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Robinson v. Dist. of Columbia

September 21, 2006

EMMANUEL ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
EMMANUEL ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. Having considered the motion, plaintiff's opposition, and the record of this case, the Court will grant summary judgment for defendants.

I. BACKGROUND

On or about May 11, 2003 at 2:00 a.m., Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") Officers Smith and Grajales encountered plaintiff sitting in a parked car near the intersection of 17th and M Streets, N.W. in Washington, D.C.*fn1 See Amd. Compl. ¶ 10; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants District of Columbia, Anthony Williams, and Oscar Grajales' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mot."), Ex. 3 (May 12, 2003 statement). The officers were responding to a report of "an individual tampering with an auto outside of 1615 M Street NW described as a black man with a crow bar." Id. Officer Grajales approached plaintiff, the "man in a brugandy [sic] 4-door car backing out of a parkingspot," and asked for his driver's license. Id. Plaintiff identified himself as "Manuel Robinson." Id. A "wales check" found that plaintiff had no driver's license. Id. Officer Smith saw "pocketbooks on the floor and passenger seat of the vehicle." Id. "A security officer at 1615 M Street NW came to the scene and identified [plaintiff] as the man she had observed carrying what appeared to be a crowbar walking up and down the sidewalk, looking into ca[r]s, and touching door handles." Id.

Officer Smith searched the car and "discovered several purses, an approximately 24-inch screwdriver, black gloves, and additional items." Defs.' Mot., Ex. 3. The officers "located the owners of two of the purses who indicated that their property had been taken from a third individual's car while that vehicle was parked on the 1200 block of 17th Street NW. The owner of the car indicated that his right rear window was broken. A victim's social security card . . . [was] recovered from [plaintiff's] coat pocket[]." Id.

Officer Grajales arrested plaintiff. Defs.' Mot., Ex. 3. In the course of the arrest, "plaintiff was pushed onto the hood of his automobile."*fn2 Amd. Compl. ¶ 10. Handcuffs were placed tightly around plaintiff's wrists, leaving abrasions and causing plaintiff's wrists to swell. Id.; Defs.' Mot., Ex. 2 (excerpt from plaintiff's deposition transcript). According to the criminal information, plaintiff was charged with second degree theft and destroying property, in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-303, -3211, -3212(b). Id., Ex. 2 (Information, No. M0375103). Counsel for plaintiff represents that the criminal charges were dismissed. Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 5 (page numbers designated by Court).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is granted to the movant "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, 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). A material fact is one "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Rule 56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the non-moving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment." Fernandors v. District of Columbia, 382 F.Supp.2d 63, 68 (D.D.C. 2005) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 322). When evaluating a summary judgment motion, "[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

The party opposing a motion for summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248; see also Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 150 (D.C. Cir. 1996). If evidence in the non-moving party's favor is "merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted).

B. Constitutional Claims

1. Conspiracy to Violate Plaintiff's Civil Rights

Plaintiff alleges that "defendants," who are not specified in the Amended Complaint, "agreed and conspired with one another to violate the Plaintiff's rights as guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." Amd. Compl. ¶ 51 (Count Four). In his opposition to defendants' motion, he asserts that Officers Smith and Grajales "conspired with each other to violate the plaintiff's rights" and furthered the conspiracy with the "trumped up charges and the affidavit sworn without truth to cover that up." Pl.'s Opp'n at 9 (page number designated by Court).

The elements of a civil conspiracy are: "(1) an agreement between two or more persons; (2) to participate in an unlawful act, or a lawful act in an unlawful manner; (3) an injury caused by an unlawful overt act performed by one of the parties to the agreement; (4) which overt act was done pursuant to and in furtherance of the common scheme." Halberstam v. Welch, 705 F.2d 472, 477 (D.C. Cir. 1983). Insofar as plaintiff alleges that a municipal corporation conspired with its employees, his claim must fail. The District of Columbia and the MPD officers are, in essence, one entity. See Michelin v. Jenkins, 704 F.Supp. 1, 4 (D.D.C. 1989) (finding that Board of Elections and Ethics and its officials are single entity incapable of entering into conspiracy); Gladden v. Barry, 558 F.Supp. 676, 679 (D.D.C. 1983) (concluding that plaintiff cannot show conspiracy between District of Columbia and its employee because the conduct complained of was a single act by a single entity).

Insofar as plaintiff alleges a conspiracy to violate his civil rights, the Court presumes that plaintiff brings his conspiracy claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).*fn3 In order to prevail in a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), plaintiff must demonstrate "a conspiracy motivated by some racial, or perhaps class based, invidiously discriminatory animus." Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 102 (1971). Nothing in his Amended Complaint alleges or suggests a discriminatory motive behind defendants' actions, and his opposition to defendants' ...


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