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COMMUNITY FOR CREATIVE NON-VIOLENCE v. UNKNOWN AGE

May 4, 1992

COMMUNITY FOR CREATIVE NON-VIOLENCE et al., Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN AGENTS OF THE UNITED STATES MARSHALS SERVICE et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY SPORKIN

 Plaintiffs are the operators and nearly 500 occupants of a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C.. They bring this action under both 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs claim that the Defendants violated their rights in conducting an early morning "raid" on the homeless shelter in the process of executing an arrest warrant.

 This case comes before the Court on the Defendants', United States Marshals' ("Marshals"), Motion to Dismiss. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The facts as alleged in Plaintiffs' complaint do state a violation of the Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights. Therefore, this Court will deny the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiffs' constitutional claims. *fn1"

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs and take their allegations as true. McGowan v. Warnecke, 739 F. Supp. 662 (D.D.C. 1990). The facts as alleged in Plaintiffs' complaint are as follows.

 The Community for Creative Non-Violence ("CCNV") operates a homeless shelter at 425 Second Street, N.W. Washington, D.C.. Approximately seventy (70) CCNV members reside in and operate the homeless shelter. In addition, in the early morning hours of January 9, 1992 nearly 500 homeless people were sleeping in the shelter, having spent the previous winter night there.

 At approximately 5:30 a.m. on January 9, 1992 ten to twenty (10-20) Agents of the United States Marshals Service for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia came through the entrance of the CCNV shelter at 425 Second Street. One of the Agents showed a CCNV member stationed at the front lobby a photograph of a person he claimed to be Earl Hughes. Hughes was a fugitive for whom the Marshals had an arrest warrant issued by the D.C. Superior Court. The Defendants only described Hughes as a black male of medium complexion, medium height, and medium build.

 No CCNV representative gave the Marshals consent to enter the shelter to search for Hughes. The Marshals, however, entered nonetheless and broke up into two groups to search the two larger areas of the shelter. One group proceeded to the drop-in section in the basement of the CCNV shelter. The purpose of this area is to provide emergency overnight shelter for homeless individuals. On this particular January night, there were 157 members of the Plaintiff class who were sleeping in the drop-in section.

 The entrance to the drop-in section is locked at night and monitored by a CCNV staff member. One of the Defendants knocked on the outer steel mesh door and presented a photograph of Earl Hughes. The CCNV member opened the door to take a closer look at the photograph and the Defendants pushed their way through the door and into the drop-in section of the shelter. They then proceeded to check the shelter's roster, and discovered that no one had checked into the shelter under the name of Earl Hughes. Nevertheless, the Marshals woke up the 157 members of the plaintiff class who were sleeping in the drop-in section. Some members were roused at gunpoint. See Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 3.

 The Marshals then checked each individual against the picture they had of Earl Hughes. After that, the Defendants ordered all 157 people sleeping in the drop-in area to produce photo identification or give a name and date of birth. The Defendants said that any person who failed to comply with this order would not be permitted to leave the shelter. The Marshals then stationed themselves at the only unalarmed exit to the section.

 In addition to the picture of Hughes, the Defendants had brought with them into the shelter a computer printout of several thousand names of individuals in the District of Columbia metropolitan area with outstanding criminal arrest warrants. The Marshals then began checking the identification of each member of the Plaintiff class against the computer printout. One Marshal stated that any member of the Plaintiff class who did not produce identification would be taken into custody. The Defendants also threatened to arrest Plaintiff Carol Fennelly, a CCNV director, if she interfered with this process.

 Simultaneous to the events in the drop-in section, the second group of Marshals proceeded to the 2 South section of the shelter. That section houses male residents who are employed. In the early morning of January 9, 1992 there were 331 class members who had been sleeping in 2 South for the night.

 At the entrance to 2 South the Marshals again displayed the picture of Earl Hughes but were informed by the staff member on duty that the man in the photograph was not in that section of the shelter. The Defendants also checked the sign-in roster and did not find Hughes' name. Nevertheless, the Defendants ordered that the public address system be used to wake up the 331 residents of 2 South and to announce that they line up and display identification. At least one Plaintiff class member was roused out of bed at gunpoint and several were pulled out of the bathroom.

 One CCNV officer attempted to intervene and asked the Marshals whether they had a search warrant. The Marshals responded by simply referring to a computer printout of thousands of names similar to the one used in the drop-in area. The Marshals then stationed themselves at all exits and informed the occupants of 2 South that they would not be permitted to leave the section, go to the bathroom, or return to sleep until they had identified themselves. The Marshals then checked the identities of the 2 South occupants against their copy of the ...


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