The purpose of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is to provide a federal remedy for deprivations of constitutional rights by authorizing suit against local public officials and government entities. See Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492, 81 S. Ct. 473 (1961); Richardson v. Oldham, 811 F. Supp. 1186, 1192 (D.D.C. 1992). In order to state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove three elements: (1) deprivation of a federally protected right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, (2) state action taken under color of law, and (3) proximate causation. Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 930, 73 L. Ed. 2d 482, 102 S. Ct. 2744 (1982) (quoting Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-56, 56 L. Ed. 2d 185, 98 S. Ct. 1729 (1978)).
In this case, Plaintiffs argue that they have been deprived of their Fourth Amendment rights through allegedly unlawful police conduct in the form of an unreasonable search of their residence on February 16, 1996. Their motion for an in camera examination is part of their effort to establish the unreasonableness of the search.
This Court questions whether any such burden rests with the Plaintiffs at this time. The warrant and subsequent search of Plaintiff's residence on February 16, 1996 was so clearly in error that the burden of going forward has now been shifted to the Defendants.
The facts in this case reveal a series of incidents that could almost be described as "clousseauesque." In early 1996, the government executed three different search warrants for three different houses on the 3900 block of Blaine Street, N.E. in a continuing and seemingly random search for narcotics and weapons, and achieved success only in the case of the last search which was of premises not specified in the search warrant. In effect the police were engaged in a warrantless search.
With respect to the search warrant executed on Plaintiffs' home, the warrant described 3973 Blaine Street, N.E. as possessing a "grey front door with a silver screen door." Even though plaintiffs' screen door was white metal and their front door was black, none of the eighteen officers who executed the warrant apparently took note of that discrepancy. Inspector John Daniels of the 6th District admitted that the police "erred" and "got twisted up with another address." Quentin Holland affidavit at P8. The effect of these errors has been to discredit the warrant and the basis upon which it was issued, the information allegedly provided by the CS.
Because the government has so clearly acted in error in this case, the government now bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of its search. The government's burden will include the establishment of the bona fides and credibility of the CS. The government may well have to present evidence with respect to the CS in order to meet its burden.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees to this nation's citizens are extremely important. It eloquently states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.