United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge
William Jarta Hall brings this lawsuit against the District
of Columbia (“the District”) and Frederick Onoja,
an officer of the District's Metropolitan Police
Department (“MPD”). Plaintiff alleges that
Officer Onoja assaulted and falsely arrested him. Plaintiff
also alleges that, after his arrest, Officer Onoja fabricated
evidence incriminating Plaintiff for crimes that he did not
commit. Plaintiff asserts several common law causes of
action, as well as claims under the Fourth and Fifth
before the Court is Defendants'  Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings as to Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment Claim,
and the District's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment.
The District moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's
constitutional claims against it on the grounds that
Plaintiff has not adduced sufficient evidence of the
District's municipal liability. Both Defendants also
moved for judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff's Fifth
Amendment fabrication of evidence claim on the grounds that
it “merges” with Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment
consideration of the pleadings,  the relevant legal
authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall DENY
both motions. The District's Motion for Summary Judgment
is DENIED because it is MOOT. After this motion was filed,
Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his municipal liability
constitutional claim against the District (Count 8).
Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to
Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claim (Count 7)-which, as a
result of Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal of his
constitutional claims against the District, is now argued
only on behalf of Defendant Onoja-is also DENIED. Defendant
Onoja concedes that a fabrication of evidence claim can be
actionable under the Fifth Amendment. However, he contends
that, on the particular facts of this case, such a claim
“merges” with Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment
claims because all of these claims are premised on the
execution of Plaintiff's arrest. As discussed in more
detail below, the Court disagrees with Defendant's
interpretation of the relevant case law and his
characterization of Plaintiff's claims. Because the
alleged fabrication of evidence that underlies
Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment due process claim is separate
and distinct from his arrest, the Court finds that
“merger” is not necessary or appropriate.
alleges that on October 27, 2015, he was attacked without
justification by Officer Onoja. Am. Compl., ECF No. 15,
¶ 7. Plaintiff claims that Officer Onoja grabbed him
from behind without provocation and proceeded to beat him.
Id. To cover up this unjustified use of force,
Plaintiff alleges, Officer Onoja arrested him on
“trumped up” charges. Id. ¶¶
26-29. Officer Onoja then allegedly “swore out a
statement falsely claiming that [Plaintiff] assaulted him and
threatened him and provided false evidence to the U.S.
Attorney who then charge and prosecuted [Plaintiff] for
[assault on a police officer] and threats . . . to kidnap an
officer.” Id. The government ultimately
dismissed all charges against Plaintiff. Id. ¶
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserted causes of actions for
common law assault and false arrest against Defendants Onoja
and the District. Id. ¶¶ 69-76, 83-90. He
also asserted claims against Defendant Onoja under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment
rights (false arrest and use of unreasonable force) and Fifth
Amendment rights (fabrication of evidence). Id.
¶¶ 77-82, 91-98. Finally, Plaintiff asserted a
municipal liability claim under Section 1983 against the
District. Id. ¶¶ 99-102.
pending motions were filed after the discovery period closed.
They have been fully briefed and are ripe for resolution.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move
for judgment on the pleadings “[a]fter the pleadings
are closed-but early enough not to delay trial.” The
standard for reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings
is virtually identical to that applied to a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6). See Haynesworth v. Miller, 820
F.2d 1245, 1254 (D.C. Cir. 1987), abrogated on other
grounds by Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250 (2006);
Jung v. Ass'n of Am. Med. Colleges, 339
F.Supp.2d 26, 36 (D.D.C. 2004) (“[T]he standard of
review for motions for judgment on the pleadings under Rule
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is essentially
the same as that for motions to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6).”). “The court is limited to considering
facts alleged in the complaint, any documents attached to or
incorporated in the complaint, matters of which the court may
take judicial notice, and matters of public record.”
Baumann v. D.C., 744 F.Supp.2d 216, 222 (D.D.C.
are two motions before the Court, but one need only be
addressed briefly. The District has filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's constitutional claims
against it, arguing that Plaintiff has not adduced sufficient
evidence of the District's municipal liability. The
District's Motion for Summary Judgment has been rendered
moot. After that motion was filed, the parties agreed to
dismiss Plaintiff's municipal liability claim (Count 8)
against the District with prejudice. See Joint
Praecipe of Partial Dismissal Only as to Municipal Liability
Claim (Count 8), ECF No. 34. That claim is DISMISSED, and the
District's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED as MOOT.
all that is left for the Court to consider at this time is
Defendant Onoja's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on
Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claim (Count 7). At the
threshold, the Court notes that Plaintiff makes several
arguments in his opposition to this motion that Defendant
Onoja does not appear to dispute. First, Plaintiff argues
that he has pled sufficient facts to put Defendant on notice
of his Fifth Amendment claim. Pl.'s Opp'n at 2-3.
Defendant concedes this point. Def.'s Reply at 3. Second,
Plaintiff argues that fabrication of evidence claims are
generally cognizable under the Fifth Amendment. Pl.'s
Opp'n at 4. Defendant concedes this as well. Def.'s
Reply at 3 (“Defendant Onoja does not contend that a
fabrication of evidence claim can never be pursued under the
Fifth Amendment.”). Finally, Plaintiff argues that an
individual need not have been convicted on the basis of false
evidence in order to be able to state a due process claim for
fabrication of evidence. Pl.'s Opp'n at 5-6.
Defendant has not argued that Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment
claim must be dismissed because Plaintiff was not ultimately
convicted. Regardless, although it is not aware of any
authority from this Circuit on the issue, the Court agrees
with Plaintiff that the “majority view” is that
conviction is not required. See Cole v. Carson, 802
F.3d 752, 768-71 (5th Cir. 2015), cert. granted, judgment
vacated sub nom. Hunter v. Cole, 137 S.Ct. 497 (2016)
(discussing case law from each circuit); Black v.
Montgomery Cty., 835 F.3d 358, 369 (3d Cir. 2016)
(“a stand-alone fabrication of evidence claim can
proceed if there is no conviction”).
argument is narrow: he argues that Plaintiff's Fifth
Amendment claim should be dismissed on the pleadings only
because it “merges” with Plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment claims. Defs.' Mot. at 5. More specifically,
Defendant argues that “Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment
claim . . . is properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment,
as the claim is predicated ...