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Lewis v. District of Columbia Courts

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 5, 2019

RADCLIFFE BANCROFT LEWIS Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURTS, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKT. # 1]

          RJCHARD J. LEON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before me on Radcliffe Bancroft Lewis's ("plaintiff) complaint ("Compl."), ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs remaining claims are foreclosed by res judicata, predicated on my prior ruling in this case. Therefore, the complaint will be DISMISSED.

         On December 23, 2016, plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint[1] and an application to proceed in forma pauper is ("IFP"). Plaintiff initially sued five defendants, namely, Judge Judith E. Thompson of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Judge Phyllis D. Retchin of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Superior Court"), the District of Columbia Courts, the Metropolitan Police Department ("'Metro Police"), and Water S. Pankowski, a Metro Police officer. Compl. at caption. Plaintiff brought claims of (1) false arrest against Officer Pankowski and the Metro Police, id. at 3; (2) treason against Judge Retchin, id. at 3; and (3) conspiracy against the District of Columbia Courts, id. at 4. There were no facts or claims pled against Judge Thompson.

         On December 23, 2016, I entered an order granting plaintiffs motion to proceed IFP. See Ord. (D.D.C. filed Dec. 23, 2016), ECF No. 4. In that same order, I dismissed with prejudice the claims against Judge Thompson, Judge Retchin, and the District of Columbia Courts. Id. at 1-2. The dismissal was based on frivolity and failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii), and judicial immunity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Id. at 1-2. Only the false arrest claims against Officer Pankowski and the Metro Police currently remain.

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Pankowski and the Metro Police falsely arrested him on or about August 20, 2014[2] for the first time ("first arrest"), Compl. at 2, and then falsely arrested him a second time on or about September 30, 2015 or October 1, 2015 ("second arrest"), id. at 2, 3, resulting in charges and unjust subsequent proceedings before the Superior Court, id. at 1, 2, 3. He seeks $467 million in damages. Id. at 4.

         The public record sheds light on plaintiffs underlying criminal proceedings in Superior Court. The record indicates that plaintiff was arrested and charged in Superior Court with second degree theft on August 20. 2014 and was released under various conditions. See United States v. Lewis, 2014-CMD-014568 (D.C. Super. Ct. 2014) at Entry No. 1. After a series of various events, a mental observation hearing was scheduled for November 21, 2014. Id. at Entry 44. Plaintiff failed to appear for that hearing and a bench warrant was issued. Id. at Entry Nos. 55-8. That warrant was served on October 1, 2015, and a mental observation hearing was then held before Judge Retchin on October 7, 2015. Id. at Entry Nos. 60-6.

         Upon close review of plaintiff s complaint, it is evident that his remaining claims are duplicative. This is the second time that plaintiff has filed false arrest claims against Officer Pankowski and the Metro Police. These exact claims were raised and addressed by me in Lewis v. District of Columbia Police Dep 't, No. 16-cv-02352 (RJL) (D.D.C. 2016) ("prior matter"). The prior matter was initiated in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia and was removed to this Court by defendants on November 30, 2016. See Id. at ECF No. 2. In the prior matter, plaintiff named Officer Pankowski and the Metro Police, among others, as defendants. See id.. Original File at "Sup. Ct. Compl.," ECF No. 3, at 110- 18.[3] Among other claims, plaintiff alleged false arrest, detailing the same first and second arrests at issue in this matter. Sup. Ct. Compl. at 111, 113-14. Plaintiff specifically alleged that [sic] "[o]n October 1, 2015, Lewis was again arrested by DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA POLICE DEPARTMENT BADGE WALTER PANKOWSKI, BADGE NUMBER 3132." Id. at 113. As part of the complaint in the prior matter, plaintiff discussed his proceedings before Judge Retchin and other members of Superior Court. including his forensic assessment for mental incompetence, and his prosecution prior to dismissal, all of which took place subsequent to his second arrest. Id. at 113-14. He requested $151 million in damages. Id. at 118.

         In the prior matter, Officer Pankowski and the Metro Police filed a motion to dismiss. See Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 4. On February 6, 2016, I dismissed the claims against Officer Pankowski and the Metro Police. See Mem. Ord., ECF No. 13 (D.D.C. filed Feb. 6, 2016). In the Order, I indicated that plaintiff failed to file an opposition to the motion to dismiss, and therefore, the motion could be considered conceded. Id. at 1. However, based on concerns raised by our Circuit Court in Cohen v. Bd. Of Trs. Of the Univ. of the District of Columbia, 819 F.3d 476, 482 (D.C. Cir. 2016) regarding granting unopposed motions, I proceeded to address the merits. Id. at 1-3. I held that the Metro Police is not a suable entity and dismissed the claims accordingly. Id. at 2. Further, I found that plaintiff failed to state a claim against Office Pankowski. Id. at 3.

         Here, plaintiff implicitly attempts to distinguish the two matters by asserting that the prior matter only concerned false arrest claims against Pankowski relating to the first arrest. Compl. at3. However, this assertion is incorrect. Plaintiff explicitly discusses the second arrest as part of his complaint in the prior matter. Sup. Ct. Compl. at 113-14. The prior complaint also details the same resulting proceedings before the Superior Court that are addressed in his current complaint. Compare Sup. Ct. Compl. at 113-17, with Compl. at 2-3.

         Therefore, plaintiffs false arrest claims, and his grievances regarding the subsequent Superior Court proceedings, were already fully adjudicated. See Mem. Ord. at 2-3. He may not attempt to relitigate them anew. See Stanton v. District of Columbia Court of Appeals, 127 F.3d 72, 78 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Assuming arguendo that plaintiff has raised new claims or issues regarding the second arrest, such claims or issues would necessarily arise out of the same nucleus of facts, namely, plaintiffs underlying Superior Court criminal matter. Compare Compl. at 1-2, with Sup. Ct. Compl. at 111-16; see Page v. United States, 729 F.2d 818. 820 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Any supplemental information regarding his two arrests could have been presented in the prior matter. See Drake v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 291 F.3d 59, 66 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980)) (holding that a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating claims that "were or could have been raised in that action.").

         Plaintiff has sued the same defendants, raising identical claims and issues against them, and he seeks the same form of relief. Compare Compl. at 2-A, with Sup. Ct. Compl. at 111, 113-14, 118. "The doctrine of resjudicata prevents repetitious litigation involving the same causes of action or the same issues." I.A.M. Nat'l Pension Fund v. Indus. Gear Mfg. Co., 723 F.2d 944, 946 (D.C. Cir. 1983). Therefore, the holdings in the memorandum order issued in Lewis v. District of Columbia Police Dep't, No. 16-cv-02352 (RJL) (D.D.C. 2016) are applicable here.

         The Metro Police, of course, remains an agency non suis juris. See, e.g., Nix El v. Williams, 174 F.Supp.3d 87, 93 (D.D.C. 2016); see also Hickman v. Library of Congress, 74 F.Supp.3d 329, 331 (D.D.C. 2014). Plaintiff has also again failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against Officer Pankowski, as the facts currently asserted against him are the same, if not less detailed, than before. Compare Compl. at 2-4, with Sup. Ct. Compl. at 111, 113-14, 118. I have already addressed these identical facts, arguments, claims, and issues. See Mem. Ord. at 1-3; see also Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (finding that decision on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion "presents a ruling on the merits with resjudicata effect").

         CONCLUSION

         The prior adjudication of this Court bears preclusive effect and this case shall be DISMISSED for the same reasons stated in the prior memorandum order. A ...


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