UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
August 9, 2012
CONSUELO JORDAN, PLAINTIFF,
U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge
This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted.
On May 14, 2012, plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the caption of which identifies the defendants as follows:
U.S. Attorney's Office
ATTN: Deputy Chief Director, Shannon Fulton RE: PHILLIP McHUGH 555 4th Street, N.W., Rm. 1205 Washington, DC 20530
Notice of Removal of a Civil Action, Ex. A (Complaint, Jordan v. U.S. Attorney's Office, No. 0004130-12 (D.C. Super. Ct. filed May 14, 2012) (emphasis in original)). In its entirety the complaint states:
Asking this Court to give me a "Restraining Order" due to this above individual participating with an assault, domestic, physical violence, and loss of earnings, due to injuries. Under violation code -- Title 18, 14, 8 Id., Ex. A (Complaint). Mention of the "above individual" presumably is a reference to Phillip McHugh, a Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") officer. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 6.*fn1 Plaintiff demands damages of $25,000 and injunctive relief. Notice of Removal, Ex. A (Complaint).
Plaintiff also filed motions for injunctive relief, both of which alleged:
I am requesting a restraining order due to an assault, physical violence, domestic, and loss of earnings. I am asking for the individual to stay away from home, property assets, employment. He also remove vehicle.
Id., Ex. A (Motion -- (Pro -- Se) for TRO); see id., Ex. A (Motion -- (Pro -- Se) for PI). In support of her motion for a temporary restraining order, plaintiff accused McHugh of "an assault; forged reports and physical violence" in violation of her civil rights." Id., Ex. A (Motion -- (Pro -- Se) for TRO).
A. Dismissal Standard Under Rule 12(b)(6)
The United States Attorney's Office moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the ground that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. See Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). "[T]he complaint is construed liberally in the plaintiff['s] favor, and [the Court] grant[s the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Comm'cns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). A complaint survives a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) only if it "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). "A complaint alleging facts which are merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal quotation marks omitted). A pro se complaint "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers," Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), but it, too, "must plead 'factual matter' that permits the court to infer 'more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'" Atherton v. Dist. of Columbia Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681-82 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950).
Plaintiff's complaint is woefully deficient, as it fails to state a claim against either of its intended defendants.
B. Claims Against the U.S. Attorney's Office
The complaint can be read as naming McHugh as the sole defendant on whom service of process may be effected by serving Shannon Fulton, Deputy Chief Director of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Under this interpretation of the pleading, neither the U.S. Attorney's Office nor any federal entity or official is a party to the action. But in any event, neither the United States nor the U.S. Attorney's Office can be held liable for any alleged tort committed by an officer of the District of Columbia. See Cannon v. United States, 645 F.2d 1128, 1137 n.35 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (noting that the Circuit "has uniformly held that the [Federal Tort Claims Act] does not, as a general rule, render the United States liable for the torts of employees or agencies of the District of Columbia because the District of Columbia is an independent political entity"). As drafted, the complaint fails to state a claim against the United States or against any other federal entity or official.
C. Claims Against Phillip McHugh
It appears that defendant McHugh is an MPD officer and an employee of the District of Columbia who allegedly assaulted plaintiff causing her physical injury and financial losses. Although plaintiff clearly articulates her demand for injunctive relief, missing from the complaint are any factual allegations to support her assault claim. This complaint fails to describe the time, place and circumstances of the alleged assault; it does not state the nature and extent of plaintiff's alleged injuries; the statutes under which she brings this action are not cited; and there is no apparent basis for the monetary damages sought. It is the type of pleading that Twombly and Iqbal are intended to address.*fn2
Case 1:12-cv-00838-JDB Document 11 Filed 08/09/12 Page 5 of 6
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that a complaint contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); accord Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93. Plaintiff's complaint utterly fails to meet this minimal standard. See, e.g., Duqmaq v. Pima Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, No. 11-0082, 2012 WL 1605888, at *3-4 (D. Ariz. May 8, 2012) (dismissing civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where plaintiff's claim was "entirely too conclusory," as it neither "identif[ied] any specific constitutional deprivation" nor "any specific policy or practice . . . as the 'moving force' behind the alleged civil rights violation"); Tani v. St. Mary's Cnty., Md., No. 08-1950, 2011 WL 3827058, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 25, 2011) (finding that, "with the exception of the caption, the . . . Defendants appear virtually nowhere in [the] Complaint," such that "the allegations in [the] Complaint, even if accepted as true, do not begin to approach the 'sheer possibility,' much less the requisite 'plausibility,' that the . . . Defendants somehow acted unlawfully"), recons. denied, 2012 WL 2861000 (D. Md. July 10, 2012); Watson v. V.A. Hosp., No. 3:09-1140, 2010 WL 3907336, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 27, 2010) (recommending dismissal of complaint where plaintiff "simply sued Defendant for 'violation' of a federal statute and 'violations' of a number of state statutes" while "providing no facts whatsoever to support these legal allegations and conclusions"), adopted, 2010 WL 3878916 (M.D. Tenn. Sept. 29, 2010).
On consideration of defendant's motion to dismiss and plaintiff's opposition, the Court concludes that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Accordingly, defendant's motion will be granted, and the case will be dismissed. An Order is issued separately.