Lewis v. Green, Civ. A. No. 85-2438

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtScott Kragie, Asst. U.S. Atty. for the of Columbia, for U.S. Dist. June L. Green
Citation629 F. Supp. 546
PartiesElroy X. LEWIS v. The Honorable June L. GREEN, et al. Elroy X. LEWIS v. The Honorable Aubrey E. ROBINSON, Jr., et al. Minister Elijah KARRIEM, William X. Sullivan, and Elroy X. Lewis v. The Honorable Aubrey E. ROBINSON, Jr., et al. Minister Elijah KARRIEM v. Metcalfe C. KING, et al. William X. SULLIVAN, et al. v. Metcalfe C. KING, et al.
Decision Date28 February 1986
Docket Number85-2537 and 85-2662.,85-2449,85-2484,Civ. A. No. 85-2438

629 F. Supp. 546

Elroy X. LEWIS
v.
The Honorable June L. GREEN, et al.
Elroy X. LEWIS
v.
The Honorable Aubrey E. ROBINSON, Jr., et al.
Minister Elijah KARRIEM, William X. Sullivan, and Elroy X. Lewis
v.
The Honorable Aubrey E. ROBINSON, Jr., et al.
Minister Elijah KARRIEM
v.
Metcalfe C. KING, et al.
William X. SULLIVAN, et al.
v.
Metcalfe C. KING, et al.

Civ. A. Nos. 85-2438, 85-2449, 85-2484, 85-2537 and 85-2662.

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

February 28, 1986.


629 F. Supp. 547
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
629 F. Supp. 548
Elroy X. Lewis, pro se

Scott Kragie, Asst. U.S. Atty. for the District of Columbia, for U.S. Dist. Judge June L. Green.

Craig Ellis, Asst. Corporate Counsel, Washington, D.C., for Mayor Marion Barry, James Palmer, William Plaut, and the Office of the Corp. Counsel.

Peter Nickles, and Matthew Jacobs, and Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C., for Peter Nickles and Covington & Burling.

NORTHROP, Senior District Judge (Sitting by special designation).

Elroy X. Lewis, an inmate at the Maximum Security Facility of the Lorton Correctional Complex, instituted this suit, Civil Action No. 85-2438, to contest the settlement and consent decree entered into by the parties and approved by the Court in John Doe v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 79-1726 (D.D.C.1979). That suit was a class action brought by the prisoners in the Maximum Security Facility at Lorton, including Lewis, against the District of Columbia municipal and reformatory officials who administered Lorton.

In this current action, Lewis has sued United States District Judge June L. Green, the judge who presided over Doe and approved the settlement; Covington and Burling, the law firm which represented the prisoner class in that litigation (hereinafter "Covington"); Peter J. Nickles, an attorney who handled the case at Covington; the Office of the Corporation Counsel of Washington, D.C., the arm of the District government which entered into the decree with the class representatives in Doe; Marion S. Barry, the Washington, D.C. Mayor; James Palmer, the Director of the Department of Corrections of the District; and William M. Plaut, the Acting Administrator of the Maximum Security Facility. Mr. Lewis alleges in his complaint that the defendants conspired to deprive him and did deprive him of his constitutional and civil rights by concluding that litigation by the settlement and consent decree. Essentially, he asserts the infringements of rights to a jury trial and damages in the Doe litigation, in violation of the Seventh and Fifth Amendments.1 He sues under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, seeking injunctive relief from defendant

629 F. Supp. 549
Judge Green and damages from the other defendants

Presently before the Court are three motions to dismiss—the first from defendants Palmer, Plaut, Barry, and Corporation Counsel; the second from defendants Covington and Nickles; and the third from Judge Green. For reasons of efficiency and clarity, all three motions will be considered in this single memorandum. Before delving into the legal analysis, however, a brief encapsulation of the background of this suit is in order.

