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Lewis v. Government of District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 7, 2018

KAYLA DIONNE LEWIS and FELTON HILL, 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 District of Columbia (“the District”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), alleging constitutional violations arising from their arrests and subsequent detentions by the District in 2014. See generally Second Amended Complaint and Jury Demand (“2d Am. Compl.”). Currently before the Court are the Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 (“Pls.' Rule 54 Mot.”), the Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend the Second Amended Complaint and to File Third Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 (“Pls.' Rule 15 Mot.”), and the Plaintiffs' Motion to Sever Claims Two and Three into Two Separate Actions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 (“Pls.' Rule 21 Mot.”). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [1] the Court concludes for the reasons that follow that it must deny all of the plaintiffs' motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court discussed the factual background of this case in its Memorandum Opinion issued on June 27, 2016, see Lewis v. District of Columbia, 195 F.Supp.3d 53, 56-57 (D.D.C. 2016) (Walton, J.), as well as in its Order issued on May 15, 2017, see Order (“May 15, 2017 Order”) at 2-3 (May 15, 2017), ECF No. 36, and will not reiterate those facts again here. In their Second Amended Complaint, the plaintiffs asserted three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) Fourth Amendment violations resulting from the District's policy of “holding [individuals] after [their] presentment[s and] after the administrative steps incident to their arrests had been completed without an affirmative finding of probable cause . . . so that the District could ‘perfect the Gerstein'” affidavits required to legally authorize their detentions (the “Gerstein claim”), [2] 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 101; (2) Fourth Amendment violations resulting from the District's practice of “holding [individuals] for more than [forty-eight] hours after their arrest without a finding of probable cause by a judicial officer” (the “Riverside claim”), [3] id. ¶ 105; and (3) Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations resulting from the District's policy of “subjecting [individuals] to blanket strip-searches at the [District of Columbia] Jail after presentment . . . without an affirmative finding of probable cause so that the District could ‘perfect the Gerstein'” affidavits (the “strip search claim”), id. ¶ 110. The plaintiffs sought through their Second Amended Complaint, which they now seek to amend, both declaratory relief and money damages. See id. at 21-22.

         In its May 15, 2017 Order, the Court held that the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia (the “U.S. Attorney”) is a required party to this litigation under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a)(1) for two reasons. See May 15, 2017 Order at 6-7. First, the Court concluded that the U.S. Attorney is a required party under Rule 19(a)(1)(B)(i) because “Assistant U.S. Attorneys are supposed to review the Gerstein statements prepared by [ ] police officers to ensure that they satisfy the probable cause requirement necessary to merit the filing of charges against arrestees, ” and “any ruling the Court makes in this case will necessarily impact the operations of the U.S. Attorney's office because it will impact the papering, i.e., processing, of arrestees charged with offenses prosecuted by that office.” Id. at 7; see also id. (“[T]he U.S. Attorney, as one of the two prosecuting authorities in the District, ‘claims an interest relating to' the policies and procedures governing probable cause hearings in Superior Court, and [ ] disposing of the suit without the U.S. Attorney could ‘impair or impede [her] ability to protect th[at] interest.'” (last alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1)(B)(i))). Second, the Court concluded that the U.S. Attorney is also a required party under Rule 19(a)(1)(A) because the Court “could not ‘accord complete relief among existing parties' without the inclusion of the U.S. Attorney [given that] any relief it may grant on behalf of the plaintiffs . . . could not bind the U.S. Attorney if [s]he is not a party in this case.” Id.

         The Court, however, declined to dismiss the case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(7) at that time because (1) “dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(7) ‘is warranted only when the defect is serious and cannot be cured, '” id. (quoting Direct Supply, Inc. v. Specialty Hosps. of Am., LLC, 878 F.Supp.2d 13, 23 (D.D.C. 2012)); (2) “Rule 19 requires the Court to join a required party that has not been joined, ” id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(2)); and (3) “the District ha[d] made no argument that the U.S. Attorney's absence cannot be cured, ” id. Accordingly, the Court ordered the plaintiffs to “file a third amended complaint including the [U.S.] Attorney . . . as a defendant.” Id. at 8.

