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Frazier v. Williams

June 2, 2009

ROBERT FRAZIER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EDWINA WILLIAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Robert Frazier ("Plaintiff") brings this action against Defendants Edwina Williams ("Detective Williams") and the District of Columbia, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 61]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, Surreply, the entire record herein, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

This law suit concerns an altercation at a downtown District of Columbia night club called LaCage, where Plaintiff worked as a "go-go boy." LaCage is widely perceived and had the reputation of being a gay nightclub which featured male entertainers who danced on a stage and on bar tops. Pl. Compl. ¶ 9.

While there is substantial dispute about many of the facts, the following are undisputed. In the early morning of February 16, 2003,*fn2 Plaintiff completed his performance, dressed in street clothes, and joined the customers in the bar area of the nightclub. Plaintiff believed that two men in the audience had been criticizing or disparaging his performance as he danced. An altercation then occurred between Plaintiff and the two audience members he thought were criticizing his performance, who were later identified as Jonathan Tart and Shane Kline.

While it is undisputed that Plaintiff touched Kline first, and without consent, Plaintiff ended up being assaulted and suffering some physical injury, the extent of which is also disputed. There is contradictory evidence about whether Kline and Tart had or had not been drinking heavily. The next day, Plaintiff telephoned Sgt. Brett Parsons of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, and described the incident to him. At that time, Plaintiff was uncertain about pressing charges, because he did not want bad publicity or exposure for his employer and because his injuries did not appear to be permanent. The next day, Tart and Kline made their own reports to MPD claiming that Plaintiff had attacked Kline, and Kline swore out a complaint against Plaintiff for simple assault.

Defendant, Detective Edwina Williams, was assigned to investigate the incident. She interviewed all three parties and spoke with Sgt. Parsons. There is much dispute about the details of Detective Williams' investigation and how it was conducted. Ultimately, she prepared an affidavit in support of a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest. On March 31, 2003, Assistant United States Attorney Catherine Worthington reviewed and approved the affidavit and a warrant was issued for Plaintiff's arrest.

Detective Williams called Plaintiff, at his home in Pennsylvania, to inform him that the warrant had been issued. Plaintiff agreed to turn himself in the next morning and did so. The Plaintiff was detained and incarcerated overnight and released the day after he had turned himself in. On that same day, the U.S. Attorney's Office informed the arraignment court that it was entering a nolle prosequi, thereby dismissing the case.

On April 3, 2006, Plaintiff filed the present one-count Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleged that Detective Williams violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, that Detective Williams violated his Fifth Amendment right "not to experience invidious discrimination" and that the District of Columbia is responsible for Detective Williams' "wrongdoing under principles of municipal liability." Compl., ¶ 34-36.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 nonmoving party.'" Arrington, id. (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 discussions of summary judgment, in Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (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." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 . . . (emphasis in original).

However, the Supreme Court has also consistently emphasized that "at the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not . . . to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249. In both Liberty Lobby and Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000), the Supreme Court cautioned that "[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" deciding a motion for summary judgment. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. "To survive a motion for summary judgment, the party bearing the burden of proof at trial . . . must ...


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