Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jefferies v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 7, 2013

Nardyne JEFFERIES, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

Page 11

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 12

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 13

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 14

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 15

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 16

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 17

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 18

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 19

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 20

John F. Mercer, Mercer Law Associates, PLLC, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

John F. Mercer, Mercer Law Associates, PLLC, Steven J. Anderson, Office of Attorney General for DC, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, Chief Judge.

Before the Court is defendants District of Columbia and Cathy Lanier's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, Mar. 27, 2012, ECF No. 22. Upon consideration of the motion, the plaintiff's Opposition, May 7, 2012, ECF No. 24, the defendant's Reply thereto, May 22, 2012, ECF No. 26, and the record herein, the Court will grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of the tragic March 30, 2010 death of sixteen-year-old Brishell Jones. Compl. ¶ 19, June 23, 2011, ECF No. 1-1. After Jones attended a funeral service for Jordan Howe, a young homicide victim, she was killed in a retaliatory drive by shooting. Id. ¶ 40. The United States Attorney charged five men in connection with the shooting. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. These men have since been convicted of serious charges. See Keith L. Alexander, Theresa Vargas & Paul Duggan, D.C. jury convicts 5 of murder in attacks, WASH. POST,, May 8, 2012, at A14. Jeffrey Best, Robert Bost, and Orlando Carter were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. See Paul Duggan & Heather Hermann, Long sentences for 5 in 2010 killings, WASH. POST,, Sept. 12, 2012, at B5. Lamar Williams was sentenced to a term of 30 years for providing the AK-47 style assault rifle used in the killings. Id. Nathaniel Simms cooperated

Page 21

with prosecutors, pled guilty to murder, and was sentenced to 25 years. See Keith L. Alexander, Nathaniel Simms sentenced to 25 years for 2010 shootings, WASH. POST, Oct. 20, 2012, at B4. Sanquan Carter, whose killing of Jordan Howe precipitated the drive by that took Jones' life, was sentenced to 54 years for Howe's murder. Duggan & Hermann, Long Sentences, supra at B5.

Plaintiff Nardyne Jefferies— the mother of decedent Brishell Jones and the personal representative of her estate, Compl. ¶¶ 20-21— seeks to hold a wide array of government agencies and officials responsible for her daughter's death. The Complaint [1] claims that Jones' death was the result of " the [Assistant U.S. Attorneys]' and D.C. Government officials', agencies', and employees' customs, practices, and culture of action and inaction based on irresponsible judgment and decision-making; negligence; gross negligence; willful disregard; racial discrimination; and deliberate indifference to the safety, welfare, and the life of Brishell Jones, and African American teenagers, in particular, and African American Youths in the District of Columbia and their families, in general." Id. ¶ 24. This Court has dismissed plaintiff's claims against the D.C. Department of Human Services, D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, D.C. Department of Mental Health, D.C. Metropolitan Police, Justice Grants Administration, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, D.C. Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, D.C. Office of the Attorney General, D.C. Housing Authority, Mayor Vincent Gray, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C., Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for D.C., D.C. Pretrial Services Agency, and the United States of America. Orders Granting Mots. Dismiss, Mar. 27, 2012, ECF Nos. 18, 20, 21.

Plaintiff's Complaint describes the events preceding the death of Brishell Jones. On March 21, 2010, Sanquan Carter lost a bracelet at a party. Compl. ¶ 34. Just past midnight on March 22, Sanquan Carter called his brother Orlando, claiming someone stole his bracelet. Orlando Carter arrived at the location of the party, along with Nathaniel Simms and Jeffrey

Page 22

Best. The group opened fire at the partygoers, killing Jordan Howe. Id.

On March 22, 2010, the Metropolitan Police Department for the District of Columbia (" MPDC" ) began investigating this shooting. Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff alleges that eyewitnesses positively identified Sanquan Carter and Orlando Carter. Id. On March 23, police arrested Sanquan Carter for Jordan Howe's murder. Later that day, police responded to the United Medical Center to find Orlando Carter suffering from gunshot wounds. Id. ¶ 37. Orlando Carter allegedly reported to police that someone loyal to Howe might have shot him. Orlando Carter was medevacked to Washington Hospital Center, where he was admitted in stable condition. Orlando Carter left the hospital " without police interference or objection," and allegedly called Jeffrey Best and told him to hide the weapons used in Howe's shooting. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that " on March 23, 2010, officers of the [MPDC] and U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, Jr., had an opportunity to execute a search warrant of Orlando Carter's ‘ crash pad’ apartment ..., where it was believed the weapons used in the Howe shooting were located." Id. ¶ 38. The plaintiff faults the MPDC and Machen for not seeking judicial authorization for a nighttime search and not staking out the apartment overnight. Id. Because of these actions, plaintiff alleges, by the time officers executed the warrant they " found nothing usable to obtain an arrest warrant for Orlando Carter." Id. On March 26, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier had an emergency meeting with Machen. Id. ¶ 39. At this meeting, Chief Lanier asked Machen for an arrest warrant for Orlando Carter; Machen refused, citing a lack of evidence. Id.

