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Mahinder Singh v. District of Columbia et al

August 7, 2012

MAHINDER SINGH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rudolph Contreras United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 12

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE DEFENDANTS'MOTION TO DISMISS, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for partial summary judgment. The plaintiff is an individual who brings claims against the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") and three of its police officers. According to the plaintiff, one of the defendant police officers enlisted the other defendant officers to engage in a harassment and intimidation campaign against him. The plaintiff alleges claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), contending that the defendants violated his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, and also alleges common-law claims against some of the defendants. The defendants move to dismiss some of the plaintiff's claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting that he has failed to state any valid claim for relief. In the alternative, the defendants move for summary judgment as to the plaintiff's common-law claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants in part and denies in part the defendants' motion.

II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

The plaintiff is an individual who, in January of 2009, was introduced by a mutual friend to one of the defendant officers, Raj K. Dohare. Am. Compl. ¶ 7. The plaintiff and Officer Dohare are from the same region of India and they soon became close friends. Id. The plaintiff's apartment was close to the police headquarters to which Officer Dohare was assigned, and Officer Dohare would frequently stop by the plaintiff's home to socialize, sometimes bringing other officers. Id. ¶ 8. In March of 2009, Officer Dohare and one of his colleagues were "casually conversing" with the plaintiff at his home, when the plaintiff used mild profanity during the discussion. Id. ¶ 9. Officer Dohare "became extremely incensed" that the plaintiff had used profanity in his presence, and stated that although he had been the plaintiff's friend, he would now "become his worst enemy." Id. ¶¶ 10--11.

According to the plaintiff, Officer Dohare abused his police authority and began harassing, baselessly citing, and falsely accusing him of violations and crimes. Id. ¶ 12. Officer Dohare and two of his colleagues issued the plaintiff five "bogus" traffic tickets, all of which were dismissed. Id. ¶ 13. On April 2, the plaintiff was issued a $500 ticket for excessive idling, which he never received and that consequently doubled. Id. ¶ 14. On April 12, the plaintiff was issued but did not receive a parking ticket, which eventually doubled. Id. ¶ 16. On April 20, he received a ticket for failure to give a turn signal, despite having given the proper signal. Id. ¶ 19.

In May of 2009, the plaintiff reported the harassment to an MPD supervisor at the police station where Officer Dohare works. Id. ¶ 22. The plaintiff claims that "absolutely nothing happened," however, and that the harassment and intimidation continued. Id. In June of 2009, the plaintiff again reported the harassment, this time to the Office of Police Complaints, but no action was taken. Id. ¶ 23. Later that month, the plaintiff reported the harassment to an MPD supervisor at Officer Dohare's station, but nothing was done. Id. ¶ 24.

On July 19, the plaintiff received a ticket for making a U-turn in an area that allows such turns. Id. ¶ 27. On August 1, the plaintiff was issued a ticket for an obstructed rear tag, even though the tag was not obstructed. Id. ¶ 29. The plaintiff contends that he had to take time off of work to attend two separate DMV hearings and have the citations dismissed. Id. ¶¶ 17, 20.

On August 4, 2009, the plaintiff left his apartment with a friend, sat in the passenger seat of the friend's car, and began riding with him. Id. ¶ 32. One of the defendant officers was waiting nearby, and pulled the car over "for no ostensible reason." Id. The officer asked if the plaintiff's friend had been drinking, despite there having been no traffic violation or other reason to justify a stop. Id. Officer Dohare then arrived on the scene and told the plaintiff to walk back home. Id. ¶ 33. After the plaintiff indicated that he was going to call a friend to take him home, Officer Dohare put on rubber gloves and arrested the plaintiff. Id. The plaintiff was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, making threats, and assault on a police officer, which is a felony. Id. ¶ 34. At trial, the defendant officer who had pulled the car over testified that the basis for the stop was that a small bell hung from its interior rearview mirror. Id. ¶ 36. The plaintiff was acquitted of all charges, and the judge was moved to point out in open court that Officer Dohare was not credible. Id. ¶ 38.

The plaintiff expended $15,000 in legal fees behind the trial, and the harassment caused him worry, anxiety, and extreme emotional disturbance. Id. ¶¶ 35, 39. In particular, he suffered serious mental and emotional distress because the potential felony conviction exposed him to the possibility of deportation. Id. ¶ 66. The plaintiff now brings suit in this court against the defendant officers and the District of Columbia ("District"), alleging violations of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, the plaintiff alleges a common-law claim of malicious prosecution against Officer Dohare and the District, as well as claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") and abuse of process against the three defendant officers. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees. In response, the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment as to the common-law claims. The court now turns to the parties' arguments and the applicable legal standards.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The motion does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of success on the merits, but rather, whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The complaint is only required to set forth a short and plain statement of the claim, in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, 348 F.3d 1033, 1040(D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

A court considering this type of motion presumes the factual allegations of the complaint to be true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff's favor. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F. Supp. 2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint, Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511--14 (2002), or to plead law or match facts to every element of a legal theory, Krieger v. Fadely, 211 F.3d 134, 136 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

The court need not accept as true inferences unsupported by facts set out in the complaint or legal conclusions cast as factual allegations. Warren v. District of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2004); Browning, 292 F.3d at 242. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory ...


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