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Robinson v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 7, 2019

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION, [DKT. ## 23, 27]


         Plaintiff Jamal B. Robinson ("plaintiff or "Robinson") is a former Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") officer in the District of Columbia. He filed this lawsuit against two other members of the MPD-Detective Scott Pinto and Officer Maurice Clifford[1]-and the District of Columbia (collectively, "defendants"), alleging that on November 6, 2013, while Robinson was off duty, Detective Pinto and Officer Clifford detained him without legal justification and employed excessive force against him in violation of Robinson's constitutional rights and District of Columbia laws against false arrest and assault and battery. The District of Columbia is liable, according to Robinson, for negligently training and supervising Pinto and Clifford. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all pending claims. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. ("Defs.' Mot.") [Dkt. # 23].

         Upon consideration of the briefing, the record, [2] and the relevant law, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion for summary judgment for the reasons stated below.


         On November 6, 2013, at about 6:20 pm, Robinson was seated on a low retaining wall outside of a vacant house in Southeast Washington, D.C. Defs.' Stmt. Mat. Facts ("Defs.' SOMF") ¶¶ 9, 13 [Dkt. # 23-2]; Pl.'s Stmt. Relevant Facts ¶ 3 [Dkt. # 24]. Because he was employed as a police officer at the time, Robinson was carrying MPD credentials in his back pocket and wearing a police badge on the front of his right hip under an open jacket. Id. ¶¶ 1, 18, 63; Defs.'Mot. Ex. 1 at 80:1-6, 81:1-7 [Dkt. # 23-4]. But Robinson was off duty and dressed in civilian clothing, so passersby would not have recognized him as an MPD officer unless they happened to catch a glimpse of his badge. Defs.' SOMF ¶ 18.

         Pinto and Clifford, also MPD officers, were on duty that day, patrolling Southeast Washington and conducting gun interdiction operations with fellow MPD Officer Ryan Roe. Defs.' SOMF ¶¶ 9, 11. On their patrol, Pinto and Clifford observed Robinson seated on the wall and talking to an individual-who turned out to be Robinson's brother-in an improperly parked car with heavily tinted windows. Id. ¶¶ 13-17. The vacant house behind Robinson had a no trespassing sign posted on the door. Id. ¶ 13; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 at 50:7- 12. Pinto and Clifford both had over a decade of experience as MPD officers and, based on that experience, believed that abandoned houses are sometimes used to store weapons and drugs. Defs.' SOMF ¶¶ 2, 4, 20. They stopped their vehicle to investigate. Id. ¶¶ 23-27.

         After exiting the vehicle, Pinto, Clifford, and Roe approached Robinson and asked him to stand up and submit to a search. Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 at 66:4-6. Robinson declined, so the other officers asked whether he was carrying any weapons. Id. at 66:7-13. Although off duty, Robinson was carrying his gun, and he truthfully responded that he was armed. Id. at 66:14-17. Importantly, Robinson told Pinto, Clifford, and Roe that he had a gun before he told them that he was a member of the MPD. Id. at 201:12-202:3.

         Upon hearing that Robinson was carrying a gun, the other officers tackled him to the ground and placed him in handcuffs. Defs.' SOMF ¶ 45; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 at 66:18-67:10. During the handcuffing, a police officer lay on top of Robinson, an officer briefly placed a knee on Robinson's neck, and an officer applied an arm bar to one of Robinson's arms. Defs.' SOMF ¶42; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 at 75:6-18. Robinson concedes, however, that the entire process was "pretty fast." Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 at 78:2-6. The officers were able to apply the handcuffs "immediately," and in Robinson's opinion, no officer contacted his body for longer than necessary. Id. at 78:2-6, 79:2-6, 227:18-228:3. The entire handcuffing process took "under a minute." Id. at 78:2-6.

         After he was handcuffed, Robinson repeatedly told Pinto, Clifford, and Roe that he was an MPD officer. Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 at 78:7-9. The on-duty officers searched Robinson, removed his weapon, found the MPD credentials in his back pocket, and sat him up. Defs.' SOMF ¶¶ 54, 63; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 1 at 79:22-80:6. Clifford then called their supervisors. Defs.' SOMF ¶ 61.

         Robinson recalls that the supervising officers took over an hour to arrive at the scene and that he remained in handcuffs for the entire wait. Defs.' SOMF ¶¶ 65-66. After they arrived, the supervisors released Robinson without charges. Id. ¶ 68. Robinson's brother was arrested for operating a vehicle with a suspended license and was issued tickets for parking illegally and for a window tint violation. Id. ¶¶ 75-76.

         Immediately following the incident, Pinto, Clifford, and Roe provided statements to MPD Internal Affairs, prompting an investigation into both their conduct and Robinson's conduct. Defs.' SOMF ¶¶ 77, 79. Internal Affairs subsequently issued a report concluding that Robinson engaged in misconduct by failing to inform Pinto, Clifford, and Roe that he was an MPD officer before announcing that he was carrying a weapon. Id. ¶ 80. In a separate report, Internal Affairs determined that the on-duty officers' use of force during the incident was justified. Id. ¶ 81.

         After MPD's internal investigation concluded, Robinson filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Notice of Removal ¶ 1 [Dkt. # 1]. Defendants timely removed the case to this Court, see id., and on February 12, 2015, Robinson filed an Amended Complaint [Dkt. # 8], which remains the operative pleading.

         Robinson's amended complaint alleges three causes of action under District of Columbia tort law and two causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On June 17, 2015, 1 dismissed Count V of the amended complaint as conceded, leaving claims for false arrest, assault and battery, and negligent training and supervision under District of Columbia law, and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of Robinson's Fourth Amendment rights. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all four remaining claims, and their motion is ripe.

         LEGAL ...

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