Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Joel Thomas Hall v. Cathy Lanier et al

February 23, 2011

JOEL THOMAS HALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CATHY LANIER ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

In this civil rights action, the plaintiff sues the District of Columbia ("District"), the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"), MPD Chief Cathy Lanier and MPD Officers Jose Freeman, Venson Wytch, Donnay Davis,*fn1 Raymond Hawkins, Michael Lynch and "[o]ther [u]nnamed [MPD] [o]fficers" under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3), 1986 (2006) and for various common law torts. The plaintiff alleges that between June 2004 and March 2007, MPD officers "repeatedly subjected [him] to . . . threats of bodily injury, assaults, battery, illegal detainments, illegal searches and seizures and violations of his right to speech[.]" Second Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") [Dkt. No. 40] ¶ 11. He seeks monetary damages exceeding $2.5 million. Id. at 73.

Pending before the Court is the "Defendants' Motion to Partially Dismiss the Amended Complaint" ("Mot.") [Dkt. No. 66], as to Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 15.*fn2 In addition, the defendants move to dismiss the claims against Chief Lanier for conduct preceding January 2, 2007, and those against her in her official capacity. Mot. at 1. Upon consideration of the allegations in the amended complaint, the defendants' motion to dismiss and the plaintiff's opposition, the Court will grant the defendants' motion to dismiss the claims against Lanier and all of the aforementioned counts of the complaint, except Count 7, which survives the defendants' motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The events giving rise to this action are alleged by the plaintiff as follows. On November 15, 2006, "at approximately 8:50 p.m.," the plaintiff tapped on the door of the McKinley Market located at 321 T Street in the Northeast quadrant of the District of Columbia "to get the attention of employees inside[,]" Am. Compl. ¶ 14, as he had done "[o]n previous occasions[] when the store was closed," id. ¶ 16. The plaintiff and the employees of the neighborhood store "had a friendly relationship" as a result of his near-daily trips to the store to purchase items for himself and his family. Id. ¶ 15. On the particular day when the events that are the subject of this case occurred, however, Officers Wytch, Freeman and Davis "pulled up in front of the store . . . in a marked MPD vehicle[,] and [o]ne of the . . . [o]fficers flashed a light into [the plaintiff's] eyes from the marked . . . vehicle." Id. ¶ 17. The plaintiff "asked that the light not [be] shined into his eyes and asked the MPD Officers to stop harassing him for no reason." Id. After telling the officers that he was going to the store, one officer told him that the store was closed, but the plaintiff responded that the store did not close until 9:00 p.m. Id. ¶ 18.

In response to the plaintiff's stated "concerns of being harassed" and his accusations of "continuous violations of his . . . constitutional" and statutory civil rights by "other MPD Officers[]," one officer "responded, 'Oh, you have an attitude.' " Id. ¶ 19. The officers then "jumped out [of] their vehicles and rushed very fast towards [the plaintiff] with one of [the officers] pointing a gun at [him] [] and one ask[ing] . . . [whether the plaintiff had] anything on him they needed to know about," to which the plaintiff "responded 'No.' " Id. ¶ 20. When the plaintiff became confused over the officers' "inconsistent commands," the officers "jumped on [his] back . . . and attacked him." Id. ¶ 21. While restraining the plaintiff, the officers threw him to the ground, injured his shoulder, sat on his back, id. ¶¶ 22-24, and apparently hit him in the back of the head, "which forced his skull to hit the concrete alley pavement" twice, "knocking him unconscious for a few seconds," id. ¶ 25. Eventually, the officers "arrested" the plaintiff at the scene, id. ¶ 31, but later released him from their custody, id. ¶ 36, and the plaintiff went home, id. ¶ 37. The plaintiff "suffered injuries to his forehead, head, scalp, neck, face, shoulder, one [knee], one [ankle], and . . . elbows . . . ." Id. ¶ 39. Prior to his release from police custody, the plaintiff declined the officers' offer to go to the hospital "because at that time he did not know and was not aware of the damages done . . . ." Id. ¶ 36. The plaintiff later went to the Fifth District Police Headquarters to file a complaint against the officers. Id. ¶ 37. While there, he "felt so faint that he asked to be taken to a hospital" and was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Department at Providence Hospital in the District of Columbia, id. ¶ 38, where he was later diagnosed "with having . . . contusion[s] of the head, scalp, face and neck," id. ¶ 39.

The plaintiff alleges that "[a]s a result of the injuries [he] suffered on November 15, 2006, by the use of force by the MPD Officers," he has "reoccuring [sic] headaches, twitches consisting of involuntarily [sic] head jerks, dizziness, [] frequent blurred vision" and "early signs of depression." Id. ¶ 40. The plaintiff also claims that "[a]s a result of several MPD Officers['] intentional, reckless, and malicious disregard for [his] rights from June of 2004 to March of 2007," he has been deprived of his rights under the Constitution, District of Columbia law and common law. Id. ¶ 41.

The challenged counts of the amended complaint are captioned as follows: Count 1 "Civil Rights Claims Under Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983[,] Fifth Amendment Violations[,] Discriminated [o]n [t]he Basis of His Sex and Race in Violation of the Equal Protection Clause"; Count 2 "Civil Rights Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)"; Count 3 "Civil Rights Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[,] Violations of Right [t]o Liberty [U]nder Due Process [o]f Law in Violation of the Fifth Amendment"; Count 4 "Civil Rights Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[,] Violations of Right [t]o Property Under Due Process of Law in Violation of the Fifth Amendment"; Count 6 "Civil Rights Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[,] Violation of the Prohibition [A]against Punishment [W]ithout Due Process of the Law in Violation of the Fifth Amendment"; Count 7 "Civil Rights Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[,] First Amendment Violations"; Count 9"Civil Rights Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[,] Retaliation [f]or Exerting Lawful [a]nd Constitutional Rights in Violation of the Fifth Amendment"; and Count 15 "Defamation, Libel and Slander." Am. Compl. at 11, 24, 27-28, 29, 35, 37, 45, 63.

II. DISCUSSION

The defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Mot. at 1. The analysis for a motion under Rule 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings is essentially the same as that for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Plain v. AT & T Corp., 424 F. Supp. 2d 11, 20 n.11 (D.D.C. 2006). A court may dismiss a complaint on the ground that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if, assuming the alleged facts to be true and drawing all inferences in the plaintiff's favor, it appears that the plaintiff can prove no facts "consistent with the allegations in the complaint" to support the claim. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007). "Although detailed factual allegations are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the grounds of entitlement to relief, a plaintiff must furnish more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Hinson ex rel. N.H. v. Merritt Educ. Ctr., 521 F. Supp. 2d 22, 27 (D.D.C. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555). Thus, "[t]he complaint's factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Hinson, 521 F. Supp.2d at 27 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555).

1. The Claims Against Lanier

The plaintiff agrees that Chief Lanier should be dismissed from the case. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's [sic] Partial Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint ("Opp'n") [Dkt. No. 69] at 2 ¶ 5. As to this defendant, then, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss as conceded.

2. The Equal Protection Claims (Counts 1, 2)

In Count 1 of the amended complaint, the plaintiff claims that he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex and race in violation of the equal protection clause, Am. Compl. at 11, and in Count 2, he claims that Officers Wytch, Freeman and Davis "conspired to deny [him] equal protection of the laws . . . ," in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), id. ¶ 54. The defendants challenge the conspiracy claim pled in Count 2, see Memorandum of Points and Authority in Support of Defendants' Motion to Partially Dismiss the Amended Complaint ("Mem.") at 6-7, but not the equal protection ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.