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Evangelou v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 5, 2012

Evan EVANGELOU, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

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Eric Hans Kirchman, Kirchman & Kirchman, Rockville, MD, for Plaintiff.

Denise J. Baker, Office of the Attorney General for District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, District Judge.

Evan Evangelou brought this suit against the District of Columbia and its chief of police, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when he was fired by the Metropolitan Police Department. The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Their motion will be mostly denied.

I. BACKGROUND

In his complaint, Evan Evangelou alleges that he was hired by the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" or " police department" ) to be a police officer in September 2008. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. For the first eighteen months, his employment was probationary. Id. During that probationary period, another officer accused Mr. Evangelou of extortion. Id. ¶ 6. [1] Mr. Evangelou had his police power suspended, his badge and

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pistol confiscated, and he was assigned to mind a desk at the Police Boys and Girls Club. Id. ¶ 7.

After the accusation, Mr. Evangelou was contacted by a detective from the internal affairs division of the police department. Id. ¶ 8. The detective said that he was conducting a criminal investigation into the allegations against Mr. Evangelou, and that anything Mr. Evangelou said could be used against him in a criminal proceeding. Id. Relying on his constitutional right against self-incrimination, Mr. Evangelou refused to answer the detective's questions. Id. His lawyer then contacted the detective to confirm that Mr. Evangelou was invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and would not agree to be interviewed. Id. ¶ 9. Mr. Evangelou heard nothing more about the criminal investigation. Id.

In March 2010, two weeks before the end of Mr. Evangelou's probationary period, he received a letter from Cathy Lanier, the chief of police at the MPD. Id. ¶ 11. The letter from Chief Lanier terminated Mr. Evangelou's employment without explanation, effective several days later. Id. Mr. Evangelou alleges that Chief Lanier decided to fire him because he asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination, refusing to answer questions about the allegations of extortion unless he was assured that any information he provided would not be used to prosecute him. Id. ¶ 13.

After giving notice to the Mayor of the District of Columbia, id. ¶ 14, Mr. Evangelou filed this suit against the District and Chief Lanier, in both her official and her individual capacities. He claims that the defendants are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, id. ¶¶ 15-22, as well as his right to due process of law before being permanently defamed or stigmatized as unsuitable for employment, id. ¶¶ 23-29. Mr. Evangelou also alleges that the defendants violated D.C.Code § 5-105.04 by failing to give him advance written notification of the reasons for his termination. Id. ¶¶ 30-36. The defendants have moved to dismiss the entire complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

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). Such motions allege that a plaintiff has not properly stated a claim; they do not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of success on the merits. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (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, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (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, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (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 ...


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