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Harris v. Bowser

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 27, 2019

WARREN HARRIS, Plaintiff
v.
MURIEL E. BOWSER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This suit arises from Plaintiff Warren Harris's request for relief on his alleged claims of: (1) unreasonable seizure in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Count I); deprivation of fundamental rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fifth Amendment (Count II); and deprivation of right to liberty without due process of law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fifth Amendment. Defendants in this case: (1) Muriel Bowser, in her official capacity as the Mayor of the District of Columbia (“the District”); (2) Tanya Royster, in her official capacity as the Director of the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health (“DBH”); (3) Mark Chastang, in his official capacity as Chief Executive Officer of St. Elizabeths Hospital (“St. Elizabeths”); and (4) Quincy L. Booth, in his official capacity as Director of the D.C. Department of Corrections (“DOC”) have filed a [9] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's [1] Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and for Compensatory Damages, in its entirety.[1] For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Plaintiff's claim for unreasonable seizure pursuant to the Fourth Amendment (Count I) is dismissed, while Plaintiff's claims for deprivation of his rights pursuant to the Fifth Amendment (Counts II and III) remain standing. Furthermore, Plaintiff has standing to seek injunctive relief, and the District of Columbia need not be substituted for the Defendants in this matter. A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's History of Commitment and Incarceration

          On September 22, 1981, Plaintiff Warren Harris (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Harris”) was “committed into the custody of St. Elizabeths Hospital pursuant to Title 24, Section 301(d)(1) of the District of Columbia Code [now D.C. Code §§ 24-501 (d)(1)] until such time as (he) is ordered released, ” after being found guilty by reason of insanity on a misdemeanor charge of Possession of a Prohibited Weapon. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 2, 44; June 22, 2016 Consent Order for Limited Conditional Release (“June 22, 2016 Consent Order”), ECF No. 9-1, at 1. On that same date, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to a charge of Manslaughter While Armed, for which he was sentenced to a period of incarceration of 7½ to 25 years, of which he served 10 years. June 22, 2016 Consent Order, ECF No. 9-1, at 1. For most of the subsequent 36 years, Mr. Harris “receiv[ed] either inpatient care while residing within St. Elizabeths or outpatient care while living in the community[.]” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 8. Plaintiff notes his classification as a “forensic” patient, which is terminology used by St. Elizabeths when an individual is “being treated by a mental health services facility for reasons related to his involvement in the criminal justice system.” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 9.

         Mr. Harris has been granted several conditional releases since his commitment began, and he was returned to inpatient care most recently on October 15, 2014, following his conviction for Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance (Cocaine) and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, and his sentence of 36 months' incarceration, which was to be served in a facility operated by the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and followed by five years of supervised release. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 46-50; June 22, 2016 Consent Order, ECF No. 9-1, at 1. Mr. Harris was “subsequently conditionally released pursuant to an order issued by Chief Judge Robert Morin of the D.C. Superior Court, on May 3, 2017, finding that Mr. Harris will not, in the reasonably foreseeable future, present a danger to himself or others because of mental illness if conditionally released[.]” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 8; May 3, 2017 Consent Order for Conditional Release (“May 3 2017 Consent Order”), ECF No. 11-1, at 2.

