Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jackson v. Bowser

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 3, 2019

WILLIE JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MURIEL BOWSER, in her official capacity as Mayor of the District of Columbia, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Ketanji Brown Jackson United States District Judge.

         As a longtime resident of the District of Columbia, plaintiff Willie Jackson has seen new construction projects transform District neighborhoods. One such project hit particularly close to home on March 15, 2015, when Defendants 2800 Sherman Avenue, LLC (“2800 Sherman”) and Capital City Real Estate, LLC (“Capital City”) (collectively, “the Private Defendants”) began constructing on a new multi-unit residential building next door to Jackson's house. (See Am. Compl., ECF No. 6, ¶ 11.) Jackson claims that over the next three years, the Private Defendants' employees engaged in tortious conduct against him and his property, and that they joined together with Defendants Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District of Columbia (collectively, “the Public Defendants”) in a collective and concerted effort to displace longtime African-American and poor District residents and replace them with younger, more affluent, white residents. Jackson brings this lawsuit alleging that Defendants' conduct violated his constitutional rights and the common law.

         Before this Court at present are three motions that the parties filed in this matter: the Private Defendants' motion to dismiss Jackson's amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (see Priv. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. for Failure to State A Claim Upon Which Relief May Be Granted (“Priv. Defs.' Mot.”), ECF No. 7); the Public Defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) and motion for partial summary judgment (see Pub. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl. & Mot. for Partial Summ. J. (“Pub. Defs.' Mot.”), ECF No. 8); and Jackson's motion for summary judgment (see Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 18). On March 29, 2019, this Court issued an Order that GRANTED both the Private Defendants' and the Public Defendants' motions to dismiss (thereby dismissing Jackson's lawsuit), and DENIED Jackson's motion for summary judgment as moot. (See Order, ECF No. 24.) This Memorandum Opinion explains the reasons for that Order. In short, the Court concluded that Jackson's amended complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to support a plausible claim that Defendants violated his constitutional rights, and given the insufficiency of Jackson's federal claim, the Court further declined to exercise pendent jurisdiction over Jackson's state common law claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Basic Facts[1]

         Jackson has owned his home in Washington, D.C., for almost thirty years. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 26.) On or about March 25, 2015, Defendant Capital City began construction on a “multi-unit, multi-level residential apartment and condominium” building that Defendant 2800 Sherman owned, and that happened to be located next door to Jackson's home. (Id. at ¶ 1; see also Id. ¶ 11.) According to Jackson's complaint, defendants District of Columbia and Mayor Bowser caused 2800 Sherman and Capital City to construct the building, at least in part, because Bowser and the District “created, established, authorized and condoned the custom and practice of economically revitalizing the city.” (Id. ¶ 2.) Indeed, Jackson alleges that “[e]very project by every investor is completed with the encouragement and support and authorization of the District of Columbia[.]” (Id. ¶ 7.) The amended complaint is unclear as to the scope and contours of the alleged District policy of economic revitalization, but it asserts that the policy originated as early as 1992. (See Id. ¶ 3.)

         According to the amended complaint, throughout the three-year period during which construction took place next to Jackson's home, Capital City employees trespassed on Jackson's property; urinated on his land; pulled a no-trespassing sign from his property, broke it, and threw it at him; and called Jackson a racist. (See Id. ¶ 5.) Capital City also allegedly used a crane to airlift materials over Jackson's property and over the heads of Jackson and a guest “without safety precautions and without proper city permits” (id.), and otherwise “failed to take adequate and safe precautions prior to conducting demolitions on [2800 Sherman's] property thereby causing severe damages to [Jackson's] house” (id. ¶ 8). The construction also allegedly “altered property boundaries thereby decreasing the amount of [Jackson's] property.” (Id. ¶ 9.) Furthermore, according to the amended complaint, 2800 Sherman and Capital City would not have committed these violations “without the implied authority, or reasonable belief or expectation that they were acting with the consent and acquiescence of the Mayor on behalf of the District of Columbia.” (Id. ¶ 6.)

