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Allen Lawrence v. Scott Gutherie et al

August 11, 2011

ALLEN LAWRENCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SCOTT GUTHERIE ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Re Document No.: 39, 44 :

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT; DENYING AS MOOT THE DEFENDANTS'MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is currently before the court on the pro se plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint and the defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law. Because the plaintiff's proposed amendment addresses an issue that is central to his claim, the court grants the plaintiff's motion. Consequently, the defendants' motion is denied as moot.

II. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary located in Canaan, Pennsylvania. Am. Compl. at 1. The plaintiff commenced this action in 2008, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated during an unconstitutional search of his residence. Id. The defendants are the District of Columbia and Scott Gutherie, a Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") detective. Id. The plaintiff's allegations may be summarized as follows: in June 2000, Superior Court Judge Rhonda Reid issued a warrant to search the plaintiff's residence. Id. at 2. Defendant Gutherie executed the search warrant. Id. During the search, defendant Gutherie seized the plaintiff's property, which included $5,369.00 in U.S. currency, 5 pairs of Nike tennis shoes and various personal papers. Id. The plaintiff contends that the search violated his Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights, and he therefore seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id.

The plaintiff's original complaint named defendant Gutherie and the Metropolitan Police Department. See generally Compl. In 2009, the plaintiff amended his complaint to include a claim against the District of Columbia. See generally Am. Compl.

In January 2011, the defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) or, alternatively, for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. See generally Defs.' Mot. for J. as a Matter of Law. The defendants argue, inter alia, that defendant Gutherie cannot be held liable because he did not execute the search warrant. Id. at 10. Rather, the defendants contend that Gutherie merely signed the search warrant, whereas a different officer searched the plaintiff's house. Id.

The court initially advised the plaintiff to respond to this motion on or before February 11, 2011. See Order (Jan. 14, 2011) at 3. Because it was unclear as to whether the plaintiff was properly served with the defendants' motion, however, the court later extended that deadline to March 4, 2011. Id. at 2. To date, the plaintiff has not responded. Instead, some seven weeks after the extended deadline had passed, the plaintiff filed the current motion to amend his complaint. See generally Pl.'s Mot. to Amend. The plaintiff now requests leave of this court to add as defendants those unknown MPD detectives who executed the search warrant. Id. at 2.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Amend a Complaint

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within twenty-one days after serving it, or, if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, within twenty-one days after service of a responsive pleading or within twenty-one days after the defendant files a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier. FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(1).

Once the time to amend a pleading as a matter of course elapses, a plaintiff may amend the complaint only by leave of the court or by written consent of the adverse party. FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The grant or denial of leave lies in the sound discretion of the district court. Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996). The court must, however, heed Rule 15's mandate that leave is to be "freely given when justice so requires." Id.; see also Caribbean Broad. Sys., Ltd. v. Cable & Wireless P.L.C., 148 F.3d 1080, 1083 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Indeed, "[i]f the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits." Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. Denial of leave to amend therefore constitutes an abuse of discretion unless the ...


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