Case: Johnson v. District of Columbia

1:02-cv-02364 | U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Filed Date: Dec. 2, 2002

Closed Date: 2013

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On December 2, 2002, nine female plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, filed this 42 U.S.C §1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs challenged the practice of the U.S. Marshal's Service and the District of Columbia of conducting blanket strip, visual body cavity, and/or squat searches ("strip searches") of female arrestees that were being held in the Superior Court Cell Block of the D.C. Superior Court while awaiting presentment b…

On December 2, 2002, nine female plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, filed this 42 U.S.C §1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs challenged the practice of the U.S. Marshal's Service and the District of Columbia of conducting blanket strip, visual body cavity, and/or squat searches ("strip searches") of female arrestees that were being held in the Superior Court Cell Block of the D.C. Superior Court while awaiting presentment before a judicial officer. Specifically, the plaintiffs complained that the policy and practice of subjecting all female arrestees to strip searches in the absence of reasonable individualized suspicion violated the Fourth Amendment. The plaintiffs further complained that the practice of subjecting female arrestees but not similarly situated male arrestees to blanket strip searches violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary damages, and class certification. The class action complaint was amended twice in 2006.

Defendants denied all allegations and, on May 31, 2006, sought dismissal of the case on numerous grounds, including the defense of qualified immunity. On November 14, 2006, the District Court (Judge Rosemary M. Collyer) denied Defendants' motion to dismiss in its entirety. Johnson v. District of Columbia, 461 F.Supp.2d 48 (D.D.C. 2006). Defendants initially appealed, but the appeal was subsequently voluntarily dismissed. Johnson v. Government of District of Columbia, 2007 WL 1760078 (D.C.Cir. Jun 11, 2007).

On February 8, 2008, the District Court granted the plaintiff's motions for class certification. The Court designated two groups of classes, the Fifth Amendment Class and the Fourth Amendment Class.

The court defined the Fourth Amendment Class as, "Each woman who, during the Class Period (December 2, 1999, until April 25, 2003), was, (i) held in the Superior Court Cell Block; (ii) awaiting presentment under a statute of the District of Columbia; (iii) subjected to a blanket strip, visual body cavity and/or squat search; (iv) under similar circumstances for which male arrestees were not subjected to a blanket strip, visual body cavity and/or squat search."

The court defined the Fifth Amendment Class as, "each woman who, during the Class Period (December 2, 1999, until April 25, 2003), was, (i) held in the Superior Court Cell Block; (ii) awaiting presentment under a statute of the District of Columbia on either (a) a non-drug, non-violent traffic offense, (b) a non-drug, non- violent misdemeanor, or (c) a non-drug, non-violent felony; and (iii) subjected to a blanket strip, visual body cavity and/or squat search; (iv) without any individualized finding of reasonable suspicion or probable cause that she was concealing drugs, weapons or other contraband."

In this opinion, the District Court also dismissed all charges against the United States Marshall's Service.

On February 28, 2008, the plaintiffs filed a cross-claim against United States Superior Court Marshall Todd Dillard on the grounds that he caused them (separately and concurrently) to be subjected strip searches at the D.C. Superior Court cellblock in violation of the 4th and 5th amendments. And that by instituting and implementing a policy which subjected the plaintiffs, all women, to strip searches without individualized suspicion, the co-defendant is liable to the District for all, or part of the claims asserted by the plaintiff against the District of Columbia in this action, by virtue of his practice and policy. This crossclaim was partially in response to the District Court having previously dismissed the plaintiff's claims against the United States Marshall's Service.

On May 23, 2008, the District of Columbia filed for summary judgment for the charges against the District of Columbia. The District Court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment on October 31, 2008. The Court found that the District of Columbia cannot be liable to the plaintiffs as a matter of law on any of the theories they advance inasmuch as the Marshal was a federal official and not an employee, servant, agent or actor under the control of the District of Columbia, and inasmuch as the District of Columbia had no choice but to turn over arrestees to the Superior Court Marshal for presentment. This dismissal left the Marshall (Todd Dillard) as the sole defendant in this case.

On January 14, 2010, the District Court denied the plaintiff's motion to amend their complaint for the third time.

On April 5, 2010, the defendant filed for summary judgment on the plaintiffs' remaining claims against the Marshall.

On April 21, 2011, the District Court issued an opinion that granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Court conceded that the record shows that during the class period female arrestees were subjected to a blanket practice of strip searches while many, if not most, male arrestees were not. It is nonetheless clear that former Marshal Dillard is entitled to qualified immunity from the Fourth Amendment claims. The Fifth Amendment claims similarly fail as the plaintiffs proffered no evidence that former Marshal Dillard purposefully discriminated by intending a gender disparity in search procedures. Summary judgment was denied to the plaintiffs on their Fourth Amendment claims and granted to Marshal Dillard on the Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims. Accordingly the case was dismissed from District Court.

On May 4, 2011, the plaintiffs filed an appeal to the DC Circuit Court.

