United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. Mehta United States District Court Judge
Anthony Buzzanca alleges he was illegally detained in the
District of Columbia Jail (“D.C. Jail”) for 146
days beyond his release date. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1
[hereinafter Notice], Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 1-1
[hereinafter Compl.], ¶¶ 1, 8, 9. He brought this
action in D.C. Superior Court in September 2018 against the
District of Columbia and various John Doe employees of the
District of Columbia Department of Corrections
(“DOC”), claiming: (1) violation of his
constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, et
seq., (2) false arrest and false imprisonment, (3)
intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), (4)
negligence, and (5) negligent hiring, training and
supervision. Compl. ¶¶ 12-50. Defendant
District of Columbia removed to this court on December 10,
2018. See Notice. It now moves to dismiss all
claims. See generally Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss,
ECF No. 4 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.]. For the following
reasons, Defendant's Motion is granted in part and denied
alleges Defendants violated his Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendment rights and are liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Compl. ¶¶ 12-19. The District contends
that Plaintiff has not shown that his treatment was the
result of a municipal policy, practice, or custom.
See Def.'s Mot. at 6-8. The court agrees that
Plaintiff has not done so, but will provide him with an
opportunity to amend his complaint.
impose liability on a municipality under section 1983,
Plaintiff must prove that an “action pursuant to
official municipal policy” or custom caused the alleged
constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978).
The existence of a policy may be inferred from, among other
ways, “the failure of the government to respond to a
need . . . in such a manner as to show ‘deliberate
indifference' to the risk that not addressing the need
will result in constitutional violations.” Baker v.
District of Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C. Cir.
2003). Deliberate indifference is an objective standard,
“determined by analyzing whether the municipality knew
or should have known of the risk of constitutional
violations.” Id. at 1307 (citing Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 841 (1994)).
complaint, Plaintiff offers only vague generalizations and no
specific facts to support the existence of a causal municipal
policy or custom. See Compl. ¶¶ 16,
Plaintiff attempts to bolster his Complaint through his
opposition brief, contending that recent cases in this
Circuit demonstrate Defendant's knowledge of a chronic
overdetention problem. See Pl.'s Opp'n to
Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 6 [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n],
at 7-10. Even if the court were to consider these other
cases, see Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Gray, 27
F.Supp.3d 142, 160 n.7 (D.D.C. 2014) (stating that “a
plaintiff cannot amend his or her complaint by the briefs in
opposition to a motion to dismiss”), his pleading still
would fall short. The Complaint contains no facts that would
connect the reasons for overdetention identified and
challenged in these other cases to his
overdetention. Indeed, as Defendant points out, in one of the
cases the court found that, due to decreasing overdetentions
and new preventative measures, “the DOC, from February
2008 forward, could not reasonably be found to have been
deliberately indifferent to the due process rights of
overdetention class members during this period.”
Barnes v. District of Columbia, 793 F.Supp.2d 260,
281 (D.D.C. 2011). Plaintiff therefore cannot simply rely on
other cases to sufficiently plead a causal municipal policy
the court dismisses Plaintiff's section 1983 claim
against Defendant but without prejudice. If Plaintiff can
plead more facts to support his assertion that District of
Columbia policy caused his overdetention, the court will
consider those allegations.
next alleges false imprisonment. To make out a claim of false
imprisonment, a plaintiff must plead facts establishing:
“(1) the detention or restraint is against [the
plaintiff's] will [and] within boundaries fixed by the
defendant, and (2) the restraint is unlawful.”
Smith v. District of Columbia, 306 F.Supp.3d 223,
260 (D.D.C. 2018) (citing Faniel v. Chesapeake &
Potomac Tel. Co., 404 A.2d 147, 150 (D.C. 1979)).
Plaintiff clearly has done so here. After all, he alleges
that DOC detained him for nearly five months beyond his
release date. Compl. ¶¶ 8-9. Defendant's Motion
as to this claim is denied.
advances additional claims for intentional infliction of
emotional distress (IIED), negligence, and negligent hiring,
training and supervision. See Compl. Defendant
maintains that sovereign immunity bars Plaintiff's
claims. The court disagrees, at least for now.
District of Columbia enjoys immunity with regard to its
“discretionary functions, ” as opposed to those
that are “ministerial.” Nealon v. District of
Columbia, 669 A.2d 685, 690 (D.C. 1995) (citing
Powell v. District of Columbia, 602 A.2d 1123, 1126
(D.C. 1992)). “[T]he burden of establishing that the
official function in question merits absolute immunity rests
on the defendant.” Moss v. Stockard, 580 A.2d
1011, 1020 n.18 (D.C. 1990) (citing District of Columbia
v. Thompson, 570 A.2d 277, 298 (D.C. 1990)). Here,
Defendant claims its implementation of a system for
processing records and its procedures for hiring, training,
and supervising employees are discretionary functions.
Def.'s Mot. at 8-14. But Defendant offers nothing-no law,
regulation or policy-to support this proposition. See
Ignatiev v. United States, 238 F.3d 464, 466-67 (D.C.
Cir. 2001) (denying motion to dismiss where the agency failed
to come forward with any internal guidelines or policies that
established the challenged action to be discretionary).
Instead, Plaintiff cites a number of cases to make its case
for immunity. None are on point.
for, for instance, Burkhart v. Washington Metropolitan
Area Transit Authority, in which the D.C. Circuit held
that the “hiring, training, and supervising choices
[of] WMATA” were discretionary, and therefore immune
from suit, based on the express terms of the WMATA Compact.
112 F.3d 1207, 1217 (D.C. Cir. 1997). Defendant identifies
nothing comparable to the WMATA Compact to supports its
immunity claim here. Likewise, Tucci v. District of
Columbia, is a different case. There, the D.C. Court of
Appeals held that the District's enforcement of public
space and solid waste regulations was discretionary.
See956 A.2d 684, 691-92 (D.C. 2008). Decisions
regarding whether to institute enforcement proceedings are
quintessential discretionary determinations; Defendant
identifies no comparable discretionary action here. Finally,