         Jackson's amended complaint further alleges that, through the District's economic revitalization policy, the Mayor and the District “ha[ve] condoned, established and engaged in a systematic pattern, custom and practice of affording low income, minorities and seniors inadequate protection and in many case no protection from being displaced from their homes and lifetime neighborhoods.” (Id. ¶ 2.) Specifically, “[t]he poor, minority and low-income home owners and seniors are being forced to relocate and abandon their lifetime homes and neighborhoods in favor of the younger and economic[ally] affluent white middle and upper class.” (Id.; see also id. (asserting that “[b]uilders and contractors, with city support and with the blessings of the Mayor of the District of Columbia[, ] swiftly move into city neighborhoods and move out the existing residents by destroying adjacent property and offering little or nothing for repairs . . . result[ing] [in] a building that none of these residents can afford, thus transforming the city of Washington[, ] D.C.[, ] into an elite and white owned paradise”)). To bolster this contention, the amended complaint includes various data about median income levels for different racial groups in the District, as well as allegations about the difficulties of affording housing in the city. (See Id. ¶ 3.) The amended complaint further maintains that all of the alleged “unauthorized acts were a joint enterprise” between 2800 Sherman and Capital City, on the one hand, and Mayor Bowser and the District, on the other. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         B. Procedural History

         Jackson initiated the instant lawsuit on June 11, 2018. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) On July 28, 2018, Jackson filed the operative six-count amended complaint (see Am. Compl.), and both the Private Defendants (2800 Sherman and Capital City) and the Public Defendants (Mayor Bowser and the District) responded with motions to dismiss, on August 8, 2018, and August 13, 2018, respectively (see ECF Nos. 4, 5).

         The first count of Jackson's first amended complaint alleges that Defendants have violated Jackson's civil rights under the United States Constitution. In this regard, Jackson specifically invokes “28 U.S.C. 1983, ” “Equal Protection[, ]” and the “Fifth Amendment[.]” (Id. at 12; see also Id. ¶¶ 29-37 (Count I).)[2] Elsewhere in his complaint, Jackson references sections 1985 and 1986 of Title 42, as well as the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (See Id. ¶ 12.) Counts II through VI of Jackson's complaint allege that both sets of Defendants have committed various common law tort violations that have injured him. Specifically, Jackson accuses Defendants of trespass (see Id. ¶¶ 38-42 (Count II)); invasion of privacy (see Id. ¶¶ 43- 45 (Count III)); negligent supervision of their employees (see Id. ¶¶ 46-49 (Count IV)); negligence (see Id. ¶¶ 50-56 (Count V)); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (see Id. ¶¶ 57-62 (Count VI)). To remedy all of the alleged violations, Jackson seeks monetary damages, punitive damages, and unspecified injunctive and equitable relief. (See Id. at 21.)

         On August 8, 2018, the Private Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Jackson's amended complaint (see Priv. Defs.' Mot.), and on August 13, 2018, the Public Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and for partial summary judgment (see Pub. Defs.' Mot.). In their motion to dismiss, the Private Defendants argue that they “are not state actors and [thus] cannot be held liable for constitutional violations” under Section 1983. (Priv. Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Priv. Defs.' Mot. (“Priv. Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 7-1, at 4; see also Id. at 4-5.) They further argue that Jackson's amended complaint fails to provide “sufficient detail as to place the defendants on notice of his [common law] claims.” (Id. at 5; see also Id. at 5-6.) The Private Defendants also contend that “the complaint does not set forth facts sufficient to establish the sort of extreme or outrageous conduct needed to support a claim for intentional infliction [of emotional distress].” (Id. at 7; see also Id. at 7-8.)

         In their motion to dismiss and for partial summary judgment, the Public Defendants argue, first, that the claims against Mayor Bowser should be dismissed as duplicative of the claims against the District. (See Pub. Defs.' Mot. at 7.) In addition, they contend that Jackson's amended complaint fails to state a Section 1983 claim against the District for several reasons: (1) because “the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply to the District” (id. at 8); (2) because the amended complaint fails to allege any facts to support a claim that the District violated Jackson's First, Fourth, or Eight Amendment rights (see Id. at 8-9); and (3) because not only does the amended complaint fail to allege “with any specifics the date of District misconduct which gives rise to its liability in this case or more specifically what polices caused [Jackson's] injuries” (id. at 11 (emphasis omitted), but it is also “devoid of any facts showing that the District or its employees participated in any part of the constructions events that allegedly caused [Jackson's] injuries” (id. at 11-12).

