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Jiggetts v. Cipullo

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 23, 2019

STEPHEN JIGGETTS, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL CIPULLO and THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REGGIE B. WALTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Stephen Jiggetts, brings this civil action against Daniel Cipullo, in his capacity as the Director of the Criminal Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Superior Court”), and the District of Columbia (collectively, the “defendants”), asserting common law causes of action of false arrest (Count I), false imprisonment (Count II), malicious prosecution (Count III), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV), and slander (Count V), see Fourth Amended Complaint (“4th Am. Compl.”) ¶¶ 78-137, as well as federal claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution against Cipullo, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018) (Count VII) and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) (Count VIII).[1] Currently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Defs.' Mot.”). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [2] the Court concludes for the following reasons that it must grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiff's Bivens cause of action and deny summary judgment as to the plaintiff's other claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This case arises from an encounter between the plaintiff and Cipullo, which occurred outside of the main Superior Court building on the evening of November 6, 2014. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 1. The following facts are relevant to the plaintiff's claims.

         1. The November 6, 2014 Encounter Between the Plaintiff and Cipullo

         The plaintiff's wife, Tanisha Jiggetts, works with Cipullo at the Superior Court in the Criminal Division. See id., Exhibit (“Ex.”) H (Interview with Daniel Cipullo, Director of the Criminal Division, Superior Court (Nov. 13, 2014) (“Cipullo Interview”)) at ¶ 000039. However, according to Cipullo, the two “don't have the best working relationship.” Id., Ex. H (Cipullo Interview) at ¶ 000040. On November 6, 2014, Cipullo served the plaintiff's wife with a notice of suspension. See id., Ex. H (Cipullo Interview) at ¶ 000039-40. Thereafter, the plaintiff's wife called the plaintiff and told him that Cipullo “just detained [her] in [her] office” and “would not let [her] out.” Id., Ex. A (Deposition of Stephen Jiggetts (March 22, 2017) (“Stephen Jiggetts Dep.”)) 31:14-16.

         After receiving this call from his wife, the plaintiff drove to the Superior Court. See id., Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 31:19-20. As he approached the Superior Court in his vehicle, the plaintiff saw Cipullo leaving the courthouse. See Defs.' Facts ¶ 1.[3] Upon seeing Cipullo, the plaintiff exited his vehicle and approached Cipullo, see Defs.' Facts ¶ 2; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 43:3, along with the plaintiff's daughter, who also approached “the scene, ” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 45:20-21.

         The plaintiff confronted Cipullo, stating, “Detain me like you detained my wife. Talk to me like you talked to my wife, . . . mother****er.” Defs.' Facts ¶ 3; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 43:4-8. According to Cipullo, the plaintiff also threatened to “kick [his] ass, ” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. H (Cipullo Interview) at ¶ 000042; see id., Ex. S (Affidavit in Support of an Arrest Warrant (“Arrest Warrant Affidavit”)) at 1 (recording of Cipullo's statement to Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) officers, in which Cipullo represents that “[the plaintiff] [ ] stated[, ] ‘you can't threaten my wife, you can't touch my wife. I'll kick your ass.'”), which the plaintiff denies, see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 2, ¶ 1; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 44:16-20, 45:2-5.[4] Cipullo then informed the plaintiff that he was going to call the police, which the plaintiff encouraged him to do. See Defs.' Facts ¶¶ 4, 8; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 43:12-14. At that point, the plaintiff removed his police identification and badge from his back pocket to show Cipullo that he was a retired police officer. See Defs.' Facts ¶ 5; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 43:15-18, 44:2-12.

         Cipullo called the police as he indicated he was going to do, and because of their close proximity to the MPD headquarters, the plaintiff and Cipullo walked over to the police station together. See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 44:13-45:16. After the plaintiff and Cipullo reached the police station, the police officers who responded to Cipullo's call separated Cipullo from the plaintiff and his daughter, interviewed them, and declined to arrest the plaintiff, despite Cipullo's request that they do so. See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 54:6-19; id., Ex. H (Cipullo Interview) at ¶ 000043 (“‘I'd like to get a warrant for his arrest because he threatened me.' I know I can do this because I work in the courthouse. The white officer said[, ] ‘No, we're not going to arrest anyone because you threatened him too, so we're going to write a report.'”). The officers characterized their report of the incident as a miscellaneous report, rather than an offense report, see Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. C (Deposition of Detective David Gargac (Apr. 26, 2017) (“Gargac Dep.”)) 36:5-16, which, according to the one of the officers, meant that the officers, who interviewed Cipullo, the plaintiff, and the plaintiff's daughter, believed that “no crime” had been committed, id., Ex. C (Gargac Dep.) 36:11-12.

