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Frost v. Catholic University of America

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 15, 2013

JAMES A. FROST Plaintiff,


ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff, James A. Frost seeks damages for alleged wrongs committed by Catholic University, John H. Garvey, Veryl V. Miles, Donald Wuerl, Allen H. Vigneron, Barry C. Knestout, Thomasine N. Johnson and Vernon H. Ennels, Sr. The defendants now move to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; the plaintiff opposes the motion. Defendant Vigneron also moves for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction; Frost opposes the motion. Upon consideration of the filings and the relevant law, defendants' motions to dismiss are GRANTED.


Frost's allegations stem from two different incidents at the Catholic University Columbus School of Law on July 20, 2011 and September 7, 2011 respectively. Frost often used the law school for legal research. Am. Compl. ¶ 126. On July 20, 2011, Frost entered the law school where security officers employed by Catholic University detained him for ten minutes while they photocopied his Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) ID. Am. Compl. ¶ 133. Frost alleges those actions were tortious and violated his constitutional rights. Am. Compl. ¶ 129.

On September 7, 2011, the plaintiff entered the law school and an unidentified individual stopped and showed him a "Campus Information Alert." Am. Compl. ¶ 154. The alert also had a copy of Frost's MSBA ID. Am. Compl. ¶ 156. The individual told Frost that the paper said that he was "banned" from the law library. Am. Compl. ¶ 159. Several unidentified individuals and defendant Ennels restrained Frost and prohibited him from leaving the law school. Am. Compl. ¶ 162. Defendant Ennels allegedly shoved Frost against the wall and said, "We're arresting you." Am. Compl. ¶ 166. Unidentified individuals detained Frost for approximately 33 minutes while they waited for the Metropolitan Police Department. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 169, 177. The police officers arrived but did not arrest Frost. Am. Compl. ¶ 182.

Frost brings several claims against the defendants. The defendants include: Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington and chancellor of The Catholic University of America; Allen Vigneron, the archbishop of Detroit and chairman of the board of trustees of The Catholic University; Berry Knestout auxiliary bishop of Washington and chief of staff for the archdiocese of Washington; John Garvey, President of The Catholic University; Veryl Miles, Dean of The Catholic University Law School; Thomasine Johnson, chief of the University's police force; and Vernon Ennels, a District of Columbia security officer employed by Catholic University. The plaintiff's complaint is unclear as to whether all of the claims are for both the July 20th incident and the September 7th incident. Frost also does not clearly articulate against whom he brings each claim. As the Court understands Frost's complaint, he brings a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against all the defendants for a violation of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights in relation to the September 7th incident. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 191-93. Frost also asserts in relation to the July 20th and September 7th incidents claims against all the defendants under District of Columbia tort law, including false arrest and imprisonment claims, battery and civil conspiracy. Finally, Frost brings defamation claims against defendants Garvey, Miles and Catholic University.


A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss is appropriate when the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Such a failure occurs when the complaint is so factually deficient that the plaintiff's claim for relief is not plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "Asking for plausible grounds to infer [a right to relief] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the right to relief]." Id. at 556. Though facts in a complaint need not be detailed, Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court must accept all factual statements as true when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. However, conclusory legal allegations devoid of any factual support do not enjoy the same presumption of truth. Id. at 679. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

B. Pro se Standard

"A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erikson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted). Nevertheless, a pro se complaint "must present a claim on which the Court can grant relief." Utterback v. Geithner, 754 F.Supp.2d 52, 54 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting Chandler v. Roche, 215 F.Supp.2d 166, 168 (D.D.C. 2002)).

C. Personal Jurisdiction Standard

On a motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the court's personal jurisdiction over a defendant. FC Inv. Grp. LC v. IFX Mkts., Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1092 (D.C.Cir. 2008). To meet this burden, a plaintiff must allege "specific facts on which personal jurisdiction can be based; it cannot rely on conclusory allegations." Moore v. Motz, 437 F.Supp.2d 88, 90-91 (D.D.C. 2006). And unlike a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court need not confine itself to only the allegations in the complaint, but "may consider materials outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction." Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Nor must a court treat as true all of plaintiff's allegations when determining whether personal jurisdiction exists. Fuentes- Fernandez & Co. v. Caballero & Castellanos, PL, 770 F.Supp.2d 277, 279 (D.D.C. 2011). At the same time, any factual discrepancies with regard to the evidence itself must be resolved ...

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