United States District Court, District of Columbia
C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the tide of violent crime, the District of Columbia has spent
decades enacting some of the strictest gun control measures
in the country. But despite these laudable ends, the
District's means have precipitated repeated tugs-of-war
against law-abiding citizens, with the federal courts as the
referee and the Second Amendment as the touchstone.
District has not been on a winning streak. In 2008, the
Supreme Court struck down a D.C. law banning all handgun
possession. See District of Columbia v. Heller, 554
U.S. 570 [hereinafter Heller I]. Subsequent
litigation upheld some gun control measures (like a ban on
assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, see Heller
v. District of Columbia, 670 F.3d 1244 (D.C. Cir. 2011)
[hereinafter Heller II]), but struck down others
(like a triannual reregistration requirement and a ban on
registering more than one handgun a month, see Heller v.
District of Columbia, 801 F.3d 264 (D.C. Cir. 2015)). In
2014, the district court struck down D.C.'s carrying ban,
D.C. Code § 22-4504. See Palmer v. District of
Columbia, 59 F.Supp.3d 173' (D.D.C. 2014)
(invalidating § 22-4504 (2013) (repealed 2015)),
appeal withdrawn, No. 14-7180, 2015 WL 1607711 (D.C.
Cir. Apr. 2, 2015). But even without the carrying ban,
misdemeanor statues still criminalized possession of
non-D.C.-registered firearms and related ammunition.
See D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.01 (2012)
(repealed 2015) (firearms), 7-2506.01 (2013) (ammunition).
And since another provision effectively limited handgun
registration to D.C. residents, see D.C. Code §
7-2502.02 (2012) (repealed 2015), non-D.C. residents remained
barred from carrying a gun for self-defense, even if it was
registered in their home state. Other statutes subjected
non-D.C.-registered firearms and ammunition to seizure and
destruction, D.C. Code §§ 22-4517, and exposed cars
used to transport handguns to civil forfeiture, 7-2507.06a
(1997) (repealed 2015). Almost a year after Palmer,
the District updated those laws with new measures confining
public carry to people with a special need for self-defense.
See D.C. Code § 22-4506. But the D.C. Circuit
eventually struck that down too. See Wrenn v. District of
Columbia, 864 F.3d 650 (2017).
the District manages a draw-for now. Four non-D.C. residents
arrested and charged under §§ 22-4504 (before
Palmer struck it down), as well as 7-2502.01 and
7-2506.01 (before the District revamped its gun laws), who
also had their firearms and ammunition seized under 22-4517,
and (for one plaintiff) had a car subjected to civil
forfeiture under 7-2507.06a bring a putative class action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting claims under the
Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments. The District asks the
Court to dismiss the case, taking aim at this Court's
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) and at plaintiffs'
claims under Rule 12(b)(6). Its 12(b)(1) motion misses the
mark, because plaintiffs have standing and because their
claims are neither moot nor precluded. But some of its
scattershot 12(b)(6) motion hits the target: although a few
of plaintiffs' claims are legally sufficient, most fail
as a matter of law or are timebarred. So the Court will deny
the District's 12(b)(1) motion, but will grant-in-part
and deny-in-part its 12(b)(6) motion.
matter began when D.C. police pulled-over Maggie Smith, a
34-year-old nurse from North Carolina without a criminal
record who visited D.C. in June 2014. During the traffic
stop, she told the officer-"as she had been taught [to
do] in her gun ownership class"-that she was carrying a
handgun licensed in her home state. 2d Am. Comp. ¶ 31,
ECF No. 50. So police arrested her, seized her firearm under
§ 22-4517,  and took her to the D.C. jail, where they
strip-searched and held her overnight until the U.S. Attorney
charged her under §§ 22-4504,  and then under
7-2502.01 and 7-2506.01. A month later, when
Palmer struck down § 22-4504, the U.S. Attorney
dismissed the case. But pursuant to the division of
prosecuting authority outlined in D.C. Code §§
23-101, the D.C. Attorney General recharged Smith under
7-2502.01 and 7-2506.01. Though the District dismissed those
charges seven months later, Smith's gun remains in police
after the District dropped her charges, Smith filed this suit
seeking damages related to her arrest and prosecutions, an
injunction expunging and sealing her criminal record, a'
declaration that her arrest and prosecutions violated her
Second and Fifth Amendment rights, and attorneys' fees.
And through successive amendments, her complaint grew to
include more plaintiffs and claims.
arrested one new plaintiff, Cpl. Frederick Rouse, after
housekeeping found two handguns and a scope in his D.C. hotel
room. Both handguns were licensed in Maryland, where Rouse--a
senior engineer at the Defense Information Systems
Agency-resides. After Rouse spent two nights in jail, the
D.C. Attorney General charged him with violating §§
7-2502.01 and 7-2506.01. The District eventually dismissed
the charges without prejudice at a pretrial status
conference, though it had earlier successfully opposed
Rouse's motion to dismiss. Despite dismissing the
charges, the District held his guns and scope-together worth
$2050-for another two year's before returning them.
