The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.
Denying in Part Defendant Nelson Valdes's Motion to Dismiss
This matter comes before the court upon defendant Nelson Valdes's
motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The
plaintiffs, Donna Polk and Christopher Bell, allege that Detective
Valdes, individually and in his official capacity as an officer of the
Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia ("MPD"),
deprived them of their constitutional rights in violation of
42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1983, and 1988, and the First, Fourth, Fifth, and
Amendments to the United States Constitution. In addition to Det.
Valdes, the plaintiff's name the District of Columbia, a municipal
corporation, and Luis Aponte, in his individual capacity and as an
alleged agent of the MPD.
Det. Valdes asks the court to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims on the
grounds that he enjoys qualified immunity from suit, that the applicable
District of Columbia statute of limitations bars the plaintiffs'
commonlaw claims, and that the allegations of false arrest and false
imprisonment fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For
the reasons that follow, the court holds that the use of an unauthorized
civilian to effectuate a stop violates clearly established law, and that
it was not objectively reasonable for Det. Valdes to believe he was
respecting the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. The court also rules
that because the facts concerning the availability of the immunity
defense are in dispute as to Det. Valdes's reasonable suspicion for the
stop, and because a reasonable trier of fact could find that the Det.
Valdes's actions were objectively unreasonable, the court cannot grant
the defendant qualified immunity at this time. Finally, the court does
not rule on Det. Valdes's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' common law
claims, but instead will allow the plaintiff's additional time to oppose
Det. Valdes's motion.
On November 21, 1997, at approximately 1:30 am., Donna Polk and
Christopher Bell returned to the Washington Plaza Hotel after a late
dinner with friends. See Am. Compl. ¶ 13; Plaintiffs' Opposition to
Defendant Nelson Valdes [sic] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint or
in the Alternative for Summary Judgment ("Opp'n") at 8. Polk, an
African-American woman, is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Urban
Indian Health Coalition in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bell, who is Native
American, is a law-school graduate and, at the time these claims arose,
was a member of the Board of Directors of the American Indian Health and
Family Services of Southeastern Michigan, Inc. The plaintiffs were
staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel while attending the Indian Health
Service Round Table Symposium. in Washington, D.C. See Am. Compl. ¶¶
4, 5; Def. Det. Valdes's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, or in
the Alternative, for Summary Judgment ("Mot. to Dis."), Ex. 2,
Investigation Report and Recommendation Concerning Reported Misconduct of
Third District Det. Nelson Valdes ("Inves.Rep.") at 1.
As the plaintiffs walked through the hotel lobby, Det. Valdes and
Aponte intercepted them. See Am. Compl. ¶ 11. According to the
plaintiffs, Det. Valdes and Aponte, who were both dressed in
plainclothes, identified themselves as MPD officers.*fn1 See id.; Opp'n
at 9. The plaintiffs also claim that when Det. Valdes flashed a badge to
identify himself, Aponte made a similar gesture with an official emblem,
which the plaintiffs assumed was a police badge. See Am. Compl. ¶
12; Inves. Rep. at 1. Det. Valdes did nothing to dissuade Aponte's
conduct, although it occurred in his presence. See Opp'n at 9. To the
contrary, the plaintiffs allege that when Det. Valdes later took Polk out
of the hotel, he encouraged Aponte to keep Bell behind an imaginary line
in the hotel, which Aponte so did. See id.
Unaware that Aponte was not a police officer, Bell inquired several
times as to why the officers had stopped him and Polk in the lobby of the
hotel. See Am. Compl. ¶ 13. Aponte did not reply, but instead
repeated his requests for Bell's identification. See id.; Mot. to Dis. at
4. Aponte then ordered Bell to remain behind an imaginary line inside the
hotel. After five minutes, when Bell began to move, Aponte ordered him to
"stay behind the line," see Am. Compl. ¶ 14, and held up his hands in
a gesture to prevent Bell's free movement. See Opp'n at 9. At the same
time, Det. Valdes "grabbed" Polk's arm and escorted her outside the hotel
where he kept her "against her will," even while she insisted that she
was a guest at the hotel. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17-18; Polk Aff. ¶ 9.
Det. Valdes explains that he noticed Polk entering the hotel because
she fit the description of a prostitute whom the MPD suspected of
robbery.*fn3 See Mot. to Dis. at 3. According to Det. Valdes, Polk
matched the description of the prostitute in both her physical build and
her attire ("a red sweater, a short skirt, high boots and black
stockings").*fn4 See id. at 4. Contrary to Polk's assertion that he
"physically" took her outside the hotel, see Am. Compl. ¶ 16, Det.