I. BACKGROUND

Inmates in the Lorton Maximum Security Facility brought a class action against the District of Columbia and several of its officials and employees, challenging the conditions of the confinement. John Doe v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 79-1726 (D.D.C.1979). The complaint charged the defendants with the infliction of cruel and inhuman treatment and the negligent failure to provide adequate protection against inmate assault. Judge June L. Green presided over the trial, in which the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs. The jury found that the defendants had violated the Eighth Amendment, their common law duty of care, and their statutory duty of care. The plaintiffs were awarded injunctive relief and monetary damages. The defendants appealed.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case for a new trial. The court of appeals cited four grounds for reversal: 1) the district court's issuance of a protective order sharply curtailing the ability of the defendants' counsel to discuss with their clients information obtained during discovery; 2) the trial court's failure to instruct the jury that the defendants could not be held liable on a theory of respondeat superior; 3) its use of a misleading instruction concerning the danger posed to weaker inmates by their proximity to a group of violence-prone prisoners; and 4) its authorization of damages for the intrinsic value of the prisoners' eighth amendment rights. Doe v. District of Columbia, 697 F.2d 1115, 1117-18 (D.C.Cir.1983).

Following the remand, the parties agreed to a settlement and consent decree, which was subsequently approved by Judge Green in a Memorandum and Order dated March 23, 1984. On October 15, 1984, a group of class members, including Mr. Lewis, filed a motion pursuant to FED.R. CIV.P. 60(b)(1)(3) to vacate and set aside the settlement and consent decree. The court denied the motion on December 12, 1984. No appeal was taken from this order. Seven months later, the plaintiff filed the present action.

II. MOTIONS TO DISMISS

The three motions to dismiss pending before the Court encompass all of the defendants. Upon consideration of the record, the Court determines that a hearing is not necessary for disposition of the motions. Local Rule 1-9(g).

Motions to dismiss pro se civil rights actions are not favored by the courts. The Supreme Court has held that a prisoner's pro se complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the prisoner can prove no set facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 101 S.Ct. 173, 66 L.Ed.2d 163 (1980). Nevertheless, dismissal may be appropriate for those claims simply without arguable merit both in law and fact. See Taylor v. Gibson, 529 F.2d 709 (5th Cir.1976). All but one of the claims contained in the complaint are wholly without merit, and, for the reasons set forth below, must be dismissed.

A. 42 U.S.C. Section 1985(2)

The plaintiff's first claim is founded upon 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2), the Federal Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice Act. Specifically, the plaintiff relies on clause two of that section:2

629 F. Supp. 550
... if two or more persons conspire for the purpose of impeding, hindering, obstructing, or defeating, in any manner, the due course of justice in any State or Territory, with intent to deny to any citizen the equal protection of the laws....

Even after affording the plaintiff every benefit of the doubt appropriate with the consideration of pro se pleadings, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972), this Court finds that the complaint fails to state a cause of action under clause two of section 1985(2). The clause addresses obstructions of justice only within the state court system. Moreover, it reaches only those conspiracies that deny the equal protection of the laws.

Both the language and legislative history of clause two indicate that the provision does not remedy the obstruction of justice in federal courts. The Supreme Court recently characterized this clause as applying "to conspiracies to obstruct the course of justice in state courts...." Kush v. Rutledge, 460 U.S. at 725, 103 S.Ct. at 1487. See also Justice White's dissent from the denial of a writ of certiorari in Kimble v. McDuffy, 454 U.S. 1110, 102 S.Ct. 687, 70 L.Ed.2d 651 (1981) ("The second part of section 1985(2) creates a similar cause of action for interference with state proceedings.").

The statutory language of clause two specifies that the statute relates to "the due course of justice in any State or Territory ..." Clause one, in contrast, is directed specifically at conspiracies involving the federal courts alone. Furthermore, the legislative history of clause two evidences that changes in its text, specifically the addition of the phrase "the denial of equal protection of the laws," were prompted by concerns that it unconstitutionally interfered with the state courts. The insertion of the equal protection language by the authors of the Act invoked Congressional power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, the power to enforce the amendment against the states. Nothing in the legislative history suggests that Congress intended that clause two apply to obstruction of justice in the federal courts. For a thorough treatment of the legislative history of the provision, see McCord, 636 F.2d at 615-17; and Kimble v. D.J. McDuffy, Inc., 623 F.2d 1060, 1066-67 (5th Cir. 1980), aff'd in part and rev'd in part, 648 F.2d 340 (5th Cir.1981) (en banc), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1110, 102 S.Ct. 687, 70 L.Ed.2d 651 (1981).