         With respect to Jackson's common law claims, the Public Defendants insist that “the alleged misconduct was committed by employees of Defendant Capital City, not District employees[, ]” and that Jackson “has not alleged the existence of any employer-employee relationship between the District and the Defendant Capital City's employees” and “has not alleged that Defendant Capital City was an independent contractor of the District.” (Id. at 12.) The Public Defendants further argue that to the extent Jackson's common law claims stem from conduct occurring between March 25, 2015, and June 11, 2015, they are barred by the statute of limitations and are subject to dismissal on this basis alone. (See Id. at 13.) The Public Defendants finally argue that the Court should enter judgment in favor of the District on Jackson's common law claims because the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars Jackson's negligent supervision claims against the District (see Id. at 13-14); the public duty doctrine bars Jackson's negligence claims (see Id. at 15-16); and section 12-309 of the D.C. Code, which contains mandatory notification requirements, bars all of Jackson's common law claims in light of his failure to provide adequate notice to the District (see Id. at 16-18).

         Jackson's responses to the arguments of the Private Defendants and the Public Defendants vary. As relevant here, Jackson asserts that the Private Defendants can and should be held liable under Section 1983 because they “partnered and cooperated with the District of Columbia and were the moving force behind the unconstitutional custom and policy of the Government of the District of Columbia and became the implied agent of the Government and had the Government's actual or apparent authority and consent[.]” (Pl.'s Opp'n to Priv. Defs.' Mot. (“Pl.'s Priv. Opp'n”), ECF No. 13, at 11.) Moreover, Jackson contends that the Private Defendants' common law notice arguments are “disingenu[ous] and lack merit, especially since the defendants are either aware or in possession [of] and in some instances, have almost exclusive access to the very information they purportedly seek to obtain.” (Id. at 9.)

         In response to the Public Defendants' myriad contentions, Jackson argues that the claims against Mayor Bowser are not duplicative of those against the District because the Mayor “represents the municipal corporation of the District of Columbia[, ]” and she is able to act in ways that a “fictitious person” cannot. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Pub. Defs.' Mot. (“Pl.'s Pub. Opp'n”), ECF No. 9, at 3.) Jackson also maintains that the amended complaint states a viable Section 1983 claim because the Fifth Amendment applies to the District (see id.), and “[t]he First[, ] Fourth[, ] and Eighth Amendments are Constitutional infringements suffered by the Plaintiff, and others similarly situated, because of the execution of the city's wide spread and pervasive ‘custom' and policy.” (Id.) Jackson further maintains that the defendants had an “intertwining and interlocking relationship” resulting in their “engag[ing] in an enterprise having its express purpose to deprive the Plaintiff and others similarly situated of their homes and liberty or freedom to remain in their life time homes and neighborhoods by engaging in an unorthodox activity of eminent domain.” (Id. at 8.) And Jackson insists that he “brings this action based on constitutional deprivations pursuant to governmental ‘custom' and ‘policy' and ‘practice' even though it has not received formal approval through the body's official decision making channels.” (Id. at 10.) Finally, in defense of his common law claims, Jackson argues that the statute of limitations does not apply, and that he “complied with the six-month requirement of D.C. Code 12-309 because the Defendant[s'] acts [are] continuous and ongoing” (id. at 11) and because he has personally “complained to the District's Metropolitan Police Department on numerous occasions.” (Id.)[3]

         After the parties fully briefed these motions, Jackson filed his own motion for summary judgment (see Pl.'s Mot.), which appears to reiterate arguments from the amended complaint and Jackson's oppositions to Defendants' motions to dismiss. (See, e.g., Mem. in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot., ECF No. 18-2, at 6-7 (“[Jackson] contends that because of the intertwining and interlocking relationship between the Defendants that Defendants actively engage in an enterprise having as its express purpose to unconstitutionally deprive [Jackson] and others similarly situated of their homes and liberty or freedom to remain in their life time homes and neighborhoods by engaging in an unorthodox activity of eminent domain.”).)[4] Jackson's summary judgment motion became ripe on January 2, 2019.

         II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motions To Dismiss ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.