Fisher v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 81-1596

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Citation690 F.2d 1133
Docket NumberNo. 81-1596,81-1596
PartiesCaricia J. FISHER, Appellant, v. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY; J. Elwood Clements; C. C. Mickelson, Appellees, and Arlington County; John ## 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 Doe; Jane ## 1, 2 & 3 Doe; All Deputy Sheriffs or Employees of Arlington County Sheriffs Department, Names Unknown, Defendants.
Decision Date07 October 1982

Page 1133

690 F.2d 1133
Caricia J. FISHER, Appellant,
Clements; C. C. Mickelson, Appellees,
Arlington County; John ## 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 Doe; Jane ## 1, 2 &
3 Doe; All Deputy Sheriffs or Employees of
Arlington County Sheriffs Department,
Names Unknown, Defendants.
No. 81-1596.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.
Argued Feb. 1, 1982.
Decided Oct. 7, 1982.

Page 1135

Leonard J. Koenick, Washington, D. C. (Koenick & McMillin, Washington, D. C., Leslie Scott Auerbach, Auerbach & Simmons, Silver Spring, Md., on brief), for appellant.

Claude M. Hilton, Arlington, Va., Donald A. Clower, Great Falls, Va., for appellees.

Before PHILLIPS, MURNAGHAN and SPROUSE, Circuit Judges.


This case grew out of an incident in which the plaintiff, Caricia J. Fisher, was arrested by a police officer of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for violating a local ordinance prohibiting eating on WMATA trains. Fisher sued WMATA, the arresting officer, and the former sheriff of Arlington County, Virginia, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law against WMATA and its police officer for alleged constitutional and statutory violations incident to her arrest and detention by the arresting officer, and under § 1983 against the sheriff for alleged constitutional violation of her privacy rights during her detention in an Arlington County facility for whose operation the sheriff was responsible.

From judgments by directed verdict against her on all her claims Fisher has appealed. We affirm as to the federal claims respecting the arrest and detention by the WMATA police officer and the violation of privacy rights by the sheriff; we remand for first instance disposition of any pendent state claims determined by the district court to be before it.


In mid-morning of December 26, 1979, Fisher, age 24, returned by plane to National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, from a Christmas vacation in New York. At WMATA's airport station she boarded a train bound for downtown Washington, D. C. Several minutes after this train left the station, Fisher unwrapped and began to eat several small sandwiches.

WMATA Officer Mickelson, traveling in uniform on the same train, approached Fisher, advised her that she was violating an Arlington County ordinance prohibiting such eating on the train, and directed Fisher's attention to a sign on the same subject several feet away. Despite additional requests from Mickelson that she cease eating, Fisher continued. According to Mickelson, Fisher finished the sandwiches, put the wrapping paper away and told Mickelson to stop bothering her. Mickelson then informed Fisher that he was charging her with violating the ordinance and asked for identification. Fisher produced a temporary identification card issued by her new employer which bore only Fisher's name. At the next stop, Pentagon Station, Mickelson and another WMATA employee gathered Fisher's three bags and escorted her onto the station's platform.

Page 1136

Fisher testified that once on the platform she "passively resisted arrest," at one point lying prone on the floor or across her bags. Mickelson handcuffed and walked a by then cursing Fisher to the station's kiosk. Mickelson had radioed for transportation to carry Fisher to the Arlington County Police Station and an Officer McFarland of the County Police met the two and delivered Fisher to that station; Mickelson followed in a WMATA car.

Upon arrival McFarland escorted Fisher to the booking area. Mickelson informed the deputy sheriff on duty at the desk that he wanted to have booked for eating on the train a woman for whom he had no local address. The deputy directed Mickelson to obtain a warrant from a magistrate located in a nearby office. Mickelson did so. After serving the arrest warrant on Fisher, Mickelson removed the handcuffs, read her the Miranda rights, and presented her to the booking desk. At this point, so far as the record reveals, county officials assumed her custody and Mickelson took no further part in maintaining it.

