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August 20, 1998



Before Terry, Steadman, and King, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry, Associate Judge:

Elijah Karriem, a street vendor in the District of Columbia, was arrested on three occasions in 1988 and 1989 for failing to obey police orders to relocate his vending stand and for vending in an entrance zone. After each set of charges was dismissed, Karriem sued the District and several individual police officers, alleging false arrest, defamation, and various other intentional torts.

The three cases against the District were consolidated for trial. *fn1 After all the evidence was in, the trial court granted directed verdicts for the District on most of Karriem's claims, leaving only three for the jury to decide: false arrest, tortious interference with contractual relations, and abuse of process. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Karriem for injuries suffered as a result of the 1988 arrest, awarding him $2000 in damages, but it found for the District on the two 1989 arrests. Karriem appeals from the judgment against him on his claims arising out of the 1989 arrests; the District cross-appeals from the denial of its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the claims based on the 1988 arrest. We hold in favor of the District in both appeals, affirming the judgment in Karriem's appeal and reversing the judgment in the District's cross-appeal.


A. The 1988 Arrest

In early October 1988, several members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) met with Howard University security officials to discuss the need for crowd control at Howard's homecoming football game on October 22. In order to reduce the crowds near Cramton Auditorium on Sixth Street, N.W., the police agreed to permit vendors to set up their stands only on the west side of Sixth Street near the auditorium on the day of the game. Sergeant Jerome Gray testified that he and other MPD officers gave oral notice of the restrictions to all vendors, including Mr. Karriem, at least four or five days before October 22, but he could not recall whether Karriem had received written notification.

Officer George Hardy, a member of the MPD Vending Enforcement Unit, testified that he orally notified Karriem of the vending restrictions on at least two occasions [717 A2d Page 319]

before October 22. On the morning of October 22, however, he saw that Karriem and several others had erected vending stands in the restricted area on the east side of Sixth Street. Officer Hardy also noticed that Karriem's stand exceeded the size limits prescribed by 24 DCMR § 512.3, *fn2 and that it was surrounded by merchandise in violation of 24 DCMR § 510.14. *fn2

Hardy and other officers asked the vendors, including Mr. Karriem, to move to the west side of Sixth Street because vending was not allowed that day on the east side of the street. All but Karriem complied. Officer Hardy asked Karriem two more times to relocate, and when he still refused to move, he was arrested and charged with operating an oversized stand *fn3 and with storage in a public space.

B. The 1989 Arrests

In September 1989, members of the MPD, including Sergeant Gray, met with representatives of Howard University, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and the Sign Division of the Department of Public Works. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss enlarging the "entrance zone" in front of Cramton Auditorium while still allowing street vendors to operate in the immediate vicinity. After some discussion, it was agreed that vendors would be permitted to operate south of a specified utility pole near the auditorium, but not north of that pole.

A few days later, the Department of Public Works posted a "No Parking — Entrance" sign north of the utility pole. Sergeant Gray testified that he gave street vendors oral notice of the new restriction before enforcing it against them. Gray also issued a memorandum on September 7 detailing the new restrictions and instructing vendors to remain south of the utility pole.

On September 8 Sergeant Gray and other MPD officers saw Mr. Karriem vending from an oversized stand in the entrance area where vending was restricted by the new sign. Gray testified that he twice told Karriem to relocate his stand, but that Karriem refused both requests, insisting that the new sign was illegal. *fn4 Karriem was subsequently ...

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