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William Collington v. District of Columbia

December 14, 2011

WILLIAM COLLINGTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff has brought a civil suit alleging that the District of Columbia failed to return property that belongs to him and that was seized during the execution of a series of search warrants.*fn1 Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, neither specifies the nature of his federal claim nor identifies the grounds for this Court's jurisdiction over the property dispute. But he asks that the Court accord him "due process." In an effort to construe the complaint liberally, this Court reads it as bringing a claim against the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of rights protected under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically, protection against the "depriv[ation] of . . . property[] without due process of law." U.S. CONST. amend. V.

This matter is now before the Court on the District of Columbia's motion for a more definite statement [Dkt. #6], its motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment [Dkt. #10], and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [Dkt. #12].*fn2 For the reasons discussed below, the District's motions will be granted, plaintiff's motion will be denied, and this action will be dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

It appears that officers of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") executed search warrants issued by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia at plaintiff's former residence at 1430 Saratoga Avenue N.E., Apt. #5, in Washington, DC. See Compl. at 2.

1. November 2006

MPD officers obtained the first warrant on November 22, 2006, to search plaintiff's residence for "[d]rug packaging materials, scales, cutting scales, cutting . . . tools, books, records, receipts, ledger, talley [sic] sheets, notebooks, bank statements, money drafts, proof of residence and any other violation(s) of law." Compl., Ex. A (Search Warrant 06 CRWSLD 3642) (exhibit number designated by the Court). Officers executed the warrant on the same day, and seized marijuana, a scale, currency ($310.00), and "mail matter," among other personal property. See id.

Defendant has informed the Court that the United States Attorney's Office has released the money "because it is not necessary as evidence," and that the District's Office of the Attorney General "is not seeking civil forfeiture of this money." Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Def. District of Columbia's Mot. to Dismiss or for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mem.") at 4. Counsel further has stated that "plaintiff may now claim this money at the MPD property office." Id.

The Court has not been informed as to whether plaintiff has been able to avail himself of his opportunity.

2. December 2006

MPD officers obtained a second search warrant, also for evidence related to drug trafficking, on December 22, 2006. Compl., Ex. B (Search Warrant 06 CRWSLD 4029) (exhibit number designated by the Court). Upon its execution, the officers seized marijuana, a scale, and currency, among other property. Id., Ex. B. Although the search warrant return does not indicate the amount of currency seized, plaintiff has alleged that officers seized $675.00. See id. at 2. Plaintiff also referred to a "December, 2006 warrant 06 CRWLD 4027," Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for More Definite Statement at 2, and to a "December[] 28[,] 2006 warrant," id. at 3.*fn3

The MPD appears to have no record of a seizure of $675.00 from plaintiff at any time during the month of December 2006. See Def.'s Mem., Reading Aff. ¶¶ 4-9. Rather, defendant's counsel represents that MPD officers seized only $147.00 on December 27, 2006, Def.'s Mem. at 5, and that the money had been held for civil forfeiture on the belief that the currency represented "profits from illegal sales of narcotics," id., Ex. 1 (Property Record, Property Control No. 215967). Of this amount, defendant avers that the MPD returned $125 to plaintiff in cash, id., Ex. 2 (Chain of Custody form), and initiated the process for issuing plaintiff a check for the remaining $22.00, id., Ex. 3 (Revenue Refund Voucher).

3. July 2007

Lastly, plaintiff alleges a "seizure without a search warrant" on July 19, 2007, during which MPD officers seized $175.00 from him. Compl. at 2; see Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for More Definite Statement at 3. The complaint offers no additional factual allegations with respect to the July 19, 2007 seizure. Review of exhibits to the complaint, however, suggests that plaintiff was arrested on July 19, 2007 and charged with distribution of crack cocaine. See Compl., Ex. F (Narcotics & Special Investigations Division PD-256 Quick Booking Form). A search of plaintiff's person and the seizure of currency may have occurred incident to ...


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