United States District Court for the District of Columbia
May 5, 2005.
RANDY McRAE Plaintiff,
JANICE WILLIAMS OLIVE, et al. Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSEMARY COLLYER, District Judge
This lawsuit is an outgrowth of marital discord between Randy
McRae and his former wife, Artina Williams McRae. During the
course of the break-up of the McRae marriage and their divorce,
it is alleged that Mrs. McRae's sister, Janice Williams Olive, a
member of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"), misused her
official position to commit assault, trespass and false arrest
against Mr. McRae and in support of Mrs. McRae. Officer Olive's
husband, Fred Olive, is also alleged to have assaulted Mr. McRae
and interfered with his freedom of movement. Mr. McRae, an
attorney who is proceeding pro se, sues the Olives and the
District of Columbia alleging violations of his civil rights and
assault (Counts One and Three), and negligence by the District of
Columbia in the hiring and training of Officer Olive (Count Two).
The emotion and anger surrounding the demise of the McRae
marriage have been palpable throughout this litigation. Suddenly,
after briefs on cross-motions for summary judgment, Mr. McRae has
dropped his complaint against his former relatives and seeks to
proceed only against the District of Columbia.*fn1 The Court finds that there is no basis on which to impose any
liability for this unfortunate family breakdown on the D.C.
Government. Accordingly, the District's motion for summary
judgment will be granted and the case will be dismissed.
Mr. and Mrs. McRae were married on June 23, 1990 and divorced
on January 2, 2003. They have two children. At some point prior
to January 28, 2001, a breakdown in the marital relationship
occurred. Plaintiff's complaint identifies seven incidents
between January 28, 2001 and June 30, 2003 that allegedly make
the initial defendants liable to him for money damages. However,
in his brief in opposition to the District's motion for summary
judgment, Mr. McRae addresses only two such incidents. Thus, the
Court will limit itself to evaluating the two incidents addressed
by Mr. McRae and will deem argument on any other incident
First, Mr. McRae identifies an occasion on or about January 28,
2001, when Mrs. McRae and her sister, Officer Olive, traveled to
Laurel, Maryland to visit a woman with whom they suspected Mr.
McRae had been involved. Upon returning home, Mrs. McRae began to
strike Mr. McRae in the face repeatedly and attempted to stab him
with a straight razor. According to Mr. McRae, Officer Olive
observed the entire episode, made no attempt to restrain Mrs.
McRae, and "appeared to reach for her police revolver," while
telling Mr. McRae that he "better not hit my sister." Compl. ¶ 6.
Second, Mr. McRae identifies an incident on June 30, 2003, when
the Olives came to his residence, parked in his driveway behind his car
(thereby preventing him from backing out of the driveway), and
assaulted him by hitting him repeatedly about the head, shoulders
and face. It is this latter incident that underlies the alleged
trespassing, assault and false arrest.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows "that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV.
P. 56(c)); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247
(1986). Summary judgment is not a "disfavored procedural
shortcut[;]" rather, it is a reasoned and careful way to resolve
cases fairly and expeditiously. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). In deciding whether there is a disputed
issue of material fact, the trial court must view the underlying
facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washington Post Co. v.
U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C.
The Court's threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine
factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of
fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either
party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The party moving for summary
judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the trial
court of the basis for its motion and identifying the portions of
the record that it believes demonstrate an absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. See Alexis v. District of Columbia,
44 F. Supp. 2d 331, 337 (D.D.C. 1999). Once the moving party shows
that there is a lack of evidence to support the opponent's case,
the burden shifts to the nonmovant to show, through affidavits or
otherwise, the existence of a material issue for trial. Bias v. Advantage Intern, Inc., 905 F.2d 1558, 1561 (D.C. Cir. 1990) ;
see Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir. 1987)
(citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56 (c)). Conclusory allegations by the
nonmovant are insufficient to withstand summary judgment. Exxon
Corp. v. F.T.C., 663 F.2d 120, 127 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (citing
Marks v. United Stated Dep't of Justice, 578 F.2d 261, 263 (9th
Mr. McRae pursues the District of Columbia, after withdrawing
his allegations against Officer and Mr. Olive, based on the
failure of the MPD to take any corrective action. He argues that
Officer Olive has admitted in a deposition that she is an MPD
officer, she entered upon Mr. McRae's property, she detained Mr.