Valdes states that he merely asked Polk to step outside, she complied,
and after a brief interview, he became satisfied that she was not the
suspect he was seeking.*fn5 See Mot. to Dis. at 4. Polk recalls
that Det. Valdes never informed her that he was investigating a robbery,
or that she fit the description of a robbery suspect. See Polk Aff.
¶ 14. He did, however, accuse her of being a prostitute, an accusation
which Polk claims he made solely because of her race. See id. ¶ 16.
The plaintiffs allege that the defendant's actions — effectuated
with the assistance of a civilian but without probable cause, reasonable
suspicion, or a warrant — constituted an unlawful stop and seizure
in violation of their constitutional rights. See Opp'n at 11-16.
Defendant Valdes responds that he had a reasonable, good-faith basis on
which to conduct an investigatory stop and thus enjoys qualified immunity
for his actions. See Mot. to Dis. at 7-12. He further asserts that the
court must dismiss the plaintiff's common-law claims of battery, false
arrest, and false imprisonment as untimely and for failure to state a
claim. See id. at 12-14.
The defendant asks the court to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint for
failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), or in the
alternative, to grant him summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. See Mot.
to Dis.; FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) and FED. R.CIV.P. 56. The Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure provide that on a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, when either or both parties present matters outside the
pleadings, the court shall treat the motion as one for summary judgment.
See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b); Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, 5A
FED. PRAC. & PRoc.2d § 1366. In this case, both parties have
submitted materials outside the pleadings. Accordingly, the court will
treat the present motion as one for summary judgment pursuant to Rule
A court may grant summary judgment only if the pleadings and evidence
"show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P.
56(c). The court must consider all evidence and the inferences drawn
from it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). The movant bears the burden
of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. See
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ld.2d
142 (1970). A material fact is one whose resolution would "affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law," and a dispute is genuine
"if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ld.2d 202 (1986); see also Borgo v. Goldin,
204 F.3d 251, 254 (D.C.Cir. 2000).
Mere allegations in the pleadings do not suffice to defeat a summary
judgment motion. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita,
475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348. If the moving party shows that there is
an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the
non-moving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there
is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ld.2d 265 (1986).
The plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Section 1983"). Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any
person who, acting under the color of state law, abridges rights
guaranteed by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. See
Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ld.2d 420
(1981), overruled o.g., Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 106 S.Ct.
662, 88 L.Ed.2d 662 (1986). This section does not create any new
substantive rights but instead provides a remedy for the violation of
federal constitutional or statutory rights.*fn7 See Baker v. McCollan,
443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3, 99 S.Ct. 2689, 61 L.Ed.2d 433 (1979). Although
Section 1983 speaks of liability in absolute terms — that is, it
carves out no exceptions on its face — the Supreme Court has held
that all officers possess some degree of immunity from liability. See,
e.g., Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288
(1967). Accordingly, the court turns to a discussion of the qualified
immunity doctrine and Det. Valdes's assertion of a qualified immunity
B. The Qualified Immunity Doctrine
Qualified immunity is one of the most significant and problematic
defenses to Section 1983 actions. As one commentator has noted, the
development of the qualified immunity doctrine "has been marked by ad
hoc decisionmaking, conflicting rationales, and a high degree of doctoral
manipulation." See David Rudovsky, The Quallfied Immunity Doctrine in the
Supreme Court: Judicial Activism and the Restriction of Constitutional
Rights, 138 U.PA. L.REV. 23, 35 (1989). Indeed, the doctrine itself finds
no support in the Constitution or the common law; and on its face, the
language of Section 1983 "admits of no immunities." See Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 417, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976); see
also Erwin Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction 3d. ed. 514 (1999)
In fact, it was not until 1967 that the Supreme Court raised qualified
immunity as a shield to Section 1983 actions. In Pierson v. Ray, Chief
Justice Earl Warren, writing for the majority, concluded that a
Mississippi policeman would be immune from Section 1983 liability if he
arrested civil rights workers under a state law later found to be
unconstitutional but which was valid at the time of his actions.*fn8
See 386 U.S. 547, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288. The Court reasoned that
Section 1983 should be read as incorporating the common-law immunities
that were in place in 1871, the year of its passage. See id. at 554-55,
87 S.Ct. 1213. In addition to the
background of 1871 common law, however, the Court based its reasoning on
a policy assessment that it would be unfair to hold individual government
officials liable when they acted in good faith but were later determined
to have violated constitutional rights. "A policeman's ...