Stoddard v. Wynn

Decision Date19 September 2014
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 13–889 RMC
Citation68 F.Supp.3d 104
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia
PartiesKeith Stoddard, Plaintiff, v. David Wynn, et al., Defendants.

Keith Oliver Stoddard, Washington, DC, pro se.

Claire M. Whitaker, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge

Keith Stoddard was on parole for a D.C.Code violation when he was charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If he were found guilty of DUI, the conviction could constitute a violation of the terms of his parole. The U.S. Parole Commission is the federal entity charged with granting and denying parole and imposing conditions on parole for D.C. Code offenders, such as Mr. Stoddard. When the Commission learned of the DUI, it issued an arrest warrant along with a memorandum directing that the warrant be held in abeyance pending final determination of the Virginia DUI charge. The warrant was not held in abeyance, but was executed when Mr. Stoddard turned himself into D.C. authorities on April 22, 2011. He was held at the D.C. Jail until he was released on July 6, 2011.

Mr. Stoddard sues Commission staff members David Wynn and Jequan S. Jackson, in their individual capacities, alleging that they were notified that the warrant had been executed erroneously and they failed to take immediate action to obtain his release. He asserts that they are liable for false imprisonment and violating his Fifth Amendment rights. He brings his constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or, alternatively, Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971).1 Defendants move to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, asserting sovereign immunity, and for failure to state a claim. The motion will be granted in part and denied in part. Sovereign immunity does not apply because Defendants are sued in their individual capacities. Mr. Stoddard states a claim under § 1983 and he does not state a claim under Bivens or for false imprisonment.


Because Mr. Stoddard is proceeding pro se, his Complaint is construed liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) ; Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972) ; United States v. Byfield, 391 F.3d 277, 281 (D.C.Cir.2004). The facts are taken from Mr. Stoddard's Complaint [Dkt. 1], Amendment to Complaint [Dkt. 9], and Appendix [Dkt. 10].

Mr. Stoddard was arrested and charged with DUI in Virginia on March 23, 2011. At that time, he was a D.C.Code offender on parole. If convicted of the DUI charge, the conviction could constitute a parole violation. On April 4, 2011, Jequan Jackson, U.S. Parole Commission Case Analyst, authored an application for Mr. Stoddard's arrest. Ms. Jackson attached a memorandum specifying that (1) the warrant should be held in abeyance pending the outcome of the Virginia criminal proceedings and (2) Mr. Stoddard was to remain under parole supervision “until the Full Term Date [May 1, 2011] in a normal manner notwithstanding issuance of this abeyance warrant.” Compl. at 4; see also Appendix at 4. Despite the instructions set forth in the memorandum, the warrant was executed. On April 22, 2011, Mr. Stoddard self-surrendered and he was taken into custody by the D.C. Department of Corrections.

In May 2011, D.C. Public Defender Parisa Dehghani–Tafti contacted David Wynn at the U.S. Parole Commission and informed Mr. Wynn that Mr. Stoddard had been mistakenly scheduled for a preliminary interview, when a probable cause and revocation hearing was required. Ms. Dehghani–Tafti emailed the Commission:

I write because it has come to my attention that Mr. Stoddard was arrested on a USPC [U.S. Parole Commission] warrant in April, but, rather than being scheduled for a probable cause hearing, he appears to have mistakenly been scheduled for a preliminary interview at an undetermined time. It is my understanding that Mr. Stoddard is not on federal parole, but rather, is a DC Code offender. I would be grateful if the USPC would review the file to ensure that Mr. Stoddard receives the appropriate process in the appropriate time frame.

Pl. Supp. Mem. [Dkt. 23], Ex. 3 (Email May 24, 2011). Mr. Wynn forwarded the matter to Case Analyst Jackson for review. Id. , Ex. 5 (Email May 26, 2011). Ms. Dehghani–Tafti wrote to Mr. Stoddard, indicating that she alerted the Commission to the fact that his case may be “on the wrong procedural track”; the case would be reviewed by a case analyst; and she hoped it would be placed on the “probable cause docket very soon.” Id. , Ex. 3 (Letter May 27, 2011). Based on this correspondence, Mr. Stoddard alleges that Mr. Wynn “acknowledged the error.” Compl. at 4. No hearing was ever scheduled.

After more than ten weeks in jail, Mr. Stoddard was released on July 6, 2011. He asserts that “I was only release[d] through the motivation of the ‘show cause’ order issued through the Writ of Habeas Corpus filed June 6, 2011.” Pl. Supp. Mem. at 1. That is, Mr. Stoddard attributes his release to his filing of a petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, see Stoddard v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, Civ. No. 11–1050(ABJ) (Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed June 6, 2011), and the court's order in that case, which required the Commission to file a statement indicating “why the Writ of Habeas Corpus should not be granted,” see id. (Order filed June 10, 2011). The court directed the Commission to file a response to the habeas petition because a respondent is not required to respond to a habeas petition unless directed by the court. See Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases Under Section 2254, Rule 4 (providing for the court's preliminary review and an order for either dismissal or service on the respondent and the attorney general) & Rule 5 (providing that respondent is not required to answer the petition unless a judge so orders”). Subsequently, Mr. Stoddard was released, and the court denied his habeas petition as moot.Stoddard, Civ. No. 11–1050(ABJ) (Mem. Op. & Order Dec. 14, 2011).

Mr. Stoddard claims that the improper detention caused him severe emotional distress and cost him his job and school enrollment. He sues here, alleging false imprisonment and a violation of his Fifth Amendment due process rights, which he asserts pursuant to both § 1983 and Bivens. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as a declaratory judgment that Defendants' actions were unlawful.2

A. Lack of Jurisdiction

Defendants move to dismiss, in part, based on sovereign immunity. Where claims are barred by sovereign immunity, they must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. See Watters v. WMATA, 295 F.3d 36, 39–40 (D.C.Cir.2002).

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. When reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, a court must review the complaint liberally, granting the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged. Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C.Cir.2004). Nevertheless, “the court need not accept factual inferences drawn by plaintiffs if those inferences are not supported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiff's legal conclusions.” Speelman v. United States, 461 F.Supp.2d 71, 73 (D.D.C.2006). In considering whether it has jurisdiction, a court may consider materials outside the pleadings. Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1107 (D.C.Cir.2005). No action of the parties can confer subject matter jurisdiction on a federal court because subject matter jurisdiction is an Article III and a statutory requirement. Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C.Cir.2003). The party claiming subject matter jurisdiction bears the burden of demonstrating that such jurisdiction exists. Khadr v. United States, 529 F.3d 1112, 1115 (D.C.Cir.2008).

B. Failure to State a Claim

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face. A complaint must be sufficient “to give a defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal citations omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. A court must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true, “even if doubtful in fact.” Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. But a court need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint. Ashcroft v. I q bal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and matters about which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C.Cir.2007).


When a plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated by an official who acted under color of State or D.C. law, he may sue the official in his personal capacity for money damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides:

Every person who under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. §...

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