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Brookens v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 7, 2013

BENOIT BROOKENS, et al., Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For BENOIT BROOKENS, MARY TODD, Plaintiffs: Claude W. Roxborough, II, KIMMEL & ROXBOROUGH, LLP, Washington, DC; Melodie Venee Shuler, KIMMEL & ROXBOROUGH, LLC, Washington, DC.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DAVID NEUMANN, U.S. Marshal Service, CYNTHIA R. WRIGHT, Esquire, JEFFERY RAGSDALE, OFFICE OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Ronald Machen, U.S. Attorney for DC, Defendants: Wynne Patrick Kelly, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Civil Division, Washington, DC.


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RICHARD W. ROBERTS, Chief United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs Benoit Brookens and Mary Todd filed this action asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the common law against the District of Columbia, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and numerous other defendants in connection with Brookens's arrest and prosecution for criminal contempt for violating an order that prohibited Brookens from practicing law or holding himself out as a lawyer in the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia and the named federal defendants move to dismiss the complaint. Because the plaintiffs have failed to address the federal movants' arguments and the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted against the District of Columbia, the defendants' motions will be granted and the complaint will be dismissed against all federal defendants and the District of Columbia. Because the plaintiffs have demonstrated no good cause to extend time to serve defendant Judge Butler, he will be dismissed as a defendant.


In 1984, Brookens was a resident of the District of Columbia. He was a member of the bars of the States of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but he was not a member of the District of Columbia Bar. That year, Brookens filed a tenant petition with the Office of the D.C. Rent Administrator on behalf of himself and other tenants in the apartment building in which he lived. Compl. ¶ 25. The Rent Administrator awarded Brookens $10,000 in damages, awarded the class over one million dollars in rent overcharges and ordered that the tenants were entitled to rent reductions. Id. ¶ ¶ 26-27. In 1986, Brookens was found to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in other matters while he was not an admitted member of the D.C. bar. See Brookens v. Comm. on Unauthorized Practice of Law, 538 A.2d 1120 (D.C. 1988). Brookens was prohibited from

(1) representing any person other than himself, or any corporation, association, partnership, organization, or other entity, in any court in the District of Columbia unless he is a member of the bar of the court in which such representation takes place;
(2) using such terms as " lawyer," " attorney," " counsel," " counselor" or " counsellor," " Esq.," or " Esquire" to refer to himself in such manner as to convey the impression that he is entitled or authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia, or in any way holding himself out as authorized or qualified to practice law in the District of Columbia;
(3) engaging in any manner in the practice of law in the District of Columbia, as that term is defined in Rule 49(b)(3) of the General Rules of this court; and
(4) engaging in any other conduct prohibited by Rule 49(b)(2) of the General Rules[.]

Brookens, 538 A.2d at 1122 n.6. In 2010 Brookens was arrested and charged with 19 counts of criminal contempt for violating these prohibitions and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The government

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went forward on four of the counts. Compl. ¶ 35; Fed. Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (" Fed. Defs.' Mem." ), Ex. 1 at 1. The matter was assigned to Superior Court Judge Lopez,[1] who conducted a bench trial. Defendants Assistant United States Attorney Cynthia Wright, the chair of the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (the " Committee" ), and Theodore Metzler, a Committee member, prosecuted the case. In May 2012, Judge Lopez issued an opinion finding Brookens guilty of four counts of misdemeanor criminal contempt of court for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Fed. Defs.' Mem. at 4; see also United States v. Brookens, No. 2011-CCC-10 (D.C. S.Ct. filed May 20, 2012).

The plaintiffs filed this 12-count action in May 2012, based on the events surrounding Brookens' prosecution. The complaint alleges that the District of Columbia, District of Columbia Bar, Wright, Metzler and his law firm Covington & Burling LLP, and Administrative Law Judges Tyrone Butler and Jennifer Long acted under the color of state law to violate the plaintiffs' right to equal protection by preventing Brookens from representing low-income residents in administrative proceedings (First Cause of Action), Compl. ¶ ¶ 36-90; that the District, Wright, Covington & Burling, Metzler, Judge Butler and Judge Long acted under the color of state law to violate Todd's rights under the First Amendment by detaining her for associating with Brookens, and that they committed common law torts by maliciously prosecuting Brookens and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on him (Second, Third and Eighth Causes of Action), id. ¶ ¶ 91-155, 245-264; that all defendants acted under the color of state law to violate Brookens' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures (Fourth Cause of Action), id. ¶ ¶ 156-228; that Brookens was falsely arrested and denied a speedy jury trial (Fifth Cause of Action), id. ¶ ¶ 229-235; that the unidentified Marshals, unidentified MPD officers and Neumann assaulted and battered Brookens and Todd (Sixth and Seventh Causes of Action), id. ¶ ¶ 236-244; that Wright defamed Brookens (Ninth Cause of Action), id. ¶ ¶ 265-277; and finally that the District, the United States, the United States Attorney, and Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey Ragsdale negligently failed to train and properly supervise the prosecutors who participated in the criminal action (Eleventh and Twelfth Causes of Action), id. ¶ ¶ 286-325.[2] The ...

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