         2. Cipullo's Alleged Actions Following the November 6, 2014 Encounter

         Immediately following the encounter between the plaintiff and Cipullo, while still in MPD headquarters, Cipullo called his supervisor at the Superior Court, Cheryl Bailey, to tell her about the encounter and to ask her to join him at the station. See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. H (Cipullo Interview) at ¶ 000042-43. He also called Superior Court Judge Morin to inform him about the encounter. See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. E (Deposition of Daniel Cipullo Deposition (May 2, 2017) (“Cipullo Dep.”)) 62:15-22. Bailey then contacted the then-Chief Judge of the Court, Lee Satterfield, and the Court's Chief Security Officer, Richard Parris, to report what had occurred. See id., Ex. F (Deposition of Cheryl Bailey (May 8, 2017) (“Bailey Dep.”)) 32:6-15. The next day, a meeting took place between a number of Superior Court officials, including Cipullo, Bailey, and Parris, to determine what to “do going forward.” Id., Ex. E (Cipullo Dep.) 65:1-4, 10-15.

         On November 13, 2014, Parris interviewed Cipullo regarding what had occurred on November 6, 2014. See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 8; see generally Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. H (Cipullo Interview). During this interview, Cipullo reported that the plaintiff stated that he was “gonna kick [Cipullo's] ass.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. H (Cipullo Interview) at ¶ 000042; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 8. On November 16, 2014, Parris emailed excerpts from his interview of Cipullo, which included the accusation that Cipullo had been threatened by the plaintiff, to the then-Chief of the MPD, Cathy Lanier; the email was also copied to Chief Judge Satterfield. See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 10; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. J (Email Correspondence Between Various Superior Court and MPD Officials (“Superior Court Emails I”)) at 2-5; see generally id., Ex. M (Email Correspondence Between Various Superior Court, United States Attorneys' Office, and MPD Officials (“Superior Court Emails II”)). Chief Lanier replied to Parris, indicating that she would “look into this.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. J (Superior Court Emails I) at 2. MPD Commander William Fitzgerald then responded to Chief Lanier, indicating that he was “not familiar with [the encounter between the plaintiff and Cipullo], ” but stated that “once [the] incident is located[, ] [he would] have detectives re-interview and apply for a warrant.” Id., Ex. J (Superior Court Emails I) at 1; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 12-13; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. K (Deposition of William Fitzgerald (Oct. 17, 2017) (“Fitzgerald Dep.”)) 17:8-10.

         Commander Fitzgerald then forwarded Chief Lanier's email to Lieutenant Richard Brady, asking if Lieutenant Brady was familiar with the incident. See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. L (Email Correspondence Between MPD Officers (“MPD Emails”)) at 4. Lieutenant Brady responded that “[t]he report was taken for miscellaneous[, ] . . . I will have it assigned to determine if threats occurred.” Id., Ex. L (MPD Emails) at 2. He also attached a copy of the report to his email. See id., Ex. L (MPD Emails) at 2. Chief Lanier then emailed Commander Fitzgerald, stating: “This looks nothing like the claim I got. Either way [the] [C]hief [J]udge is threatening to bar all MPD [officers] and other armed [officers] from court.” Id., Ex. L (MPD Emails) at 2; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 14. Commander Fitzgerald replied that he “agree[d] [the report] doesn[']t match the events described in [] Cipullo's email” and informed Chief Lanier that a detective would “interview [] Cipullo [] and prepare an offense report and initiate [an] investigation.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. L (MPD Emails) at 1-2.

         On that same day, Chief Judge Satterfield responded to Parris's email containing the excerpts of Cipullo's interview and sent copies of his email to the then-United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen and Chief Lanier. See generally id., Ex. M (Superior Court Emails II); see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 117. Chief Judge Satterfield urged in his email that there be a swift resolution of the problem and stated: “[i]f this can't be done then all police officers coming into the building will have to be screened or barred if we can[]not identify [the plaintiff].” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. M (Superior Court Emails II) at 1; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 15. In response to Chief Judge Satterfield's email, United States Attorney Machen replied that Cipullo's accusations were “obviously a serious matter” and promised to have “someone follow up with [] Cipullo regarding the incident.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. M (Superior Court Emails II) at 1; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 18. Chief Lanier also replied to Chief Judge Satterfield's email, stating that her officers were “following up as we speak.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. N (Email Correspondence Between Various Superior Court and MPD Officials (“Superior Court Emails III”)) at 1. Later that night, Chief Judge Satterfield forwarded the responses from United States Attorney Machen and Chief Lanier to Cipullo, see id., Ex. M (Court Emails II) at 1; id., Ex. N (Superior Court Emails III) at 1, who thanked Chief Judge Satterfield “for [his] support in th[e] matter, ” id., Ex. N (Superior Court Emails III) at 1; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 19.

