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Lewis v. Government of District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 27, 2016

KAYLA DIONNE LEWIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REGGIE B. WALTON, United States District Judge

         Kayla Dionne Lewis and Felton Hill, the named plaintiffs in this civil suit, bring this putative class action against the defendant, the District of Columbia (“District” or “defendant”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), alleging constitutional violations arising from their arrests and subsequent detentions by the District in 2014. See generally Amended Complaint [] (“Am. Compl.”). Currently before the Court is the defendant’s motion to dismiss all of the plaintiffs’ claims. Defendant District of Columbia’s Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (“Def.’s Mot.”) at 1. After carefully considering the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and all relevant memoranda of law and exhibits attached thereto, [1] the Court concludes for the reasons that follow that it must grant in part and deny in part the defendant’s motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiffs assert the following in their Amended Complaint. Plaintiff Hill was detained on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, “at about 1:10 [A.M., ] when he was arrested by the [Metropolitan Police Department] for suspicion of DUI (driving while impaired).” Am. Compl. ¶ 56. Plaintiff Hill was taken before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Superior Court”) for his presentment and a detention hearing later that same day, id. ¶ 57, supported by the submission of a Gerstein affidavit[2] setting forth the factual basis for his arrest, id. ¶ 58. During that hearing, the Magistrate Judge noted that the affidavit’s narrative at times identified plaintiff Hill as “Mr. Ramsey.” Def.’s Mem., Exhibit (“Ex.”) H (Transcript of July 8, 2014 Superior Court of the District of Columbia Proceedings in the Matter of District of Columbia v. Hill (“Hill Transcript”)) at 4.[3] Based on these inconsistencies, the Magistrate Judge continued the hearing until the next day so that the District could perfect the affidavit. Id. at 5; Am. Compl. ¶ 61. The District then transported plaintiff Hill to the District of Columbia Jail, where he was subjected to a strip search as part of the intake process. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 62-63. The next day, Wednesday, July 9, 2014, the District returned plaintiff Hill to the Superior Court, id. ¶ 65, and the Magistrate Judge concluded that the District “did not perfect the [G]erstein” affidavit and “ordered [plaintiff] Hill released, ” id. ¶¶ 66-67.

         On Saturday, November 1, 2014, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested plaintiff Lewis “for suspicion of DUI (driving while impaired).” Id. ¶ 43. She was brought before the Superior Court for her presentment and a detention hearing on Monday, November 3, 2014, id. ¶ 44, supported by the submission of a Gerstein affidavit setting forth the factual basis for her arrest, id. ¶ 45. The Magistrate Judge who presided over the hearing noted that the Gerstein affidavit referred to plaintiff Lewis in some places as “Ms. Jones, ” and in other places as “Mr. Jones.” Def.’s Mem., Ex. G (Nov. 3, 2014 Superior Court for the District of Columbia Proceedings in the Matter of District of Columbia v. Lewis (“Lewis Transcript”)) at 3. As a result of these defects, the Magistrate Judge continued the detention hearing until Tuesday, November 4, 2014, to permit the District an opportunity to perfect the Gerstein affidavit. Id. at 4; Am. Compl. ¶ 48 (“[T]he judicial officer ordered [the plaintiff] held until the next day . . . for a ‘24 Hour Gerstein perfection’ to give the District an opportunity to ‘perfect the Gerstein.’” (no citations in original)). Plaintiff Lewis was then transported to the District of Columbia Jail, where she was subjected to a strip search as part of the intake process. Am. Compl. ¶ 50. The following day, the District returned plaintiff Lewis to the Superior Court, and the Magistrate Judge concluded that the “government did not perfect the [G]erstein” affidavit and released plaintiff Lewis from custody. Id. ¶¶ 51-54.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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). So to survive a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the 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)). The “claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kowal v. MCI Commc’ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (plaintiff is entitled to “the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged”). Although the Court must accept the facts pleaded as true, legal allegations devoid of factual support are not entitled to this assumption. See, e.g., Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276. Along with the allegations made within the four corners of the complaint, the court can also consider “any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [it] may take judicial notice.” EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “provides a remedy against ‘any person’ who, under color of state law, deprives another of rights protected by the Constitution.” Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992).[4] “Although a municipality[5] is a ‘person’ subject to suit under § 1983 for constitutional violations, it ‘cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.’” Singletary v. District of Columbia, 766 F.3d 66, 72 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). As this Circuit has explained,

in considering whether a plaintiff has stated a claim for municipal liability, the district court must conduct a two-step inquiry. First, the court must determine whether the complaint states a claim for a predicate constitutional violation. Second, if so, then the court must determine whether the complaint states a claim that a custom or policy of the municipality caused the violation.

