United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta United States District Judge
se Plaintiff Michelle Smith owns a multi-unit
residential property located at 433 Kennedy Street, N.W., in
Washington, D.C. In 2014 and 2015, Plaintiff filed three
different lawsuits in the District of Columbia Superior Court
in an effort to evict the tenants of Unit 4. Compl., ECF No.
1, ¶¶ 37, 43, 47, 51. In each instance the Superior
Court rejected Plaintiffs effort to evict her tenants, and
each of those decisions is now on appeal before the District
of Columbia Court of Appeals. Id. ¶ 37-38, 42,
47, 49, 52, 55. Following those adverse outcomes, Plaintiff
filed suit in this court against the Mayor of the District of
Columbia, the District of Columbia Consumer and Regulatory
Administration, the District of Columbia Superior Court, and
the tenants of Unit 4, Rosa Ventura and Maurcio Enamora.
Plaintiffs Complaint alleges the following claims: (1)
violation of her right to make and enforce contracts under 42
U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I); (2) violation of the Equal
Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment and 28
U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II); (3) false imprisonment under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III); (4) slavery, a due process
violation of the Fourth Amendment, as well as an unlawful
taking of property (Count IV); and (5) conspiracy to
interfere with civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)
(Count V). See generally, Compl. Defendants have
filed a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 10, which is now ripe for
the court’s consideration.
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine as to Counts I, IV, and V in
their entirety and Count II in part. The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars district courts
“from hearing cases that amount to the functional
equivalent of an appeal from a state court.” Gray
v. Poole, 275 F.3d 1113, 1119 (D.C. Cir. 2002). This
includes federal constitutional claims that are so
“inextricably intertwined with a state court decision
that the district court is in essence being called upon to
review the state-court decision.” Stanton v. Dist.
of Columbia Court of Appeals, 127 F.3d 72, 75 (D.C. Cir.
1997) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Dist.
of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462,
482 n.16 (1983)).
the injuries alleged by Plaintiff in Counts I, IV, and V, and
Count II in part, is the direct result of adverse rulings in
which the Superior Court refused to evict the tenants of Unit
4. In Count I, Plaintiff argues that the Superior Court
judges violated her right to contract based on the Superior
Court’s interpretation of certain provisions of the
lease agreement that proved unfavorable to Plaintiff.
See Compl. ¶ 59. In Count II, Plaintiff claims
that the Superior Court’s refusal to eject her tenants
violated the Equal Protection Clause. See Id. ¶
62. In Count IV, Plaintiff alleges that the Superior
Court’s decisions “enslaved” her. See
Id. ¶ 72. And, in Count V, Plaintiff contends the
Superior Court judges conspired with others to interfere with
her civil rights. See Id. ¶ 77. Under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, this court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction to hear those claims.
addition to challenging the adverse Superior Court decisions
in Count II, Plaintiff also alleges in Count II that, in
violation of the Equal Protection Clause, the D.C. Court of
Appeals’ practice of “charging exorbitant fees
for [ ] transcripts” has made it too expensive for her
to obtain transcripts by her own means. Thus, she has been
forced to obtain trial transcripts by seeking in forma
pauperis status from the judge who ruled against her.
Compl., ¶ 61. As that claim does not challenge a
Superior Court ruling, it is not barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Ultimately, however, Count
II must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
for another reason: Plaintiff lacks standing because she has
alleged no injury. Plaintiff does not assert any concrete
injury arising from the allegedly discriminatory D.C. Court
of Appeals’ procedure that compels her to seek in
forma pauperis status from the judge that ruled against
Equal Protection Clause claim in Count II also must be
dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim. To
sustain an equal protection claim, Plaintiff must demonstrate
that “similarly situated individuals” were
treated differently and that the transcript policy “had
a discriminatory effect and that it was motivated by a
discriminatory purpose.” United States v.
Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 465 (1996) (describing
“ordinary equal protection standards”). Plaintiff
has not pled any facts suggesting that Defendants’
conduct was motivated by a discriminatory purpose or intent
or has had a discriminatory effect. While Plaintiff hints in
her Opposition that Defendants may have discriminated against
her because of her race and gender, see Opp’n
to the Dist. Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12, at
7-8, “[i]t is axiomatic that a complaint may not be
amended by the briefs in opposition to a motion to dismiss,
” Arbitraje Casa de Cambio, S.A. v. U.S. Postal
Serv., 297 F.Supp.2d 165, 170 (D.D.C. 2003).
Count III, Plaintiff’s claim for false imprisonment
arises out of the alleged actions of housing inspectors
employed by the District of Columbia Consumer and Regulatory
Commission. Plaintiff avers that the inspectors entered her
property and installed a boiler and a water heater, thus
making it possible for her tenants to stay in Unit 4. Compl.
¶¶ 68-69. Such an allegation does not state a claim
that the inspectors’ actions falsely imprisoned
Plaintiff. See, e.g., Wormley v. United
States, 601 F.Supp.2d 27, 44 (D.D.C. 2009) (noting that
the prima facie elements of a false imprisonment
claim are that the “plaintiff was (1) detained against
her will (2) unlawfully” (citing Faniel v.
Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co., 404 A.2d 147, 150
Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Amend her Opposition, ECF No.
14, and a Motion to Amend her Complaint, ECF No. 18. Both are
denied, as Plaintiff s proposed amendments would be futile.
Plaintiff s Motion to Amend her Opposition simply adds
various exhibits relating to the eviction disputes heard in
the Superior Court, which would not warrant a different
outcome. Additionally, her Motion to Amend her Complaint
seeks to add additional defendants, but it too would not save
her Complaint from the above-explained deficiencies.
foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is
granted, and Plaintiffs Motions to Amend her Opposition and
her Complaint are denied. Plaintiff s Motion for Summary
Judgment is denied, ...