University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Brown v. District of Columbia PN-DC-0011
Docket / Court 1:13-cv-00686-ESH ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On May 13, 2013, a woman filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the city, the Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and the mayor of the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fifth Amendment of the US ... read more >
On May 13, 2013, a woman filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the city, the Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and the mayor of the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution. The plaintiff, represented by a public defender service, alleged that her due process rights were violated when her car was indefinitely seized by the MPD, without providing her with a prompt, neutral hearing to challenge the seizure of her property. The plaintiff further alleged that others similarly situated suffer from the defendant's failure to provide a prompt, neutral test for the validity of the seizure. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that indigent vehicles owners suffer because a "penal sum" that many indigent vehicle owners cannot afford is required to challenge the police seizure.

On April 4, 2013, the plaintiff's car was seized after police officers allegedly found two empty firearm magazines inside a pocketbook that was inside of the car. The plaintiff received a letter on April 22, 2013, stating that her car would be forfeited unless she paid a "penal sum" of $1,962 to challenge the police seizure in court. If the penal sum is not paid the police are allowed to sell seized vehicles and retain the proceeds. Thus, the plaintiff argued, D.C.'s profitable and self-interested civil forfeiture scheme denies persons in plaintiff's position their right to procedural due process under the Fifth Amendment.

On August 16, 2013, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the defendants' motion to stay the proceeding. The motion was entered after the plaintiff's car was returned to her and the parties agreed to work together through informal channels to return seized vehicles to the owners of other vehicles seized by the MPD. By this time, legislation was pending that addressed the constitutional problems that the plaintiff alleged in her complaint, and the parties agreed to suspend litigation until the bill passes (or fails to pass).

On June 29, 2015, defendants filed a consent motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction based on the fact that the Congressional review period ended for pending legislation. The Civil Asset Forfeiture Amendment Act of 2014 provides prompt post-deprivation retention hearings, eliminates cost bonds, and all money from civil forfeitures will now go the D.C. General Fund instead of MPD, rendering the plaintiff's allegations of constitutional violations moot. On June 29, 2015, Judge Ellen S. Huvelle signed the order and dismissed the case with prejudice.

Daniel Fryer - 01/18/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Forfeiture
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) The District of Columbia
Plaintiff Description Woman who alleged her car was seized in violation of her due process rights.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:13-cv-686 (D.D.C.) 06/29/2015
PN-DC-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 05/13/2013
PN-DC-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Consent Motion to Stay 08/16/2013
PN-DC-0011-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Order 08/16/2013 (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0011-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Consent Motion to Dismiss 06/29/2015
PN-DC-0011-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Judges Huvelle, Ellen Segal (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0011-0003 | PN-DC-0011-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cobb, Jenna Marie (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-9000
Henderson, Sonam Alexander H. (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0001 | PN-DC-0011-0002 | PN-DC-0011-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0001 | PN-DC-0011-0002 | PN-DC-0011-9000
Leighton, Julia Loveland (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0001 | PN-DC-0011-0002 | PN-DC-0011-9000
Mikkilineni, Tara (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0001 | PN-DC-0011-0002 | PN-DC-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Copeland, Chad Wayne (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-9000
Efros, Ellen A. (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0002
Feldon, Gary Daniel (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0002 | PN-DC-0011-0004 | PN-DC-0011-9000
Gere, Elizabeth Sarah (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0004
Graham, Grace (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0002
Jackson, Toni Michelle (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0004
Nathan, Irvin B (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0011-0002
Racine, Karl A. (Maryland)
PN-DC-0011-0004
Other Lawyers None on record

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