United States District Court, District of Columbia
CARLTON J. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
BERMAN JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Carlton J. Harris brought this action against the District of
Columbia for allegedly detaining him in the D.C. jail beyond
his release date. Am. Compl. [Dkt. #8] ¶ 1. Plaintiff
claims that the District of Columbia, through its Department
of Corrections (“DOC”), is liable for violating
his Fifth Amendment due process rights under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Id. ¶¶ 121-33. He also brings a
common law claim against the District for false imprisonment.
Id. ¶¶ 134-41.
moved to dismiss the section 1983 claims under Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted. Def.'s Mot. for
Partial Dismissal [Dkt. #9] (“Def.'s Mot.”).
Because the Court finds that plaintiff adequately pled claims
of municipal liability based on a theory of deliberate
indifference, the Court will deny defendant's motion.
alleges that on or about March 29, 2017, he was committed to
the D.C. jail by the U.S. Marshals Service
(“USMS”) pursuant to an outstanding warrant
against him for failing to appear in Maryland federal court
on a traffic violation. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. His detention
was supposed to be an “in-transit” hold - a
temporary form of commitment used by USMS to transport
individuals from place to place, usually lasting “a
night or two.” Id. ¶¶ 15, 17.
Instead, plaintiff was not released until June 15, 2017, over
two months after his initial commitment. Id. ¶
16. According to plaintiff, the DOC did not realize the error
because it failed to obtain the necessary paperwork when he
was committed. Id. ¶ 18. Consequently, instead
of releasing him or providing for a release hearing, as
plaintiff contends the DOC should have done for an in-transit
inmate, id. ¶ 19, the DOC detained him
unlawfully for weeks.
contends that defendant knew that overdetentions by the DOC
were not uncommon at the time of his detention. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 76-77. He identifies several problematic
practices, including DOC's reliance on an outdated
“paper driven inmate system, ” which is prone to
errors and delays, id. ¶¶ 48-71, and
DOC's failure to obtain the proper commitment forms from
USMS that indicate when an inmate should be picked up.
Id. ¶ 105. He cites a study by an outside
consultant about the DOC's detention and release
processes, which reported fourteen overdetentions between
2015 and 2018,  id. ¶ 77, citing Resp. to
Oct. 19, 2018 Min. Order at 12, United States v.
Harris, No. 1:18-cr-00028 (D.D.C. Dec. 20, 2018) [Dkt. #
40-1] (“The Moss Report”), as well as prior
lawsuits against the DOC for overdetentions. Id.
¶¶ 84, 102, 117, citing Smith v. District of
Columbia, 306 F.Supp.3d 223 (D.D.C. 2018); Barnes v.
District of Columbia, 242 F.R.D. 113 (D.D.C. 2007);
Bynum v. District of Columbia, 412 F.Supp.2d 73
(D.D.C. 2006). According to plaintiff, the District was well
aware of its overdetention problems “[b]ecause of
litigation, D.C. Council hearings, annual oversight reports,
and outside consultant reports.” Am. Compl. ¶ 76.
October 17, 2018, plaintiff filed his complaint with this
Court. Compl. [Dkt. #1]. He filed an amended complaint on
March 18, 2019. Am. Compl. Plaintiff raises three claims:
Count One alleges 42 U.S.C. § 1983 liability for
overdetention, id. ¶¶ 121-26, Count Two
alleges section 1983 liability “for failing to provide
[plaintiff] with a release hearing, ” id.
¶¶ 127-33, and Count Three alleges false
imprisonment. Id. ¶¶ 134-41.
April 1, 2019, the District moved for partial dismissal,
seeking to dismiss Counts One and Two under Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Def.'s Mot. The
District did not object to the false imprisonment claim in
Count Three. Id. With respect to Counts One and Two,
the District argued that plaintiff failed to state a claim
under section 1983 because he “alleg[ed] that his
over-detention was the result of an oversight . . ., rather
than alleging that his over-detention was the result of an
unconstitutional custom or policy, ” as the law
requires. Def.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of
Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. #9] (“Def.'s Mem.”) at
7. Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that he had in fact
identified a custom or policy in the District's
“deliberate indifference” to its constitutional
violations. Pl.'s Opp. to Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 11]
(“Pl.'s Opp.”) at 7-8. In its reply, the
District contended that plaintiff's deliberate
indifference claim was conclusory. Reply to Pl.'s Opp.
[Dkt. #12] (“Def.'s Reply”) at 2-3.
survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the
two principles underlying its decision in Twombly:
“First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all
of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
And “[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible
claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.”
Id. at 679, citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content
“allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. A pleading must offer more than “labels
and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action, ” id.,
quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
must “treat the complaint's factual allegations as
true and must grant plaintiff ‘the benefit of all
inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air Lines,
Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal
citation omitted), quoting Schuler v. United States,
617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979); see also Am.
Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C.
Cir. 2011), quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d
970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Therefore, when considering a
motion to dismiss, a court must construe a complaint
liberally in the plaintiff's favor. Kowal v. MCI
Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
Nevertheless, the court need not accept inferences drawn by
the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts
alleged in the complaint, nor must the court accept
plaintiff's legal conclusions. Id.; see also
Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002).
In ruling upon a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim, a court may ordinarily consider only “the facts
alleged in the ...