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Curtis v. Lanier

February 28, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge


Plaintiff Derek Curtis brings this action pro se alleging slander, defamation, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, conversion, conspiracy, deprivation of civil rights, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, and racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1984 and 1986. Plaintiff brings these claims against Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department;*fn2 against three law enforcement officers: Detective Vincent Tucci, Detective Renee Fenner,*fn3 and Detective George Rada; against Office Depot and Fifteenth Street Executive Suites; and against the following individuals: Roger Gerstenfeld, Michael Gerstenfeld, and Samuel J. Gerstenfeld.*fn4 This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment of Chief Lanier, Detective Tucci, and Detective Rada [Dkt. No. 5]; the Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment of Office Depot [Dkt. No. 15]; the Motion for Summary Judgment of Roger Gerstenfeld and Fifteenth Street Executive Suites [Dkt. No. 6]; and the Motion for Summary Judgment of Samuel J. Gerstenfeld and SJG Properties, L.L.C. [Dkt. No. 13]. Upon consideration of the Motions, Opposition, Response to the Motions, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are granted.


The allegations contained in Plaintiff's Complaint arise from two separate incidents: (1) Plaintiff's arrest for Theft in the First Degree on December 6, 2002; and (2) Plaintiff's arrest for First Degree Fraud on May 22, 2003.

On May 22, 2002, a warrant was issued for Plaintiff's arrest after a party not involved in this suit reported Plaintiff to the police for failure to pay for services performed and for writing a bad check. Detective Rada was the lead officer for Plaintiff's arrest on the first charge. Plaintiff claims that Detective Rada abused his police powers by obtaining this warrant through the use of false information. On December 6, 2002, Detective Fenner responded to a call from Roger Gerstenfeld requesting that the police escort Plaintiff from rental office property because of unpaid rent. During this incident, Detective Fenner discovered the outstanding warrant issued on May 22, 2002 and arrested Plaintiff.

Plaintiff claims that Roger Gerstenfeld did not have a court order to evict him and therefore Detective Fenner did not have the authority to escort him off of the property. Plaintiff also alleges that Chief Lanier aided and abetted Roger and Samuel Gerstenfeld in illegally evicting him and taking possession of his property, and that the Metropolitan Police Department's actions were racially motivated. Plaintiff also contends that, during his arrest, Detective Fenner took his belt, wallet, and money and placed them in the office at Fifteenth Executive Suites, locked the door, and gave the keys to Roger Gerstenfeld. Plaintiff also claims that Detective Fenner forced him to sign a document relinquishing the leased space at Fifteenth Street Executive Suites.

Plaintiff further alleges that, in his absence, Roger and John Gerstenfeld*fn6 entered the office at Fifteenth Street Executive Suites and took his "personal belongings including plaintiff's briefcase $3,5550.00 [sic] U.S. Currency, computers, printers, business documents, equipments, furniture and supplies which valued approximately $127,500.00 or more." Pl.'s Resp. to Mot's to Dismiss & for Summ. J. ¶ 8.

The parties agree that the day after his first arrest, Plaintiff tried to return to his office at Fifteenth Street Executive Suites to retrieve his personal property, but was denied access. Plaintiff called the police to the building, but they refused to help him gain entry to the property. Plaintiff claims that this was part of a conspiracy to harm and harass him.

Plaintiff's second arrest on May 22, 2003 arose from business transactions with Defendant Office Depot and a former landlord who is not a party to this case. Detective Tucci was the lead officer on this charge. In September of 2002, Plaintiff ordered furniture and office supplies from Office Depot. Office Depot contends that Plaintiff used the alias Steve Warren or Steve Warman to purchase the furniture and that they have not received payment for the merchandise. Office Depot and Plaintiff's former landlord reported Plaintiff to Detective Tucci for failure to pay for office furniture, supplies, and rental fees. Detective Tucci requested that an arrest warrant be issued on December 24, 2002 and Plaintiff was arrested on May 22, 2003. Plaintiff claims that Office Depot conspired to deprive him of his liberty and property and slandered him by providing false information to Detective Tucci and to the Superior Court, which issued the arrest warrant.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on September 5, 2006. On November 27, 2006, Roger Gerstenfeld and Fifteenth Street Suites removed Plaintiff's Complaint to this Court. Defendants then filed the motions to dismiss and/or for summary judgment that are presently before the Court.


Summary judgment may be granted "only if" the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show 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. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), as amended December 1, 2007; Arrington v. United States, 473 F.3d 329, 333 (D.C. Cir. 2006). In other words, the moving party must satisfy two requirements: first, demonstrate that there is no "genuine" factual dispute and, second, that if there is it is "material" to the case. "A dispute over a material fact is 'genuine' if 'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.'" Arrington, (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under the substantive governing law. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248.

In its most recent discussion of summary judgment, in Scott v. Harris, __ U.S. __, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007), the Supreme Court said, [a]s we have emphasized, "[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 . . . (1986) (footnote omitted). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

However, the Supreme Court has also consistently emphasized that "at the summary judgment stage, the judge's function is weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to ...

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