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Matthews v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 19, 2013

Bernard MATTHEWS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

Page 116

Brian Keith McDaniel, McDaniel & Associates, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Robert A. Deberardinis, Jr., Erica Taylor McKinley, Attorney General's Office for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Bernard Matthews, William Christopher Malloy, Kevin T. Anderson, and Derrick Craig brought this action against the District of Columbia and several individual police officers. Plaintiffs allege that officers of the Metropolitan Police Department subjected them to strip and body cavity searches in public areas in violation of their constitutional rights. The District of Columbia and two individual officers have filed motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant both motions.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from disturbing allegations. Each plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to a strip and body cavity search by a Metropolitan Police Department Officer, conducted in a public location and in the presence of other individuals including those of the opposite sex, and— for all but one plaintiff— absent probable cause. The alleged searches occurred in 2006 and 2007.[1] Specifically, plaintiff Matthews alleges that an officer " pulled Matthews['] pants down, grabbed his testicles and lifted them," repeated the search " in plain view" of a female officer, " then went around Matthews and spread Matthews' buttocks and looked between Matthews' buttocks while still in the presence of Female Officer." Compl. ¶¶ 12-14 [Docket Entry 1] (Nov. 20, 2009). Plaintiff Malloy alleges that an officer cut the string of his sweatpants, " removed Malloy's underwear, spread his buttocks, and began to probe around between Malloy's buttocks near his anus," and " conducted a search around Malloy's testicles, penis and foreskin." Id. ¶¶ 21-24. Plaintiff Anderson alleges that three officers " lowered Anderson's pants and underclothes, and while two officers held his buttocks open, Officer Croson ran his hand between Anderson's buttocks where he alleges he found contraband." Id. ¶ 32. Plaintiff Craig alleges that " one of the officers grabbed Craig's pants from behind and ran his hand inside Craig's underclothes through his buttocks toward his anus," and " continued to search Craig grabbing him in his crotch area." Id. ¶¶ 49, 51. A fifth plaintiff has been dismissed from the case. See May 22, 2012, Order.

Page 117

Based on these searches, plaintiffs sued the District of Columbia and individual officers, both named and unnamed. After dismissing a number of counts, the Court allowed claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a deprivation of plaintiffs' First and Fourth Amendment rights to proceed against the District of Columbia and against the individual officers. See Memorandum Opinion, 730 F.Supp.2d 33 (D.D.C.2010). Discovery proceeded on these surviving claims. Now, after the close of discovery, the District of Columbia and two individual officers have filed the motions for summary judgment at issue here.[2]

Despite discovery having been completed, the evidence the parties have provided to the Court is scant. First, plaintiffs have produced nine affidavits (apparently developed for a prior civil suit), three by plaintiffs in this case and six by other individuals who attest to having witnessed or been the victim of strip and cavity searches between 1995 and 2008. Several affiants state that they witnessed or were subject to a number of searches. For instance, one affiant attests to seeing " at least forty (40) strip searches" between 1998 and 2005. Ex. 2 to Def. D.C.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Docket Entry 42-3] at 8 (Apr. 24, 2012). Together, the affidavits indicate that approximately 107 such searches occurred over the thirteen years discussed. None of the affidavits indicate that the incidents were reported to anyone. Second, the record contains a log of complaints made to the Metropolitan Police Department and to the Office of Police Complaints. The log reflects that the Department received 46 strip and cavity search complaints between 1998 and 2010, and the Office of Police Complaints received 24 such complaints between 2001 and 2012. It is not clear to what extent these complaints are duplicates. Plaintiffs also cite a civil suit by an individual named Gary Lover that ended in settlement with no admission of fault by the District. Finally, the record contains a copy of the District's 2001 General Order 502.01 delineating the procedures for searching individuals in police custody. That Order provides:

Under no circumstances shall members of this Department perform a " body cavity" search. When probable cause exists that a prisoner has weapons, contraband or evidence secreted in a body cavity, the Assistant District Commander can authorize this search. The search will be conducted at the D.C. General Hospital in a secure and private area, where only a physician can conduct the examination. A sworn member of the same sex as the [person in custody] shall be present to seize any evidence obtained.

Ex. 1 to Pls.' Opp. to Def. D.C.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Docket Entry 46-2] at 4 (July 13, 2012) (" General Order 502.01" ).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the evidence demonstrate that " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The

Page 118

party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party may successfully support its motion by identifying those portions of " the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

In determining whether there exists a genuine dispute of material fact sufficient to preclude summary judgment, the Court must regard the non-movant's statements as true and accept all evidence and make all inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A non-moving party, however, must establish more than the " mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Moreover, " [i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (citations omitted). Summary judgment, then, is appropriate if the nonmovant fails to offer " evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Id. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

ANALYSIS

I. Defendants Brown and Sowers' Motion for Summary ...


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