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Case Name Robinson v. Farley DR-DC-0005
Docket / Court 1:15-cv-00803-KBJ ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Attorney Organization Washington Lawyers' Committee
Case Summary
On June 1, 2015, a young man with cerebral palsy and his caretaker filed this suit in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued Prince George’s County, Maryland and the District of Columbia as well as their respective police departments under 42 U.S.C. §1983, 42 U. ... read more >
On June 1, 2015, a young man with cerebral palsy and his caretaker filed this suit in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued Prince George’s County, Maryland and the District of Columbia as well as their respective police departments under 42 U.S.C. §1983, 42 U.S.C. §1231 (Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 29 U.S.C. §701, and various state laws. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, asked the court for compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and appropriate injunctive relief. The plaintiffs claimed that the force used by the Prince George’s County Police Department was excessive, among other charges related to Fourth Amendment violations. The plaintiffs also claimed that the police departments had violated the Americans with Disabilities for not having training and protocols in place for arrests of individuals with disabilities.

The events that precipitated the lawsuits were alleged as follows. The plaintiff was waiting at a bus stop on his way to run errands. Members of the Prince George’s Country Police Department had made their way into the District of Columbia to search for car thieves. The officers noticed the plaintiffs sitting at the bus stop and because he “matched” the subject’s “description,” they were giving him unfriendly looks. Because the stares of the police officers made him uncomfortable, the plaintiff began to head back towards his house. It was at that point that the confrontation started. The officer asked for the plaintiff’s identification and the plaintiff presented the officer with his disability identification card. At some point, the officer followed the plaintiff into his apartment complex.

It was at this point that the complaint alleges neighbors, and the plaintiff’s caretaker, got involved. The caretaker first entered the scene seeing the plaintiff sprawled on the steps, the much larger officer standing above him, TASER in hand. The plaintiff was able to get free of the officer and fled into his apartment. The officer withdrew his firearm, waving it at the neighbors who had congregated and proceeded to call for backup instead of attempting to deescalate the situation. All the while, the plaintiff’s caretaker and neighbor tried to explain to the officer that the plaintiff was disabled, and was, in fact, not capable of driving—much less stealing—a car. Eventually there were 29 police vehicles parked on the plaintiffs’ block. The officers, some from the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office, the Prince George’s County Police Department, and the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department, entered the plaintiff’s apartment without a warrant, with firearms drawn. When they found the plaintiff in his bathroom, they allegedly beat him. The plaintiff was marched outside in handcuffs, sent to the hospital—with heavy bruising, lacerations, and a TASER spike lodged in his back. The hospital remanded him to the Metropolitan Police Department, and he was detained overnight.

According to the complaint, no attempt was made to contact the plaintiff’s family when the sole charge against him, misdemeanor assault of a police officer, was not prosecuted. The plaintiff’s uncle found the plaintiff wandering, scared and confused, around the outside of the courthouse.

After the complaint was filed, the different parties each filed motions to dismiss. Prince George’s County filed their motion on November 19, 2015 and the District of Columbia filed their motion to dismiss on December 1, 2015.

Two of the officers of the Prince George’s County Police Department were served in September of 2015 but failed to respond to the claims. On January 13, 2016, the plaintiffs moved for default judgment against the officers, who, a day later, filed a joint answer in the hopes that it would be accepted. The court (Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson) allowed the answer, saying in a minute order on January 14, 2016, that though neither officer sought leave to file the late answer, the court had a preference for deciding cases on the merits instead of on technicalities. The officers, also on January 14, 2016, filed their own motion to dismiss.

On May 11, 2016, the plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint, which dropped the official-capacity charges against the officers. Therefore, the motion to dismiss filed by the two Prince George’s County officers was denied as moot. In the same minute order that denied the motion to dismiss, Judge Jackson issued a stay on the obligation of individual defendants to respond to the second amended complaint.

The second amended complaint also added charges against a new defendant—the state of Maryland. Specifically, Maryland was charged with violating the ADA. On May 16, 2016, the state of Maryland filed a motion to dismiss, and the case against Maryland was voluntarily dismissed on May 27, 2016.

On June 20, 2016, the United States Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the case. In the statement, the DOJ asserted that arrest procedures were specifically considered during the drafting process of the ADA, and that the DOJ had in interest in the case not being dismissed.