On March 30, 2010, Brishell Jones attended funeral services for Jordan Howe. Id. ¶ 40. After the funeral, Jones and a group of at least fifteen youths congregated outside a building at 4022 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. That day, Orlando Carter rented a minivan, and— accompanied by Jeffrey Best, Robert Bost, and Nathaniel Simms— went looking for the people he felt responsible for his March 23rd shooting and Sanquan Carter's missing bracelet. [2] Seeking another gun to carry out the planned drive by, Jeffrey Best and Robert Bost killed Tavon Nelson in an attempt to steal Nelson's handgun. Orlando Carter then drove the minivan to 4022 South Capitol Street; Best, Bost and Simms opened fire on the crowd. The men fired weapons— including an AK-47 style assault rifle— used in the murder of Howe.[3] Id.

Nine people were wounded; DeVaughn Boyd, William Jones, III, and Brishell Jones died. Id. ¶¶ 41, 43, 45. Jones, sixteen-years-old, died of a gunshot wound to the head. Id. ¶ 44. Three ambulances were dispatched to the scene; plaintiff claims that the " ambulance closest to the scene ... was the last to arrive," because " [i]nstead of dispatching to the scene when it first received the emergency call, the ambulance operators chose to run personal errands." Id. ¶ 42. MPDC officers arrested Orlando Carter and Nathaniel Simms after a vehicular pursuit; police later arrested Jeffery Best, Robert Bost and Lamar Williams. Id. ¶¶ 22-23, 46, 49.

Page 23

Plaintiff's Complaint lists fourteen counts: (1) § 1983 claim for violations of substantive and procedural due process, id. ¶¶ 50-56; (2) wrongful death, survival, and loss of consortium, id. ¶¶ 57-68; (3) gross negligence and negligence, id. ¶¶ 69-82; (4) state-created and reckless endangerment/deliberate indifference, id. ¶¶ 83-88; (5) egregious incompetence, id. ¶¶ 89-97; (6) equal protection violations, id. ¶¶ 98-102; (7) race discrimination, id. ¶¶ 103-105; (8) executive abuse of authority/power, id. ¶¶ 106-107; (9) failure to supervise and notify in violation of Mandatory Juvenile Public Safety Notification Act, id. ¶¶ 108-15; (10) violation of D.C.Code § 16-2332(d-1)(1), id. ¶¶ 116-18; (11) failure to enforce D.C. gun and ammunition laws, id. ¶¶ 119-24; (12) failure to enforce state and federal housing authority regulations, id. ¶¶ 125-26; (13) fraud, waste and misuse of federal funds, id. ¶¶ 127-28; and (14) intentional infliction of emotional distress, id. ¶¶ 129-30. Plaintiff seeks two hundred and twenty million dollars ($220,000,000.00) in compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 44-45.

After carefully considering the plaintiff's Complaint, documents incorporated therein, and the parties' briefs, the Court will grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion to dismiss. Defendants asked the Court to dismiss all claims against Chief of Police Cathy Lanier and the District of Columbia with prejudice. See Proposed Order for Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, Mar. 27, 2012, ECF No. 22. However, the general rule is that when a Court dismisses a count for failing to state a claim under Federal Rule 12(b)(6), it does so without prejudice to refile and with leave to amend the complaint. When amendment would be futile— such as when plaintiff bases claims on non-existent causes of action— dismissal with prejudice may be appropriate. Following these principles, the Court will take the following actions: It will dismiss all claims against Cathy Lanier in her individual capacity without prejudice, and dismiss all claims against Cathy Lanier in her official capacity with prejudice. It will dismiss plaintiff's request for punitive damages from the District of Columbia without prejudice. It will dismiss plaintiff's claims against the District of Columbia under Counts Five, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen with prejudice. It will dismiss plaintiff's claims against the District of Columbia under Counts One, Four, and Six without prejudice. It will dismiss plaintiff's Title VII claim under Count Seven with prejudice, and dismiss plaintiff's D.C. Human Rights Act claim under Count Seven without prejudice. It will dismiss plaintiff's claims against the District of Columbia under Counts Two, Three, and Fourteen without prejudice— except to the extent those claims relate to the conduct of the ambulance operators closest to the scene who allegedly ran personal errands. See Compl. ¶ 42. The Court will deny the District of Columbia's request to dismiss plaintiff's claims under Counts Two, Three, and Fourteen insofar as those claims relate to the alleged misconduct of the ambulance operators.