Thanks to his arrest, Rouse's top-secret security
clearance was placed "under review." 2d Am. Compl.
pulled-over another new plaintiff, Gerard Cassagnol, after
receiving a tip he had a gun in the car. He volunteered the
gun's location to the officers, which was unloaded and
properly contained in a locked gun-safe. But he spent two
nights in jail before the U.S. Attorney charged him with
violating §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01, and 22-4504.
When the United States dropped the charges
post-Palmer, the D.C. Attorney General reinstated
the charges for §§ 7-2502.01 and 7-2506.01, and
successfully opposed Cassagnol's motion to dismiss before
nolle prossing the charges without prejudice. Before
this incident, Cassagnol had no criminal record and worked
fulltime for a telecommunications company. After his arrest,
he lost his job, and D.C. continues to hold his ammunition
and firearm, licensed in Maryland and worth approximately
$500, despite Cassagnol's requests for its return.
arrested another new plaintiff, Virginia student Delontay
Davis, after spotting his firearm during a traffic stop. The
District confiscated his car and firearm, strip-searched him,
and jailed him for four nights while the U.S. Attorney
charged him with violating §§ 7-2502.01, 7-
2506.01, and 22-4504. When the U.S. Attorney dismissed those
charges ten months later, the D.C. Attorney General recharged
him under §§ 7-2502.01 and 7-2506.01, but dropped
the case two months later. Even still, the year-long case
against him wrought significant harm. First, police seized
Davis's vehicle for civil forfeiture under §
7-2507.06a. Although they returned it two months later
in response to Davis's motion under D.C. Superior Court
Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g),  Davis had already been
forced to drop out of school because he lacked
transportation. Second, his $400 firearm remains in police
custody, four years (and counting) after the District
dismissed his charges.
* * *
on these facts, plaintiffs bring ten claims:
1. That §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01, and 22-4504-which
together prohibited non-D.C. residents from having handguns
and ammunition for self-defense while in the District-
violated the Second Amendment;
2. That arresting and detaining people under those laws
violated the Fourth Amendment;
3. That those laws violated the Fifth Amendment's
right-to-travel and equal protection guarantees;
4. That seizing handguns (under § 22-4517) and the
vehicles used to convey them (under § 7-2507.06a)
violated the Second Amendment;
5. That the same handgun and vehicle seizure violated the
6. That continuing to seize plaintiffs' handguns and
ammunition after dismissing their charges violates the Fourth
7. That seizing handguns and ammunition without notice and a
hearing violated the Fifth Amendment's procedural due
8. That seizing cars after searching and processing them for
evidence violated the Fourth Amendment;
9. That forfeiting cars used to transport guns violates the
Second Amendment; and
10. That forfeiting cars used to transport guns violates the
seek damages (compensatory, consequential, and nominal),
declaratory relief, and injunctive relief sealing their
arrest and prosecution records, ordering their property's
return, and declaring their arrests legal nullities.
Plaintiffs further seek attorney's fees and costs under
42 U.S.C. § 1988.
not the only case challenging a D.C. civil asset forfeiture
law. In Hoyte v. District of Columbia, a putative
class brought Fourth and Fifth Amendment challenges to D.C.
Code § 48-905.02 (2012) (repealed 2015), a provision
subjecting cars used to transport illegal drugs to civil
forfeiture. In July 2015, Judge Cooper dismissed the Fourth
Amendment claims and some Fifth Amendment claims. More
recently, he allowed plaintiffs' procedural due process
claims to proceed as a class action under Rule 23(b)(3), but
declined to certify their challenges to the District's
retention of forfeited property and to § 48-905.02's
the District moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). First, the
District claims plaintiffs lack standing to challenge vehicle
seizures under § 7-2507.06a. In the alternative, the
District argues this Court should not consider that challenge
because of Hoyte. Next, the District claims two
other cases involving a different statute and different
plaintiffs preclude these plaintiffs' procedural due
process challenge to § 22-4517. Finally, the District
argues the Court lacks jurisdiction to consider
plaintiffs' Second and Fifth Amendment challenges to
§§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01, and 22-4504.
District further moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). It
argues plaintiffs' Fourth' Amendment challenges fail
as a matter of law. It also contends plaintiffs'
challenges to §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01, and 22-4504
are not cognizable under § 1983, and fail to state a
claim under the Fifth Amendment. Next, the District argues
plaintiffs' vehicle-related claims are timebarred. Then
it argues Rule 41(g) overcomes plaintiffs' procedural due
process challenge to the District's seizure of guns and
ammunition. Finally, the District argues plaintiffs cannot
pursue declaratory or injunctive relief nullifying their
arrests and sealing any related arrest and prosecution
its '"obligation to satisfy itself of its own
jurisdiction before addressing the merits of any
dispute," Dominguez v. UAL Corp., 666 F.3d
1359, 1362 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Bender v.
Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986)),
the Court starts with the District's motion to dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1).