On July 27, 2016, Judge Jackson denied Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia’s motions to dismiss and lifted the stay on the individual officer’s obligations to respond to the second amended complaint, setting a due date in September. However, five days later on August 1, 2016, Prince George’s County and its Police Officers filed a motion to bifurcate the case, hoping to separate the Monell claims from the individual claims. The defendants argued that the individual claims should be tried first, for convenience’s sake. If the jury found that the plaintiff’s rights had not been violated, then there could be no claim against the county or the district. Additionally, the defendants made the argument that even if the jury found against the individual officers, the monetary damages received would “obviate the need for a second trial.” Finally, the defendants argued that the discovery information obtained and presented in arguing the custom of police brutality and disregard of the ADA that would be needed for the court or jury to find against Prince George’s County would unfairly prejudice the jury or court against the individual officers.

On August 26, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a memorandum in opposition of the motion to bifurcate. They argued that the efficiency cited by the defendants was purely speculative and that staying discovery for the Monell claims until the possible second trial would be unfairly prejudicial against the plaintiffs. In the introduction, the plaintiffs implicitly asserted that in combination with the motions to dismiss, the bifurcation was simply a continuation of a pattern of attempts to prevent any discovery on the discriminatory practices of Prince George’s County.

On September 14, 2016, Judge Jackson denied the motion for bifurcation without prejudice. Specifically, she stated that because the individual answers to the second amended complaint had not been filed, and because there was yet no discovery schedule set for the trial, the motion was premature. She stated that she would consider any motions for stays of discovery or bifurcation at a more appropriate time.

The officers answered the second amended complaint, and on October 7, 2016, the charged officers of the MPD filed a motion to dismiss. This time, the officers asserted that the charges against them were too vague to know whether or not they could claim qualified immunity.

On October 13, 2016, the plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint. As compared to the first complaint, it dropped the original due process claims and claim using the DC Human Rights Act Violation. Meanwhile, it added unlawful entry claims and negligent infliction of emotional distress in addition to the original intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. The third amended complaint also made added a claim under section of 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and added a section on the administrative notice the plaintiffs gave to both the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County.

On November 14, 2016, the court refused to rule on the motion to dismiss with regards to qualified immunity, asserting that neither party had developed the argument sufficiently. The court ordered a supplemental brief to be submitted before December 26, 2016. The court then scheduled a motion hearing for April 27, 2017.

The parties are currently engaged in answering the amended complaint and filing memoranda in response to the supplemental brief, filed on December 27, 2016 (after an extension). There is no evidence of settlement negotiations.

The case is ongoing.

Megan Brown - 03/05/2017


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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
Mental impairment
Mobility impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Excessive force
Failure to train
Improper treatment of mentally ill suspects
Mental Disability
Cerebral palsy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
State law
Defendant(s) District of Columbia
Prince George's County
Plaintiff Description Young man with cerebral palsy and his grandmother/caretaker.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Washington Lawyers' Committee
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Pierce County v. Washington
www.bazelon.org
Date: 2017
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Bravo v. Board of Commissioners of Dona Ana County
http://www.bazelon.org/
Date: 2017
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Montgomery Public Schools
http://www.bazelon.org
Date: 2017
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Missouri P&A and Scaletty v. Carnahan
http://www.bazelon.org/missouri-pa-and-scaletty-v-carnahan/
Date: 2017
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:15-cv-803 (D.D.C.)
DR-DC-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/10/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 138]
DR-DC-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States of America [ECF# 38]
DR-DC-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/20/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of the Motion for Bifurcation and Stay of Discovery [ECF# 42]
DR-DC-0005-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/01/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Complaint [ECF# 62]
DR-DC-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Jackson, Ketanji Brown (D.D.C.)
DR-DC-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Blanchard, Alexander E. (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-0001 | DR-DC-0005-9000
Corkery, Dennis A. (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-0001 | DR-DC-0005-0003 | DR-DC-0005-9000
Crovetto, Alisha Marie (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-0001 | DR-DC-0005-9000
Handley, Matthew K. (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-0001 | DR-DC-0005-0003 | DR-DC-0005-9000
Hunger, Sarah Ann (Illinois)
DR-DC-0005-9000
O'Reilly, William Vincent (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-0001 | DR-DC-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Karpinski, Alex (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-9000
Levine, Jason Lee (Maryland)
DR-DC-0005-9000
Liew, Jordan En Liew (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-9000
Pham, Tram T. (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-9000
Pittman, Jonathan H. (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-9000
Snoddy, William Antoine (Maryland)
DR-DC-0005-0002 | DR-DC-0005-9000
Teferi, Gessesse (Maryland)
DR-DC-0005-9000
Other Lawyers Oppenheimer, Elisabeth (District of Columbia)
DR-DC-0005-0004

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