The Court will grant the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint within thirty days. The Court will hold any discovery in abeyance until the plaintiff has had an opportunity to amend its complaint, and defendants have had an opportunity to file a second motion to dismiss, if warranted. This allows discovery to proceed on all surviving matters in a uniform manner, in the interests of judicial economy. This would also allow the Court— if no federal claims or diverse parties remain— to transfer the case back to Superior Court.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain " ‘ a

Page 24

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.’ " Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations. In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C.1994).

While the court must construe the complaint in the plaintiff's favor, it " need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff[ ] if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C.Cir.1994). Moreover, the court is not bound to accept the legal conclusions of the non-moving party. See Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 762 (D.C.Cir.1997). The court is limited to considering facts alleged in the complaint, any documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint, matters of which the court may take judicial notice, and matters of public record. See EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C.Cir.1997); Marshall County Health Care Auth. v. Shalala, 988 F.2d 1221, 1226 n. 6 (D.C.Cir.1993). Factual allegations in briefs or memoranda of law may not be considered when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, particularly when the facts they contain contradict those alleged in the complaint. Henthorn v. Dep't of Navy, 29 F.3d 682, 688 (D.C.Cir.1994); cf. Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309, 116 S.Ct. 834, 133 L.Ed.2d 773 (1996) (when a motion to dismiss is based on the complaint, the facts alleged in the complaint control).

When a court dismisses a claim, typically it does so without prejudice to refile or amend the complaint. O'Donnell v. Barry, 148 F.3d 1126, 1137 n. 3 (D.C.Cir.1998) (" ‘ [A] dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) generally is not final or on the merits and the court normally will give plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.’ " ) (quoting WRIGHT, MILLER & KANE, 5A FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 1357 at 360-61 (1990)). A " complaint that omits certain essential facts and thus fails to state a claim warrants dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) but not dismissal with prejudice." Belizan v. Hershon, 434 F.3d 579, 583 (D.C.Cir.2006). This gives the complainant another opportunity to allege facts that would properly sustain a cause of action, and is in line " with the preference expressed in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ... for resolving disputes on their merits." Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A, __ U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 2485, 2494, 177 L.Ed.2d 48 (2010).

However, a court should also consider Rule 1's directive that the Federal Rules " should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding." Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. " Dismissal with prejudice is warranted only when a trial court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency." Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1209 (D.C.Cir.1996) (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis omitted). A district court does not abuse its discretion when it dismisses with prejudice claims for which amendment would be futile. See, e.g., Simpkins v. District of Columbia, 108 F.3d 366, 370 (D.C.Cir.1997) (" [T]o permit [plaintiff] to file another suit containing the same worthless claims

Page 25

would be inconsistent with the duty of lower federal courts to stop insubstantial Bivens actions in their tracks and get rid of them.... Such lawsuits impose undue burdens on the officer being sued, and thus interfere with the operations of government." ); Baker v. Director, U.S. Parole Com'n, 916 F.2d 725, 727 (D.C.Cir.1990) (upholding sua sponte dismissal with prejudice when " patently obvious that [plaintiff] could not have prevailed on the facts alleged in his complaint" and " apparent that the claimant could not possibly prevail" ); Carty v. Author Solutions, Inc., 789 F.Supp.2d 131, 135-36 (D.D.C.2011) (dismissal with prejudice appropriate when permitting amendment would be futile because " amended complaint would suffer from the same flaw as the original complaint" ).

III. ANALYSIS OF CLAIMS AGAINST CHIEF OF POLICE CATHY LANIER

Plaintiff sued many government officials in both their individual and official capacities, Compl. 1-4, among them Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Since the facts do not support suing Chief Lanier in her individual capacity, and suing her in her official capacity would be redundant, the Court will dismiss all claims against Chief Lanier. It will dismiss claims against Chief Lanier in her individual capacity without prejudice, and dismiss claims against her in her official capacity with prejudice.

