United States District Court, District of Columbia
GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS
ROWLEY, STRANGE, AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'S MOTION TO
DISMISS; DECLINING TO EXERCISE JURISDICTION
OVER REMAINING STATE LAW CLAIMS
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Charles Turpin brings suit against Metropolitan Police
Department Officers Anthony Rowley and Sharon Strange, the
District of Columbia, and landlord Darnell Ray. Mr. Turpin
asserts individual and municipal liability claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Officers Rowley and Strange and
the District of Columbia for violations of his Fourth
Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable seizures. He has
also brought common law claims for trespass, false arrest,
wrongful eviction, and malicious prosecution against Officers
Rowley and Strange, and the common law claim of malicious
prosecution against the District of Columbia. He further
asserts individual common law claims against Darnell Ray for
wrongful eviction, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.
For the forthcoming reasons, the Court grants Officers Rowley
and Strange's motion to dismiss the § 1983 claims of
illegal entry, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.
Furthermore, the Court grants the District of Columbia's
motion to dismiss the § 1983 municipal liability claim.
Finally, the Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Mr. Turpin's remaining state law
claims. Thus, the common law claims of false arrest,
trespass, wrongful eviction, and malicious prosecution
against Officers Rowley and Strange; of malicious prosecution
against the District of Columbia; and of wrongful eviction,
false arrest, and malicious prosecution against Darnell Ray
will be remanded to the D.C. Superior Court.
Turpin is a District of Columbia resident who, prior to
commencement of this action, had been a long-time tenant of
Darnell Ray's. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8-9, ECF No. 5.
Mr. Turpin and his partner, Ms. Miles, had lived in an
apartment rented from Mr. Ray for at least 10 years.
Id. ¶ 8. Ms. Miles's name was on the lease.
Id. ¶ 9. Following Ms. Miles's death in
2016, Mr. Ray indicated to Mr. Turpin that he wished to sell
the apartment and asked Mr. Turpin to vacate the premises.
Id. ¶ 14. In July 2016, Mr. Ray initiated a
landlord-tenant case against Mr. Turpin seeking repossession
of the apartment. Id. ¶ 15. The lawsuit
resulted in a judgment of possession against Mr. Turpin, and
on October 13, 2016, the court issued a Writ of Restitution
authorizing Mr. Turpin's eviction. Id. ¶
15-16. The Writ was set to expire seventy-five days from
issuance. Id. ¶ 16.
District of Columbia, evictions are carried out by the U.S.
Marshals Service. See D.C. Code § 13-302
(“[T]he United States Marshal for the District of
Columbia . . . shall serve the process of . . . the Superior
Court of the District of Columbia.”); D.C. Super. Ct.
Land. & Ten. R. 16 (detailing process by which U.S.
Marshal execute writs of restitution); Pl.'s Opp'n
Defs.' Mot. Dismiss. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”)
Ex. 1, ECF No. 11-1; see also Mendes v. Johnson, 389
A.2d 781, 786-87 (D.C. 1978) (holding evictions may only be
executed by appropriate legal process not landlord
self-help); D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 6-A, § 200.11
(“Members of the [police] force shall not serve civil
process; nor shall they render assistance in civil
cases.”). Acting pursuant to this rule, Mr. Ray paid
the required eviction fee to the Marshals Service. Am. Compl.
¶ 17. During the seventy-five-day period in which the
Writ of Restitution was active, Mr. Turpin continued to
occupy the residence and was never officially removed by the
Marshals. See Id. ¶ 19. On December 27, 2016,
the Writ of Restitution for Mr. Turpin's eviction expired
without the Marshals Service taking any action to execute the
eviction. Id. ¶ 18. At some point between when
the court issued the Writ of Restitution and when it expired,
Mr. Ray changed the locks of the apartment, barring Mr.
Turpin from entry. Id. ¶ 19. As a result of the
changed locks, Mr. Turpin, who at that time still occupied
the apartment, forced entry into the unit by breaking through
the rear door. Id. ¶ 20.
Mr. Turpin's re-entry into the apartment he received no
communication from Mr. Ray until Mr. Ray called police
officers to the premises on December 29, 2016. Id.
¶¶ 21- 23. On first dispatch, the officers that
arrived at the scene did not enter the apartment and
ultimately declined to intervene in what they deemed a civil
matter between a landlord and tenant. Id. ¶ 22.
Later that day, Mr. Ray again called the police, and
different officers, Officers Rowley and Strange, were
dispatched to the premises. Id. ¶¶ 23-24.
After speaking with Mr. Ray, who informed them of the
eviction proceedings, the officers “indicated to Mr.
Turpin that he had been evicted” and needed to come out
of the apartment. Id. ¶ 26. During that
conversation Mr. Turpin admitted that he had forced entry
into the apartment and acknowledged that while eviction
proceedings had been entered against him, the Marshals
Service had yet to remove him from the apartment.