         B. Events Leading to the Lawsuit

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on April 4, 2018. Plaintiff's Complaint indicates that, on January 17, 2017, St. Elizabeths recommended that the Superior Court issue an order conditionally releasing Plaintiff to live in the community, on the basis that he would not pose a danger if released. Compl., ECF No.1, ¶¶ 3, 55. The D.C. Superior Court scheduled a hearing for April 5, 2017, to consider that recommendation. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 3, 56. On April 5, 2017, the DOC picked up Plaintiff at St. Elizabeths and transported him to and from the D.C. Superior Court. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 4, 61. Plaintiff alleges that “the DOC removed [his] shoelaces and belt and subjected him to five-point restraints” before he rode in a van “with Class “A” patients, seated on a bench facing a metal screen dividing male and female patients, ” and when he arrived at the Courthouse, he was “placed in a holding cell.” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 4, 63-65.[2] Furthermore, “Mr. Harris' restraints remained in place and his belt and shoelaces were not provided to him” even when “appearing in court.” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 66. At that hearing, the court granted the Government's request for continuance and scheduled another appearance for May 3, 2017. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 68. Mr. Harris, through counsel, complained about the April 5, 2017 transport and requested that St. Elizabeths transport him to his May 3, 2017 hearing, but that request was denied. Compl, ECF No. 1, ¶ 69. Mr. Harris was conditionally released from St. Elizabeths on May 3, 2017. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 8.

         C. Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants in this case - the District, DBH, St. Elizabeths, and DOC - “subject[ ] patients under the care and custody of St. Elizabeths to unwarranted and unconstitutional restraint when transporting patients to and from St. Elizabeths and D. C. Superior Court to attend court hearings about the status of their commitment at St. Elizabeths.” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 1. In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that the practice whereby forensic patients are placed in restraints during transport and put in a holding cell while awaiting a court hearing constitutes “an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment[.]” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 91. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that the way in which he was transported by the DOC to and from the D.C. Superior Court, on April 5, 2017, and placed in a holding cell “violat[ed] [ ] his Fifth Amendment right to adequate medical care and to be free of unwarranted bodily restraint.” Compl, ECF No. 1, ¶ 109. In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that the way in which he was transported by DOC to and from the D.C. Superior Court, on April 5, 2017, “constitute[s] a deprivation of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment[.]” Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 117. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief because he “remains subject to being returned to St. Elizabeths for mandatory treatment and has no other adequate remedy to prevent future injury . . . “Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 92, 109, 118.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1)

         A court must dismiss a case pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(1) when it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. In determining whether there is jurisdiction, the Court may “consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Coalition for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); see also Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. Food & Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (“[T]he district court may consider materials outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.”)

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), courts must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and construe the complaint liberally, granting plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be drawn from the facts alleged. See Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993); Koutny v. Martin, 530 F.Supp.2d 84, 87 (D.D.C. 2007) (“[A] court accepts as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and may also consider ‘undisputed facts evidenced in the record'”) (internal citations omitted). Despite the favorable inferences that a plaintiff receives on a motion to dismiss, it remains the plaintiff's burden to prove subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Am. Farm Bureau v. United States Envtl. Prot. Agency, 121 F.Supp.2d 84, 90 (D.D.C. 2000). “Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), [a] plaintiff[‘s] factual allegations in the complaint. . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance Bd., 503 F.Supp.2d 163, 170 (D.D.C. 2007) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted), aff'd., 2008 WL 4068606 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 17, 2008). A court need not accept as true “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” or an inference “unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint.” Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasam v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         B. Failure to State a Claim under Rule 12(b)(6)

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint on grounds that it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint is not sufficient if it “tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff.” Nat'l Postal Prof'l Nurses v. U.S. Postal Serv., 461 F.Supp.2d 24, 27 (D.D.C. 2006).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, courts may consider “the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint” or “documents upon which the plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies even if the document is produced not by the plaintiff in the complaint but by the defendant in a motion to dismiss.” Ward v. District of Columbia Dep't of Youth Rehab. Servs., 768 F.Supp.2d 117, 119 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The court may also consider documents in the public record of which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

         Accordingly, for purposes of the pending motion, the Court takes judicial notice of the June 22, 2016 Consent Order for Conditional Release issued by Chief Judge Lee Satterfield in United States of America v. Warren Harris, No. 1981 FEL 000024, attached as Ex. 1 to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 9-1, and the May 3, 2017 Consent Order for Conditional Release in the aforementioned case, which is attached as Ex 1 to Plaintiff's Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 11-1.

         III. ...


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