Fisher then refused to answer identification questions put to her by Officer McFarland and the deputy sheriff. She later testified that she did so because she had been advised of the right to remain silent. McFarland unsuccessfully searched her purse for a local address, although he did apparently find a New York driver's license. Finally, when informed that she would be booked and placed in lock-up if she did not provide requested identification information, Fisher answered, according to her own testimony, "Well, I guess you are going to have to go ahead and book me." Fisher was then placed in a holding cell. At about noon the magistrate issued a commitment order instructing that Fisher, "Local Address Unknown," be held until court the next day.

Fisher remained in the holding cell area, from which she made several telephone calls, until approximately 5:00 p.m., when she was transferred to the women's detention center on the fourth floor of the same building. There she showered, was given a center dress, and placed in a cell. Dinner and magazines were provided and additional calls made on Fisher's behalf. Later that evening Fisher flooded her cell and the surrounding area by stuffing towels into and then repeatedly flushing the cell's toilet. Finally Fisher, who according to her testimony was desperate to see a doctor or psychiatrist, feigned a suicide attempt by hanging, using her brassiere.

Detention center officers then transferred Fisher, wrapped in a sheet or blanket, to an enclosed isolation cell especially adapted for suicidal inmates or detainees. The cell was located in a section of the center housing male inmates. This unfurnished room contained an elevated camera that relayed a closed-circuit picture to a television screen inside a "control room" located among the general population on that floor. The four walls of this room, which contain screens used to monitor different parts of the center, are made of bulletproof glass. Fisher, who was placed in the cell naked except for her underpants, testified that she heard males outside her room making derogatory remarks about her appearance. At trial she surmised that she was seen by means of the monitoring screen in the control room.

Fisher remained in this room for approximately fifteen hours. Some time on the afternoon of the next day, after a transfer back to the women's center, Fisher was ordered released. By this time county officials had contacted Fisher's father in New York and had arranged for Fisher to be discharged to the custody of family friends. Fisher was never prosecuted for violating the ordinance.

Fisher then brought this action against WMATA, Officer Mickelson, and then Sheriff Clements of Arlington County, Virginia in whose facility she was booked and detained. 1 Though her legal claims have been notably lacking in clarity of presentation throughout, we identify them, as presumably

Page 1137

did the district court, as follows. Against WMATA and Mickelson she claimed, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of fourteenth amendment rights in the course of her custodial arrest and ensuing detention by Mickelson, and, under the pendent jurisdiction, corresponding violations of state tort law. Against Sheriff Clements she claimed, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violation of constitutionally secured privacy rights in the course of her extended detention in the Arlington County facility.

At trial, Fisher's evidence consisted of the testimony of five witnesses, including her own and that of Officer Mickelson and Sheriff Clements, who were called as adverse witnesses. Following presentation of plaintiff's case-in-chief which essentially developed the facts above summarized, defendants rested without offering evidence. The district court, by oral bench order, directed verdicts in defendants' favor as to all claims. 2

This appeal followed. We take the claims in the order above identified.


Fisher's § 1983 claims against Mickelson and WMATA alleging an unconstitutional arrest and subsequent unconstitutional detention by Mickelson are rested solely upon the legal theory that Mickelson's failure to comply with Virginia law respecting her arrest and detention violated her fourteenth amendment rights. She contends that the evidence was sufficient to support a jury finding that Mickelson did not abide by Va.Code § 19-2.74 (1975) which at the time in issue instructed that misdemeanants such as she in this case were to be released with a summons and without further custody unless they refused to sign the summons or unless they were believed unlikely to appear for trial, in which alternative events they were to be taken, following arrest, "immediately" or "forthwith" before a committing officer. 3

As we understand her specific contention at this point, it is that because as a matter

Page 1138

of fact she never declined to sign a summons and there was no basis for thinking that she would not appear for trial, her initial custodial arrest as well as her ensuing detention was in violation of state law. Alternatively she apparently contends that if her release on summons was not required so that her custodial arrest was permissible under the circumstances, her right under state law to be taken "immediately" or "forthwith" before a magistrate following her custodial arrest was then violated by Mickelson's failure to do so. By this means she claims that her constitutional rights, vindicable under § 1983, were violated.

For reasons that follow, we hold that these claims-of an unconstitutional arrest followed by an unconstitutional detention by Mickelson-fail legally, irrespective of the sufficiency of the evidence to support them factually. Mickelson's actions in first arresting Fisher and then detaining her in custody until county officers assumed her custody violated...

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