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Randle v. West Valley City Police Department (of Utah)

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 23, 2019

KENDRICK THURMAN RANDLE, Plaintiff,
v.
WEST VALLEY CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT (OF UTAH), Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION RE DOCUMENT NO. 2, 7

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Relief; Denying Without Prejudice Defendants' Motion to Dismiss; Transferring Case to the District of Utah

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Kendrick Thurman Randle, proceeding pro se, brought this action against the West Valley City Police Department (“West Valley City”) for declaratory and injunctive relief, and perhaps monetary damages, to remedy alleged misconduct by uniformed police officers and associated personnel in West Valley City, Utah. Randle alleges that he sustained injuries and damages after West Valley City police officers used excessive force against him during a confrontation. He wants the police department and its officers to implement policies and procedures that identify, correct, and prevent the misconduct alleged in his Complaint, and he claims there is $3, 700, 000 in controversy.

         Randle has moved for temporary relief, seeking financial assistance for the duration of this suit because he lacks steady income. West Valley City has moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient service of process. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over West Valley City, denies the motion for temporary relief, denies without prejudice Defendants' motion to dismiss, and transfers the case sua sponte to the District of Utah.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On the morning of July 17, 2018, West Valley City police officer Stephen Parker found Randle, an African American male, sleeping inside of his parked car. See Pl.'s Supp. Mem. 13, ECF No. 3. According to the police report, Parker knocked on the driver-side window and noticed Randle reach for something out of view when he woke up. See Id. Parker commanded Randle to open the driver-side door. See Id. Randle opened the door and Parker ordered him to step out of the car. See Id. According to Parker, Randle did not comply and, instead, began to reach for the center console. See Id. Parker grabbed Randle's wrist to assist him out of the car. See Id. Parker contends that Randle tensed up and tried to pull his arm away, at which point Parker “used physical force to pull him out of the car and place[] him face down on the ground.” Id. Parker then handcuffed Randle and, with the assistance of officer Kevin Barrett, moved Randle away from the car. See Id. While searching Randle's car, Parker found Randle's District of Columbia driver's license. See Id. at 14. Parker did not find contraband in Randle's car and the police dispatcher advised Parker that Randle's license was valid and that there were no active warrants for his arrest. See id.

         According to Randle's allegations in the Complaint, Parker reached inside Randle's car and pulled him out “by use of unreasonable and excessive force.” Compl. 2, ECF No. 1. Parker and Barrett then grabbed Randle, threw him to the ground away from his car, and handcuffed him. Id. Randle asserts that West Valley City police officers and/or associated personnel took blood samples from his hand while he was handcuffed and carried him to a police car for questioning and detainment. Id. at 2-3. According to Randle, “[he] was not officially arrested, ticketed or cited” after his “detainment period.” Id. Nor was he provided with “incident reference information" by anyone at the scene. Id. Thereafter, Randle quit his job and left Utah “[i]n order to safely and efficiently report this . . . incident.” Pl.'s Mot. Temporary Relief, ECF No. 2.

         Randle filed this suit on May 8, 2019 against the West Valley City Police Department, seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent practices of misconduct by uniformed police officers and associated personnel in West Valley City, Utah.” Compl. 2. He also filed a motion for temporary relief, seeking financial assistance for the duration of this suit. See Pl.'s Mot. Temporary Relief. According to Randle, he would still be employed were it not for his confrontation with the West Valley City police officers. On June 4, 2019, West Valley moved to dismiss Randle's Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient service of process under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5). See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 7. On July 9, 2019, Randle filed his response, see Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 12, and on July 16, 2019, West Valley City filed its reply, see Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 15.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a court to dismiss an action when the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant. “Personal jurisdiction may be satisfied by either specific or general jurisdiction.” Brit UW, Ltd. v. Manhattan Beachwear, LLC, 235 F.Supp.3d 48, 54 (D.D.C. 2017) (citing D'Onofrio v. SFX Sports Grp., Inc., 534 F.Supp.2d 86, 90 (D.D.C. 2008)). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that a court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. See FC Inv. Grp. LC v. IFX Mkts., Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1091 (D.C. Cir. 2008). Federal courts typically look to the personal jurisdiction of the courts in the state in which they sit if that jurisdiction is “coextensive with the reach of constitutional due process.” Brit UW, 235 F.Supp.3d at 60 (quoting Freedman v. Suntrust Banks, Inc., 139 F.Supp.3d 271, 278 (D.D.C. 2015)); see also Rossmann v. Chase Home Fin. LLC, 772 F.Supp.2d 169, 171-72 (D.D.C. 2011) (noting that the plaintiff may establish general personal jurisdiction under D.C. law).

         General jurisdiction “sets a high bar” that requires the defendant to have “continuous and systematic” contacts with the forum state-but then permits the forum to adjudicate any claims brought against the defendant. D'Onofrio, 534 F.Supp.2d at 90 (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415-16 (1984)). By contrast, specific jurisdiction requires that the suit “arise out of or relate to the defendant's contacts with the forum.” Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Super. Ct. of Cal., 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017). To exercise specific jurisdiction over a non-resident, the court must engage in a two-step analysis to determine (1) whether jurisdiction is appropriate under the state's long-arm statute, and (2) whether notions of due process are satisfied by exercising jurisdiction over the non-resident. See GTE New Media Servs., Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Due process requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant has “minimum contacts with [the forum state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). These contacts must be grounded in “some act by which the defendant purposefully avail[ed] itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protection of its laws.” Asahi Metal Indus. v. Super. Ct. of Cal., 480 U.S. 102, 109 (1987) (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985)). That is, “the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum state [must be] such that [it] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” GTE New Media Servs., Inc., 199 F.3d at 1347 (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Randle moves for temporary relief, and West Valley City moves to dismiss Randle's Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court first considers whether it has general or specific personal jurisdiction over West Valley City and finds that it does not. Because the Court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over West Valley City, it transfers this case to the District of Utah and leaves it to that court to determine whether service was properly effected. ...


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