McRae without a warrant, and MPD took no action against her.
Pl.'s Opp. at 2. This conduct by Officer Olive is alleged to have
amounted to an arrest without a warrant and to have violated Mr.
McRae's civil rights. Id. As a result, Officer Olive
"establishes proof positive that the District, in fact did act
with `conscious, reckless and deliberate indifference,' by
failing to bother to perform or conclude an investigation
regarding her 6/30/03 acts" because Officer Olive was never
disciplined, warned or put on report after Mr. McRae's complaint.
Id. at 4 (citations omitted).
In response, the District of Columbia correctly argues that the
MPD is not a separate suable entity, and therefore must be
dismissed. It is well-settled that bodies within the D.C.
Government are not suable absent statutory provisions allowing
such suit. See Trifax Corp. v. District of Columbia, 53 F.
Supp.2d 20, 26 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (concluding that the Office of
the Inspector General, Department of Health, Department of
Administrative Services, and the Department of Human Services are
non sui juris and must be dismissed as parties); see also
Roberson v. District of Columbia Board of Higher Education,
359 A.2d 28, 31 n. 4 (D.C. 1976) (D.C. Board of Higher Education); Miller v. Spencer, 330 A.2d 250,
251 n. 1 (D.C. 1974 (Department of Sanitation); Ray v. District
of Columbia, 535 A.2d 868, 869 n. 2 (D.C. 1987) (Fire
Department, Board of Police and Fire Surgeons, and Police and
Fire Clinic). Thus, the MPD will be dismissed.
Next, the District of Columbia argues that Mr. McRae has failed
to satisfy the mandatory notice requirement of § 12-309 of the
D.C. Code (2001 edition), which provides:
An action may not be maintained against the District
of Columbia for unliquidated damages to person or
property unless, within six months after the injury
or damage was sustained, the claimant, his agent, or
attorney has given notice in writing to the Mayor of
the District of Columbia of the approximate time,
place, cause and circumstances of the injury or
The purpose of this provision is to protect the District against
unreasonable claims and to allow it to investigate when evidence
might still be available and any danger may be corrected for the
common good. See Pitts v. District of Columbia, 391 A.2d 803
807 (D.C. 1978). These notice requirements are a mandatory
prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against the District. See
District of Columbia v. Dunmore, 662 A.2d 1356
, 1359 (D.C.
1995); Giwnn v. District of Columbia, 434 A.2d 1376
, 1378 (D.C.
1981). Notice to officials subordinate to the Mayor is not
sufficient. Brown v. District of Columbia, 251 F. Supp. 2d 152,
158 (D.D.C. 2003).
It is uncontested that Mr. McRae sent a February 21, 2002
letter to Captain Barnes of the MPD, but never sent a letter to
the Mayor of the City prior to instituting suit. While he argues
that he sent a letter to the Mayor in December 2003, the letter
was sent after this suit was filed in March 2003 and therefore
does not fulfill either the spirit or the letter of § 12-309.
Thus, were Mr. McRae pursuing tort claims for assault, trespass
or false arrest against the District of Columbia, such claims
would be dismissed for failure to provide timely notice.
Mr. McRae responds to the District's argument, however, by
arguing that his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985 do not require prior
notice to the Mayor. While legally accurate, this argument does
not ultimately save either of Mr. McRae's claims from dismissal.
