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Applewhaite v. Shinton

August 5, 2010

ANDREW APPLEWHAITE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW SHINTON ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 6

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SUBSTITUTING THE UNITED STATES IN THE PLACE OF THE FEDERAL DEFENDANTS; GRANTING THE FEDERAL DEFENDANTS'MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

The pro se plaintiff, an individual convicted of a misdemeanor in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, commenced this action alleging misconduct on the part of investigators, prosecutors and witnesses allegedly responsible for his arrest and conviction. Defendants Erin Walsh, Gail Bolsover and Alan Boyd ("the federal defendants") have moved to dismiss all of the claims against them. As a threshold matter, they assert that the United States should be substituted in their place as the sole federal defendant pursuant to the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988 ("the Westfall Act"), 28 U.S.C. § 2679. Moreover, they assert that the plaintiff's claims against them must be dismissed because the plaintiff has not alleged that he presented his claims to the appropriate agency prior to filing suit, as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b). The federal defendants also argue that the plaintiff's claims against them are not actionable under the FTCA and must therefore be dismissed. For the reasons discussed below, the court substitutes the United States as the sole federal defendant and dismisses without prejudice the plaintiff's claims against the federal defendants.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 25, 2009, the plaintiff was convicted of a misdemeanor in the D.C. Superior Court for writing a threatening letter to the Mayor of the District of Columbia. See Fed. Defs.' Mot. at 1 & Ex. 2.*fn1 The plaintiff was sentenced to forty-five days of imprisonment, with execution of the sentence suspended, and one year of supervised release. Fed. Defs.' Mot. at 1 & Ex. 2.

On October 15, 2009, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Small Claims Branch of the D.C. Superior Court against the following defendants: Matthew Shinton, a detective with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department who allegedly arrested the defendant; Luann Winson, an Assistant Manager with the D.C. Housing Authority; and Erin Walsh, the Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") who prosecuted the plaintiff's misdemeanor case. See Fed. Defs.' Mot., Ex. 3. Although the complaint alleged misconduct by Shinton and Winston, it contained no allegations whatsoever regarding AUSA Walsh. See id.

On October 19, 2009, the plaintiff amended his complaint, adding as defendants U.S. Postal Inspection Service Analyst Gail Bolsover and AUSA Alan Boyd, both of whom had assisted in the investigation and misdemeanor prosecution of the plaintiff. Fed. Defs.' Mot. at 2 & Ex. 4. The allegations set forth in the amended complaint were identical to the allegations in the initial complaint and contained no assertions whatsoever regarding AUSA Walsh, Inspector Bolsover or AUSA Boyd. See Fed. Defs.' Mot., Ex. 4.

On November 6, 2009, the plaintiff filed yet another amended complaint. Fed. Defs.' Mot., Ex. 5. Beyond adding supplemental address information for the defendants, this second amended complaint was substantively identical to the earlier complaints. See id. Like the first amended complaint, the second amended complaint also contained no allegations regarding the federal defendants.

The federal defendants removed the small claims action to this court on November 19, 2009. See generally Notice of Removal. On January 6, 2010, the federal defendants filed this motion to dismiss. See generally Fed. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss. They argue first that the United States should be substituted in their place as the defendant in this action pursuant to the Westfall Act because they were acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the incidents alleged in the complaint. See generally id. Moreover, the federal defendants contend that all of the plaintiff's claims against them must be dismissed because the plaintiff has failed to allege that he presented his claims to the appropriate administrative agency prior to commencing suit, as required under the FTCA. See generally id. Finally, the federal defendants contend that the plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim against them.*fn2 See generally id. With the motion ripe for adjudication, the court turns to the applicable legal standards and the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Court Substitutes the United States for the Federal Defendants

As an initial matter, the federal defendants contend that the United States should be substituted as the exclusive federal defendant pursuant to the Westfall Act. Fed. Defs.' Mot. at 5-7. The plaintiff does not address ...


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