On August 13, 2014 the DC Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming the District Court's summary judgment ruling for Superior Court Marshal, finding him entitled to qualified immunity. And also affirming the District Court's summary judgment ruling for the District of Columbia, concluding that because the Superior Court Marshal in charge of the cellblock was at all times a federal official acting under color of federal law, the city had no authority to prevent the strip searches.

Summary Authors

Dan Dalton (2/5/2008)

Erin Pamukcu (3/10/2016)

Related Cases

Johnson v. District of Columbia, District of Columbia (2002)

Bame v. Clark, District of Columbia (2005)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4690129/parties/johnson-v-government-of-the-district-of-columbia/


Judge(s)

Collyer, Rosemary M. (District of Columbia)

Garland, Merrick B. (District of Columbia)

Rogers, Judith Ann Wilson (District of Columbia)

Tatel, David S. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Claiborne, William Charles III (District of Columbia)

Cunningham, Lynn E. (Wyoming)

Day, Sean Robert (Maryland)

Estuar, Paul J. (California)

Kleiman, Louis Allan (Virginia)

Litt, Barrett S. (California)

Judge(s)

Collyer, Rosemary M. (District of Columbia)

Garland, Merrick B. (District of Columbia)

Rogers, Judith Ann Wilson (District of Columbia)

Tatel, David S. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Claiborne, William Charles III (District of Columbia)

Cunningham, Lynn E. (Wyoming)

Day, Sean Robert (Maryland)

Estuar, Paul J. (California)

Kleiman, Louis Allan (Virginia)

Litt, Barrett S. (California)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Amato, Maria-Claudia T. (District of Columbia)

Baker, Denise J. (District of Columbia)

Becker, Leonard H. (District of Columbia)

Contreras, Rudolph (District of Columbia)

Efros, Ellen A. (District of Columbia)

Goldfluss, Lisa Sheri (District of Columbia)

Hildum, Robert (District of Columbia)

Johnson, Holly Michelle (District of Columbia)

Kim, Todd Sunhwae (District of Columbia)

Lawrence, R. Craig (District of Columbia)

McDaniel, Oliver W. (District of Columbia)

McKay, James C. (District of Columbia)

Meriweather, Robin Michelle (District of Columbia)

Nebeker, William Mark (District of Columbia)

Nickles, Peter J. (District of Columbia)

Olkiewicz, Jennifer M. (District of Columbia)

Phillips, Channing D (District of Columbia)

Schwab, Edward E. (District of Columbia)

Taylor, Leah Brownlee (District of Columbia)

Valentine, George C. (District of Columbia)

Wainstein, Kenneth L. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

Johnson v. Government of the District of Columbia

Aug. 13, 2014 Docket
1

Class Action Complaint for Money Damages and Injunctive Relief

Johnson et al v. Government of the District of Columbia et al

Dec. 2, 2002 Complaint
58-1

Class Action, First Amended Complaint for Money Damages and Injunctive Relief and Preliminary Injunction and Jury Demand

April 28, 2006 Complaint
62-1

Federal Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

Johnson, et al. v. Government of the District of Columbia, et al.

May 31, 2006 Pleading / Motion / Brief
81

Order

Johnson et al v. Government of the District of Columbia et al

461 F.Supp.2d 48

Nov. 14, 2006 Order/Opinion
84-2

Class Action Second Amended Complaint for Money Damages and Jury Demand

Johnson et al v. Government of the District of Columbia et al

Dec. 5, 2006 Complaint
125

Order [Re: Motion to Dismiss]

Johnson v. Government of District of Columbia

2007 WL 1760078

June 11, 2007 Order/Opinion
159

Order

Feb. 8, 2008 Order/Opinion
158

Memorandum Opinion

248 F.R.D. 46

Feb. 8, 2008 Order/Opinion
162

District of Columbia's Cross-Claim Against Todd Dillard in His Individual and Official Capacity

Feb. 29, 2008 Complaint

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4690129/johnson-v-government-of-the-district-of-columbia/

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link
81

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER denying 62 the Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and denying 63 Defendant the District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss. See attached Memorandum Opinion & Order for additional details. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 11/14/2006. (ses)

Nov. 14, 2006 RECAP
158

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 2/8/08. (lcrmc2)

Feb. 8, 2008 RECAP
202

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 10/31/08. (lcrmc2)

Oct. 31, 2008 RECAP
272

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 4/21/2011. (lcrmc2)

April 21, 2011 RECAP

State / Territory: District of Columbia

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Strip Search Cases

Key Dates

Filing Date: Dec. 2, 2002

Closing Date: 2013

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Females arrested in DC from 12/2/99 until case termination who were taken to the Superior Court for presentment on DC warrants or code offenses and who were subjected to strip searches while waiting for presentment before a DC Superior Court judge.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

DC Superior Court (Washington), State

Government of the District of Columbia (Washington), State

United States Marshals Service (Washington), Federal

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Unreasonable search and seizure

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None yet

None

Issues

General:

Search policies

Strip search policy

Discrimination-basis:

Sex discrimination

Affected Gender:

Female

Type of Facility:

Government-run