"[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it
employs a tortfeasor. . . ." Collins v. City of Harker Heights,
503 U.S. 115, 121 (1992) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dept.
of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). "Instead, it is
when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made
by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be
said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the
government as an entity is responsible under § 1983." Id. at
121. Thus, to maintain an action under § 1983, Mr. McRae must
demonstrate a deprivation of his constitutional rights that was
caused by a policy, custom or practice of the District of
Columbia, or a single "municipal decision [that] reflects
deliberate indifference to the risk that a violation of a
particular constitutional or statutory right will follow the
decision." Board of the County Comm'rs of Bryan County, Oklahoma
v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997).
Mr. McRae argues that the failure of the MPD to investigate and
discipline Officer Olive for her conduct, especially her conduct
on June 30, 2003, amounted to "deliberate indifference"
sufficient to maintain his suit. The Court disagrees. Deliberate
indifference is determined objectively, by analyzing whether the
municipality knew or should have known of the risk of
constitutional violations, and yet failed to respond as
necessary. Baker v. District of Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1307
(D.C. Cir. 2003). A plaintiff "must show more than simple or even
heightened negligence; the District's indifference must be
conscious, or at least reckless." Byrd v. District of Columbia,
297 F. Supp. 2d 136, 139 (D.D.C. 2003) (citation omitted). When
Mr. McRae first complained about Officer Olive to Captain Barnes,
the MPD conducted an investigation during which Officer Olive's police powers were revoked, and the MPD
interviewed Officer Olive, Mrs. McRae, Mr. McRae's attorney, and
a pastor from his church. Officer Olive was subsequently
counseled about being involved in domestic disputes. The incident
on which Mr. McRae pins his argument the alleged "arrest" by
Officer Olive when her car blocked his and she hit him occurred
in June 2003. Mr. McRae complained of this conduct by letter to
the MPD on or about January 26, 2004. See Plaintiff's Statement
of Material Undisputed Facts ¶ 5. There was, at that point,
nothing "reckless" or "indifferent" about the MPD's failure to
informally or formally reprimand Officer Olive for alleged
conduct that had been of short duration, seemingly with no
connection to Officer Olive's official position, and that
occurred over six months earlier.
Mr. McRae is unable to articulate or identify a policy, custom
or practice by the District of Columbia upon which to maintain a
§ 1983 claim, as required by Monell. His evidence falls far
short of demonstrating recklessness or deliberate indifference
such "that a violation of a particular constitutional or
statutory right will follow the [municipal] decision." Brown,
520 U.S. at 403. Indeed, the alleged interference with Mr.
McRae's constitutional rights occurred before the alleged
municipal decision to forego a reprimand of Officer Olive. Thus,
that municipal decision did not and could not have led to the
harm. Monell teaches that the City is not responsible for the
actions of MPD officers on a theory of respondeat superior. See
Monell, 436 U.S. at 694; see also Collins, 503 U.S. at 121.
Since there is no policy or decision by the District of Columbia
that can be said to have led to Mr. McRae's alleged injury, his
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is infirm and will be dismissed.
Finally, Mr. McRae offers no evidence to support his claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, which alleges a conspiracy to interfere
with his civil rights. To establish a cause of action pursuant to § 1985, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the alleged
conspiracy is motivated by some classbased
invidiously-discriminatory animus. See Griffin v. Breckenridge,
403 U.S. 88, 102 (1971); see also Hoai v. Vo, 935 F.2d 308, 314
(D.C. Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 967 (1992), reh'g
denied, 504 U.S. 936 (1992); Michelin v. Jenkins,
704 F. Supp. 1, 4 (D.D.C. 1989). Mr. McRae has failed to do so, and therefore
this claim must be denied.
It appears the family feud that started this lawsuit has been
settled, as Mr. McRae has dropped his complaint against Officer
Olive and Mr. Olive. Because the remaining allegations against
the District of Columbia are not supported in law or in fact,
they must be dismissed. Summary judgment will be granted to the
District of Columbia. A separate order accompanies this