Id. ¶ 25. Mr. Turpin maintained that the Writ
of Restitution against him had expired and that he had a
right to remain in the apartment. See id. Following
this conversation, Officers Rowley and Strange entered the
apartment, arrested Mr. Turpin, and forcibly removed him from
the premises. Id. ¶¶ 26-30.
his arrest, Mr. Turpin was charged with destruction of
property and resisting arrest and was prosecuted fully.
Id. ¶ 29. Mr. Turpin's trial took place on
July 9, 2017, and the next day, he was acquitted on all
counts. Id. ¶ 31. On October 6, 2017, Mr.
Turpin commenced this action in D.C. Superior Court, which
the District of Columbia then removed to federal court.
See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Mr. Turpin has
brought individual and municipal liability claims for Fourth
Amendment violations pursuant to § 1983 against Officer
Rowley, Officer Strange, and the District of Columbia, as
well as common law tort claims against Officer Rowley,
Officer Strange, the District of Columbia, and Mr. Ray.
See generally Am. Compl. Before the Court today are
motions to dismiss from Officers Rowley and Strange, the
District of Columbia, and Mr. Ray. Each motion is now ripe
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
contain a “short and plain statement of the
claim” in order to give the defendant fair notice of
the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93
(2007) (per curium). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)
does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of
success on the merits, but rather whether a plaintiff has
properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416
U.S. 232, 236 (1974). A court considering a motion to dismiss
presumes the complaint's factual allegations are true and
must construe them in a light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See, e.g., United States v. Philip
Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000).
it is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements
of a prima facie case in the complaint, “[t]o survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Assuming
all factual allegations are true, a plaintiff's right to
relief must rise above “the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (2007) (citations
omitted). A court need not accept a plaintiff's legal
conclusions as true, see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, nor
presume the veracity of legal conclusions couched as factual
allegations. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements” will
therefore not withstand a motion to dismiss. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678.
Rowley and Strange contend that Mr. Turpin has failed to
state a claim for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights,
and that even if he has stated valid claims, the officers are
entitled to dismissal on the constitutional claims on
qualified immunity grounds. Defs.' Mem. P. & A. Supp.
Mot. Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) at 6-12, ECF No.
9. Officers Rowley and Strange further assert that they are
entitled to common law privilege for the additional false
arrest and trespass claims, and that Mr. Turpin has failed to
state claims for wrongful eviction and malicious prosecution.
Id. at 12-14. The District of Columbia contends that
Mr. Turpin has failed to both adequately plead a
“deliberate indifference” municipal liability
claim under § 1983, as well as state a claim for common
law malicious prosecution. Id. at 15-18. Finally,
Mr. Ray argues that Mr. Turpin has failed to state proper
claims for wrongful eviction, false arrest, and malicious
prosecution. See generally Def. Ray's Mem. Supp.
Mot. Dismiss (“Def. Ray's Mem.”), ECF No.
20-1. The Court will address each argument in turn.
§ 1983 Claims Against Officers Rowley and
Turpin has brought § 1983 claims against Officers Rowley
and Strange, alleging they violated his Fourth Amendment
rights against warrantless entry and unreasonable seizure
when they (1) entered his apartment without a search warrant
or the occurrence of exigent circumstances; (2) arrested him
without a corresponding arrest warrant or probable cause; and
(3) initiated criminal proceedings against him with
“full knowledge” of the illegality of the arrest.
Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-57. Officers Rowley and Strange
contend, given Mr. Turpin's unresolved tenancy status and
his admission that he had participated in the destruction of
property on the premises, that: (1) no predicate
constitutional violations occurred because Mr. Turpin had no
expectation of privacy in the home and probable cause existed
for his arrest; and (2) even if a violation occurred, the
officers are nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity
because the violations were not “clearly
established” under the circumstances. Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 243-44 (2009); see
Defs.' Mem. at 6-12.
Supreme Court has identified a clear mandate for courts to
resolve qualified immunity questions at the earliest possible
stage of litigation, leading this Court to assess Officers
Rowley and Strange's entitlement to qualified immunity at
the motion to dismiss phase. Pearson, 555 U.S. at
231. While this Court recognizes a recent reluctance among
other courts in this Circuit to make qualified immunity
determinations prior to trial, the facts before the Court
coupled with the case law regarding both Mr. Turpin's
expectation of privacy in the apartment in question and
probable cause surrounding his arrest allow for a qualified
immunity assessment at this stage. See Jiggetts v.
Cipullo, 285 F.Supp.3d 156, 172 (D.D.C. 2018)
(discussing circuit trend).
§ 1983 Illegal Entry Claim
Turpin alleges that Officers Rowley and Strange violated his
Fourth Amendment rights by illegally entering his apartment
without a warrant or exigent circumstances. See Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 32-42. Officers Rowley and Strange assert
that Mr. Turpin has not pleaded sufficient facts to establish
a reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment at the
time that would have entitled him to Fourth Amendment
protection in the first place, but that even if he had, the
officers are nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity for
their actions. Defs.' Mem. at 8. The Court finds
that clearly established law did not prohibit Officers Rowley
and Strange's conduct under the circumstances, and that
therefore, qualified immunity protects their ...