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McCall v. The District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 26, 2017

ASA MCCALL, Plaintiff,
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Asa McCall tried to register a used car with the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles. When the DMV conditioned that registration on his paying fines for outstanding traffic violations he believed were not his, McCall embarked on a series of steps, both here and in Maryland, to clear his record. Unhappy with those proceedings, he brought this pro se action against D.C., Maryland, and various agencies, seeking changes in traffic-violation policies, an increase in reporting requirements, a cleansing of his record, and money damages nearly a million times larger than the total fine in question. The District Defendants now move to dismiss, arguing that the agencies lack the capacity to be sued, Plaintiff's constitutional claims are defective, and the Court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his local causes of action. The Court concurs and will grant the Motion.

         I. Background

         The Court, as it must at this juncture, sets out the facts as provided in the Complaint. On July 8, 2014, Plaintiff went to the District of Columbia DMV to register a recently purchased used vehicle. See Compl., ¶ 13. McCall was rebuffed because his driving record indicated he had outstanding parking and speeding violations that had not yet been paid. Id. The DMV explained that, to resolve the issue, McCall had two options: he could simply pay the fines due or he could contest some or all of the violations by obtaining documentation from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) that the vehicle in question was not registered in his name at the time the tickets were issued. Id., ¶¶ 13-14. Choosing the latter route, he successfully obtained some documentation to that effect at the MVA in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and presented those documents to the Adjudication Department of the DC DMV. Id. In response, an employee of the DMV removed three of the violations from Plaintiff's record and excused payment thereon. Id., ¶ 14; see also ECF No. 1, Exh. A (DMV Tickets) (listing him liable for only three tickets). The three that remained were: 1) a stopping violation during rush hour in the amount of $100, with $105 in late penalties, from October 13, 2004; 2) a speeding ticket in the amount of $50, with $50 in late penalties, from February 1, 2005; and 3) a residential-parking violation in the amount of $30, with $35 in late penalties, from February 10, 2005. See DMV Tickets. Plaintiff protested having to pay these three and asked the DMV employee for a hearing. See Compl., ¶ 14. A supervisor refused his request, stating, “[T]here is nothing you can do, you just have to pay!” Id.

         McCall responded by filing this action. He named as Defendants the DMV, the District's Department of Public Works, the Metropolitan Police Department, D.C.'s Department of Transportation, the District of Columbia itself, the Maryland MVA, and the State of Maryland. See Compl. at 1. The Complaint lists four counts: I) the fraudulent making, altering, and using of false documents; II) the negligent creation, issuance, and use of false documents and the negligent training of employees; III) a violation of Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights; and IV) a violation of Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment rights. Id., ¶¶ 15-27.

         As relief, Plaintiff requests a diverse list of actions from this Court: 1) removing the violations from his record; 2) establishing a statute of limitation of six years for all traffic violations in the District; 3) extending the time period a person has to respond to traffic violations to three times what it currently is; 4) prohibiting the District from automatically entering guilty verdicts for a failure to appear; 5) establishing a uniform protocol for issuing traffic violations; 5) requiring that a detailed report of revenue and spending of fine money from traffic violations be made public; and 6) awarding Plaintiff $82 million from each Defendant named in the lawsuit, amounting to a grand total of $574 million in damages. Id., ¶ 28. The State of Maryland, on behalf of itself and the MVA, filed a separate Motion to Dismiss, to which McCall failed to respond in a timely fashion. This resulted in the dismissal of those Defendants. See Minute Order of Oct. 10, 2017. The District Defendants have now filed their own Motion to Dismiss.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must dismiss a claim for relief when the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must “treat the complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.” Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A court need not accept as true, however, “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, [if] accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation omitted). A plaintiff may survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion even if “recovery is very remote and unlikely, ” but the facts alleged in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear his claims. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); U.S. Ecology, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 231 F.3d 20, 24 (D.C. Cir. 2000). A court has an “affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority.” Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). For this reason, “‘the [p]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Id. at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1987) (alteration in original)). Additionally, unlike with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “may consider materials outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.” Jerome Stevens Pharma. Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005); see also Venetian Casino Resort, L.L.C. v. EEOC, 409 F.3d 359, 366 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (“given the present posture of this case - a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) on ripeness grounds - the court may consider materials outside the pleadings”); Herbert v. Nat'l Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

         III. Analysis

         The District Defendants offer four principal contentions in moving to dismiss: 1) the District's agencies are non sui juris; 2) the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply to the District; 3) the District has no Fifth Amendment liability in this case; and 4) the Court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the extant state-law claims. The Court addresses each in turn.

         A. Capacity to be Sued

         The Motion to Dismiss first argues that constituent agencies of the District of Columbia - namely, the DMV, DPW, MPD, and DOT - cannot be sued in their own capacity. This Circuit has widely accepted that contention in the absence of explicit statutory authority to sue the agency. See Argote v. D.C. Metropolitan Police Dep't, No. 15-303, 2016 WL 107916, at *2 (D.D.C. Jan. 8, 2016) (compiling cases that have held different District of Columbia agencies non sui juris); see also Amobi v. D.C. Dep't of Corrections, 755 F.3d 980, 987 n.5 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (noting DOC is a non sui juris subordinate government agency); Simmons v. D.C. Armory Board, 656 A.2d 1155, 1157 (D.C. 1995) (noting agencies can be granted explicit power “to sue and be sued”). As the agencies named in the Complaint are not granted the capacity to be sued, they will be dismissed from this action, leaving only the District itself as a Defendant.

         B. Fourte ...

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