Keenan v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Authority

Decision Date28 August 1986
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 85-0943,85-0944.
Citation643 F. Supp. 324
PartiesJames R. KEENAN, Plaintiff, v. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, and Richard L. Burket, Individually, and as an officer of the Metro Transit Police, and the District of Columbia, Defendants. Michael J. SCHUMCHYK, Plaintiff, v. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, and Richard L. Burket, Individually, and as an officer of the Metro Transit Police, and the District of Columbia, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia


William E. McDaniels, Kevin T. Baine, and Manley W. Roberts, of Williams & Connolly, Washington, D.C., for plaintiffs.

Robert J. Kniaz, Asst. Gen. Counsel, and on brief, Sara E. Lister, Gen. Counsel, and Robert L. Polk, Associate Gen. Counsel, for defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

George C. Valentine, Asst. Corp. Counsel, and on brief, John H. Polk, Acting Corp. Counsel, Martin L. Grossman, Deputy Corp. Counsel, and Cary D. Pollak, Chief, General Litigation, for defendant District of Columbia.


CHARLES R. RICHEY, District Judge.


The Court has before it defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's ("WMATA") Motion to Dismiss on the ground that under the Eleventh Amendment it is immune from suit in federal court. Plaintiffs have submitted an Opposition, and defendant WMATA has filed a Reply thereto. In addition, the Court has considered the supplemental memoranda on Eleventh Amendment immunity and subject-matter jurisdiction filed by the parties.

Plaintiffs' cause of action in these two consolidated cases arises out of an incident between the plaintiffs and a Metro Transit Police officer, defendant Richard L. Burket, at the Stadium-Armory Metro Station and the subsequent arrest and jailing of the plaintiffs on March 4, 1984.

Both complaints assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against WMATA, Officer Burket, and the District of Columbia (Count I). Each plaintiff also brings common law claims for assault and battery (Count II); false arrest and false imprisonment (Count III); malicious prosecution (Count IV); and abuse of process (Count V) against all three defendants, and a claim of negligent hiring, training, and supervision (Count VI) against WMATA and the District of Columbia.

Plaintiff Keenan requests $500,000 in compensatory damages; $1 million in punitive damages; prejudgment interest; an injunction against further constitutional violations; and costs and attorneys' fees. Plaintiff Schumchyk requests $100,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages as well as the other types of relief requested by plaintiff Keenan.

The Court finds, for the reasons delineated below, that Officer Burket's allegedly tortious conduct while arresting plaintiffs was in the course of his performing a governmental function. Under the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact, Pub.L. No. 89-774, 80 Stat. 1324 (1966) (codified as amended at D.C.Code § 1-2431 (1981 & Supp.1986)) ("WMATA Compact" or "Compact"), defendant WMATA has Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court for such actions. Moreover, the Court finds that WMATA has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity. Accordingly, the Court finds that these cases were improvidently removed from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to the federal district court which does not have jurisdiction to hear this matter. The Court must grant defendant WMATA's Motion to Dismiss and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) remand both cases to the Superior Court.

a. Factual History:

With a few exceptions, the parties provide widely divergent accounts of the events which led to this law suit. This much is agreed upon: on March 4, 1984, the plaintiffs, in the company of their friends, entered the Stadium-Armory Metro Station after a Washington Federals football game. When plaintiff Keenan could not find his farecard, he jumped over the turnstile. The parties contest what happened once Keenan landed on the other side.

Plaintiffs' version of the subsequent events is as follows. After alighting, Keenan went to the station attendants and explained that he had lost his farecard. Plaintiff Schumchyk immediately paid one of the attendants for another card. Plaintiffs claim that this transaction between the plaintiffs and the station attendants was calm and orderly until defendant Officer Burket of the Metro Transit Police intervened. According to plaintiffs, Burket, wielding his baton, rushed over to the group and began beating and choking Keenan who soon lost consciousness. When Schumchyk stepped in to explain that he had paid for Keenan's farecard, Burket hit him with his baton.

