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Brenda Grissom, Plaintiff v. District of Columbia

April 6, 2012

BRENDA GRISSOM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Boasberg United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On September 8, 2010, Plaintiff Brenda Grissom triggered the alarm on a metal detector she was passing through while entering the Reeves Center in the District of Columbia. Officer Rockwell Phillips, an employee of AlliedBarton Security Services who appeared to be following the instructions of District of Columbia Protective Services Police Officer Sharpe (Plaintiff has provided no first name), then proceeded to run a hand-held metal detector all over her body. While a crowd of people waiting to pass through security and other security officers looked on, Officer Phillips allegedly used the wand to repeatedly rub Grissom's genitals and instructed her to pull up her blouse. After doing so, she was permitted to enter the building.

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contends that both officers, AlliedBarton, and the District violated her First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights, committed various common-law torts, and violated a D.C. law prohibiting public-accommodation discrimination. The claims against Officer Phillips have been dismissed without prejudice for failure to effect service. The District and Officer Sharpe have now filed a Motion to Dismiss, which Allied Barton has joined, contending that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently plead her federal claims. Although it finds that Plaintiff has not made out federal claims against the District and AlliedBarton, the Court concludes that her Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims against Officer Sharpe in his personal capacity survive Defendants' Motion. It will therefore grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

I.Background

According to her Amended Complaint, the veracity of which must be presumed for the time being, Grissom entered the Reeves Center on September 8, 2010. Am. Compl., ¶ 10. She was wearing "a pair of shorts with a buckled belt, a sleeveless blouse and open-toed sandals." Id., ¶ 11. Intending to visit the federal credit union on the second floor, Grissom triggered the alarm on the metal detector while passing through the building entry's security station. See id., ¶¶ 11-12. Working security at that time were Officer Sharpe, "a supervisor and member of the District of Columbia Protective Police Department," id., ¶ 7, and Officer Phillips, an employee of AlliedBarton Security Services -- a corporation that provides security services at the Reeves Center under a contract with the District of Columbia. See id., ¶¶ 4, 6. "[O]ther unknown security and/or protective service officers" were also "standing at the security checkpoint and in the lobby." Id., ¶ 14.

Officer Phillips, who was standing next to Officer Sharpe and appeared to be receiving instructions from him, id., ¶ 13, instructed Grissom to hold out her arms and spread her legs. See id., ¶ 15. Officer Phillips then began to run a "wand" -- presumably a hand-held metal detector -- "across the front of her body, . . . across both of her arms[,] . . . down the front of her body, down the front of her legs inside and up touching her vaginal area, rubbing her genitals." Id., ¶ 16. After instructing her to turn around, he "continued with the same process across her arms and down her back and up her legs, again touching her vaginal area, rubbing her genitals and buttocks." Id., ¶ 17. By this point, a "crowd" of individuals waiting to proceed through security had gathered and was watching. See id., ¶ 18. Grissom told the officers that she felt degraded and wanted Officer Phillips to stop, but the officers did not respond. See id., ¶¶ 18-19. "Officer Sharp [sic] then instructed Officer Phillips to have Plaintiff pull up her blouse. In fear and apprehension, Plaintiff pulled up her blouse." Id., ¶ 20. There is no allegation as to whether such action exposed any of her flesh or undergarments. She was then permitted to enter and walked away. Id., ¶ 21.

Grissom filed a Complaint -- which has since been once amended -- initiating the instant suit on September 6, 2011. Her Amended Complaint names as Defendants Officers Sharpe and Phillips in their individual and official capacities, AlliedBarton, and the District of Columbia. Grissom seeks to recover for violations of her First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights via 42 U.S.C. § 1983, see id., ¶¶ 22-37, as well as for various common-law torts and public-accommodation discrimination under the D.C. Human Rights Act. See id., ¶¶ 38-68. Because Plaintiff was unable to locate and serve Defendant Phillips, the case against him has been dismissed without prejudice. See Minute Order, March 19, 2012. The District of Columbia and Officer Sharpe have now filed a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), which AlliedBarton has joined. See Line of Defendant AlliedBarton Joining in Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 14. These Defendants contend that Plaintiff has failed to adequately state her federal claims and, as a result, that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.

II.Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In evaluating Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court must "treat the complaint's factual allegations as true . . . and must grant plaintiff 'the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)) (internal citation omitted); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The notice-pleading rules are "not meant to impose a great burden on a plaintiff," Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and she must thus be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 584 (2007).

Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, id. at 555, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Plaintiff must put forth "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."

Id. The Court need not accept as true "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation," nor an inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the Complaint. Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Though a plaintiff may survive a 12(b)(6) motion even if "recovery is very remote and unlikely," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)), the facts alleged in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

III.Analysis

The instant Motion -- originally filed by the District and Sharpe and later joined by AlliedBarton -- seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's federal claims. If the Court dismisses those claims, Defendants further argue, it must dismiss the remainder of the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court will first address Defendants' argument that Plaintiff has failed to adequately plead her federal causes of action. After concluding that the only federal claims that survive the instant Motion are Grissom's Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims against Sharpe in his personal capacity, the Court will then address what is to be done with the state-law claims that remain. Because the state-law ...


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