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Lewandowski v. Property Clerk

February 27, 2002

COREY R. LEWANDOWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PROPERTY CLERK, METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No. 2

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

Corey R. Lewandowski ("the plaintiff") brings this action against the defendant Property Clerk *fn1 as an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department for an alleged due-process violation on the basis of deprivation of property. The alleged violation stems from the defendant's refusal to return the plaintiff's pistol. The defendant moves to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, arguing that the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel bar the plaintiff's claims. The plaintiff seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for loss of property and mental anguish. Because the court rules that the doctrine of res judicata applies in this case, the cour t will grant the defendant's motion to dismiss.

II. BACKGROUND

On April 30, 1999, the United States Capitol Police arrested Mr. Lewandowski when he attempted to enter the Longworth House Office Building carrying a loaded .40 caliber pistol in his overnight bag. See Compl. at 1; Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment ("Mot. to Dismiss") at 1. At the time of Mr. Lewandowski's arrest, the officers seized a pistol, three pistol magazines, a holster, and several rounds of ammunition. See Compl. at 1. Prosecutors charged Mr. Lewandowski with attempted carrying of a pistol without a license. See id. A D.C. Superior Court Judge acquitted him in a bench trial on September 23, 1999. See id. at 1-2.

On October 9, 1999, Mr. Lewandowski filed a "Motion to Return Property" in the Criminal Division--Misdemeanor Branch of the Superior Court. See Compl. at 2; Mot. to Dismiss at 1. On November 1, 1999, the Superior Court denied Mr. Lewandowski's motion to return his weapon pursuant to the dangerous articles provision of the D.C. Code. See D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-3217(e) (2001); *fn2 Compl. at 2; Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 1-4. The Superior Court not only found that the plaintiff did not lawfully possess the weapon and did not have a license to carry the weapon, but also specifically noted that Mr. Lewandowski did not raise the issue of adequacy of notice during the trial. See Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 3 (citing United States v. Lewandowski, Case No. M-4993-99, Order dated November 1, 1999 at 2-3). Mr. Lewandowski filed a motion for reconsideration in the Superior Court, which the court denied on December 6, 1999. See Compl. at 2; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. ("Pl.'s Opp'n") Ex. 1-4. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the Superior Court's denial of Mr. Lewandowski's motion for return of his property on December 19, 2000. See Compl. at 2.

On December 22, 2000, Mr. Lewandowski's attorney wrote to the defendant in this case requesting the immediate return of the pistol, magazines, holster and ammunition. See id. The defendant did not return Mr. Lewandowski's property. See id.

On July 12, 2001, Mr. Lewandowski filed this complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia alleging deprivation of property without due process of law. See Compl. at 1. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant never provided him with notice explaining why the defendant seized the property. See id. at 2. On August 7, 2001, the defendant moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The defendant argues that res judicata and collateral estoppel bar the plaintiff's claims. Accordingly, the defendant moves the court to dismiss the plaintiff's claim for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). The court agrees with the defendant's argument and will grant the motion to dismiss.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard

Res judicata bars a claim when there has been a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit involving the same parties or their privies and the same cause of action. See I.A.M. Nat'l Pension Fund v. Indus. Gear Mfg. Co., 723 F.2d 944, 946-47 (D.C. Cir. 1983). A nonparty may be considered in privity with a party to the prior action if the nonparty's interests are "adequately represented by a party to the original action." *fn3 See American Forest Res. Council v. Shea, 172 F. Supp.2d 24, 31 (D.D.C. 2001) (quoting Tyus v. Schoemehl, 93 F.3d 449, 454 (8th Cir. 1996)). The doctrine of res judicata applies to all the parties' rights regarding matters that could have been litigated as well as those matters that were actually litigated. See I.A.M. Nat'l Pension Fund, 723 F.2d at 947. The purpose of res judicata is to "conserve judicial resources, ...


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