United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Akiem Williams's
motion to substitute the District of Columbia for the
District of Columbia Department of Corrections
(“DOC”) as a Defendant in this action. Dkt. 35.
For the reasons that follow, the Court will
DENY the motion.
amended complaint, Dkt. 34, alleges the following facts,
which the Court must accept as true for purposes of the
pending motion. See Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056,
2065-67 & n.5 (2014) (motion to dismiss); In re
Interbank Funding Corp. Sec. Litig., 629 F.3d 213, 215
(D.C. Cir. 2010) (“‘[D]istrict court has
discretion to deny a motion to amend on grounds of futility
where the proposed pleading would not survive a motion to
dismiss.'” (citation omitted)).
August 2014, Williams was incarcerated in the District of
Columbia jail. Dkt. 34 at 3 (Am. Compl. ¶ 10). After not
having the opportunity to shower for three days, Williams
expressed “his desire to shower with soap” to
Defendant Montreal Ellerbe, a corrections officer. See
Id. at 4 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14-16). The next day,
August 25, 2014, Williams asked Officer Ellerbe
“whether he had remembered [to bring] the soap
packs.” Id. at 5 (Am. Compl. ¶ 19).
Officer Ellerbe replied, “I got you, I did not
forget” and escorted Williams to the shower.
Id. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-20). No. one else
was present. Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20). After
Williams asked for the soap packs, Officer Ellerbe left and
returned a few minutes later “with a broken and dirty
piece of bar soap.” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶
22). Williams said that “he could not use that soap,
” id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 22), and
“requested a ‘White Shirt,' which is slang
for a [l]ieutenant, a higher-ranking corrections officer,
” so that he could “get a proper soap
pack.” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 22).
ten minutes later, Officer Ellerbe “arrived at the
shower area” with two other corrections officers,
Defendants Andre Taylor and Christian Pam. Id. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 23). By this time, Williams had been placed
“inside a locked shower cage.” Id. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 24). Officer Ellerbe said, “What are you
doing all that for?” and Williams told him to
“shut up.” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25).
According to Williams, Officer Ellerbe “then took out
his keys, opened up the shower cage, [and] immediately
attacked . . . Williams with clenched fists, using both
hands, ” knocking Williams to the floor. Id.
at 6 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27). Officer Taylor
allegedly “came in and grabbed . . . Williams'[s]
legs [and] kicked and stomped” his “body.”
Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 28). During the beating,
which “went on for several minutes, ” Officer Pam
“shouted[, ] ‘That's enough! That's
enough!' but made no other attempt to interfere.”
Id. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30-31). Officer Pam
eventually “called a Code Blue to indicate . . . that
reinforcements were needed.” Id. (Am. Compl.
¶ 32). Before the reinforcements arrived, Officer
Ellerbe allegedly “emptied [an] entire can of
mace” into Williams's face, temporarily blinding
him and making it difficult for him to breathe. Id.
at 6-7 (Am. Compl. ¶ 33).
next day, Williams “complained to the D.C. Department
of Corrections about the [alleged] beating and macing . . .
via the Inmate Grievance Process.” Id. at 7
(Am. Compl. ¶ 36). He submitted four additional
complaints over the next six months. Id. (Am. Compl.
¶¶ 37-40). He “received form-letter
replies” to his complaints, but “no disciplinary
action” was taken against Officers Ellerbe, Taylor, or
Pam. Id. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 41-42).
proceeding pro se, filed this action against the
three officers and the DOC, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Dkt. 1. He claims that Officers Ellerbe and
Taylor used excessive force and that Officer Pam and the DOC
were deliberately indifferent to this use of force, all in
violation of Williams's Eighth Amendment protection
against cruel and unusual punishment. Dkt. 34 at 8-11 (Compl.
¶¶ 44-59). Williams seeks damages and
attorney's fees. Id. at 11 (Am. Compl. Prayer).
several status conferences, the Court appointed Williams
counsel from the Civil Pro Bono Panel and stayed the
proceedings pending completion of the appointment process.
Minute Order (June 27, 2017). At a subsequent scheduling
conference, the Court granted Williams leave to file an
amended complaint. Minute Order (Aug. 15, 2017). Williams
submitted his amended complaint, Dkt. 34, and also moved to
substitute the District of Columbia for the DOC as a
Defendant because the DOC is non sui juris, Dkt. 35.
The DOC opposes the motion because “such a substitution
would be futile, as [the] [a]mended [c]omplaint fails to
state a claim against the District [of Columbia].” Dkt.
37 at 1.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court “may at
any time, on just terms, add or drop a party.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. In addition, the Court must
“freely” grant leave to amend a pleading
“when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). Although “this mandate is to be heeded,
” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962),
that “does not mean that a motion for leave to amend
must be granted as a matter of course, ” Hedgeye
Risk Mgmt., LLC v. Heldman, 271 F.Supp.3d 181, 191
(D.D.C. 2017). Rather, the Court must consider whether
“any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay,
bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant,
repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party . .
. [or] futility of amendment”-counsels against allowing
the proposed amendment. Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.
present purposes, only the futility factor is relevant. A
court “has discretion to deny a motion to amend on
grounds of futility where the proposed pleading would not
survive a motion to dismiss.” In re Interbank
Funding Corp., 629 F.3d at 215 (quoting Nat'l
Wrestling Coaches Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Educ.,
366 F.3d 930, 945 (D.C. Cir. 2004)). The standard for
deciding whether to deny leave due to futility is, as a
result, “for practical purposes . . . identical to [the
standard governing] a Rule 12(b)(6)” motion to dismiss.
Id. at 215-16. “Because leave to amend should
be liberally granted, the party opposing amendment bears the
burden of coming forward with a colorable basis for denying
leave to amend.” Jones v. Castro, 200
F.Supp.3d 183, 186 (D.D.C. 2016); see Abdullah v.
Washington, 530 F.Supp.2d 112, 115 (D.D.C. 2008).
U.S.C. § 1983 provides a private cause of action against
any “person” who, under color of state or
District of Columbia law, deprives another individual of a
federal constitutional or statutory right. 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Municipalities like the District of Columbia may be
held liable for their “agents' constitutional
torts” but only if those agents “acted pursuant
to municipal policy or custom.” Warren v. District
of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36, 38 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see
also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658,
691-94 (1978). To establish municipal liability under §
1983, Williams must demonstrate, first, that “there was
an underlying constitutional [or statutory] violation”
and, second, that “the municipality's policy or
custom caused the constitutional violation.” Bell
v. District of Columbia, 82 F.Supp.3d 151, 155 (D.D.C.
2015). To show that a D.C. “custom or policy caused the
claimed violations of his constitutional rights, ”
Williams must establish that the municipality (1)
“explicitly adopted the policy that was the moving
force of the constitutional violation;” (2)
“knowingly ignore[d] a practice that was consistent
enough to constitute custom;” or (3) failed to
“respond to a need . . . in such a manner as to show
deliberate indifference to the risk that not addressing the
need will result in constitutional violations.”
Warren, 353 F.3d at 39 (internal quotation marks
the last means of satisfying the causation
requirement-deliberate indifference-is relevant here.
Deliberate indifference “‘is determined by
analyzing whether the municipality knew or should have known
of the risk of constitutional violations,' but did not
act.” Id. (quoting Baker v. District of
Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2003)); see
Jones v. Horne, 634 F.3d 588, 601 (D.C. Cir. 2011)
(same). As the D.C. Circuit has explained, this standard
“means that, faced with actual or constructive