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Cooper v. Johnson

September 11, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge


This matter is before the Court on the defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted.


On November 23, 2004, in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, a jury found the plaintiff guilty of second degree murder while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon. See Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss ("Defs.' Mot.") at 2, Exhibit ("Ex.") 1 (excerpt of presentence investigation report) at 1. Crystal Johnson ("CSO Johnson"), then a Community Supervision Officer employed by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency ("CSOSA"), was assigned to prepare a presentence investigation report.*fn1

See Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 8; Defs.' Mot., Ex. 1 at 1. Incorporated into the presentence investigation report was information taken from the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant, repeating a witness' statement that the plaintiff admitted to the crimes for which he was charged and convicted. See Defs.' Mot., Ex. 1 at 3.

Because CSO Johnson's report contained this purported admission, which the plaintiff alleges was "false information designed to deceive the reader... into believing that [he] confessed to the crime[s]" resulting in "every act of appeal, exercise of right, or proclaiming his innocence [appear as] a deliberate lie[.]" Compl. ¶ 8. The plaintiff maintains his innocence of the crimes for which he has been convicted and sentenced. See id. ¶ 11. He asserts that the language of the presentence investigation report suggests a confession or an admission of guilt, thus undermining his efforts to overturn his conviction and to secure his release from custody. See id. ¶¶ 7-11. Further, the plaintiff alleges that this false information has been disseminated "to every agency, judge and attorney prosecuting his appeal and petition to reverse the judgment," as well as "to the FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS [and made a] part of the Plaintiff's permanent record," for staff to use "in determining [the] Plaintiff's security, treatment and population access within the FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS[.]" Id. ¶ 10 (capital letters in original).

The plaintiff alleges that CSO Johnson acted "willfully, maliciously, with malice aforethought, deliberately in reckless disregard for the Plaintiff's Constitutional Rights and the law" by including his purported admission in the presentence investigation report. Compl. ¶ 4. In addition, he faults CSOSA's Acting Director for her alleged "reckless disregard for the Plaintiff's Constitutional Rights and the law," id. ¶ 5, because she failed to prevent CSO Johnson from "provid[ing] false information to the [Superior Court], to corrupt, slander, or otherwise substantially prejudice [criminal] defendants claim[ing] actual innocence to DISTRICT charges," id. ¶ 7 (capital letters in original).

The plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and, presumably, under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). He demands injunctive relief to prevent the defendants "from unlawfully falsifing [sic] the Plaintiff's presentenc[e] report, using deliberate false and unsubstantiated, frivolous accusations as facts... that create a false reason for maintaining judgment against the Plaintiff despite his actual innocence and on going [sic] appeal, proclaiming the defense of actual innocence." Compl. ¶ 19. In addition, the plaintiff demands damages of $5 million. Id. ¶ 20.


A. The Complaint Fails to State a Claim Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or Bivens

1. Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(6)

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests[.]'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff properly has stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). "When ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Atherton v. District of Columbia Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)) (other citations omitted). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not required to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must offer "more than labels and conclusions" to provide "grounds" of "entitle[ment] to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Or as the Supreme Court more recently stated, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id., 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint alleging facts which are "'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability,... 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly 550 U.S. at 557) (brackets omitted).

2. Section 1983 and Bivens

Section 1983 provides, in pertinent ...

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