The opinion of the court was delivered by: PRATT
JOHN H. PRATT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff Joan C. O'Callaghan brings this action for declaratory relief and damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982). She alleges that defendants, the District of Columbia ("the District"), Maurice T. Turner, Jr., Charles Samarra, and Edward J. Spurlock,
approved and implemented an undercover "sting" operation that resulted in the violation of her fifth amendment right to due process. In addition, she asserts a pendent claim of tortious conversion. Presently before the Court is plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.
The essential facts are not in dispute. In mid-1987, members of the District's Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") began implementing "Operation Killjoy," a four month undercover "sting" operation designed to combat motor vehicle theft. Under the Operation, undercover MPD officers established an auto body shop where they "purchased" stolen vehicles.
The transactions, which were recorded by concealed video cameras, led to the apprehension of numerous recidivist auto thieves. The Operation was funded in large part by insurance companies. In particular, they provided the cash with which the "purchases" were made.
From the outset, Operation Killjoy called for the secret storage of recovered vehicles in Maryland; this storage was designed to prevent "target" sellers from seeing the vehicles on the street again and becoming suspicious. See Spurlock Dep. at 13. Thus, those who planned and approved the Operation anticipated that rightful owners would be deprived of their recovered vehicles for as long as four months. Moreover, it was understood that these owners would not even be notified of the recovery until after the Operation had ended. Those who planned and approved the Operation realized that, absent such notice, most owners would settle their insurance claims regarding the vehicles, since it was "common knowledge" that insurers settle such claims within approximately thirty days of theft.
See id. at 18-20, 22, 27-28.
Operation Killjoy was planned and implemented by officers in the MPD's Special Operations Division, Repeat Offenders Project ("ROP"). It was approved by defendant Spurlock, then-Commander of ROP, who in turn sent the proposal through the full chain of command to defendant Turner, then-Chief of the MPD. See id. at 4-5. At the very least, Turner was aware of the specifics of the Operation and acquiesced in its implementation.
Over the course of the Operation, 119 vehicles were recovered, almost all within a few days of being stolen. Plaintiff's 1965 Buick Skylark was one of them. Plaintiff's car was stolen in the District on September 25, 1987. Plaintiff immediately notified the police. Undercover officers detailed to Operation Killjoy recovered the Skylark four days later, but pursuant to Operation procedure, the car was placed in storage and plaintiff received no notice of the recovery until after the Operation had ended. In fact, the police provided no information to plaintiff until January 22, 1988, over two months after the Operation had ended, and almost four months after the recovery. At that time, an MPD officer falsely told her that the Skylark had only recently been recovered from a "skinny white guy" who had been driving it. See O'Callaghan Aff. at 1. Plaintiff obtained repossession of her car on January 27, 1988.
Plaintiff alleges that defendants, by adopting an express policy of non-notification and secret storage as part of the Operation, accorded no weight to the owners' legitimate possessory interests in their vehicles. The implementation of this policy, she argues, resulted in: (1) the deprivation of her property rights, both procedural and substantive, in violation of the due process clause of the fifth amendment; and (2) the tortious conversion of her automobile. For the reasons that follow, we hold that plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment on both counts.
III. Plaintiff's Claim Under Section 1983
A. Defendants are "Persons" Within the Meaning of Section 1983
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the ...