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Case Name S.H. v. District of Columbia PN-DC-0009
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-01317 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On August 4, 2014, a mother of three minor daughters, those minor daughters (ages 7, 11, and 13 at the time of the incident), and her brother filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, ... read more >
On August 4, 2014, a mother of three minor daughters, those minor daughters (ages 7, 11, and 13 at the time of the incident), and her brother filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, represented by a public interest attorney, sought compensatory relief, claiming that their Fourth Amendment rights were violated during a "violent nighttime home invasion" by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that, in response to a traffic stop of an individual not living in their home that occurred thirteen days prior, twenty heavily armed MPD officers stormed their home brandishing shields, machine guns, handguns, and body armor in a military-style raid.

This incident happened on April 5, 2013 when MPD officers conducted a traffic stop and found contraband on the biological father of one of the daughters whose license stated that he lived at the plaintiffs' address. The complaint alleges that despite the MPD being told that the suspect did not live at the address and that there was no evidence of the suspect being a drug dealer, the police obtained a search warrant based on those causes. There were no facts connecting the home to the drug activity that was claimed to be occurring there. The complaint claims that obtaining a warrant in this case is reflective of systematic problems with the police procedures for obtaining search warrants that allow police to obtain warrants based on vague statements of their "training" and "expertise," even in the absence of facts.

On April 18, 2013, shortly after 10:00 p.m., the police conducted the raid of the plaintiffs' home. The plaintiffs claim that the police burst into the home with shields and weapons and that the mother and two daughters were kept on a couch downstairs. The police handcuffed the younger brother of the mother and pointed guns at his head even though nothing illegal was found on his person or in his room. The police also threw open the shower curtain while the third daughter, an 11-year-old, was showering and pointed a gun at her. Nothing illegal was found in the home.

On September 15, 2014, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety, in which they asserted that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on September 25, 2014, in which they added several named officers and a lieutenant as defendants.

On September 16, 2017, District Judge Randolph D. Moss issued a memorandum opinion and order granting in part and denying in part the defendants' motion to dismiss. 270 F. Supp. 3d 260 (D.D.C. 2017). Although the defendants asked the court to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety, they only addressed the following issues in their brief: issues relating to the warrant; execution of the search; negligence per se; and municipal liability. Thus, the court only focused on these issues.

The court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss with respect to count two (alleging that an officer secured the warrant only by knowingly and recklessly misleading the Superior Court judge who issued it); count three (alleging that the warrant was clearly overbroad such that no reasonable officer could have executed it in good faith); count six (alleging excessive use of force and unreasonable seizures in the execution of the warrant); and counts five and eight (alleging municipal liability). The court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss count seven (alleging negligence per se) to the extent that it relied on D.C. Code §§ 23-522 and 523, but denied the motion to dismiss count seven to the extent that it relied on the Fourth Amendment. Finally, the court dismissed count four (alleging that the warrant application was obtained in an unconstitutional manner) and dismissed count one except as against Officer Volpe.

On April 4, 2018, Judge Moss approved the parties' settlement agreement, under which the parties agreed to settle the plaintiffs' remaining claims for $75,000. Under the agreement, $10,500 went to the brother and $42,000 went to the mother. Attorneys' fees were deducted from the settlement in the amount of $22,500.

The case is now closed.

Brian Dressel - 02/08/2015
Eva Richardson - 02/05/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Aggressive behavior
Excessive force
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Juveniles
Pattern or Practice
Racial profiling
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) The District of Columbia
Plaintiff Description Mother of three minor daughters; those minor daughters, aged 7, 11, and 13 at the time of the incident; and the teenage brother of the mother.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
1:14-cv-01317 (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/04/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-DC-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/04/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 24]
PN-DC-0009-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/25/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 40] (270 F.Supp.3d 260) (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0009-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/16/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Motion to Approve Settlement of Minors [ECF# 49]
PN-DC-0009-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/03/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Moss, Randolph Daniel (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0003 | PN-DC-0009-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dharia, Premal T. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0002 | PN-DC-0009-0004 | PN-DC-0009-9000
Hubbard, Katherine (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0002 | PN-DC-0009-0004 | PN-DC-0009-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0001 | PN-DC-0009-0002 | PN-DC-0009-0004 | PN-DC-0009-9000
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0002 | PN-DC-0009-0004 | PN-DC-0009-9000
Defendant's Lawyers DeBerardinis, Robert A. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0004 | PN-DC-0009-9000
Finkhousen, Aaron J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0004 | PN-DC-0009-9000
Gonzalez, Joseph A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0009-0004 | PN-DC-0009-9000

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