Baker v. District of Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         In assessing whether the plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint satisfies this second prong, “[t]he court must determine whether the plaintiff has alleged an ‘affirmative link, ’ such that a municipal policy was the ‘moving force’ behind the constitutional violation.” Id. (citations omitted). There are “a number of ways a municipality can adopt a policy or custom that might create liability, ” Brown v. District of Columbia, 514 F.3d 1279, 1283 (D.C. Cir. 2008), including:

the explicit setting of a policy by the government that violates the Constitution; the action of a policy maker within the government; the adoption through a knowing failure to act by a policy maker of actions by his subordinates that are so consistent that they have become “custom”; or the failure of the government to respond to a need (for example, training of employees) in such a manner as to show “deliberate indifference” to the risk that not addressing the need will result in constitutional violations,

Baker, 326 F.3d at 1306 (citations omitted).

         A. Claims Pertaining to the Length of the Plaintiffs’ Detentions (Claims I, II, and III)

         The plaintiffs assert a number of claims against the District regarding the length of their detentions. First, they allege that the District violated the Fourth Amendment by continuing to detain them “even after a judicial finding of no probable cause.” Am. Compl. ¶ 69. Similarly, plaintiff Lewis alleges that the District violated the Fourth Amendment “by holding [her for] more than [forty-eight] hours after [her] arrest without a finding of probable cause by a judicial officer.” Id. ¶ 73. Lastly, both plaintiffs claim that “[t]he District violated their Eighth Amendment rights by holding them without probable cause after the administrative steps incident to their arrest had been completed without holding a bail hearing.” Id. ¶ 78.

         While “a policeman’s on-the-scene assessment of probable cause provides legal justification for arresting a person suspected of crime, ” Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 113-14 (1975), “the Fourth Amendment requires a timely judicial determination of probable cause as a prerequisite to detention, ” id. at 126. “[A] jurisdiction that provides judicial determinations of probable cause within [forty-eight] hours of arrest will, as a general matter, comply with the promptness requirement of Gerstein.” City of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44, 56 (1991). And where the arrested individual is detained for more than forty-eight hours without a judicial determination of probable cause, “the burden shifts to the government to demonstrate the existence of a bona fide emergency or other extraordinary circumstance.” Id. at 57; see also Cherrington v. Skeeter, 344 F.3d 631, 644 (6th Cir. 2003) (“[T]he undisputed record establishes a violation of City of Riverside’s [forty-eight]-hour rule, and [the] [d]efendants have failed to identify any emergency or other extraordinary circumstance that might take this case outside of the general rule.”).

         “Under Gerstein, jurisdictions may choose to combine probable cause determinations with other pretrial proceedings, . . . such as bail hearings and arraignments . . . .” Riverside, 500 U.S. at 58. The Eighth Amendment prohibits “excessive bail, ” U.S. Const. amend. VIII, and while the Amendment “says nothing about whether bail shall be available at all, ” United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 752 (1987), “[a] prompt hearing is necessary” because “a vital liberty interest is at stake, ” United States v. Montalvo-Murillo, 495 U.S. 711, 716 (1990). Although the Supreme Court has not imposed a specific time-limit by which the government must conduct a bail hearing, lower courts have used Riverside’s forty-eight hour limitation as a useful guidepost. See, e.g., Collins v. Ainsworth, 382 F.3d 529, 545 (5th Cir. 2004) (“There is no right to post bail within [twenty-four] hours of arrest. Mississippi law indicates that this limitation is [forty-eight] hours.”); Holder v. Town of Newton, No. 08-CV-197-JL, 2010 WL 432357, at *11 (D.N.H. Feb. 3, 2010) (“The clear import of McLaughlin, then, is that a bail hearing held within [forty-eight] hours of a warrantless arrest is also presumptively constitutional-if indeed the Constitution speaks to that issue.”).[6]

         1. The Duration of Plaintiff ...


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