The obstructions of justice alleged by Mr. Lewis in his complaint all concern proceedings in federal court, specifically the negotiation and approval of the settlement decree in Doe v. District of Columbia. As such, the alleged conspiracy does not fall within the second clause of section 1985(2).

Another essential element under clause two is the intention of the conspirators to deny the plaintiff the equal protection of the laws. McCord v. Bailey, 636 F.2d at 614; Kimble, 623 F.2d at 1065; Brawer v. Horowitz, 535 F.2d 830, 839 (3d

629 F. Supp. 551
Cir.1976). Cf. Kush v. Rutledge, 103 S.Ct. 1483, 1487-88. As such, a class-based invidious discriminatory intent is necessary for a cause of action. Kimble, 623 F.2d at 1065. Cf. Kush v. Rutledge, 103 S.Ct. at 1487. Not all classes fall within the protection of this provision. To determine which types of classes are protected, it is appropriate to turn to the line of cases which has grown out of the Supreme Court's interpretation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) in Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 91 S.Ct....

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109 practice notes
  • Scott v. U.S., Civil Action No. 07-1529 (ESH).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 17, 2009
    ...claims upon which relief can be granted. Count 26 will be dismissed because it lacks even arguable merit. See, e.g., Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 549 (D.D.C.1986) (explaining that, even in pro se cases, "dismissal may be appropriate for those claims simply without arguable merit bo......
  • Sims v. Unified Government of Wyandotte County, No. 99-2406-WL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • August 14, 2000
    ...of subsection (2) to court proceedings. See Roper v. County of Chesterfield, 807 F.Supp. 1221, 1226-27 (E.D.Va.1992); Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 550 (D.D.C.1986); Britt v. Suckle, 453 F.Supp. 987, 992 n. 8 (E.D.Tex.1978). Quite simply, subsection (2) does not apply to administrative p......
  • Bagenstose v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 06-1245 (JDB).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • August 14, 2007
    ...to dismiss, do not suffice to fend off the District's "well-documented motion for summary judgment." See Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 553 2. Title VII Plaintiffs Complaint, again liberally construed, can be read as reasserting some of the employment-discrimination claims that ......
  • Church of Scientology Int'l v. Kolts, No. CV 93-1390-RSWL (EEx).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • February 16, 1994
    ..."a district court lacks authority to issue a writ of mandamus to another district court." Id. at 1393 (citing Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 553 9 Although not explicitly asserted by Defendant Kolts, the doctrine of collateral estoppel might bar this Court's adjudication of this......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
109 cases
  • Scott v. U.S., Civil Action No. 07-1529 (ESH).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 17, 2009
    ...claims upon which relief can be granted. Count 26 will be dismissed because it lacks even arguable merit. See, e.g., Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 549 (D.D.C.1986) (explaining that, even in pro se cases, "dismissal may be appropriate for those claims simply without arguable merit bo......
  • Sims v. Unified Government of Wyandotte County, No. 99-2406-WL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • August 14, 2000
    ...of subsection (2) to court proceedings. See Roper v. County of Chesterfield, 807 F.Supp. 1221, 1226-27 (E.D.Va.1992); Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 550 (D.D.C.1986); Britt v. Suckle, 453 F.Supp. 987, 992 n. 8 (E.D.Tex.1978). Quite simply, subsection (2) does not apply to administrative p......
  • Bagenstose v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 06-1245 (JDB).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • August 14, 2007
    ...to dismiss, do not suffice to fend off the District's "well-documented motion for summary judgment." See Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 553 2. Title VII Plaintiffs Complaint, again liberally construed, can be read as reasserting some of the employment-discrimination claims that ......
  • Church of Scientology Int'l v. Kolts, No. CV 93-1390-RSWL (EEx).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • February 16, 1994
    ..."a district court lacks authority to issue a writ of mandamus to another district court." Id. at 1393 (citing Lewis v. Green, 629 F.Supp. 546, 553 9 Although not explicitly asserted by Defendant Kolts, the doctrine of collateral estoppel might bar this Court's adjudication of this......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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