United States District Court, District of Columbia
ALEXANDER OTIS MATTHEWS, as Personal Representative for the Estate of Ezana Alexander Matthews, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
that [the Court] write[s], no matter how well reasoned or
forcefully expressed, can bring back the victim of [the]
tragedy” at hand. Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S.
387, 415 (1977) (Stevens, J., concurring). In this case, as
in all cases, the Court's obligation remains to apply the
law. And, here, that obligation requires dismissal of
Plaintiff's claims on behalf of his son, Ezana Matthews.
account of the tragic circumstances of Ezana Matthews's
death are recounted in this Court's prior opinion, Dkt.
23 at 1-4, but the following facts from the amended complaint
warrant repetition and are taken as true for purposes of the
District's motion to dismiss. See Wood v. Moss,
572 U.S. 744, 755 n.5 (2014). Ezana was a 25-year-old Army
veteran. Dkt. 25 at 2. Upon his honorable discharge from the
Army, Ezana lived with his paternal grandmother in
Washington, D.C. Id. On May 4, 2017, Ezana's
81-year-old grandmother came home and found him hanging from
a pull-up bar in a bedroom. Id. Unable to cut him
down herself, as instructed by the 911 operator, she
“ran to a neighbor's home” and found a group
of men “who were able to physically perform the
officer from the Metropolitan Police Department
(“MPD”) arrived, that officer allegedly
“made no effort” to revive Ezana, such as by
“attempt[ing] CPR, ” “provid[ing] oxygen,
” or deploying a defibrillator. Id. That
inaction, according to Plaintiff, violated “all
applicable laws, statutes, regulations [and] MPD special and
general orders when encountering unconscious persons.”
Id. Plaintiff also contends that MPD officers and
detectives were “wholly negligent in their
investigation of the circumstances surrounding [his
son's] death.” Id.
original complaint asserted claims under the Eighth
Amendment, the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, and
under D.C. tort law. See Dkt. 1. The District moved
to dismiss that complaint with respect to all claims, Dkt. 5,
and the Court granted that motion while granting Plaintiff
leave to amend his complaint. See Dkt. 23, Dkt. 24.
In the memorandum opinion granting that motion, the Court
construed the Plaintiff's due process claims as
substantive due process claims and dismissed them on
the basis that “the Due Process Clauses generally
confer no affirmative right to governmental aid, even where
such aid may be necessary to secure life, liberty, or
property interests of which the government itself may not
deprive the individual.” Dkt. 23 at 5 (quoting
DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Dep't Social Servs.,
489 U.S. 189, 196 (1989)).
amended complaint is itself ambiguous as to whether it
asserts a common law tort claim in addition to a procedural
due process claim. See Dkt. 25 at 3. But, in his
response to the District's motion to dismiss, Plaintiff
categorically states that he “argued no Common Law Tort
Claims in the amended complaint so the defendant's
opposition to these claims is misplaced.” Dkt. 30 at 1.
Thus, the Court is left only to consider Defendant's
motion to dismiss Plaintiff's new procedural due process
claim. That claim must be dismissed.
Supreme Court has held that the “Due Process clause . .
. is not implicated by the lack of due care of an official
causing unintended injury to life, liberty or
property.” Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344,
347 (1986) (applying this rule to both procedural and
substantive due process claims). And, Plaintiff makes no
allegations that the offending officer's actions were
anything other than “negligent.” See
Dkt. 25 at 2. More importantly, the “fundamental”
interest the Due Process clause protects is the
“opportunity to be heard ‘at a meaningful time
and in a meaningful manner, '” when the government
makes decisions that deprive individuals of life, liberty, or
property interests. Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S.
319, 332 (1976) (quoting Armstrong v. Manzo, 380
U.S. 545, 552 (1965)). Because Plaintiff does not allege that
he-or his son-was denied an “opportunity to be heard,
” or denied any other procedural protections,
the Court must dismiss his complaint for failure to plead
facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.