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Ryu v. Whitten

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

April 4, 2016

MICHAEL H. RYU, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL N. WHITTEN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CLAUDE M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment.

Plaintiff brought the instant action against Defendant for violation of the Fourth Amendment, malicious prosecution, false arrest, gross negligence, and due process violation. This Court is of the opinion that no material facts are in dispute, and summary judgment should be granted for Defendant.

Defendant has been employed by Warren County as the Assistant County Attorney since February 16, 2010. One of his duties when hired was to institute collection proceedings at the request of the Treasurer's Office for unpaid personal property taxes, business license taxes, business equipment taxes, fees, penalties and interest, against businesses and individuals in Warren County.

The Office of the Treasurer for Warren County, led by Treasurer Wanda F. Bryant, handles tax payment receipts, maintains records regarding taxes, and her office refers cases to the Warren County Attorney's Office for collection of certain taxes, excluding real estate taxes which the Treasurer's Office refers to outside counsel.

Paula Blamer worked in the Warren County Attorney's Office from early 2007 to July of 2014. Largely, her job entailed assisting in the collection of unpaid taxes. To assist anyone who would replace her, Blamer created a list of procedures for court forms.

The Treasurer's Office began to refer tax collection matters related to unpaid personal property taxes, business license taxes, administrative fees, penalties and interest to the County Attorney's Office in approximately 2008. These taxes went unpaid and uncollected for years. Blamer worked with County Attorney Blair Mitchell, beginning in 2008, in filing the tax collection suits on behalf of the Treasurer's Office. Any bankruptcy court proceedings related to the tax collection matters were handled by the Treasurer's Office.

When Defendant was hired in 2010, the Treasurer's Office would accumulate and refer a number of tax collection matters to the County Attorney's Office. The office would file the cases in alphabetical order, for return on one of the two assigned court hearing dates. Cases were filed in groups of 25.

In early 2013, the Treasurer's Office sent 400 tax cases to the County Attorney's Office. In an effort to collect the tax debt of CS Property on February 25, 2013, Blamer sent a letter to "C S Property Inc" [sic] informing the company that it owed Warren County $12, 774.10 in unpaid taxes and fees, and that legal proceedings could be instituted if the debt was not paid by March 15, 2013. The letter was a standard form drafted before Defendant began working at the County Attorney's Office. Blamer filled in case-specific details and typed Defendant's name in the signature line.

When the debt remained unpaid, Defendant filed a Warrant in Debt returnable June 19, 2013, an Affidavit of Account, and a Military Affidavit in the GDC. The named plaintiff was "County of Warren Virginia on behalf of Wanda F. Bryant, Treasurer" and CS Property Inc. was named defendant. The warrant was personally served on Plaintiff on April 25, 2013.

Blamer was familiar with the forms she completed, not only through her work in the County Attorney's Office, but also from four years' experience as a GDC clerk. Pursuant to the GDCs instructions to Mitchell back in 2008, that registered agents had to be identified and served, Plaintiff, the registered agent for CS Property, was identified. Blamer began requesting service on registered agents in 2008 when Mitchell informed her that the GDC judge dismissed cases they filed against corporations because the registered agent was not served.

Plaintiff, an attorney, has operated a law firm with his wife, also an attorney, for eight years. Plaintiff is a member of the bars of New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and New York. Plaintiff has handled several collections cases and remembers at least one Warrant in Debt or complaint.

Plaintiff is also admitted to the Bankruptcy Court. He has handled 94 bankruptcy cases in three states. In this capacity he met Charles and Stacy Kim, who contacted him about a personal bankruptcy matter in 2010 or 2011. Mr. and Mrs. Kim are the officers and directors of CS Property.

While the Kims' bankruptcy matter was pending, Plaintiff was asked to apply for CS Property to be reinstated with the State Corporation Commission. Plaintiff also represented CS Property in its bankruptcy case. At that time that he became its registered agent.

Plaintiff initiated the bankruptcy proceeding on May 10, 2013, after he was served with the Warrant in Debt. One of the documents he submitted to the court contained a list of CS Property's creditors, including Warren County, which he wrote was owed $12, 876.22 for real estate taxes. Plaintiff believes that he knew the amount from the Warrant in Debt that was served on him a few weeks earlier. Plaintiff was mistaken concerning the amount owed for real estate taxes, and he mistakenly listed the ...


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