United States District Court, District of Columbia
TERRY L. LANGFORD, Plaintiff,
WARDEN LENNARD JOHNSON et al., Defendants.
C. LAMBERTH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
appearing pro se, has sued Warden Lennard Johnson of
the District of Columbia Department of Correction's
Central Treatment Facility (“CTF”) and two CTF
employees, Property Officer Rhonda Williams and Jail
Transportation Officer Samuel Wells, under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. He alleges that “each of the named
defendants” violated his constitutional rights. Compl.
at 1, ECF No. 1. Pending is the Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), ECF
No. 20. Plaintiff has filed an Opposition, ECF No. 23, and
defendants have filed a Reply, ECF No. 24. For the following
reasons, the Court will grant defendants' motion and
dismiss the case.
is incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in
Butner, North Carolina (“FCI Butner”). He alleges
that from July 2016 to October 2017, he “was a federal
pre-trial detainee out of the United States District Court
for Maryland confined to CTF.” Compl. at 1-2. Plaintiff
was convicted in August 2017 and sentenced to “a
federal prison [term] ¶ 120 months (10 yrs).”
Id. at 2. In October 2017, plaintiff “was
transferred from the custody of the D.C. Department of
Corrections to the custody of the United States
Marshal.” Pl.'s More Definite Statement (hereafter
“Am. Compl.”), ECF No. 19.
the transfer, plaintiff “inquire[d] of [his] then DOC
case manager” about the handling of his personal
property, which “consisted of court transcripts,
motions, court orders, legal correspondence between counsel
and client, personal documents and letters, photos, and misc.
papers.” Am. Compl. at 1-2. Plaintiff's case
manager was “unable to provide . . . a definitive
answer [but] e-mailed other DOC staff who never
replied.” Id. at 1. Plaintiff posits that
“[i]t is defendant Johnson['s] policy as the Warden
of the D.C. Jail and the CTF to retain” an inmate's
personal property “in storage temporarily, dispose of
[it] as abandoned[, ] or mail [it] as the inmate request[s]
upon transfer[.]” Id.
day of plaintiff's transfer from the District's
custody, Wells “informed [plaintiff] that none of [his]
personal property could be transported with [him].” Am.
Compl. at 2. Wells instructed plaintiff (1) to “fill
out the paper he provided . . . to include the complete
mailing address of the person” to whom his property
should be sent, and (2) “to place and secure [his]
personal property with the mailing label affixed to it in the
private office of defendant Williams who is the CTF . . .
supervisor responsible for the keep, storage, disposal and
mailing of inmates' personal property.”
Id. Plaintiff left “instructions” for
defendants to mail the property to his attorney, Allen
Orenberg, but he learned in December 2017 that Orenberg
“never” received the property. Id. In
March 2018, while detained again at CTF on a writ, plaintiff
communicated with Wells, Williams, and Johnson “about
the whereabouts of [his] personal property” and
“learned from defendant Williams that [his] personal
property that was left behind . . . was unlocatable and most
likely disposed of.” Am. Compl. at 3.
plaintiff filed this civil action on January 29, 2018, from
FCI Butner. He claims that he left his missing personal
property “as instructed and by policy . . . to the care
and custody of defendant Johnson, defendant Wells and
defendant Williams.” Am. Compl. at 2. Plaintiff seeks
declaratory relief “in regards to the care of, return
of, damage or destruction” of his personal property and
monetary damages. Am. Compl. at 3.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
“complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Wood v. Moss, 572 U.S.
744, 757 (2014) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009)). Although “detailed factual
allegations” are not required, a plaintiff must provide
“more than an unadorned, the
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A claim is facially
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). A complaint alleging “facts that
are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability . . . ‘stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
relief.'” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557). The court “need not . . .
‘accept inferences drawn by [a] plaintiff[ ] if such
inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the
complaint.'” Nurriddin v. Bolden, 818 F.3d
751, 756 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting
Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276
(D.C. Cir. 1994)). And 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.
considering a motion to dismiss for failure to plead a claim
on which relief can be granted, the court must consider the
complaint in its entirety, accepting all factual allegations
in the complaint as true, even if doubtful in fact, and
construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Nurriddin, 818
F.3d at 756. The court may also consider “documents
attached to or incorporated by reference in the complaint,
and matters subject to judicial notice.” Ruffin v.
Gray, 443 Fed. App'x. 562, 563 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (per
curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). A pro se
pleading is held “to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1971), and the factual
allegations of a pro se litigant, whether contained
in the complaint or other filings in the matter, should be
read together in considering whether to grant a motion to
dismiss, Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545,
548 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Still, a “pro se
complaint, like any other, must present a claim upon which
relief can be granted by the court.” Crisafi v.
Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1308 (D.C. Cir. 1981).
has sued each defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
authorizes a cause of action against any “person”
who, while acting under color of the law of a State,
Territory or the District of Columbia, deprives another of a
right secured by the Constitution or federal law.
“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to . . .
§ 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official's own
individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see Ekwem v. Fenty,
666 F.Supp.2d 71, 76 (D.D.C. 2009), quoting Int'l
Action Center v. United States, 365 F.3d 20, 27 (D.C.
Cir. 2004) (to maintain a claim under § 1983, the
allegations must establish that the defendant “was
directly responsible for the constitutional
deprivation” or “gave ‘authorization or
approval of such misconduct'”).
contend that plaintiff has pled no facts to support a §
1983 claim and that they “are therefore entitled to
qualified immunity.” Defs.' Mot. at 1. To state a
claim under § 1983, plaintiff must allege sufficient
facts showing (1) that “the conduct complained of was
committed by a person acting under color of state law,
” and (2) that the conduct deprived him “of
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
or laws of the United States.” Parratt v.
Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981). The allegations
sufficiently establish actions taken by the defendants as
employees of the District of Columbia. The Fifth Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution proscribes the deprivation of life,
liberty or property without due process of law. Therefore,
the remaining question is whether defendants
unconstitutionally deprived plaintiff of his property. For
the reasons explained next, the answer is no.
Daniels v. Williams, the Supreme Court held
unequivocally that to state a claim under the Constitution, a
plaintiff must allege that the deprivation arose “from
deliberate decisions of government officials.”
474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986) (overruling Paratt
“to the extent that it states that mere lack of due
care by a state official may ‘deprive' an
individual of life, liberty, or property under the Fourteenth
Amendment”). The Court stressed “that the Due
Process Clause ...