United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
case arises out of James Harris's arrest after a bar
fight. He and his spouse, David Harris (collectively, the
“Harrises”), have sued various entities and
individuals under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for malicious
prosecution and defamation. Defendants Mayor Muriel Bowser,
the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”), MPD
Chief Peter Newsham, and the District of Columbia have moved
to dismiss the Harrises' Complaint. So too have Federal
Defendants United States Attorney Jessie K. Liu and the
Department of Justice. For the following reasons, the Court
will grant both motions, and the Court also will dismiss the
Complaint as to the remaining, non-moving Defendants.
evening in February 2018, James and David Harris (“Mr.
Harris” and “Dr. Harris, ” respectively)
attended a performance at Town Danceboutique
(“Town”) in Washington, D.C. Compl. ¶ 19,
ECF No. 1. They were standing near the stage when a
group of men behind them complained that Mr. Harris was
blocking their view. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. When
Mr. Harris would not give up his spot, the group started to
antagonize him-“hitting him in the back.”
Id. ¶¶ 20-23.
Harris asked the group to stop and warned that “it was
not a good idea to touch him.” Id. ¶
24. But the group did not stop, and one of them asked Mr.
Harris, “What are you going to do about it?”
Id. Mr. Harris “stuck the guy back, ”
and a fight broke out. Id. Eventually, Dr. Harris
de-escalated the situation, separating Mr. Harris from the
group. ¶ 27. Douglas Scott Meyer, Town's Operating
Manager, was injured during the altercation. Id.
¶¶ 27- 28.
Meyer called the police while Mr. Harris was escorted out of
the bar. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. When MPD officers
arrived, most of the individuals involved in the tussle were
gone. Id. ¶ 31. The officers asked the Harrises
for identification, and one of the officers allegedly took
Dr. Harris's military identification card and never
returned it. Id. ¶ 32-35. Upset about his
missing ID and the officers' unwillingness to provide
their business cards, Dr. Harris called 9-1-1 to request that
a supervisor come to the scene. Id. ¶¶
36-37. Two officers from MPD's LGBT division arrived,
introduced themselves, handed him their business cards, and
took Dr. Harris's information. Id. ¶¶
Officer Maxwell Poupart handcuffed and detained Mr. Harris.
Id. ¶ 38. Dr. Harris tried to intervene, but
the officers told him to stand back. Id. ¶ 39.
Officer Korey Marable interviewed both Mr. Meyer and Mr.
Harris about the incident. Id. ¶¶ 43-44.
Mr. Meyer complained that Mr. Harris had struck him in the
face. See Id. ¶¶ 44-45, 49. The officers
arrested Mr. Harris for simple assault. Id.
¶¶ 43-45. He was transported without a seat belt
and in a patrol wagon that was too small for his
6'5” frame. Id. ¶¶ 67-68. Mr.
Harris was later acquitted at trial. Id. ¶ 99.
Harrises sued, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violations of their rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and
Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Id.
¶¶ 52-90. They also asserted claims for malicious
prosecution and defamation. Id. ¶¶ 91-102.
Defendants fall into three categories. The “District
Defendants” include Mayor Bowser, the MPD, Chief
Newsham, several MPD officers in their official capacities,
and the District. The “Federal Defendants”
include Ms. Liu, in her official capacity as the U.S.
Attorney for the District of Columbia, and the Department of
Justice. Finally, the “Remaining Defendants”
include Mr. Meyer; The Art of Lounge, LLC; and Officer
Poupart in his individual capacity. The District Defendants
and the Federal Defendants have moved to dismiss the
Harrises' Complaint. District Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of
Mot. to Dismiss (“District Defs.' Mem.”), ECF
No. 4-1; Fed. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Fed.
Defs.' Mot.”), ECF No. 9. For the reasons given
below, the Court will grant both motions and also dismiss the
Complaint against the Remaining Defendants.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), 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)). The Court must “assume [the]
veracity” of “well-pleaded factual allegations,
” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, and must
“grant [the] 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 quotation marks omitted).
in a pro se complaint are held to a less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Braxton v. First. Transit, 322 F.Supp.3d 110, 116
(D.D.C. 2018). But the Court need not accept “a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555).
federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, they
“presume that a cause lies outside this limited
jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). To survive a Rule
12(b)(1) motion, a plaintiff must establish that the court
has jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See
Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992).
Like with a motion under 12(b)(6), “the court must
treat the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and
afford the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can
be derived from the facts alleged.” Jeong Seon Han
v. Lynch, 223 F.Supp.3d 95, 103 (D.D.C. 2016). But
unlike when evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may
consider documents outside the pleadings to evaluate whether
it has jurisdiction. See Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v.
FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). If the Court
finds that it lacks jurisdiction, it must dismiss the claim
or action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(h)(3).
The Harrises' claims against Mayor Bowser, Chief Newsham,
and the MPD officers in their official capacities are
duplicative of their claims against the District.
Harrises sued Mayor Bowser and Chief Newsham only in their
official capacities. See Compl. at 1. “When
sued in their official capacities, government officials are
not personally liable for damages, ” and “[a]
section 1983 suit for damages against municipal officials in
their official capacities is thus equivalent to a suit
against the municipality itself.” Atchinson v.
District of Columbia, 73 F.3d 418, 424 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
“Based upon the understanding that it is duplicative to
name both a government entity and the entity's employees
in their official capacity, courts routinely dismiss claims
against the officials to conserve judicial resources when the
entity itself is also sued.” Trimble v. District of
Columbia, 779 F.Supp.2d 54, 57 n.3 (D.D.C. 2011)
the District of Columbia is a named defendant. Compl. at 1.
Thus, the Harrises' claims against Mayor Bowser and Chief
Newsham will be dismissed as duplicative of their claims
against the District. See Cotton v. District of
Columbia, 421 F.Supp.2d 83, 86 (D.D.C. 2006). So too for
the Harrises' claims against the MPD officers sued only
in their official capacity. Id. Thus, the claims
against the MPD officers in their official capacity will be
dismissed as duplicative of the claims against the District.
The MPD is non sui juris.
Plaintiffs sued the MPD. See Compl. ¶ 7. But
because the MPD is a sub-agency of the District government,
it cannot be sued in its own name. See Hunt v. District
of Columbia, 2002 WL 1997987 at *1 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 29,
2002) (per curium) (“The district court correctly
concluded that appellee Metropolitan Police Department is
non sui juris.”). “[I]t is well-settled
that a department or agency of the District of Columbia
cannot sue or be sued in its own name in the absence of a
statutory provision to that effect.” Whitehead v.
D.C. Child Support Servs. Div., 892 F.Supp.2d 315, 319
(D.D.C. 2012) (citing Kundrat v. District of
Columbia, 106 F.Supp.2d 1, 5 (D.D.C. 2000) (collecting
cases)). The Harrises do not argue otherwise. See
generally Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n to District
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Pls.' Opp'n to
District Defs.”), ECF No. 7. The Court will therefore
dismiss the Complaint against the MPD.
The Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim against the
District under Section 1983.
Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim against the District
under Counts I (False Arrest),  II (Excessive Force), III (Due
Process/Brady Violation), IV (Conspiracy to Commit
Constitutional Violations), and V (Failure to Intervene). To
hold the District liable under Section 1983, the Harrises
must show that the alleged constitutional violation occurred
through “execution of a government's policy or
custom.” Monell v. United States, 436 U.S.
658, 694 (1978). That is, ...