A. Claims Against Chief Lanier in her Individual Capacity

1. Chief Lanier Not Personally Involved in the Misconduct

The plaintiff may bring a claim against Chief Lanier in her individual capacity if the plaintiff alleges Chief Lanier " was directly responsible for the constitutional deprivation or that [s]he gave ‘ authorization or approval of such misconduct.’ " Ekwem v. Fenty, 666 F.Supp.2d 71, 76 (D.D.C.2009) (quoting Int'l Action Center v. United States, 365 F.3d 20, 27 (D.C.Cir.2004)). " Where a complaint against an official in h[er] individual capacity does not ‘ establish the [official]'s personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing,’ judgment as a matter of law is appropriate." Id. (quoting Swinson v. Metro Police Dep't, No. 08-0809, 2009 WL 1327225, at *2 (D.D.C. May 12, 2009)).

No facts in the Complaint specify Chief Lanier's personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing. Even by the most generous reading, plaintiff's " effort to hold [Chief Lanier] personally liable fades into respondeat superior or vicarious liability, clearly barred under Section 1983." Int'l Action Ctr., 365 F.3d at 27. The plaintiff makes bare assertions that the MPDC and Chief Lanier " exercise[ed] a policy and custom based on discrimination against black youths wherein their safety or lives were not as valuable or protected as others," Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. Dismiss 12, and that they " would have responded differently, faster, and more effectively had the targeted community, victims, and witness been Caucasian and residing in other regions of the District," id. at 14. The plaintiff seeks to hold Chief Lanier personally liable for failing to act more diligently in " obtaining and executing search and arrest warrants, making multiple and expeditious arrests, [and] tracking and obtaining custody of all assault weapons used against the young people at the initial shooting on March 22, 2010." Id.

This does not show Chief Lanier's personal involvement " outside the mention of her official capacity as the Chief of Police who generally oversees all police activity."

Page 26

Defs.' Reply ISO its Mot. Dismiss 6.[4] In fact, the only part of the Complaint discussing Chief Lanier's personal involvement regards an emergency meeting Chief Lanier had with the U.S. Attorney about obtaining an arrest warrant for Orlando Carter. Compl. ¶ 39. If anything, this shows that Chief Lanier sought to protect the community. The plaintiff broadly claims that the MPDC and Chief Lanier's inaction contributed to Jones' death, but has " failed to link the likelihood of particular constitutional violations to any past transgressions, and failed to link [this] particular supervisor[ ] to those past practices or any familiarity with them. In the absence of such ‘ affirmative links,’ [Chief Lanier] cannot be shown to have the requisite ‘ direct responsibility’ or to have given ‘ [her] authorization or approval of such misconduct[.]’ " Int'l Action Ctr., 365 F.3d at 27 (quoting Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370, 96 S.Ct. 598, 46 L.Ed.2d 561 (1976)).

2. Chief Lanier has Absolute Immunity from Individual Liability for Plaintiff's Common Law Causes of Action

Based on the facts alleged, absolute immunity would bar the plaintiff's common law claims. Under District of Columbia v. Thompson ( Thompson I ), 570 A.2d 277 (D.C.1990) " a federal official engaged in a discretionary act within the ‘ outer perimeter of [the official's] line of duty’ is absolutely immune from suit," id. at 294 (quoting Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 564, 575, 79 S.Ct. 1335, 3 L.Ed.2d 1434 (1959)). Courts in the District extend this absolute immunity to officials working in the United States and District of Columbia governments. See, e.g., Moss v. Stockard, 580 A.2d 1011, 1020 (D.C.1990) (extending absolute immunity to Athletic Director of University of the District of Columbia); Kendrick v. Fox Television, 659 A.2d 814, 819 (D.C.1995) (absolute immunity bars common law suit against MPDC Deputy Chief of Police). Actions that " have more or less connection with the general matters committed by law to his control or supervision" fall within the " outer perimeters" of the official's duties. Moss, 580 A.2d at 1020. " The reason why absolute immunity is available for discretionary official acts is clear: to ensure that when public officials exercise discretion in carrying out their duties, concern about tort liability will not inhibit the ‘ fearless, vigorous and effective administration of policies of government.’ " Kendrick, 659 A.2d at 819 (quoting Thompson I, 570 A.2d at 295).

