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Glover v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 16, 2015

JAMES LEE GLOVER, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

AMY BERMAN JACKSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff James Lee Glover brings this action against defendants the District of Columbia ("the District") and two Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") officers, Christopher K. Eckert and Matthew Nickerson, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and District of Columbia common law. Am. Compl. [Dkt. #12]. Defendants have moved to dismiss and for summary judgment. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss & for Summ. J. [Dkt. #13] ("Defs.' Mot."); Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. #13-1] ("Defs.' Mem."). With respect to the counts of the amended complaint that arise under federal law, Counts I and III, the Court finds that plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as to the District, and that defendants Eckert and Nickerson are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Therefore, the Court will grant defendants' motion as to Counts I and III. Furthermore, the Court will decline to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining counts of the complaint, which arise under District of Columbia common law, and so Counts II, IV, and V will be dismissed without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that on September 25, 2012, as he was walking from his home to a friend's home, he was "barraged, " frisked, and questioned by two MPD officers after providing a neighbor with a cigarette. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8-13. Feeling "completely baffled" and "extremely humiliated" by this experience, plaintiff continued on his way to visit his friend. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Then, as plaintiff reached the second landing of his friend's building, plaintiff alleges that an MPD officer approached him from behind, grabbed his arm, and escorted him out of the building "without incident, nor any notice." Id. ¶ 16.

Plaintiff alleges that he was then searched without his consent, handcuffed, arrested, and transported to the 6th District Metropolitan Police Station, where $19.00 was taken from him. Id. ¶¶ 17-20. Plaintiff states that he became ill while he was detained because he had missed the evening doses of his prescribed medications. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. He was transported to a hospital and was released back into the MPD's custody the following morning. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. Later that day, after about eight more hours in detention, plaintiff was informed that the charges against him had been "no papered." Id. ¶¶ 23-24. He was released about two hours later, and alleges that the $19.00 was never returned to him. Id. ¶¶ 23-26.

Plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia on October 29, 2013. See Joint Notice of Removal [Dkt. #1] ¶ 1. The case was removed to this Court on December 16, 2013. Id. ¶ 3. Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss on December 23, 2013, Defs.' Partial Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. #2], which plaintiff opposed on January 6, 2014. Pl.'s Opp. to Defs.' Partial Mot. to Dismiss & Mot. for Leave to File Am. Compl. [Dkt. #5].

The Court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint on March 10, 2014, and denied defendants' partial motion to dismiss as moot. Minute Order (Mar. 10, 2014). The amended complaint alleges five counts against all defendants: false arrest, false imprisonment, illegal search and seizure, and use of unnecessary or excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); common law conversion of the $19.00 (Count II); deprivation of due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III); common law negligence (Count IV); and common law negligent supervision and training (Count V). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 27-78. For Counts I, IV, and V, plaintiff seeks $2, 000, 000 in compensatory damages, and for Counts II and III, he seeks $19.00 in compensatory damages. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 48, 54, 60, 72, 78. In addition, he seeks up to $3, 000, 000 in punitive damages, [1] as well as interest, costs, and attorney's fees. Id.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and for summary judgment on March 27, 2014. Defs.' Mot. Defendant the District of Columbia moved to dismiss Counts I and III, plaintiff's federal claims, arguing, in part, that plaintiff had failed to allege sufficient facts to support a claim for municipal liability under the applicable Monell standard.[2] Defs.' Mem. at 2, 7-10. In addition, defendants Eckert and Nickerson moved for summary judgment on Counts I and III, contending that they were entitled to qualified immunity and that they were not the officers who actually arrested plaintiff. Id. at 2, 11-15. All of the defendants further argued that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's common law claims, but that if it retained jurisdiction, the claims should be dismissed in any event. Id. at 2, 16-19.

Plaintiff failed to file an opposition to defendants' motion by the April 14, 2014, deadline mandated by Local Civil Rule 7(b), and so the Court ordered plaintiff to show cause why the motion should not be treated as conceded on or before May 16, 2014. Minute Order (May 7, 2014). Plaintiff responded on May 16, 2014, and his counsel explained that she "did not realize that Defendants had filed a subsequent Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment after this Court's acceptance of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint."Pl.'s Resp. to Court's May 7, 2014 Order to Show Cause [Dkt. #14] ¶ 8. The Court gave plaintiff a second chance to oppose defendants' motion, setting a deadline of June 6, 2014. Minute Order (May 19, 2014).

On June 6, 2014, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendants' motion. Pl.'s Opp. to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. #15]. This filing, however, appeared to include an incomplete draft of plaintiff's "memorandum of points and authorities" in support of his opposition. See Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Pl.'s 1st Opp. [Dkt. #15] ("Pl.'s 1st Mem."). Specifically, the "Statement of the Case" section contained only one unfinished sentence - "Pursuant to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, " - and the "Argument" and "Conclusion" sections contained no text whatsoever. See Pl.'s 1st Mem. at 6-7. Noting these deficiencies, the Court issued a minute order stating that "[i]f there was another document that the plaintiff meant to file instead, counsel must correct the docket by June 12, 2014, " Minute Order (June 11, 2014), providing plaintiff with a third chance to oppose defendants' motion. But on June 12, 2014, plaintiff's counsel resubmitted the same, incomplete pleading. See Pl.'s Opp. to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. #16] ("Pl.'s 2d Opp."); Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Pl.'s 2d Opp. [Dkt. #16] ("Pl.'s 2d Mem."). Defendants filed a reply to plaintiff's opposition on June 15, 2014. Defs.' Reply to Pl.'s Opp. [Dkt. #17].

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Motion to Dismiss

"To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the two principles underlying its decision in Twombly : "First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." 556 U.S. at 678. And "[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 679.

A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. A pleading must offer more than "labels and conclusions'" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '" id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at ...


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