United States District Court, District of Columbia
November 1, 2012
Kwasi SEITU, Plaintiff,
Lucinda BABER et al., Defendants.
Kwasi Seitu, Washington, DC, pro se.
Joseph Alphonso Gonzalez, Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Defendants.
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, District Judge.
Plaintiff, a District of Columbia resident proceeding pro se, sues the District of Columbia, the Director of the District's Department of Motor Vehicles (" DMV" ), the current and former Director of the District's Department of Public Works (" DPW" ), " all Past and Present Members of the D.C. City Council," and four former D.C. mayors. Civil Rights Action for Damages With Jury Demand (" Compl." ) [Dkt. # 1] at 1, 2. Plaintiff seeks equitable relief and monetary damages for alleged constitutional and statutory violations stemming from defendants' " persistent failure and refusal to address, arrest, and correct the ... ‘ mis-management’ of information regarding the payment or dismissal of parking tickets ... resulting in the repeat billing on those tickets, the wrongful seizure and disposition of property, and the wrongful infringement on driving privileges[.]" Id. at 1. Plaintiff alleges that such behavior has been occurring since 1981 and that he has been personally affected since 1997. See id. at 3-4.
Defendant District of Columbia moves to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or for summary judgment under Rule 56. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 14]. Defendant asserts, among other defenses, that plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff counters that his claims are timely " due to the fact that the conduct of Defendants is ongoing and forms a criminal enterprise under 18 U.S.C. [sic]." Pl.'s Response to the Mot. to Dismiss or Summ. J. in the Alternative (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ) [Dkt. # 16] ¶ 1.
Since plaintiff filed this action well beyond the District's three-year statute of limitations and, as a pro se party, cannot assert claims on behalf of any other individuals, the Court finds that this action is time-barred and, thus, will grant defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Accordingly, the Court will not address defendant's other enumerated grounds for dismissal. See Def's. Mot. ¶¶ 2-8.
In addition, the Court will deny plaintiff's Request for Judicial Notice of Certain Facts Raising Questions as to the Validity of the Court [Dkt # 21], since the asserted facts are " subject to reasonable dispute" and, thus, cannot be judicially noticed, Fed.R.Evid. 201(b), and will deny plaintiff's Motion to Correct Void Judgments and Judicial Misconduct [Dkt. # 24] for want of jurisdiction.
The pertinent facts are as follows. Plaintiff's vehicle was seized on January 30, 1997, for unpaid tickets. Compl. at 3-4. When plaintiff went to the DPW to retrieve his vehicle, he " realized that the tickets, with the exception of one issued the morning that the vehicle was [allegedly] stolen, were either paid [or] dismissed, and one was still pending mail adjudication." Id. at 4 ¶ 6. " [O]n March 30, 1997, [plaintiff] was sent a notice ..., informing him that DPW had seized his vehicle on January 30, and would sell his vehicle fourteen days from that date and in fact, did auction off his vehicle on February 14, 1997." Id. ¶ 8.
In June 1997, plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against DPW and the District " for unlawful conversion, and [against] his insurer AllState for breach of contract." Id. ¶ 9; see also Def.'s Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Dispute (" Def.'s Facts" ) [Dkt. # 14] ¶ 1. Following trial, a jury awarded plaintiff a judgment in the amount of $7,500, plus interest. Def.'s Facts ¶ 2 & Ex. 2 (Case Docket, Seitu v. District of Columbia, 1997 CA 003396 (Super.Ct. Mar. 29, 2001)). On August 10, 2001, the District issued a check to plaintiff for $7,655.21, which plaintiff appears to have endorsed and cashed. Id. ¶ 3 & Ex. 4 (Decl. of Victoria Syphax filed in Superior Court case). " [S]hortly" thereafter, the DMV " revoked the Plaintiff's driver's license and placed a national block on his obtaining a license in any other state, something that the Plaintiff would not learn of for nearly two years when he went to renew his license." Compl. at 6 ¶ 23.
Plaintiff " eventually" learned that the DMV had relied on a DUI ticket issued in South Carolina to revoke his driver's license. Id. at 7 ¶ 25. In 2010, plaintiff " went to a DMV office in [an] attempt to get a copy of the information relied on to revoke his license and was told that there was no DUI, but that his license would not be reinstated until he paid a list of nine tickets, all from 1997 and 1998, all presented in court in 2001...." Id. ¶ 28.