The plaintiff does not allege facts showing Chief Lanier acted beyond the outer perimeters of her official duties. The decisions she made investigating the earlier shooting, obtaining search and arrest warrants, and directing police resources clearly fall within her official duties. The plaintiff admits as much when she claims Chief Lanier's involvement in the investigation and policies are " inherent in her position as Chief." Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. Dismiss 18. The " complaint alleges that the

Page 27

Chief was acting within the scope of her employment and as an agent for the District of Columbia," id., and does not allege that Chief Lanier acted outside the scope of her employment to harm plaintiff.

In determining whether an action is " discretionary" or " ministerial," a court balances " society's concern to shield the particular government function at issue from the disruptive effects of civil litigation" against " the vindication of private injuries otherwise compensable at law." Moss, 580 A.2d at 1021. In striking this balance, the court should consider:

(1) the nature of the plaintiff's injury, (2) the availability of alternative remedies, (3) the ability of the court to judge fault without unduly invading the executive function, and (4) the importance of protecting particular kinds of official acts.

Id. While plaintiff's injury is serious, alternative remedies are available. The plaintiff may file a wrongful death suit against the persons directly responsible for Jones' death— her murderers.[5] The third and fourth factors counsel strongly in favor of finding Chief Lanier's actions discretionary. Courts are appropriately uneasy about second-guessing the judgment of police officials. See, e.g., Kendrick, 659 A.2d at 820 (expressing worry about " second-guessing details of judgments police officials have to make in conducting sensitive and difficult investigations.... Court scrutiny ... where public safety issues are implicated, is likely to be overly intrusive, amounting to an invasion of the executive function that Thompson I indicates should be avoided." ); Morgan v. District of Columbia, 468 A.2d 1306, 1311 (D.C.1983) (" [T]he public interest is not served ‘ by allowing a jury of lay [persons] with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight to second-guess the exercise of a police [officer]'s discretionary professional duty.’ " ) (quoting Shore v. Town of Stonington, 187 Conn. 147, 444 A.2d 1379');"> 444 A.2d 1379, 1384 (1982)). The actions Lanier took as Chief of Police " require[d] personal deliberation, decision and judgment" and are thus " [d]iscretionary acts[.]" Nealon v. District of Columbia, 669 A.2d 685, 690 (D.C.1995). Considering the nature of Chief Lanier's actions— as alleged in the Complaint— the Court would be unable to " judge fault without unduly invading the executive function[.]" Moss, 580 A.2d at 1021. Therefore, her actions were discretionary and fell within the outer perimeters of her official duty. Chief Lanier would be absolutely immune from individual liability for plaintiff's common law claims.

3. Chief Lanier has Qualified Immunity from Individual Liability for Plaintiff's Statutory and Constitutional Causes of Action

Chief Lanier would also enjoy qualified immunity from individual liability for plaintiff's constitutional and statutory claims. " [G]overnment officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known."

Page 28

Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). Qualified immunity mitigates the " social costs [of] the expenses of litigation, the diversion of official energy from pressing public issues, and the deterrence of able citizens from acceptance of public office." Id. at 814, 102 S.Ct. 2727. It is appropriate to raise issues of qualified immunity in a motion to dismiss. " Where the defendant seeks qualified immunity, a ruling on that issue should be made early in the proceedings so that the costs and expenses of trial are avoided where the defense is dispositive.... [W]e repeatedly have stressed the importance of resolving immunity questions are the earliest possible stage in the litigation." Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200-01, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001).

Qualified immunity protects Chief Lanier from personal liability for conduct she would not have reasonably known violated the Constitution or a statute. Saucier, 533 U.S at 202, 121 S.Ct. 2151. To be liable, Chief Lanier would have had to violate a " clearly established" constitutional or statutory right. Id. (" ‘ The contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.’ " ) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987)). Qualified immunity protects " all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 615, 119 S.Ct. 1692, 143 L.Ed.2d 818 (1999). Chief Lanier is immune " as long as [her] actions could reasonably have been thought consistent with the rights [she is] alleged to have violated." Anderson, 483 U.S. at 638, 107 S.Ct. 3034.

