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AMONS v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

October 31, 2002

HERBERT J. AMONS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
V.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Factual Background*fn1

On September 27, 2000, several police officers assigned to the Metropolitan Police Department's Fifth District allegedly entered plaintiff's home, located in the Northeast section of the District of Columbia, and conducted a search without his permission. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11.*fn2 During the course of this search, Officer Dunlap shot and killed plaintiff's dog, Shadow Dancer. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff was arrested and taken to the "lock-up" area of the District of Columbia courthouse where he was confined for twenty-two hours with the general prisoner population. Id. ¶ 13. Subsequently, plaintiff was charged with the District of Columbia Code offense of threats to injure a person, which was dismissed by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on October 19, 2000. Id. On May 4, 2001, a criminal information was filed against plaintiff, which charged him with "Attempted Carrying a Pistol Without a License, misdemeanor Threats, and Possession of an Unregistered Firearm and Ammunition." Id. However, on August 30, 2001, the government agreed to dismiss the information after the expiration of 12 months if plaintiff complied with "several conditions, including avoiding violation of any law or rearrest based upon probable cause." Id.*fn3

Plaintiff has filed a seven count amended complaint against the District of Columbia ("the District") and the police officers in their official capacities: Count I is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest; Count II is an action under § 1983 for deprivation of property without due process of law; Count III is a § 1983 action against the District on the theory of municipal liability; Count IV is a claim against the District for its alleged negligent hiring, training and supervision of its employees; Count V is a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress brought against the District; Count VI is a claim filed against all defendants for malicious prosecution;*fn4 and Count VII is a claim against all defendants for false arrest.

The District has filed a motion to dismiss all counts of plaintiff's amended complaint. First, the District argues that Counts I and VII should be dismissed on the grounds that there was probable cause for plaintiff's arrest or because the officers who made the arrest reasonably believed that plaintiff's arrest was lawful. Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Supp. Reply") at 5-6. In the alternative, the District contends that plaintiff's false arrest counts should be dismissed for his failure to state a claim for municipal liability for which relief can be granted. Id. at 5. Second, the District argues that Counts II and III should be dismissed due to plaintiff's failure to state a claim for municipal liability upon which relief can be granted and, pertaining to Count III, because there is no underlying constitutional violation as Counts I and II failed to state actionable claims. Id. Next, the District argues that Count IV should be dismissed as "redundant and irrelevant" based upon the doctrine enunciated in Hackett v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 736 F. Supp. 8 (D.D.C. 1990) and based upon this Court's order granting the parties' consent motion to bifurcate any surviving municipality claims since the District has agreed to indemnify the named officers. Id. at 6. Finally, the District argues that it should be granted summary judgment on Count V, plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, because the officers acted in a lawful manner and therefore did not "exceed[] the bounds of decency." Id.

In opposition, plaintiff argues that he has alleged sufficient facts to sustain his claims at this stage of the proceedings, since all that is required in the complaint is a short statement of his claims sufficient to provide the defendant with notice.

II. Standard of Review

A preliminary matter this Court must address is the defendant's attempt to convert its Motion to Dismiss [#7] into a partial motion for summary judgment [#18]. Defendant originally filed its motion to dismiss on February 26, 2002, to which plaintiff filed an opposition on March 28, 2002. In the defendant's reply to plaintiff's opposition, it attached several documents*fn5 for the Court's consideration. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on May 29, 2002, and the Court conducted a status conference in this matter on May 31, 2002, at which time it authorized the District to file a supplemental pleading to address any new issues raised by plaintiff's amended complaint. The District filed its Supplemental Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Supp.") on July 16, 2002, seeking summary judgment on plaintiff's claims of malicious prosecution, false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress, to which it attached a statement of undisputed facts and the declaration of Officer Scott Emmons. Def.'s Supp. at 2.

Despite defendant's attempt to unilaterally convert its previously filed motion to dismiss into one for partial summary judgment, doing so only after it had already filed its reply to plaintiff's opposition to its dismissal motion, the Court concludes that the timing of the attempted conversion coupled with the lack of prior notice to the plaintiff from the Court compels it to consider the defendant's pleadings as solely a motion for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn6 When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, if "matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56, and all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by Rule 56." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). Thus, in the absence of notice from the Court to the parties stating its intention to convert a defendant's motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment, the Court must analyze the defendant's challenge to a plaintiff's complaint as a motion to dismiss, despite the defendant's attempt to achieve a Rule 56 conversion. See Gordon v. National Youth Work Alliance, 675 F.2d 356, 361 (D.C. Cir. 1982) ("Under . . . Rule 12(b)(6), a court need not consider matters outside the pleadings at all. But once it decides to consult such matters it should so inform the parties and set a schedule for submitting additional affidavits and documents if the parties wish."); Baker v. Henderson, 150 F. Supp.2d 13, 16 (D.D.C. 2001) ("When a district court converts a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to one for summary judgment, it must allow all parties a reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by Rule 56, and a chance to pursue reasonable discovery.") (citing Taylor v. Federal Deposit Ins. Corp., 132 F.3d 753 (D.C. Cir. 1997)). Accordingly, the District's attempt to convert its motion to dismiss into a partial summary judgment motion must be rejected.

To survive a motion to dismiss that is brought under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint need only provide "`a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). And, when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993). Thus, a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [his] claim which would entitle [him] to relief." Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46.

III. Analysis

A. Plaintiff's § 1983 Claims

In this case, plaintiff's complaint alleges that the "Defendant District of Columbia is liable for plaintiff's injuries because [it] has tolerated and permitted a pattern of police harassment, false arrest and malicious prosecution . . ." Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Further, plaintiff contends that "[p]rior to and including the date of the incident, the District of Columbia, through its Metropolitan Police Department, permitted and tolerated a pattern and practice of unjustified, unreasonable, and unlawful harassment and deprivation of liberty and property without due process of law." Id. ¶ 28. And, he alleges that "policies and customs of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police have caused officers of the District to believe that . . . misconduct would not be aggressively, honestly and properly investigated, with the foreseeable result being that police officers are more likely to harass and deprive citizens of liberty and property without due process of law." Id. ¶ 30. These allegations are sufficient. Defendant argues that the complaint fails to "set forth any factual allegations to support its legal conclusions." Def's Supp. at 5. However, this requirement would enlarge the proper standard that plaintiff must meet to withstand the defendant's motion to ...


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