Hedgepeth v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., No. 03-7149.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRoberts
Citation386 F.3d 1148
PartiesTracey V. HEDGEPETH, as the next friend to Ansche Hedgepeth, Appellant, v. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, et al., Appellees.
Decision Date26 October 2004
Docket NumberNo. 03-7149.

Page 1148

386 F.3d 1148
Tracey V. HEDGEPETH, as the next friend to Ansche Hedgepeth, Appellant,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, et al., Appellees.
No. 03-7149.
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.
Argued September 17, 2004.
Decided October 26, 2004.

Page 1149

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 01cv00759).

Page 1150

Brian C. Duffy argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Randal M. Shaheen and Jonathan S. Batten.

Donna M. Murasky, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Attorney General for the District of Columbia, argued the cause for appellee the District of Columbia. With her on the brief were Robert J. Spagnoletti, Attorney General, and Edward E. Schwab, Deputy Attorney General.

Gerard J. Stief, Associate General Counsel, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, argued the cause for appellees Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, et al. With him on the brief were Cheryl C. Burke, General Counsel, and Mark F. Sullivan, Deputy General Counsel. Robert J. Kniaz, Deputy General Counsel, entered an appearance.

Before: HENDERSON and ROBERTS, Circuit Judges, and WILLIAMS, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge ROBERTS.

ROBERTS, Circuit Judge:


No one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation. A twelve-year-old girl was arrested, searched, and handcuffed. Her shoelaces were removed, and she was transported in the windowless rear compartment of a police vehicle to a juvenile processing center, where she was booked, fingerprinted, and detained until released to her mother some three hours later — all for eating a single french fry in a Metrorail station. The child was frightened, embarrassed, and crying throughout the ordeal. The district court described the policies that led to her arrest as "foolish," and indeed the policies were changed after those responsible endured the sort of publicity reserved for adults who make young girls cry. The question before us, however, is not whether these policies were a bad idea, but whether they violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. Like the district court, we conclude that they did not, and accordingly we affirm.

I.

It was the start of another school year and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was once again getting complaints about bad behavior by students using the Tenleytown/American University Metrorail station. In response WMATA embarked on a week-long undercover operation to enforce a "zero-tolerance" policy with respect to violations of certain ordinances, including one that makes it unlawful for any person to eat or drink in a Metrorail station. D.C. CODE § 35-251(b) (2001). "Zero tolerance" had more fateful consequences for children than for adults. Adults who violate § 35-251(b) typically receive a citation subjecting them to a fine of $10 to $50. Id. § 35-253. District of Columbia law, however, does not provide for the issuance of citations for non-traffic offenses to those under eighteen years of age. Instead, a minor who has committed what an officer has reasonable grounds to believe is a "delinquent act" "may be taken into custody." Id. § 16-2309(a)(2). Committing an offense under District of Columbia law, such as eating in a Metrorail station, constitutes a "delinquent act." Id. § 16-2301(7). The upshot of all this is that zero-tolerance enforcement of § 35-251(b) entailed the arrest of every offending minor but not every offending adult.

The undercover operation was in effect on October 23, 2000, when twelve-year-old Ansche Hedgepeth and a classmate entered the Tenleytown/AU station on their way home from school. Ansche had stopped at a fast-food restaurant on the

Page 1151

way and ordered a bag of french fries — to go. While waiting for her companion to purchase a fare-card, Ansche removed and ate a french fry from the take-out bag she was holding. After proceeding through the fare-gate, Ansche was stopped by a plainclothed Metro Transit Police officer, who identified himself and informed her that he was arresting her for eating in the Metrorail station. The officer then handcuffed Ansche behind her back while another officer searched her and her backpack. Pursuant to established procedure, her shoelaces were removed. Upset and crying, Ansche was transported to the District of Columbia's Juvenile Processing Center some distance away, where she was fingerprinted and processed before being released into the custody of her mother three hours later.

The no-citation policy was not, it turned out, carved in stone. The negative publicity surrounding Ansche's arrest prompted WMATA to adopt a new policy effective January 31, 2001, allowing WMATA officers to issue citations to juveniles violating § 35-251(b). See Deposition of Capt. Michael Taborn at 28, 55. Zero tolerance was also not a policy for the ages. Effective May 8, 2001, WMATA adopted a new Written Warning Notice Program, under which juveniles eating in the Metro are neither arrested nor issued citations, but instead given written warnings, with a letter notifying their parents and school. Only after the third infraction over the course of a year may a juvenile be formally prosecuted. WMATA Written Notice Memorandum at 1-4.

On April 9, 2001, Ansche's mother Tracey Hedgepeth brought this action as Ansche's next friend in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and named WMATA, its General Manager, the arresting officer, and the District of Columbia as defendants. It alleged that Ansche's arrest violated the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment, because adults eating in the Metro were not arrested. The complaint also alleged that the arrest was an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement policies leading to Ansche's arrest, and expungement of Ansche's arrest record.1

