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Brown v. Metro Transit Police Dep't

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 1, 2015

JEROME JULIUS BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
METRO TRANSIT POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants

JEROME JULIUS BROWN, SR., Plaintiff, Pro Se Upper Marlboro, MD.

For METRO TRANSIT POLICE DEPARTMENT, FRANK PRICE, Officer, JOSEPH STRASSNER, Officer, Defendants: Janice Lynn Cole, LEAD ATTORNEY, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

Beryl A. Howell, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

The plaintiff, Jerome Julius Brown, filed this action pro se in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against the " Metro Transit Police Department" and two of its officers. See Compl., ECF No. 1-3. He claims " false arrest" and seeks $30,000 in damages. Id. Construing the complaint as brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (" WMATA" ) and two of its officers, the defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1441(a), 1446 and the WMATA Compact, D.C. Code § 9-1107.01(81), which confers original jurisdiction over claims against WMATA in the United States district courts. See Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1, ¶ ¶ 2, 6; Barksdale v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 512 F.3d 712, 714, 379 U.S.App.D.C. 278 (D.C. Cir. 2008).

The defendants now move for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Mot. by Defs. Metro Transit Police Dep't, Price and Woods for Summ. J., ECF No. 9. On February 9, 2015, the Court issued an order advising the plaintiff about his obligation to respond to the defendants' motion by March 31, 2015. See Order, ECF No. 10. The plaintiff has not provided a cogent response to the motion. See FRCP Rule 55 Default, Default Action Defendant Failed to Plead Other Defend Proposed Schedule or Dispositive Motion, ECF No. 13.[1] The docket shows that the two orders mailed to the plaintiff at his address of record were returned to the Clerk's Office " as undeliverable." See Feb. 26, 2015 and Mar. 12, 2015 docket entries. Ordinarily, this may prompt a dismissal for failure to prosecute due to the plaintiff's failure to maintain a current address. But the plaintiff has continually submitted documents to the Clerk's Office listing the same address, which is " conclusively taken as the last

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known address" unless " changed by notice filed with the Clerk[.]" LCvR 11.1. In addition, the Court has been informed by the Clerk's Office that the plaintiff presents his documents in person; thus, it is reasonably safe to conclude that the plaintiff has, or should have, received notices of the orders. Therefore, the Court will address the defendants' summary judgment motion and " state on the record the reasons for granting . . . the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Rule 56, summary judgment shall be granted " if the movant shows 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); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Estate of Parsons v. Palestinian Auth., 651 F.3d 118, 123, 397 U.S.App.D.C. 236 (D.C. Cir. 2011); Tao v. Freeh, 27 F.3d 635, 638, 307 U.S.App.D.C. 185 (D.C. Cir. 1994). To determine which facts are material, the Court looks to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Summary judgment is properly granted against a party who " fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). See Grimes v. District of Columbia, 923 F.Supp.2d 196, 198 (D.D.C. 2013) (" The 2010 Amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 . . . and the accompanying Advisory Committee Notes do not prohibit this Court from granting summary judgment where, as here, the nonmovant fails to demonstrate a genuine dispute as to any material fact." ).

II. DISCUSSION

" A false arrest . . . claim turns first on whether the plaintiff was unlawfully detained. If the arrest was legally justified--for example, if supported by probable cause or a valid warrant--the conduct of the arresting officer is privileged and a claim will not lie." Liser v. Smith, 254 F.Supp.2d 89, 95-96 (D.D.C. 2003) (citing Tillman v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 695 A.2d 94, 96 (D.C. 1997); Scott v. District of Columbia, 101 F.3d 748, 754, 322 U.S.App.D.C. 75 (D.C. Cir. 1996)).

The plaintiff has not come forward with any evidence to rebut the defendants' evidence that one of the two officers he has sued " did not participate in [the] [p]laintiff's arrest," Aff. of Fred Price, ECF No. 9-2, ¶ 10, and that the arresting officer, also a defendant, had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff. The arresting officer states that while on foot patrol at the Metro Center Metrorail station, he received a radio communication " to be on the lookout for a passenger with a black 'F.B.I' visor and black 'F.B.I' hoodie who was reported to be screaming and yelling at passengers." Aff. of Joseph Strassner, ECF No. 9-1, ¶ 3. The officer approached the plaintiff because he " match[ed] the description." Id. ¶ 4. During " the course of conversation," the plaintiff voluntarily provided his identification. Id. ¶ 7. A check of the Metro Transit Police Department's criminal databases revealed an outstanding warrant for the plaintiff, and the officer received a code signaling that " for officer safety, the [plaintiff] should be put in handcuffs." Id. ¶ ¶ 8-9. The plaintiff complied with the officer's directions to be handcuffed and " appeared to have knowledge of the warrant." Id. ¶ 10. Because the warrant was issued by authorities in " Prince George's County," the officer confirmed " that the warrant was extraditable," transported the plaintiff " to District

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1D of the Metropolitan Police Department," and completed " the arrest paperwork." Id. ¶ ¶ 11-12.

Based on the foregoing undisputed facts, the Court finds that the WMATA officer had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff, and was well within his authority to do so. See Myers v. United States, 15 A.3d 688, 691 (D.C. 2011) (" WMATA has its own police force, the Metro Transit Police, which, while on Metro property in the District of Columbia, has the same powers as the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia." ). Therefore, the Court concludes that the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[2] A separate order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

ORDER

For the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, it is

ORDERED that the defendants' motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 9, is GRANTED, judgment is entered for the Defendants, and this case is closed.

This is a final appealable Order.


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