5th Circuit to hear Oktibbeha Co. wrongful arrest case

Published 11:24 pm Saturday, November 18, 2006

Oktibbeha County officials have asked a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling that they are not immune from being sued over the alleged wrongful arrest of a Starkville school teacher.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled the case for arguments on Dec. 5 in New Orleans.

Calvin Hampton, a principal/teacher at the Quad County Alternative School operated by the Starkville School District, sued Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryant and at least three deputies alleging he was wrongfully arrested on April 29, 2002 when he objected to the arrest of a student during school hours without seeing a warrant.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Deputies told Hampton the warrant was issued by the youth court and was confidential. However, deputies then showed the document to Hampton because the school was about to dismiss for the day, according to court documents.

Deputies returned to the school later and arrested Hampton on a charge of resisting the arrest of another, according to the court record. Hampton was convicted in Starkville city court but the conviction was thrown out on appeal to circuit court.

Hampton sued the sheriff’s department, Bryant and the deputies in federal court in Aberdeen in 2004. He alleged the defendants violated his constitutional rights by engaging in a false arrest, unlawful seizure and malicious prosecution.

Bryant and the other defendants asked U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds they were immune from being sued for their lawful actions. Bryant and the others also argued that Hampton didn’t prove any violation of his constitutional rights.

In February, Davidson refused to dismiss the case. He said there were factual issues that could only be settled by trial. Among those facts, Davidson said, was that Hampton and the defendants gave different versions of what occurred on the day of Hampton’s arrest.

Davidson said the court record includes a statement from the superintendent of the Starkville school system that it is school policy not to release students without proper documentation, even to law enforcement officials. Davidson said an alternative school requires even tighter security.

“The average person and especially police officers should know that documentation will be required to extract a student from school custody,” he said.

Davidson said Hampton, as principal, was standing in for the parents and could request to see a warrant before releasing the student to deputies.

Davidson said Hampton did not resist arrest but objected to the student’s arrest without seeing the warrant because the student was in his custodial protection.

There also was a question, Davidson said, of whether the defendants acted reasonably in arresting Hampton.