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Lederman v. United States

April 13, 2007

ROBERT LEDERMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In his second amended complaint, plaintiff Robert Lederman seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 from the District of Columbia (the "District") for having been prosecuted under an unconstitutional regulation, and requests declaratory relief binding against District and the District's Attorney General, formerly known as the Corporation Counsel (collectively, the "District defendants").*fn1 The District defendants have moved to dismiss. Because the District defendants have not shown that Lederman can prove no set of facts supporting his § 1983 damages claim against the District, the motion will be denied as to the damages claim. Because Lederman's claim for declaratory relief is moot and because no claims remain as to the District's Attorney General, the remainder of the motion to dismiss will be granted.

BACKGROUND

An act of Congress charges the Capitol Police Board with regulating the "movement of all vehicular and other traffic . . . within the United States Capitol Grounds." 2 U.S.C. § 1969(a) (2000) (formerly codified as 40 U.S.C. § 212(b)(2000)). The statute also obligates the Mayor of the District of Columbia or his designee, upon request by the Capitol Police Board, to cooperate with the Board in preparing the regulations promulgated under authority of this statute. See 2 U.S.C. § 1969(d). Further, the statute mandates that "[p]rosecutions for violation of such regulations shall be in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, upon information by the [Attorney General] of the District of Columbia or any of his assistants." Id. The Council of the District of Columbia elected to adopt this act of Congress in whole and without substantive alteration. See D.C. Code § 10-03.25 (2001) (formerly codified as D.C. Code § 9-127 (1981)).

Acting on this authority, the Capitol Police Board promulgated a regulation restricting "demonstration activity," including "leafleting . . . or other expressive conduct," in certain areas on the Capitol Grounds. Capitol Grounds Regulations art. XIX § 158. No party has said whether the District's Mayor or his designee was asked to or in fact did assist in preparing this regulation.

Lederman, intending to publicize a lawsuit, distributed leaflets and carried a sign in the area of the Capitol Grounds where the regulation prohibited such activity. He was arrested and prosecuted in a criminal action brought by the District's then-Corporation Counsel in the Superior Court for the District. Lederman was acquitted when the hearing commissioner found the regulation unconstitutional on its face and as applied. See Lederman v. United States, 89 F. Supp. 2d 29, 31-32 (D.D.C. 2000).

Filing this case, Lederman obtained both a declaration that the regulation on its face infringed the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment and a permanent injunction prohibiting the Capitol Police from enforcing the regulation. Id. at 43. He now seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 from the District for prosecuting him pursuant to its statute and custom. He also seeks to have the previously issued declaratory judgment made binding on the District defendants. (See Opp'n at 3.)

DISCUSSION

A motion to dismiss should not be granted "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 v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The complaint must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and a "court must assume the truth of all well-pleaded allegations." Warren v. Dist. of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

I. DAMAGES UNDER 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides that:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . . For purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

A. A Statute of the District

The parties dispute whether the regulation impermissibly infringing free speech was authorized by an "Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia" such that it must "be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Lederman argues that the last sentence of § 1983 applies to the statute authorizing the promulgation of the unconstitutional regulation, and that the statute and ensuing regulation must be considered laws of the District for purposes of § 1983. (See Opp'n at 4-5.) The District defendants argue that "Capitol Police Board regulations are not within the 'narrow sphere' of laws applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia[,]" and that the "regulations are not enacted for the ...


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