United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
Shanel Proctor and Charlaine Braxton, two homeless residents
of the District of Columbia, are suing the City, Mayor Muriel
Bowser, and Deputy Mayor HyeSook Chung (collectively,
“the District”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. They
seek an order instructing the District to temporarily store
unattended belongings of homeless residents, rather than
immediately destroying them. The Court already denied the
Plaintiffs' Motions for a Preliminary Injunction and for
Class Certification. See Proctor v. District of
Columbia, 310 F.Supp.3d 107, 118 (D.D.C. 2018). The
Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint, and the District moved
to dismiss. Although a preliminary injunction requires a
plaintiff to make a clear showing of a likelihood of success
on the merits, a plaintiff must only state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face to survive a motion to dismiss.
Given the relaxed standard of review at this stage and the
fact-bound nature of the claims at issue, the Court will
largely deny the District's Motion to Dismiss.
District of Columbia has adopted a Protocol for the
Disposition of Property Found on Public Space and Outreach to
Displaced Persons. Am. Compl. Ex. 2, ECF No. 32-7. The
District issued this Protocol to address security, health,
and safety concerns for both homeless residents and the
public generally. See Proctor, 310 F.Supp.3d at 110.
As further detailed in Proctor, the Protocol
requires the District to temporarily store certain items
found at encampment sites during clearings: important
documents, bicycles, tents, or “any permissible
belongings designated by an individual for storage within the
two provided 40-gallon box/bins, whether through placement in
the box/bins, in black trash bags, or through other
reasonable or oral means.” Am. Compl. Ex. 2 at Part
VLC. Before the District clears an encampment, the Protocol
requires officials to post a written notice nearby. Am.
Compl. ¶ 5. The notice explains that certain items-such
as items marked for storage and items of obvious value-will
be stored but that “[a]ll other items visible from this
location and not removed from this public space by the
above-stated scheduled cleanup time are subject to removal
and disposal.” Id. ¶ 38.
Plaintiffs allege that the District, in practice,
“deems” property as abandoned if the owner is
absent at the time of the clearing and he had not told anyone
that he wants his belongings stored. Am. Compl. ¶ 51.
And the District “deems” property abandoned
“if the owner leaves after the clearing team is already
on site.” Id. ¶ 52. According to Ms.
Proctor, the District destroyed her tent, mattress, birth
certificate, Social Security card, and other belongings while
she was getting food and charging her phone at Harris Teeter.
Decl. of Shane Proctor 1, ECF No. 32-5.
to Ms. Braxton, the District took her belongings, as well.
Decl. of Charlaine Braxton ¶ 18, ECF No. 32-6. Ms.
Braxton claims that even though the District had posted a
notice about a scheduled clearing, the clearing did not
happen at that time. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. She
later spoke to outreach workers and heard that while
“certain garbage could be thrown away, other belongings
would be stored . . . .” Id. ¶ 10. She
states that she told the workers that she wanted her things
kept. Id. The next day, she left her tent and
belongings and told her neighbors that she would be back, but
her items were gone when she returned. Id.
¶¶ 13; 18. She insists that she went to the
District storage facility, but she found only some of her
belongings. Id. ¶ 18.
Plaintiffs seek both declaratory and injunctive relief. They
ask for a declaratory judgment rendering the District's
practice of destroying the unattended belongings of homeless
residents unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fifth
Amendments. Am. Compl. at 26. And they seek a permanent
injunction against the District from destroying unattended
belongings of homeless residents. Id.
may move to dismiss a complaint because it “fail[s] to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must contain sufficient
factual allegations that, if true, “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff and accept as true all reasonable factual
inferences drawn from well-pled factual allegations. See
In re United Mine Workers of Am. Emp. Benefit Plans
Litig., 854 F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994). And
“[i]n determining whether a complaint fails to state a
claim, [the court] may consider only the facts alleged in the
complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated
in the complaint and matters of which [the court] may take
judicial notice.” Hurd v. District of Columbia
Gov't, 864 F.3d 671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (internal
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a complaint may be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The
parties invoking the court's jurisdiction bear the burden
of establishing standing. Susan B. Anthony List v.
Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 2334, 2342 (2014). When facing a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), they “must
clearly allege facts demonstrating each element.”
Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016)
(cleaned up). To establish their standing, plaintiffs must
allege an injury that is “concrete, particularized, and
actual or imminent; fairly traceable to the challenged
action; and redressable by a favorable ruling.”
Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l USA, 568 U.S. 398, 409
The Plaintiffs Have Adequately Alleged Standing
is no dispute that the Plaintiffs meet the typical
“case or controversy” requirements of Article III
of the Constitution. The question is whether they have
standing to obtain injunctive relief. The District argues
that the Plaintiffs lack standing to seek prospective
injunctive relief because they do not allege a real and
immediate threat to their constitutional rights. Defs.'
Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.'
Mem.”) 26, ECF No. 39. The Plaintiffs insist that they
do face the risk of imminent injury absent judicial relief
because they will likely be subjected to clearings in the
future, given the history of District clearings. Pls.'
Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 17 (“Pls.'
Opp'n”), ECF No. 41.
order to obtain such an injunction, a plaintiff cannot simply
allege that he was previously subjected to the
defendant's actions.” D.C. Common Cause v.
District of Columbia, 858 F.2d 1, 8 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
Plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief must show that they are
in immediate danger of sustaining some direct injury in the
future. City of Los Angeles v. ...