         Instead of including the U.S. Attorney as a party as directed by the Court, the plaintiffs filed their motion for leave to file a third amended complaint that omits their Gerstein claim and amends the allegations and proposed class definitions in order “to obviate the need to join the U.S. Attorney.” Pls.' Rule 15 Mot. at 3. In response to this submission, the Court

conclude[d] that it would benefit from full briefing on whether the District . . . believes that the plaintiffs' proposed third amended complaint resolves the need to join the U.S. Attorney as a party, and the plaintiffs' response thereto, in light of the Court's prior “conclu[sion] that the U.S. Attorney, as one of the two prosecuting authorities in the District, ‘claims an interest relating to' the policies and procedures governing probable cause hearings in Superior Court, and that disposing of the suit without the U.S. Attorney could ‘impair or impede [her] ability to protect th[at] interest.'”

         Order at 2-3 (June 6, 2017), ECF No. 39 (second and fourth alterations in original) (quoting May 15, 2017 Order at 7).

         After the plaintiffs' motion for leave to file their third amended complaint was fully briefed, the plaintiffs filed their motion to sever their strip search claim,

propos[ing] that the Court grant [their] [m]otion [ ] for leave to amend . . ., grant the[ir] motion to sever, and then, if the Court concludes that the [U.S. Attorney] is a [required[4] party, order [plaintiff] Lewis to file a Fourth Amended Complaint naming the [U.S. Attorney] as a party to [the Riverside claim] but not the severed [strip search claim].

         Pls.' Rule 21 Mot. at 1. Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed their motion for reconsideration, requesting that the Court reconsider its ruling in the May 15, 2017 Order “that the U.S. Attorney is a [required] party to the case pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1)(A) and . . . (a)(1)(B)(i).” Pls.' Rule 54 Mot. at 1.[5]

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         A. Motion for Reconsideration

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), any order or decision that does not constitute a final judgment “may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Although “district court[s] ha[ve] ‘broad discretion to hear a motion for reconsideration brought under Rule 54(b), '” Univ. of Colo. Health at Mem'l Hosp. v. Burwell, 164 F.Supp.3d 56, 62 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting Isse v. Am. Univ., 544 F.Supp.2d 25, 29 (D.D.C. 2008)), district courts grant motions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders only “as justice requires, ” Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, Inc. v. Guest Servs., Inc., 630 F.3d 217, 227 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Greene v. Union Mut. Life Ins. Co. of Am., 764 F.2d 19, 22-23 (1st Cir. 1985)).

         In deciding whether “justice requires” revision of a prior interlocutory order, courts assess circumstances such as “whether the court ‘patently' misunderstood the parties, made a decision beyond the adversarial issues presented, made an error in failing to consider controlling decisions or data, or whether a controlling or significant change in the law has occurred.” In Defense of Animals v. Nat'l Insts. of Health, 543 F.Supp.2d 70, 75 (D.D.C. 2008) (quoting Singh v. George Wash. Univ., 383 F.Supp.2d 99, 101 (D.D.C. 2005)); see also Davis v. Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc., 893 F.Supp.2d 165, 168 (D.D.C. 2012) (“[A] motion for reconsideration is discretionary and should not be granted unless the movant presents either newly discovered evidence or errors of law or fact that need correction.”). “The burden is on the moving party to show that reconsideration is appropriate and that harm or injustice would result if reconsideration were denied.” United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., 893 F.Supp.2d 258, 268 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing Husayn v. Gates, 588 F.Supp.2d 7, 10 (D.D.C. 2008)). And, motions for reconsideration cannot be used to either reassert arguments previously raised and rejected by the court or present arguments that should have been raised previously with the court. See Estate of Gaither ex rel. Gaither v. District of Columbia, 771 F.Supp.2d 5, 10 & n.4 (D.D.C. 2011).

         B. Motion for Leave to ...


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