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Lyles v. United States Marshalls Service

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 19, 2018

PAMELA LYLES, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES MARSHALLS SERVICE, et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD J. LEON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment [Dkt. # 40], filed on behalf of Defendants Michael Hughes and Jeremy Alford. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff Pamela Lyles ("plaintiff) alleges that Defendants Michael Hughes, United States Marshal for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Hughes"), and Jeremy Alford, Supervisory Deputy United States Marshal for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Alford"), in their individual capacities, violated rights protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution in the course of evicting her from her former residence on April 20, 2012. This matter is before the Court on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit "for further proceedings with respect to [plaintiffs] claims under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), against [defendants] Hughes and Alford." Lyles v. Hughes, No. 15-5106 (D.C. Cir. June 24, 2016).[1] According to the D.C. Circuit, when this Court ruled on defendants' motion to dismiss, it "applied too exacting a standard" and failed to "construe the facts in the light most favorable to the [plaintiff], the nonmoving party." Id. Hughes and Alford move for summary judgment on plaintiffs Bivens claims.

         Because defendants have submitted and the Court has considered four declarations, the Court treats their motion as one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d) ("If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . ., matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56."). On March 31, 2017, pursuant to Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1992), I issued an Order advising plaintiff of her obligations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Civil Rules of this Court to respond to defendants' motion. [Dkt. # 42]. Specifically, the Order advised plaintiff that the Court would accept as true defendants' assertions of fact unless plaintiff submitted affidavits or documentary evidence showing that defendants' assertions are untrue. Plaintiff filed her opposition on May 8, 2017. See Pl's Response to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl's Opp'n") [Dkt. # 44].

         II. Execution of Writs of Restitution

         The Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Superior Court"), Civil Division, Landlord and Tenant Branch ("L&T Court"), issues writs of restitution (evictions). Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss and for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Mem."), Ex. A ("Coleman Decl.") ¶¶ 7-8 [Dkt. # 41]. Once the judge approves a writ, the writ is filed. and an L&T Court clerk delivers the writ to the United States Marshals Service, Superior Court, District of Columbia ("USMS") for execution. Id. ¶ 8.

         A writ is valid for 75 calendar days. Id. ¶ 8. The USMS stamps each writ with the earliest date (four days after its issuance, excluding Sundays and holidays) and latest date (75 calendar days after its issuance) on which the writ can be executed. Id. ¶ 9. If a writ has been reissued by the L&T Court because it had expired, it is called an alias writ. Id. ¶ 10. An alias writ takes priority, and it will be executed before all other writs. Id. The writ for plaintiffs eviction was an alias writ. Defs.' Mem., Ex. C ("Alford Decl.") ¶ 8.

         A Deputy United States Marshal ("DUSM") does not determine the appropriateness of evicting a tenant. Id. ¶ 9. He is assigned to a team that "merely execute[s] the order of the [L&T] Court by assuring the peaceful repossession by the landlord." Id.; see also Defs.' Mem., Ex. B ("Hunt Decl.") ¶ 10.

         A Deputy in Charge ("DIC") performs administrative functions regarding evictions. Coleman Decl. ¶ 5. Among other duties, the DIC is responsible for compiling lists of evictions and scheduling evictions upon receipt of writs from the L&T Court. Id. Evictions are scheduled by date and by quadrant of the city. Id. ¶ 10. The DIC "assigns a sequential number and a time to each eviction, " and "[o]nce a schedule is established, an eviction list is produced and provided to the Superior Court Dispatcher, and ... to the L&T Court." Id. ¶ 11. However, "[d]epending upon the circumstance of any given day, evictions may be done in a different order." Alford Decl. ¶ 9.

         A team of three or four DUSMs is assigned to execute the writs and to complete and return paperwork. Coleman Decl. ¶ 12; Alford Decl. ¶ 9; Hunt Decl. ¶ 6. Each team has a team leader. Coleman Decl. ¶ 12. United States Marshal Michael Hughes does not execute writs, is not a member of any eviction team, and does not supervise directly the DUSMs assigned to the writs section of the office. Coleman Decl. ¶ 12; Hunt Decl. ¶ 15; Alford Decl. ¶ 20; Defs.' Mem., Ex. D ("Hughes Decl.") ¶¶ 5-7. It is the landlord's responsibility to "hav[e] the necessary means for accomplishing evictions, i.e., ensuring entry can be made in a reasonable time, and hiring an eviction crew with the required number of workers." Alford Decl. ¶ 6. DUSMs are not responsible for moving a tenant's property. Id.

         DUSM Coleman explains a typical eviction as follows:

13. Upon arrival at [a] residence, the DUSMs meet with the landlord and have him/her sign a waiver of liability on the back of the writ, and notify the dispatch. The team knocks and announces, and notifies the dweller that [it is] conducting an eviction. The deputies then enter the building (generally with weapons at the ready) to make a deliberate search of persons for items that may be of danger, clear the residence and explain the process to the occupants.
14. After the search, if the occupants are being cooperative, they are allowed a brief time to gather items such as money, jewelry, medication, keys, phones, and documents. However, there is no right to reenter the [residence], and disruptive or belligerent occupants are not allowed to return into the residence []for the safely of everyone on the scene. Occupants are then directed to exit the property and to wait outside .... The movers are then allowed to enter the dwelling to move out the property.
15. When all appropriate property has been removed from the dwelling and placed in the public space, the DUSM[s] will turn the premises over to the landlord, and the landlord will sign the writ and acknowledge receipt of the premises. If adversarial circumstances exist, the DUSMs should remain while the landlord secures the premises to ensure that the situation does not become dangerous.
16. At the completion of the day, all writs, regardless of disposition, will be turned [in to] the Process Control Section ...

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