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Patterson v. Harris

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 8, 2019

SCOTT HARRIS, et al., Defendants.


          James E. Boasberg, United States District Judge.

         Pro se Plaintiff and former NFL cornerback Dimitri Patterson is currently detained at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami-Dade County. In the hopes of procuring his release, he has besieged various courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court) with myriad legal filings. In this action, he sues judges in those courts and their clerks for not docketing his briefs or granting him relief. He also names the Department of Justice as having violated his rights by arresting him. He seeks $10 million in damages and prays to have a variety of court actions enjoined or compelled. Defendants have now filed a Motion to Dismiss, contending that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over some of his counts and that he has not stated a claim as to others. Concluding that Defendants are protected under judicial and sovereign immunity and that Plaintiff has failed to properly articulate any cognizable claim, the Court will grant the Motion and dismiss the case.

         I. Background

         Although not always clear, Plaintiff's prolix Complaint catalogs an extensive and varied list of grievances he claims to have suffered at the hands of federal judges, court clerks, and DOJ. The Court offers a brief summary of the 83-page pleading.

         Throughout late 2017 and early 2018, Plaintiff repeatedly contacted DOJ by phone and mail to complain of “conspiracies to deprive him of his constitutional rights and intentional tortious acts committed against him by the municipalit[y] of Miami-Dade County.” ECF No. 12 (Am. Compl.), ¶¶ 23-26, 28, 30-36. He was told that his case had been entered but would not be addressed for at least 120 days. Id., ¶ 33.

         Patterson alleges that on May 7, 2018, he was stopped by “two non-uniformed U.S. Marshals and eight non-uniformed Orange County Florida Police Officers” inside the Orlando Waldorf Astoria Hotel pool bathroom. Id., ¶ 44. He and his girlfriend, Kathy Thabet, repeatedly requested to see a warrant and badge identification but claim neither was ever presented. Id., ¶¶ 44, 48-49, 51. Plaintiff was subsequently arrested and taken to the Orange County Jail, where he was “illegally detain[ed] on a ‘no bond' hold without the legal chain of documentation.” Id., ¶ 53. On May 9, Miami-Dade County Correctional Officers then transported him to the Turner Guildford Knight Correctional Center, where he was detained in “24-hour solitary confinement in the psych ward for three days.” Id., ¶¶ 55-56.

         Five months later, on October 23, 2018, Plaintiff alleges that he was once again arrested (for an unspecified charge) “without a valid warrant” by Orange County Police Department officers at a gas station. Id., ¶¶ 61-64. On December 27, after legal proceedings not clearly described in his Complaint, he was sentenced to 120 days' imprisonment for “Direct Criminal Contempt.” Id., ¶ 66. As of today, he remains detained at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, although he does not explain why. Id., ¶ 169.

         While his direct criminal proceeding may have ended, his legal journey was just beginning. On both February 1 and February 12, 2019, Plaintiff's mother filed Emergency Petitions for Writs of Habeas Corpus to the Eleventh Circuit. Id., ¶¶ 73, 77. On both occasions, Eleventh Circuit Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum transferred the petition to the Southern District of Florida. Id., ¶¶ 76, 80-82. On February 25, Plaintiff's mother filed another Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Eleventh Circuit in person, but the clerk's office refused to receive or file it. Id., ¶¶ 83-88. She also filed an Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction on May 28, 2019, which Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied. Id., ¶¶ 142, 152.

         Moving up the ladder, she also filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the U.S. Supreme Court on February 8, 2019. Id., ¶ 90. After failing to receive any information regarding the processing and docketing of her petition on behalf of her son, she filed a second petition on February 14. Id., ¶¶ 92-96. The petition was returned four days later for defects in filing. Id., ¶ 98. She repeated the process on February 28, achieving no greater success. Id., ¶¶ 102-05. On March 14, she filed a fourth Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus along with Petitions for Writs of Certiorari and Mandamus. Id., ¶ 106. The petitions, again, were returned for defects in filing. Id., ¶¶ 109-15. She tried again on March 29, but to no avail. Id., ¶¶ 117-24.

         Plaintiff has also filed a total of eleven civil actions in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Id., ¶ 136. On May 3, 2019, for instance, he initiated a defamation suit against the Miami Herald Media Company there, which Middle District Judge John E. Steele then transferred to the Southern District of Florida. Id., ¶¶ 137-41.

         Dissatisfied with his treatment by the assorted Judges and Clerks and by DOJ, Plaintiff now brings this suit, which contains multiple constitutional and tort claims against U.S. Supreme Court clerks for refusing to file his petitions, other federal clerks and judges for refusing to file and hear his petitions and transferring his cases, as well as DOJ for neglecting to address his civil-rights complaints and for the tortious acts committed by U.S. Marshals. He lists myriad Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations, statutory violations, common-law torts, and Bivens counts. As relief, Plaintiff contends that he is entitled to damages in the form of $10 million. Id., ¶ 433. He further requests a permanent injunction “enjoining and restraining all Defendants named in this complaint.” Id., ¶ 434. Defendants now move to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety.

         II. Legal Standard

         In evaluating Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court must “treat the complaint's factual allegations as true . . . and must grant [P]laintiff ‘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) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)) (citation omitted); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1250 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The pleading rules are “not meant to impose a great burden upon a plaintiff, ” Dura Pharms., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and he must thus be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Sparrow, 216 F.3d at 1113.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “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 need not accept as true, then, “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an inference “unsupported by the facts set out in the [C]omplaint.” Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 ...

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