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Lewis v. Government of District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 8, 2019

KAYLA DIONNE LEWIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REGGIE B. WALTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Kayla Dionne Lewis and Felton Hill, the named plaintiffs in this case, bring this putative class action against the defendant, the District of Columbia (the “District”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018), alleging constitutional violations arising from their arrests and subsequent detentions. See generally Third Amended Complaint [a]nd Jury Demand (“Third Amended Complaint” or “3d Am. Compl.”). Currently pending before the Court is Defendant District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint (“Def.'s Mot.”). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [1] the Court concludes for the following reasons that it must grant in part and deny in part the District's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court discussed the factual background of this case in its Memorandum Opinion issued on June 27, 2016, see Lewis v. District of Columbia (“Lewis I”), 195 F.Supp.3d 53, 56- 57 (D.D.C. 2016) (Walton, J.), and it will not reiterate those facts again here. The Court will, however, discuss the procedural posture of this case, which is relevant to the resolution of the pending motion.

         In Lewis I, the Court granted in part and denied in part the District's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. See id. at 56. The Court granted the District's motion to dismiss Hill's claims pertaining to the length of his detention because he had not “asserted a constitutional deprivation.” Id. at 60. The Court concluded that “[t]he only reason proffered by Hill for the Court to find an unreasonable delay[-]that the judicial officer affirmatively concluded at his initial appearance that the government lacked probable cause to effect the arrest[-] . . . [was] belied by the transcript of that proceeding, ” id. at 59 (emphasis omitted), and that “Hill fail[ed] to offer any other reason for this Court to find an unreasonable delay in his release, ” id. at 60. Regarding Lewis's claims pertaining to the length of her detention, the Court denied the District's motion to dismiss and concluded that, because “the District concede[d] that it held her for more than forty-eight hours without a judicial finding of probable cause, and ultimately acknowledge[d] that it was ordered to release Lewis after failing to submit evidence substantiating probable cause, . . . these concessions alone are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss[.]” Id. (citations omitted).[2] The Court also denied the District's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim “that the [District] violated their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights by subjecting them to blanket strip[ ]searches at the [District of Columbia] Jail after presentment.” Id. at 63 (second and third alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The current operative complaint in this case-the Third Amended Complaint, which was filed on March 12, 2018, see 3d Am. Compl. at 1-asserts three claims that challenge the District's policies regarding probable cause determinations and detainee strip searches. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the District (1) “violated their Fourth Amendment rights . . . under Gerstein v. Pugh[, 420 U.S. 103 (1975), ] by holding them after presentment after the administrative steps incident to their arrests had been completed without an affirmative finding of probable cause” (“Count One”), 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 103; (2) “violated the Fourth Amendment rights . . . of Lewis . . . [under County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991)] by holding [her for] more than [forty-eight] hours after [her] arrest without a finding of probable cause by a judicial officer” (“Count Two”), id. ¶ 107; and (3) “violated the Fourth [and Fifth] Amendment rights of the [plaintiffs] . . . by subjecting them to blanket strip[ ]searches at the [District of Columbia] Jail after presentment (after the administrative steps incident to their arrests had been completed) without an affirmative finding of probable cause” (“Count Three”), id. ¶ 112. On March 26, 2018, the District filed its motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint, see Def.'s Mot. at 1, which is the subject of this Memorandum Opinion.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests whether a complaint “state[s] a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “To 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)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “the Court must construe the complaint ‘in favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'” Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). While the Court must “assume the[] veracity” of any “well-pleaded factual allegations” in a complaint, conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Thus, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Also, the Court need not accept “legal conclusions cast as factual allegations, ” or “inferences drawn by [the] plaintiff if those inferences are not supported by the facts set out in the complaint.” Hettinga, 677 F.3d at 476. The Court “may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint[, ] and matters of which [the Court] may take judicial notice.” EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Claims Pertaining to the Length of the Plaintiffs' Detentions (Counts One and Two)

         The District argues that (1) Counts One and Two “should be dismissed because they are premised on official acts by [judges for the] Superior Court [for the District of Columbia (‘Superior Court')] [ ] who are not policymakers for the District, ” and “as such, [the] plaintiffs cannot establish municipal liability under Section 1983, ” Def.'s Mem. at 12; (2) Count One “should be dismissed as to Hill because his detention of less than [forty-eight] hours does not give rise to a Fourth Amendment violation, ” id. at 8; and (3) Count One “should be dismissed as to Lewis because it is duplicative of her allegations in [Count Two]-namely, that she was unreasonably held for over [forty-eight] hours without a finding of probable cause by a judicial officer to allow the ‘perfection' of the Gerstein affidavit, ”[3] id. The Court will address each of the District's arguments in turn.

         While “a policeman's on-the-scene assessment of probable cause provides legal justification for arresting a person suspected of crime, ” Gerstein, 420 U.S. at 113-14, “the Fourth Amendment requires a timely judicial determination of probable cause as a prerequisite to detention, ” id. at 126. “[A] jurisdiction that provides judicial determinations of probable cause within [forty-eight] hours of arrest will, as a general matter, comply with the promptness requirement of Gerstein.” Riverside, 500 U.S. at 56. “Such jurisdictions will be immune from systemic challenges.” Id. However, a “probable cause determination in a particular case [does not] pass[] constitutional muster simply because it is provided within [forty-eight] hours.” Id. “Such a hearing may nonetheless violate Gerstein if the arrested individual can prove that his or her probable cause determination was delayed unreasonably, ” such as “delays for the purpose of gathering additional evidence to justify the arrest, a delay motivated by ill will against the arrested individual, or delay for delay's sake.” Id. If an arrested individual is detained for more than forty-eight hours without a judicial determination of probable cause, “the burden shifts to the government to demonstrate the existence of a bona fide emergency or other extraordinary circumstance.” Id. at 57.

         As an initial matter, the Court disagrees with the District's first argument that Count One and Two must be dismissed because the plaintiffs “fail[ed] to allege a specific District custom, policy[, ] or a practice that runs afoul of the Constitution” in order to state a municipal liability claim under Section 1983.[4]Id. at 13. The Court notes that the District previously advanced this same argument in its motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint, see Defendant District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint at 21 (“The Amended Complaint falls far short of stating a municipal liability claim under Section 1983. . . . [The] [p]laintiffs fail to allege a specific District custom, policy or a practice that runs afoul of the Constitution.”), and the Court ...


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