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled in favor of the defendants. Hedgepeth v. Washington Metro. Area Transit, 284 F.Supp.2d 145, 149 (D.D.C.2003). Addressing the equal protection claim, the court applied "the highly deferential rational basis test," id. at 156, because it found that age is not a suspect class, id. at 152-53, and that there is no fundamental right to be free from physical restraint when there is probable cause for arrest. Id. at 155. The court then ruled that both the District's no-citation policy for minors and WMATA's zero-tolerance policy survived rational basis review. Id. at 156-58. The district court next rejected Ansche's Fourth Amendment claim, relying on Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 149 L.Ed.2d 549 (2001), for the proposition that "`[i]f an officer has probable cause to believe that an individual has committed even a very minor criminal offense in his presence, he may, without violating the Fourth Amendment, arrest the offender.'" 284 F.Supp.2d at 160 (quoting Atwater, 532 U.S. at 354, 121 S.Ct. at 1557-58). Given that it was undisputed that Ansche had committed the offense in the presence of the arresting officer, the district court

Page 1152

concluded it was "without discretion or authority to reject the standards enunciated" in Atwater, despite the minor nature of the offense and the harshness of the response. 284 F.Supp.2d at 160. Hedgepeth now appeals.

II.

We are confronted at the outset with two jurisdictional objections. First, Ansche's complaint seeks only prospective relief,2 and — even in the absence of WMATA's change in policy — we are not willing to indulge the assumption that she will violate D.C. CODE § 35-251(b) in the future and thereby again be subject to the policies about which she complains. This suggests the lack of an ongoing case or controversy under Article III. See City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983) (plaintiff subject to illegal arrest procedure lacked standing to seek prospective relief because he made no showing that he was likely to be arrested and subjected to illegal procedure again); O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96, 94 S.Ct. 669, 675-76, 38 L.Ed.2d 674 (1974) ("Past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief").

Second, WMATA argues that its new policy for juvenile offenders renders the case moot. There is no need for the court to assess the legality of the policy to which Ansche was subjected, WMATA argues, because that policy — a combination of a no-citation rule for minors and zero-tolerance enforcement — is no longer in effect.

The answer to both objections is found in the precise relief sought by Ansche. In the complaint, Ansche sought not only declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the no-citation and zero-tolerance policies, but also the expungement of her arrest record. Second Am. Compl. ¶ 32(c). She clarified in her summary judgment papers that this last request included a judicial declaration deeming her allegedly unlawful arrest a "detention." See Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (Feb. 21, 2003) at 23. Such an order would relieve Ansche of the burden of having to respond affirmatively to the familiar question, "Ever been arrested?" on application, employment, and security forms. This court has approved such relief in the past. See Carter v. District of Columbia, 795 F.2d 116, 136 (D.C.Cir.1986); Tatum v. Morton, 562 F.2d 1279, 1285 n. 17 (D.C.Cir.1977). Ansche accordingly has Article III standing, and her effort to secure such relief has in no way been affected by WMATA's policy change.3

This action is justiciable with respect to both the District of Columbia and WMATA.

Page 1153

Although each tries to blame the other, Ansche alleges that neither defendant's policies...

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42 practice notes
  • Perry Capital LLC v. Mnuchin, No. 14-5243
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • February 21, 2017
    ...] into play only after the court determines it has jurisdiction." See Hedgepeth ex rel. Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148, 1152 n.2 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (Roberts, J.). The class plaintiffs do not argue that their request for "disgorgement," J.A. 278 ¶ 5, is not "money ......
  • A.M. ex rel. F.M. v. Holmes, Nos. 14-2066
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • July 25, 2016
    ...during a lawful arrest was clearly established in May 2011. See Hedgepeth ex rel. Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. , 386 F.3d 1148, 1155–56 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (noting, in a case involving the handcuffing of a twelve-year-old girl, where the officer had probable cause to arrest: “t......
  • Alasaad v. Nielsen, No. 17-cv-11730-DJC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • November 12, 2019
    ...based upon their demand for expungement" of data collected during border searches); Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148, 1152 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (holding plaintiff had standing to seek expungement of arrest record). Where, as here, Plaintiffs allege that such informati......
  • Abdelfattah v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., No. 12–5322.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 15, 2015
    ...will affect the respective rights of the parties. See, e.g., Hedgepeth ex rel. Hedgepeth v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148, 1152–52 (D.C.Cir.2004) (Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims not mooted by a change in policy where plaintiff sought expungement of arrest record as ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • Perry Capital LLC v. Mnuchin, No. 14-5243
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • February 21, 2017
    ...] into play only after the court determines it has jurisdiction." See Hedgepeth ex rel. Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148, 1152 n.2 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (Roberts, J.). The class plaintiffs do not argue that their request for "disgorgement," J.A. 278 ¶ 5, is not "money ......
  • A.M. ex rel. F.M. v. Holmes, Nos. 14-2066
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • July 25, 2016
    ...during a lawful arrest was clearly established in May 2011. See Hedgepeth ex rel. Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. , 386 F.3d 1148, 1155–56 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (noting, in a case involving the handcuffing of a twelve-year-old girl, where the officer had probable cause to arrest: “t......
  • Alasaad v. Nielsen, No. 17-cv-11730-DJC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • November 12, 2019
    ...based upon their demand for expungement" of data collected during border searches); Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148, 1152 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (holding plaintiff had standing to seek expungement of arrest record). Where, as here, Plaintiffs allege that such informati......
  • Abdelfattah v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., No. 12–5322.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 15, 2015
    ...will affect the respective rights of the parties. See, e.g., Hedgepeth ex rel. Hedgepeth v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148, 1152–52 (D.C.Cir.2004) (Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims not mooted by a change in policy where plaintiff sought expungement of arrest record as ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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