627 F.3d 904 (D.C. Cir. 2010), 09-7034, Tate v. District of Columbia

Docket Nº:09-7034.
Citation:627 F.3d 904
Opinion Judge:KAREN LeCRAFT HENDERSON, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Christine A. TATE, Appellant v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellee.
Attorney:Jeffrey M. Hahn, appointed by the court, argued the cause as amicus curiae in support of the appellant. Matthew T. Reinhard, appointed by the court, was on brief. Christine A. Tate, pro se, filed a brief. Sonia Ignatova, Special Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General for the D...
Judge Panel:Before: SENTELLE, Chief Judge, HENDERSON and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:December 17, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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627 F.3d 904 (D.C. Cir. 2010)

Christine A. TATE, Appellant

v.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellee.

No. 09-7034.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

December 17, 2010

Argued Oct. 14, 2010.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:02-cv-02216).

Jeffrey M. Hahn, appointed by the court, argued the cause as amicus curiae in support of the appellant. Matthew T. Reinhard, appointed by the court, was on brief.

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Christine A. Tate, pro se, filed a brief.

Sonia Ignatova, Special Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, argued the cause for the appellee. Peter J. Nickles, Attorney General, District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, District of Columbia, were on brief. Mary L. Wilson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, District of Columbia, entered an appearance.

Before: SENTELLE, Chief Judge, HENDERSON and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

KAREN LeCRAFT HENDERSON, Circuit Judge:

Christine A. Tate appeals the district court's summary judgment on each of her four constitutional and five common-law tort claims arising from the 2002 impoundment and sale of her automobile by the District of Columbia (District or D.C.) resulting from her unpaid traffic fines and related fees. Tate v. District of Columbia, 601 F.Supp.2d 132 (D.D.C.2009). For the reasons set out below, we affirm the judgment on her constitutional claims and remand her D.C. common law claims, which the district court mistakenly dismissed as " conceded."

I.

On March 12, 2002, the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) " booted" 1 Tate's automobile pursuant to D.C.Code § 50-2201.03(k)(1), which then provided that " [a]ny unattended motor vehicle found parked at any time upon any public highway of the District of Columbia against which there are 2 or more outstanding or otherwise unsettled traffic violation notices or notices of infraction ... may ... be ... immobilized in such manner as to prevent its operation ... by the use of a device or other mechanism which will cause no damage to such vehicle unless it is moved while such device or mechanism is in place," i.e., by a boot. See also D.C.Code § 50-2302.05(d)(1) (" A person to whom a notice of infraction has been issued must answer within 30 calendar days of date the notice was issued...." ).2 Tate does not dispute that as of the booting date she had outstanding at least three unpaid tickets issued in January 2002, one on January 10 and two on January 29. See Appellant's Br. 5. 3 At a March 15, 2002 hearing, a hearing examiner waived the late penalty for the January 10, 2002 violation, finding " credible" Tate's explanation she was not

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aware of the ticket. The hearing examiner nonetheless held Tate liable on the underlying citation and upheld the booting because " [m]ore than 2 tickets relating to the boot remain[ed]." Claytor Decl. Ex. H (Hr'g R. dated March 2002). DPW towed Tate's vehicle to its Addison Road Impound Lot in Maryland on March 26, 2002. On April 9, 2002, DPW moved the vehicle to its Blue Plains Storage Facility for abandoned and junk vehicles (Blue Plains) in Southwest D.C. because the vehicle had remained unclaimed for 15 days.

DPW mailed Tate a written notice on April 12, 2002 advising her that failure to claim her vehicle within 45 days would constitute a " waiver of all right title, and interest" in the vehicle and " consent to the sale of the vehicle at public auction." D.C. Opp'n to Pl's Mot. for Prelim. Inj., Attach. E, Tate, C.A. No. 02-2216 (filed Jan. 23, 2003). Because Tate's address had been misentered into the DPW computer records, however, the notice was mailed to an incorrect address and was returned undelivered. Id. Attach. I.

On April 19, 2002, Tate went to Blue Plains and retrieved a suitcase from her vehicle. According to DPW, Tate " would have been informed of th[e] date [of the auction] when she visited the Lot," Decl. of DPW Parking Services Administration's Abandoned Vehicle Operations Program Manager Cynthia Jones ¶ 9, but Tate claimed she did not learn of the impending auction until " [s]ometime in May 2002" when she " visited DMV to inquire about the status of the application of payments for the outstanding tickets and storage fees." First Amended Complaint ¶ 14, Tate, C.A. No. 02-2216 (filed July 13, 2004) (Complaint). She then requested an administrative hearing to stop the sale of her vehicle.