The facts alleged by plaintiff do not show how Chief Lanier acted in violation of a clearly established constitutional or statutory right. First, as discussed supra, the plaintiff alleges little about Chief Lanier's personal involvement— apart from her supervisory role, and her meeting with Machen— in the investigation or alleged rights violations. Second, the plaintiff relies on conclusory statements that Chief Lanier " had a clear obligation ... to provide Brishell Jones and other intended victims with equal protection of the laws, to not discriminate against African American youths, and to provide them with the same protection and value for their lives as those similarly situation but of a different race." Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. Dismiss 20-21. But other than further circular assertions that Chief Lanier would have treated the case differently if the victims were White, see id. at 14, the plaintiff does not allege facts showing Chief Lanier violated a clearly established constitutional or statutory right.[6] " [B]are allegations of malice should not suffice to subject government officials either to the costs of trial or to the burdens of broad-reaching discovery[.]" Harlow, 457 U.S. at 817-18, 102 S.Ct. 2727. Chief Lanier is entitled to

Page 29

qualified immunity from all of plaintiff's constitutional and statutory causes of action.

The plaintiff has failed to allege facts that Chief Lanier personally participated in the alleged wrongdoing, apart from actions she took within the scope of her employment. Based on her actions, as alleged in the Complaint, Chief Lanier enjoys absolute immunity from all plaintiff's common law claims, and qualified immunity from all plaintiff's constitutional and statutory claims. Thus, the Court will dismiss without prejudice all claims against Chief Lanier in her individual capacity.

B. Claims Against Chief Lanier in her Official Capacity

The Court will also dismiss all claims made against Chief Lanier in her official capacity. A suit against a District of Columbia official in her official capacity is " equivalent to a suit against the municipality itself." Atchinson v. District of Columbia, 73 F.3d 418, 424 (D.C.Cir.1996). The Supreme Court has explained that " [o]fficial-capacity suits ... [g]enerally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). Courts in the District of Columbia frequently dismiss claims against individuals named in their official capacity as " redundant and an inefficient use of judicial resources." Robinson v. District of Columbia, 403 F.Supp.2d 39, 49 (D.D.C.2005); see also Jenkins v. Jackson, 538 F.Supp.2d 31, 33-34 (D.D.C.2008).

The District of Columbia is a named defendant who has received proper notice. Therefore, the claims against Chief Lanier in her official capacity are redundant, inefficient and should be dismissed. Plaintiff concedes redundancy, but states that " there is no requirement that, because of the equivalence, the public official defendant must be dismissed." Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. Dismiss 17. This provides no reason to keep the redundant claims, and amendment would be futile. The Court will dismiss all claims made against Chief of Police Cathy Lanier in official capacity with prejudice.

IV. ANALYSIS OF CLAIMS AGAINST THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

By dismissing Chief of Police Cathy Lanier as a defendant to this action, the Court will treat all claims made against Chief Lanier in her official capacity as claims against the District itself. The Court has previously dismissed claims against various D.C. government agencies, including the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, Metropolitan Police Department, and D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. See Orders Granting Mots. Dismiss, ECF Nos. 18, 20, 21. A " noncorporate department or other body within a municipal corporation is not sui juris." Braxton v. Nat'l Capital Hous. Auth., 396 A.2d 215, 216-17 (D.C.1978). " Decisions from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals have consistently held that, in the absence of a statutory provision providing otherwise, bodies within the District of Columbia government are not suable as separate entities." Hinton v. Metropolitan Police Dept., Fifth District, 726 F.Supp. 875, 875 (D.D.C.1989). Therefore, the Court will treat plaintiff's claims and allegations against District agencies as though they were directed at the District itself.

A. Plaintiff's Request for Punitive Damages from the District of Columbia

The plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages totaling two hundred and twenty million dollars ($220,000,000.00).

Page 30

Compl. 44-45. The Complaint does not disaggregate punitive damages from compensatory damages, but presents one total figure for each group of claims. Id. The defendants argue, " Punitive damages may not be awarded against the District of Columbia ... absent an express statutory mandate." Defs.' Mem. ISO its Mot. Dismiss 6. Federal and local courts in this jurisdiction have held that the District generally cannot be liable for punitive damages. See, e.g., City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, 453 U.S. 247, 260 n. 21, 101 S.Ct. 2748, 69 L.Ed.2d 616 (1981) (" The general rule today is that no punitive damages are allowed [against a municipality] unless expressly authorized by statute." ); Teart v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 686 F.Supp. 12, 13 (D.D.C.1988) (" In the absence of express statutory authority, punitive damages are not recoverable against the District of Columbia." ); Finkelstein v. District of Columbia, 593 A.2d 591, 599 (D.C.1991) (" [P]unitive damages may not be awarded against the District of Columbia[.]" ); ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.