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Nelson v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 12, 2013

MARCUS NELSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

For MARCUS NELSON, KORYN RUBIN, Plaintiffs: Gregory L. Lattimer, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF GREGORY L. LATTIMER, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Robert A. DeBerardinis, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Public Interest Division, Washington, DC; Juliane T. DeMarco, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Civil Litigation Division, Washington, DC.

For PANKOWSKI, MPD Officer, FOSTER, MPD Officer, Defendants: Robert A. DeBerardinis, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Public Interest Division, Washington, DC; Juliane T. DeMarco, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Civil Litigation Division, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 129

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Royce C. Lamberth.

Plaintiffs Marcus Nelson and his fiancé Koryn Rubin sued the District of Columbia and District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Officers Walter Pankowski and Nathan Foster for false arrest and imprisonment and Fourth Amendment violations. A jury found that defendant Foster violated Rubin's Fourth Amendment rights when he " unreasonably detain[ed] her" during a search of her home. Verdict Form, Jan. 10, 2012, ECF No. 45. The jury awarded Rubin $12,500 in compensatory damages. Id. However, the jury found against plaintiff Nelson with respect to his false arrest and imprisonment claim and one Fourth Amendment claim and hung with respect to Nelson's other claims. Id. A partial retrial resulted in a mistrial. See Minute Entry, Mar. 28, 2012. The parties opted not to pursue a third trial and, pursuant to a consent motion, the COURT FOR THE entered judgment in favor of Rubin on March 22, 2013. Consent Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 60; Order, ECF No. 61.

The Court now considers Foster's Motion [64] for Judgment as a Matter of Law (JMOL). Foster argues that Rubin failed to produce sufficient evidence to establish the unreasonableness of her detention during the search. Def.'s Mot. J. Matter Law 6 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot. JMOL]. Second, Foster argues that he is, in any event, entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at 8.

Because a reasonable jury could find that Foster violated Rubin's Fourth Amendment rights when he detained and handcuffed her for two hours during the search of her apartment, the Court rejects the first argument. Because the defendant failed, during the first trial, to move for JMOL on the basis of qualified immunity, the Court rejects defendant's second argument as well. The motion for JMOL is DENIED.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) provides

If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may (A) resolve the issue against the party; and (B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law . . . .

If the Court does not grant such a motion during trial, " the court is considered to have submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion." Id. 50(b). The movant may file a " renewed" Rule 50(b) motion for JMOL " [n]o later than 28 days after the entry of judgment . . . ." Id. However, a district court may only grant a Rule 50(b) motion " on the grounds advanced in the preverdict motion, because the former is conceived of as only a renewal of the latter." 9B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 2537 (3d ed.); see also id. (" [T]he movant cannot assert a ground that was not included in the earlier motion." ); Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 486 n.5, 128 S.Ct. 2605, 171 L.Ed.2d 570 (2008) (" A motion under Rule 50(b) is not allowed unless the movant sought relief on similar grounds under Rule 50(a) before the case was submitted to the jury." ).

Courts " should render judgment as a matter of law when a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 149, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 ...


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