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L. Olivia Brown et al v. Erica Fogle et al

October 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy Berman Jackson United States District Judge


Plaintiff L. Olivia Brown, proceeding pro se, sues on behalf of herself and her four minor children under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and District of Columbia tort law. She alleges that defendants conducted an unconstitutional search of her home in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In addition, plaintiff sues defendants for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). Plaintiff names as defendants Director Roque Gerald of the District of Columbia's Department of Child and Family Services Agency ("CFSA") and two CFSA social workers, as well as Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") and five MPD officers. See Compl. Caption.

Defendants move to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds of failure to state a claim and qualified immunity. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the court will grant defendants' motion to dismiss the claims against Director Gerald and Chief Lanier in their individual and official capacities and will deny without prejudice defendants' motion to dismiss on the ground of qualified immunity.*fn1


Plaintiff's Version of Events

Plaintiff alleges that on March 29, 2010, two CFSA social workers, defendants Lateefa Salaam and Erica Fogle, and three MPD officers, defendants Tyrone Wallace, Stephen Haynes, and Michael Pulliam, came to her residence in the southeast quadrant of the District of Columbia "in response to an anonymous complaint concerning the children['s] supervision." Compl. ¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that "[o]n this occassion [sic][,] six [MPD] [o]fficers demanded entry into [her] residence . . . ." Id. ¶ 11. She further alleges that "on a previous occasion," she had "notified" Salaam that a search warrant was "necessary to come into the Plaintiff's residence." Id. ¶ 12. Thus, when defendants failed to produce a search warrant on March 29, 2010, plaintiff and her children "exit[ed] their home through the rear door and preceeded [sic] to walk from their home, when they were stopped by [MPD officers], identified by the social workers[,] and coerced against their will while under duress to go back into the residence." Id.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants, without her consent, then "combed through the residence, questioning about living quarters, toilet paper, clean clothes, and food in the refrigerator." Id. ¶ 13. Defendants allegedly "confirmed that although [they] did not have a warrant, their agency policy compelled them to obtain entry and perform an inspection, regardless of the true merits of the complaint." Id. ¶ 14. Defendants allegedly "recommended certain precautions or improvements," but found "no conditions which posed any imminent hazard to [plaintiff's] children." Id. ¶ 15.

Defendants' Version of Events

Defendants begin the factual recitation a year earlier. They state that on May 24, 2009, after having admitted that she had left her minor children unsupervised, plaintiff agreed to accept "in-home services" from CFSA. Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss the Compl. ("Defs.' Mem.") [Dkt. # 9], Ex. B. According to defendants, Salaam was assigned in July 2009 to investigate allegations that plaintiff was leaving her four minor children unsupervised. Defs. Mem. at 4. To complete the investigation, Salaam allegedly attempted "for several months" to meet with plaintiff's children and to conduct a home visit. Id. Allegedly, Salaam was unable to complete the investigation because "on every visit either no one answered [plaintiff's] door or [plaintiff] pretended to be someone else." Id. Salaam "eventually tracked [plaintiff] down at the children's school" and plaintiff agreed to a home visit. On the scheduled date for the visit, however, plaintiff allegedly requested to reschedule the visit. Id.

In March 2010, CFSA "received another anonymous phone call concerning the negligent supervision of the children and also possible substance abuse at plaintiffs' residence." Id. Fogle was assigned to investigate that claim. Id. When Fogle and Salaam arrived at plaintiff's house on March 29, 2010, "[n]o one answered as they knocked." Id. at 5. Eventually, they were joined by MPD patrol officers Haynes and Wallace, who "went around the house and saw [plaintiff] and her four children hurrying down the alley." Id. Allegedly, the officers asked plaintiff to stop, Fogle and Salaam explained their purpose and requested to enter the house, plaintiff relented, "opened the front door for the social workers and officers to enter[,]" and "took the CFSA workers on a tour of the house . . . ." Id. The social workers interviewed plaintiff and the children. The MPD officers "stayed in the front of the house." Id.

Plaintiff filed this civil action on December 21, 2010. In addition to the § 1983 cause of action, she claims assault, Compl. ¶ 24, and IIED, id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief and monetary damages exceeding $13 million. See id. at 7.


1. Legal Standard

With regard to the federal claim, defendants argue that the complaint should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) because: (1) plaintiff has not alleged "a prima facie 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 action against the District of Columbia," CFSA Director Gerald or MPD Chief Lanier, and (2) the District employees sued in ...

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