As indicated by the Clerk's " Filed" stamp on the face of the complaint, this action was initiated on October 26, 2011, when the Clerk received plaintiff's complaint and application to proceed in forma pauperis. The case was assigned to a district judge on November 9, 2011, after the granting of plaintiff's in forma pauperis application [Dkt. # 2].
1. The Legal Standard
A court considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) presumes the factual allegations of the complaint to be true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff's favor. See Atherton v. District of Columbia Off. of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C.Cir.2009) (citations omitted). A court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 697, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), nor must the court presume the veracity of legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).
2. The Plaintiff's Federal Claims
Plaintiff purports to bring this action under the " First, Fourth, Sixth, Eleventh, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights made applicable as ‘ The Law of the Land’ by
Article IV, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution[,] as well as provisions of 42 US.C. § 1981-1985." Compl. at 2. Plaintiff's overarching federal claims are that the District, through various officials, (1) " unlawfully convert[ed] [his] property when [they] seized, took, and disposed of his vehicle as a result of ‘ information mismanagement’ in violation of his First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights ....," id. at 10 ¶ 1; (2) " engaged in fraud against [him] and the general public, by attempting [to] extort money on tickets that were paid or dismissed in 1997 and 1998, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment ....," id. ¶ 2; and (3) " wrongfully and surreptitiously revoked [his] driving privilege and put a block on him across the nation without legitimate cause and in retaliation for his efforts to have the problem addressed and resolved through litigation in violation of his rights under the First, Sixth, Eleventh, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth amendments ....," id. at 11 ¶ 6.
In addition, plaintiff faults the District's Attorney General for failing " to take any action against DPW or DMV" for the alleged unconstitutional billing and collection practices, and for failing to conduct " an audit of DPW or DMV since 1999 or 2000 with regard to the problem of ‘ information mis-management ...,’ " in violation of the First, Fourth, Sixth, Eleventh and Fourteenth amendments. Id. at 11-12 ¶¶ 8-9. Finally, plaintiff faults the District's City Council for similar failures, id. at 12 ¶¶ 10-11, and he claims that former D.C. Mayors Adrian Fenty, Anthony Williams, Marion Barry, and Sharon Pratt Kelly " all promoted the scheme of billing on paid and dismissed tickets, along with all of the other negative impacts on the Plaintiff and the general public as a means of ‘ raising revenues' in violation of the First, Fourth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth amendments...." Id. ¶ 12.
3. The Applicable Statute of Limitations
Plaintiff's federal claims are cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which authorizes a cause of action against individuals who are alleged to have violated one's rights " secured by the Constitution and [federal] laws" while acting under the authority of " any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State ... or the District of Columbia...." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A municipality, such as the District, may be held liable under § 1983 for the acts of its employees if a plaintiff can show that: (1) he was deprived of a constitutional right; and (2) such deprivation was the result of a government policy or custom. Warren v. District of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36, 38 (D.C.Cir.2004); see Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 691-94, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). " Because sections 1983 and 1985 do not have any built-in statute of limitations, courts in this jurisdiction apply the three-year statute of limitations imposed by D.C. law." Philogene v. District of Columbia, 864 F.Supp.2d 127, 132 (D.D.C.2012) (citing Carney v. Am. Univ., 151 F.3d 1090, 1096 (D.C.Cir.1998); D.C.Code § 12-301(8)) (other citation omitted).
Since the deprivation of plaintiff's vehicle occurred in 1997, and plaintiff states that he knew by 2003 that the District had revoked his driver's license and " placed a national block on his obtaining a license in any other state," Compl. ¶ 23, the commencement of this action in October 2011, comes five years too late. Even if, as plaintiff asserts, the alleged mismanagement of DMV records " is ongoing," Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 1, plaintiff lacks standing to press the claims of " the general public" and, as a lay person, cannot represent third-party individuals in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654 (" In all courts of the United States
the parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel...." ); U.S. ex rel. Rockefeller v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 274 F.Supp.2d 10, 15-16 (D.D.C.2003) (citing cases). Hence, the Court will dismiss this action as time-barred.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) and denies plaintiff's pending motions for the Court to take judicial notice of certain facts and to correct alleged void judgments and judicial misconduct. An order consistent with this memorandum opinion is separately and contemporaneously issued this 1st day of November 2012.