At the hearing on May 29, 2002, the hearing examiner dismissed a contested ticket Tate received on November 19, 2001 because it had been tardily entered into the DMV computer system but, according to the hearing record, upheld " the boot, tow and storage fees" because Tate still had " two delinquent remaining" tickets. Claytor Decl. Ex. I, J (Hr'g R. dated May 29, 2002). According to Tate, however, " a stay of the auction was granted" at the hearing, the hearing examiner waived " some of the Blue Plains storage fees and other fees levied on [her] car" and, " [f]ollowing the May 29, 2002 hearing, agents or employees of the District notified [Tate] that she had until June 7, 2002 to reclaim her vehicle." Complaint ¶ ¶ 14-15 (filed July 13, 2004); Pl's Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., at 10, Tate v. District of Columbia, C.A. No. 02-2216 (filed June 30, 2008) (Second Opposition); Pl's Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Attach. 1, Ex. K (filed May 19, 2008) (First Opposition) (9/23/2002 computer screen printout stating: " All Tow & Storage Fees Release Per HR 778/5/29/02" ). She further asserted that when she again visited Blue Plains on June 7, 2002, she was informed her vehicle had been sold at public auction on June 4, 2002. District records confirm Tate's vehicle was sold at auction on that date for $4,000.

On November 12, 2002, Tate filed this action in district court. Her complaint alleges causes of action under 42 U.S. C. § 1983 for depriving her of rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution (Counts I-IV) and under D.C. law for various common law torts (Counts VI-X).4 On February 27, 2009, the district court granted D.C.'s summary judgment motion on all 9 counts. Tate filed a timely notice of appeal.

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II.

We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. Porter v. Shah, 606 F.3d 809, 813 (D.C.Cir.2010). Summary judgment is appropriate " ‘ if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.’ " Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)) (other internal quotation omitted). " In assessing whether a genuine issue exists, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id. (internal quotations omitted). Applying this standard to each of Tate's claims, we conclude the District was entitled to summary judgment on each of the four section 1983 counts. The five pendent counts under D.C. law should be remanded for further consideration.

A. Section 1983 Claims

Tate contends that the District's actions in booting, impounding and selling her vehicle deprived her of her rights under the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, Takings Clause and Equal Protection guarantee and the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizure. We address each in turn.

We first consider Tate's due process claim. See U.S. Const. amend. V (" [N]or [shall any person]be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." ). Tate asserts the District deprived her of property-her vehicle-without due process of law because, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to her, the District told her it would auction the vehicle on June 7, 2002 but in fact did so on June 4, 2002 and, further, the District auctioned the vehicle without the requisite 45-day notice to her of the sale. See D.C.Code § 50-2623(a) (2001) (" If an abandoned vehicle has not been reclaimed, the Abandoned and Junk Vehicle Division shall sell the vehicle at public auction." ); id. § 50-2602(6)(E) (2001) (" [T]he term ‘ [a]bandoned vehicle’ means any motor vehicle ... [t]hat has remained unclaimed for 45 days after proper notice." ). That the District may have misstated the auction date or violated its own statutory notice requirement does not mean that it deprived Tate of the process due under the Fifth Amendment. " [T]he fact of a state law violation does not resolve whether a plaintiff has been deprived of due process." Barwood, Inc. v. District of Columbia, 202 F.3d 290, 294 (D.C.Cir.2000) (quoting Comm. of U.S. Citizens Living in Nicaragua v. Reagan, 859 F.2d 929, 944 (D.C.Cir.1988)). " The fundamental requirement of due process is the opportunity to be heard ‘ at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.’ " Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976) (quoting Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 552, 85 S.Ct. 1187, 14 L.Ed.2d 62 (1965)). Tate had meaningful notice of her infractions and a series of hearings to contest them, culminating in the hearing on May 29, 2002, which she requested for the specific purpose of challenging the sale of her vehicle at auction. If the District subsequently sold it prematurely, that fact may well give rise to a common law tort under D.C. law but it did not deprive her of the only process due-namely, timely notice and a hearing. Tate does not challenge the adequacy of the administrative hearings themselves. Moreover, she offers no competent evidence that the hearing officer or any other District employee told her the June 4, 2002 sale was stayed but relies solely on the allegations of her complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) (2008) (" When a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, an opposing party may not rely merely on...

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