist.), to argue that this court should nonetheless review the trial court's denial of the motion to dismiss on the ground that MSD is an en......

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