         The following day, on November 17, 2014, eleven days after the November 6, 2014 encounter between the plaintiff and Cipullo, Detectives David Gargac and Charles Viggiani of the MPD interviewed the plaintiff and his daughter separately, see Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. S (Arrest Warrant Affidavit) at 2-3, and during the course of the plaintiff's interview, the detectives informed the plaintiff that he was “the subject of an investigation” in “the case between [him] and Cipullo, ” id., Ex. A (Stephens Jiggetts Dep.) 73:12, 15-16.

         3. The Plaintiff's Arrest and Prosecution

         On November 20, 2014, Cipullo emailed Chief Judge Satterfield and stated: “I just got a call from the [United States Attorney's Office] and they will be filing for an arrest warrant today. Just wanted to let you know. Thanks again for all your support.” Id., Ex. O (Email Correspondence Between Cipullo and Chief Judge Satterfield) at ¶ 000029; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 20. Chief Judge Satterfield responded: “Wow, when police don't police their own go to the prosecutor.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. O (Email Correspondence Between Cipullo and Chief Judge Satterfield) at ¶ 000029; see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 21. That same day, the plaintiff was charged with felony threats under D.C. Code § 22-1810, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. S (Arrest Warrant Affidavit) at 1. The plaintiff subsequently surrendered himself to the MPD the following morning, id., Ex. A (Stephen Jiggetts Dep.) 96:17-20, and was detained for “over ten hours, ” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 26.

         On February 26, 2015, the plaintiff entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Attorney's Office. See id. ¶ 29; see generally Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. P (Deferred Prosecution Agreement). In accordance with the deferred prosecution agreement, the United States Attorney dismissed the charges against the plaintiff with prejudice on October 30, 2015, see Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. Q (Corrected Order to Seal Public Criminal Records (“Order to Seal”)) at 1, 3, and in his Order to Seal, Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz “credit[ed] [the] [plaintiff's] version of the events that led up to [the plaintiff's] arrest, and [found] by a preponderance of the evidence that the [plaintiff] did not commit the offense for which he was arrested, ” id., Ex. Q (Order to Seal) at 1. Judge Kravitz therefore ordered the sealing of the records in the plaintiff's criminal case. Id., Ex. Q (Order to Seal) at 1.

         B. Procedural Background

         The plaintiff filed this action against Cipullo on November 3, 2015. See Complaint at 1. On May 23, 2016, the Court granted the plaintiff's unopposed motion to amend his complaint to add the District of Columbia, Cipullo's employer, as a defendant based on the liability theory of respondeat superior, see Order at 1 (May 23, 2016), ECF No. 10, and the plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint that same day, see generally Amended Complaint. In light of information uncovered during discovery, the Court granted the plaintiff permission to further amend his complaint to add federal causes of action against Cipullo, but not against the District, see Jiggetts v. Cipullo, 285 F.Supp.3d 156, 173 (D.D.C. 2015) (Walton, J.), which the plaintiff did on September 22, 2017, see generally Third Amended Complaint and Jury Demand. And on January 26, 2018, the plaintiff filed his Fourth Amended Complaint, which is now the operative complaint in this case. See 4th Am. Compl. at 1. After discovery closed on March 13, 2018, see Order at 1 (Feb. 20, 2018), ECF No. 61, the defendants jointly filed a motion for summary judgment on May 31, 2018, see Defs.' Mot. at 1, which is opposed by the plaintiff, see generally Pl.'s Opp'n. This motion is the subject of this Memorandum Opinion.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A court can grant a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment only if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,' and a dispute about a material fact is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 692 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Id. The movant has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that the non-moving party “fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Accordingly, the non-moving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there [are] genuine issue[s] for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position [is] insufficient” to withstand a motion for summary judgment; rather, “there must be [some] evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Id. at 252.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The defendants argue that judgment should be entered in their favor on all of the plaintiff's claims because “[the p]laintiff's constitutional claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against [] Cipullo fails because he was not a state actor at the time of the[] [relevant] events, ” Defs.' Mot. at 1; see Defs.' Mem. at 8-11; (2) “to the extent the Court finds [that Cipullo was a state actor], he is entitled to qualified immunity, ” Defs.' Mot. at 1; see Defs.' Mem. at 11-13; (3) “[the p]laintiff's common law claims either fail for lack of proof or cannot be maintained against the District based on [the p]laintiff's failure to comply with D.C. Code § 12-309, ” Defs.' Mot. at 1; see Defs.' Mem. at 13-21; and (4) “[the p]laintiff's Bivens claim cannot be maintained against [] Cipullo because he is not a federal actor, ” Defs.' Mot. at 1; see Defs.' Mem. at 6-8.[5] The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Liability under 42 U.S.C. ...


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