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Simmons v. Dist. of Columbia

November 9, 2010

DANIEL SIMMONS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Before the Court is defendant District of Columbia's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the motion, ECF No. 53, the opposition thereto, ECF No. 54, the reply brief, ECF No. 55, applicable law, and the entire record, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the motion for the reasons stated below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff has alleged that when he was incarcerated at the D.C. Detention Facility, defendants the District of Columbia and John Does 1--5 violated his rights. Plaintiff filed his initial complaint in 2007. Compl., Mar. 15, 2007, ECF No. 1. The Court later dismissed all of the counts for failure to state a claim, except those relating to plaintiff's overdetention, which the Court stayed pending further proceedings in Barnes v. District of Columbia, Civil No. 06-315 (D.D.C.). Mem. Order 6, 10--11, Mar. 27, 2008, ECF No. 18. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint, pleading four counts: (I) overdetention in violation of the Fifth Amendment; (II) an unreasonable body-cavity search in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (III) common-law negligence in overdetaining plaintiff, housing plaintiff with a convicted murderer, and conducting an unreasonable body-cavity search; and (IV) common-law negligent supervision, training, and hiring in overdetaining plaintiff, housing plaintiff with a convicted murderer, and conducting an unreasonable body-cavity search. The District now moves for summary judgment as to Counts II, III, and IV of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.*fn1 The District does not move for summary judgment as to Count I, because this overdetention claim has been stayed.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Court will grant a motion for summary judgment where a party shows "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). There is a genuine issue as to a material fact if "reasonable minds could differ" as to that fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986), cited in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that there is an "absence of a genuine issue of material fact" in dispute. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The Court will believe the evidence of the non-moving party and will draw all reasonable inferences from the record in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. It is not enough, however, for the non-moving party to show that there is merely "some alleged factual dispute": the fact must be "material." Id. at 247 (emphasis in original). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. at 248. Thus, summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant fails to offer "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Id. at 252. "In determining a motion for summary judgment, the court may assume that facts identified by the moving party in its statement of material facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the statement of genuine issues filed in opposition to the motion." D.D.C. LCvR 7(h)(1).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Count II: § 1983 Claim of an Unreasonable Body-Cavity Search in Violation of the Fourth Amendment

In Count II, plaintiff alleges that he was "deprived of his Fourth Amendment Right under the U.S. Constitution to be free of illegal search and seizure when he was subjected to a body cavity search ordered and/or conducted by Defendants, John Does 1--5 . . . ." Am. Compl. ¶ 17. The District now moves for summary judgment on this claim, arguing that "Plaintiff has failed to identify evidence in the record sufficient to support municipal liability against the District of Columbia for his alleged constitutional claim." Def.'s Mot. 2.

1. Legal Standard for a Claim Under § 1983

42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides, in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

A § 1983 action requires two elements: first, that "the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law," and second, that the alleged conduct deprived plaintiff of "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution." Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981). The Supreme Court set out the standard for municipal liability under § 1983 in Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978): "Local governing bodies . . . can be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, or injunction relief where, as here, the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers," which can include "constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental 'custom' even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the body's official decisionmaking channels." See also Morgan v. Dist. of Columbia, 824 F.2d 1049, 1058 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (finding that the District of Columbia may be held liable under § 1983 "only when the execution of its official policy or custom is responsible for the deprivation of constitutional rights"). Thus, to prevail in a § 1983 claim against the District, plaintiff "must show a course deliberately pursued by the city, ...


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