University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Pitts v. District of Columbia PN-DC-0010
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-01319 ( 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 57-year-old disabled African-American woman and her 37-year-old son who lives with her filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by Equal ... read more >
On August 4, 2014, a 57-year-old disabled African-American woman and her 37-year-old son who lives with her filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by Equal Justice Under the Law, asked the court for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees. The plaintiffs claimed that they were subjected to a baseless, illegal and embarrassing home raid conducted by Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") officers. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the police obtained a warrant to search their home based only on the fact that another family member had been found with an illegal gun, yet there was no evidence connecting them or their home to any illegal activity. The plaintiffs further alleged that the raid was a violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The raid happened on March 26, 2013. That day, the plaintiffs were at home when, without warning, at least ten heavily armed officers from the MPD broke down the front door. The officers forcibly handcuffed the female plaintiff, who had difficulty moving around without her cane, and stripped searched her son in front of his family. No guns, ammunition, or other contraband were found during the defendants' violent home invasion of the plaintiffs' residence.

On September 16, 2014 the District of Columbia moved to dismiss the complaint claiming that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim for which they could receive relief from the court.

On January 27, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion to compel, which was denied the next day, without prejudice, because it was unclear whether the plaintiffs complied with a rule requiring that they confer with opposing counsel.

On April 28, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, and on May 24, 2015 filled an amended complaint, naming the individual police officers involved in the violent raid.

On March 31, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued an order granting the defendant's motion to dismiss in part, and on April 5, 2016, Judge Chutkan ordered the defendant to respond to the plaintiffs' amended complaint. Judge Chutkan found, however, that if the complaint's allegations were true the search warrant application did not make out probable cause to search the plaintiff's home. Judge Chutkan noted that the District's contention that officers could search whoever they found in any home search at any time and without any evidence about the person "ludicrous on its face."

The parties were then ordered to conduct discovery, which was to end on December 23, 2016, however, there was a joint motion filed in September 2016 to stay discovery; this motion was granted by the Court.

In a November 21, 2016 status report, the parties indicated that they were still in negotiations, and asked the Court to continue the stay for 30 more days.

Brian Dressel - 02/15/2015
Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 12/22/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
Disability
Mobility impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Race discrimination
General
Aggressive behavior
Assault/abuse by staff
Excessive force
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Pattern or Practice
Racial profiling
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) The District of Columbia
Plaintiff Description 56-year-old disabled African-American woman living in DC and her son, a 37-year-old man, who lives with her.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
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)
1:14-cv-01319-TSC (D.D.C.) 02/04/2015
PN-DC-0010-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 08/04/2014
PN-DC-0010-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in Part] 03/31/2016 (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0010-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in Part] 03/31/2016 (2016 WL 1301046 / 2016 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 43460) (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0010-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Chutkan, Tanya Sue (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0010-0002 | PN-DC-0010-0003 | PN-DC-0010-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0010-0001 | PN-DC-0010-9000
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0010-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Finkhousen, Aaron J. (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0010-9000
Gonzalez, Joseph A. (District of Columbia)
PN-DC-0010-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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