Contrary to plaintiffs' account, WMATA avers that after observing Keenan jump over the turnstile, Officer Burket approached him and requested that he or a member of his party purchase a farecard. Keenan, who Burket described as having a "strong odor of alcohol about him," Defendant's Memorandum in Support of its Motion to Dismiss at 2, then, without provocation, pushed the station attendant, became loud and abusive, and refused to pay the fare. Burket then advised Keenan that he was under arrest. Keenan responded by punching Burket, and Burket used "reasonable force", id., in self defense to subdue him. During the altercation, Schumchyk attempted to grab Burket from behind and "was struck with the officer's baton." Id.

As a result of the incident Keenan was arrested, booked, and jailed for a fare violation and a felony of assaulting a police officer. Schumchyk was arrested, booked, and jailed for obstruction of justice. Officers from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department assisted in the arrest, charging, and jailing of the plaintiffs.

The next day, the United States Attorney dropped the charges of felony assault against Keenan and obstruction of justice against Schumchyk. Keenan forfeited collateral on the fare violation.

b. Procedural History:

Plaintiffs originally filed their law suits in federal district court, but at an early status call, the parties consented to dismissal, without prejudice, while plaintiffs considered refiling their claims in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Plaintiffs did refile in Superior Court and defendant WMATA petitioned for removal of both actions to the United States District Court. WMATA's petitions were granted. This Court then consolidated the cases. As stated above, WMATA has moved to dismiss on the ground that it is protected by the Eleventh Amendment and has immunity from suit in federal court. In addition, the District of Columbia has filed a Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment.


The Eleventh Amendment states:

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

U.S. Const. amend. XI.

It is axiomatic that under the Eleventh Amendment a state is immune from suits brought against it in federal courts by its own citizens or citizens of another state. E.g. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 11-15, 10 S.Ct. 504, 505-07, 33 L.Ed. 842 (1890); Employees v. Missouri Public Health Dep't, 411 U.S. 279, 280, 93 S.Ct. 1614, 1615, 36 L.Ed.2d 251 (1973), quoted in Pennhurst State School & Hospital, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 104 S.Ct. 900, 908, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984). A state agency also has immunity, see, e.g., Florida Dep't of Health and Rehabilitative Services v. Florida Nursing Home Ass'n, 450 U.S. 147, 101 S.Ct. 1032, 67 L.Ed.2d 132 (1981); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed.2d 1114 (1978), as does a state officer acting in his official capacity since "the action is in essence one for the recovery of money from the state." Ford v. Department of Treasury of Indiana, 323 U.S. 459, 464, 65 S.Ct. 347, 350, 89 L.Ed. 389 (1945). Finally, an agency, such as WMATA, which was created by an interstate compact approved by Congress, can have Eleventh Amendment immunity. Morris v. WMATA, 781 F.2d 218, 219-20 (D.C.Cir.1986); Trotman v. Palisades Interstate Park Comm'n, 557 F.2d 35, 38 (2d Cir.1977).

In 1966, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, with the consent and approval of Congress, entered into the WMATA Compact to regulate and improve mass transportation in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. D.C.Code §§ 1-2401 & 1-2411 (1981 & Supp.1986). The signatories and Congress conferred sovereign immunity and Eleventh Amendment immunity upon WMATA in Section 80 of the Compact. D.C.Code § 1-2431(80); e.g. Morris, 781 F.2d at 219-20. Section 80 states explicitly that WMATA "shall not be liable for any torts occurring in the performance of a governmental function." D.C.Code § 1-2431(80). However, in the same section the signatories and Congress partially waived WMATA's immunity from suit, making it liable "for its contracts and torts and those of its Directors, officers, employees and agent committed in the conduct of any proprietary function." D.C. Code § 1-2431(80).

Of relevance here is the opinion of this Circuit's Court of Appeals in Morris v. WMATA, 781 F.2d 218 (D.C.Cir.1986), affirming this Court's holding, see Morris v. WMATA, 583 F.Supp. 1522, 1526 (D.D.C. 1984), that WMATA's operation of a police force is a governmental function protected from suit in federal court by the Eleventh Amendment. Morris, 781 F.2d at 220. The Court of Appeals reiterated "`if the operation of a police force is not a governmental function, then a governmental function may not exist.'" Martin v. WMATA, 667 F.2d 435, 436 (4th Cir.1981) (quoting Bryant v. Mullins, 347 F.Supp. 1282, 1286 (W.D.Va.1972)), cited in Morris, 781 F.2d at 220. While Morris did not involve a Transit Police officer's...

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