Ultimately, that motion fails: plaintiffs have standing to
challenge the laws that enabled the District to seize their
cars, take their guns, and subject them to criminal
the Court surveys the District's motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), which a layman
might deem an attempt to kill plaintiffs' complaint by a
thousand cuts. Although the District successfully minces
seven claims, three survive: plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment
challenge to the District's continued seizure of their
guns and ammunition; plaintiffs' Second Amendment
challenge to §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01, and 22-4504;
and plaintiffs' equal protection and right-to-travel
challenge to §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01, and 22- 4504.
Plaintiffs may also continue pursuing declaratory and
injunctive relief nullifying their arrests and sealing
Because Plaintiffs have standing to challenge the laws that
enabled the District to seize their cars, take their guns,
and subject them to criminal prosecution, the Court will deny
the District's 12(b)(1) motion.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) "presents a
threshold challenge to the court's jurisdiction."
Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir.
1987). The Constitution cabins federal court jurisdiction to
"Cases" and "Controversies." Art. Ill.
§ 2. To heed that limitation, courts rely on
justiciability doctrines like standing and mootness. And to
avoid rehashing cases and controversies other courts already
resolved, courts rely on preclusion doctrines like collateral
estoppel and claim-splitting.
ensures the plaintiffs are the proper party to sue: it
requires they "ha[ve] a personal stake in the alleged
dispute, and that the alleged injury suffered is
particularized as to" them. Raines v. Byrd, 521
U.S. 811, 819 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). More
specifically, to have standing a plaintiff "must have
suffered an injury in fact-an invasion of a legally protected
interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b)
actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical."
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The injury
must be "fairly ... trace[able]" to the
defendant's conduct. Id. (alteration in
original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S.
26, 41-42 (1976)). And it must be likely to be
"redressed by a favorable decision." Id.
at 561 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Simon, 426 U.S. at 38).
guarantees this "requisite personal interest" not
only "exist[s] at the commencement of the
litigation" but also "continue[s] throughout its
existence." U.S. Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty,
445 U.S. 388, 397 (1980) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Henry P. Monaghan, Constitutional Adjudication:
The Who and When, 82 Yale L.J. 1363, 1384' (1973)).
"Simply stated, a case is moot when the issues presented
are no longer live or the parties lack a legally cognizable
interest in the outcome." Powell v. McCormack,
395 U.S. 486, 496 (1969) (internal quotation marks omitted).
doctrines "relieve parties of the cost and vexation of
multiple lawsuits, conserve judicial resources, and, by
preventing inconsistent decisions, encourage reliance on
adjudication." Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90,
94 (1980). Under the doctrine of collateral estoppel,
"once a court has decided an issue of fact or law
necessary to its judgment, that decision may preclude
relitigation of the issue in a suit on a different cause of
action involving a party to the first case."
Id. And the related rule against claim-splitting
threatens dismissal for litigants who "spread claims
around in multiple lawsuits in other courts or before other
judges." Katz v. Gerardi, 655 F.3d 1212, 1217
(10th Cir. 2011); see also The Haytian Republic, 154
U.S. 118, 124-25(1894).
District's 12(b)(1) motion invokes standing, mootness,
and preclusion. First, the District claims plaintiffs lack
the required injury-in-fact to confer standing to challenge
vehicle seizures under § 7-2507.06a because the District
did not actually forfeit any plaintiffs car. Alternatively,
the District argues claim-splitting precludes this Court from
considering that challenge given Hoyte's pending
challenge to another D.C. civil forfeiture law. Next, the
District claims two other cases rejecting challenges to the
District's seizure of property incident to arrest
preclude plaintiffs' present challenge to the
District's seizure of guns and ammunition under
§22-4517. Finally, the District argues the Court lacks
jurisdiction to consider plaintiffs' Second or Fifth
Amendment challenges to §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01,
and 22-4504; either because plaintiffs" lack standing or
because their claims are moot.
District errs at each step. Plaintiffs have standing to
challenge vehicle seizures under § 7-2507.06a: by
temporarily seizing Davis's car under color of §
7-2507.06a, the District caused him to suffer a redressable
injury. And claim-splitting does not block those challenges,
since Hoyte concerns a different civil forfeiture
law. Relatedly, because plaintiffs did not participate in
other cases challenging the District's seizure of
property incident to arrest, those cases do not preclude
their challenge to § 22-4517. Additionally, plaintiffs
have standing to challenge §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01,
and 22-4504 because their prosecutions under those statutes
caused them to suffer redressable injuries. And finally,
repealing §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2506.01, and 22-4504 did
not moot plaintiffs' claims for declaratory relief since
the superseded laws still harm one named plaintiff and since
plaintiffs seek more than a declaration concerning the
repealed laws' constitutionality.
Because the District intended to forfeit Davis's car
under § 7-2507.06a, plaintiffs can challenge that
District argues plaintiffs lack standing to pursue Second and
Fourth Amendment challenges to the District's seizure of
cars used to transport guns under its civil forfeiture
scheme. As the District points out, although Davis alleges
the District seized his car to forfeit it, the District
ultimately changed its mind, returning it sixty days later
following Davis's Rule 41(g) ...