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Delaney v. District of Columbia

October 6, 2009

MELVIN DELANEY, JR., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Melvin Delaney, Jr. and Melodie Venee Shuler, husband and wife, bring this suit pro se on behalf of themselves and their child M. Delaney. The Complaint alleges numerous violations of federal and local law, mostly arising from Mr. Delaney's admitted failure to pay child support and a resulting criminal contempt charge against him. The District of Columbia and its officials and employees move to dismiss for failure to state a claim and for lack of jurisdiction. As explained below, the motion to dismiss will be granted, except with regard to Count 12 of the Complaint.

I. FACTS

The Complaint sets forth numerous claims that are somewhat difficult to decipher and Plaintiffs' responses to the Defendants' motion to dismiss do little to clarify them. Plaintiffs' claims generally arise from a District of Columbia criminal contempt action against Mr. Delaney due to unpaid child support and from difficulties Ms. Shuler encountered when she and their child, M. Delaney, attempted to visit Mr. Delaney while he was held at the D.C. Jail. Ms. Shuler is an attorney, and she sought to assist Mr. Delaney in dealing with his legal problems.

Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Delaney was incarcerated at the Lorton and Rivers Correctional Centers from 2001 to June of 2003 and at the D.C. Jail from May 29, 2007 to September 25, 2007. Compl. ¶¶ 19-20. They allege that Mr. Delaney could have been exempted from liability for child support during these periods if he had been provided access to the courts or the assistance of adequate counsel, or if he had been able to receive visits by and assistance from Ms. Shuler. Id. ¶¶ 19-38.

As a result, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against the District of Columbia and certain D.C. officials and employees. The District and the following D.C. officials and employees move to dismiss the Complaint: Mayor Adrian Fenty; former Deputy Warden Brenda Ward of the D.C. Department of Corrections ("DOC"), DOC Captain Nora Talley; and former or current Assistant Attorneys General for the District Michael Orton, Arden Harris, and Nancy Johnson*fn1 (collectively the "District Defendants").*fn2

The Counts of the Complaint that purport to allege claims against the District Defendants assert the following causes of action:

Count 1 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process;

Count 2 -- Fraud;

Count 4 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process;

Count 5 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process;

Count 6 -- First Amendment;

Count 7 -- Negligence;

Count 10 -- First Amendment;

Count 11 -- Fourth Amendment;

Count 12 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process;

Count 13 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process;

Count 14 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process;

Count 15 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process;

Count 16 -- Defamation, Libel and Slander;

Count 18 -- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress;

Count 19 -- Fifth Amendment Due Process and Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel; and

Count 21 -- Negligent Training and Supervision.*fn3

Plaintiffs seek monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief with regard to these claims. See id. at p. 80. The details of the allegations are discussed below in the analysis of each legal theory.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Failure to State a Claim

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face, testing whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). A complaint must be sufficient "to give a 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) (internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Rule 8(a) requires a "showing" and not just a blanket assertion of a right to relief. Id. at n.3.

A court must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true, "even if doubtful in fact," id. at 1965, and must draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 67 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Even so, the facts alleged "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and a court need not accept as true inferences unsupported by facts set out in the complaint or legal conclusions cast as factual allegations. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). "[A] complaint needs some information about the ...


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