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Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington v. D.C

United States District Court, D. Columbia
Mar 3, 2005
Civil Action No. 04-0529 (JDB) (D.D.C. Mar. 3, 2005)

Opinion

Civil Action No. 04-0529 (JDB).

March 3, 2005

Elizabeth Elaine Gardner, WASHINGTON LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS URBAN, Barbara J. Zanotti, MORRISON FOERSTER, LLP, Jennifer L. Richter, MORRISON FOERSTER, Matthew Christian Schruers, MORRISON FOERSTER, Seth Michael Galanter, MORRISON FOERSTER, Washington, DC, Counsels for Plaintiffs.

Carol A. Connolly, OFFICE OF CORPORATION COUNSEL, D.C., Jack Louis Lipson, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC, Counsels for Defendants.


ORDER


Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington ("DRC"), United Spinal Association ("USA"), Russell Holt ("Holt") and John Folan ("Folan") (collectively, "plaintiffs") bring this action against the District of Columbia ("D.C." or "the District"), Dan Tangherlini ("Tangherlini"), Direct of D.C. Department of Transportation, Ann Witt ("Witt"), Director of D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, and Leslie Hotaling ("Hotaling"), Director of D.C. Department of Public Works, (collectively, "defendants") alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. ("ADA"), the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq., the Individuals with Disabilities Parking Reform Amendment Act of 2000, D.C. Law 13-279, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Although, plaintiffs seek money (including nominal) damages, their principal request is for injunctive relief relating to the District of Columbia's allegedly inaccessible parking meters and intrusive and burdensome handicap parking placard application process. Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, defendants' motion to strike allegations in the complaint, and plaintiffs' motion to substitute a party. Taking the parties' arguments in turn, the Court will grant in part, and deny in part, defendants' motion to dismiss, deny without prejudice defendants' motion for summary judgment, deny defendants' motion to strike, and grant plaintiffs' motion to substitute party.

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' Complaint on three grounds: lack of jurisdiction over certain defendants, plaintiffs' lack of standing, and failure to state a claim. Defendants Tangherlini, Witt, and Hotaling, all sued in their official capacity as directors of various District of Columbia departments, argue that as departments of the District of Columbia they cannot be sued. See Parker v. District of Columbia, 216 F.R.D. 128, 130 (D.D.C. 2001). Plaintiffs respond that they have not sued the agencies, but rather these individuals in their official capacities, and therefore that law is inapplicable. However, a suit against an individual serving in his or her official capacity as director of a government entity is treated the same as one against the government entity. See Murray-Bey v. Thornburgh, 191 WL 222414, *7 n. 2 (D.D.C. Oct. 15, 1991). Plaintiffs' reliance on cases dealing with state immunity under the Eleventh Amendment is inapposite in this case involving the District of Columbia and its agencies. Therefore, defendants' motion to dismiss on this ground is granted.

Because plaintiffs have named the District of Columbia as a defendant, to ensure the effectiveness of any injunctive order of this Court it is not necessary also to include as defendants the individual agency heads in their official capacities. See Zervas v. District of Columbia, 817 F.Supp. 148, 151 (D.D.C. 1993).

Defendants challenge the standing of each plaintiff to bring their respective claims in the Complaint. First, defendants argue that the individual plaintiffs do not have standing to bring their particular claims. According to defendants, because Holt and Folan did not apply for a District of Columbia handicap parking placard, neither has standing to bring his particular claims. In the case of Holt, defendants' standing argument is based on the premise that because an alternative to using the parking meters exists (i.e., obtaining a placard that exempts one from using meters), Holt cannot establish standing to challenge the parking meters as inaccessible to the disabled. That standing argument, however, is more akin to one on the merits, and not appropriate for the standing analysis stage.See Campbell v. Clinton, 203 F.3d 19, 23-24 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (when assessing a party's standing to bring an action a court must not "conflate standing with merits"). Moreover, at the standing stage, the Court must presume the validity of Holt's legal theory. See id. (at "the standing stage [the Court] must take as correct appellants' [legal] claims"). Holt alleged actual, concrete injuries that arise from the inaccessibility of the D.C. parking meters — extra time finding a parking space with an accessible parking meter; humiliation asking strangers to put money in his parking meter; or incurring additional expenses parking at private parking garages. See Pl. Mot., Ex. D, Declaration of Russell Holt ("Holt Decl."). Such alleged injuries, coupled with Holt's theory regarding causality and redressability, satisfy the necessary elements of standing to bring this action. See Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Glickman, 154 F.3d 426, 431 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (outlining three elements of Article III standing: injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability).

The individual plaintiffs, Holt and Folan, are parties to only certain counts of the Complaint — Holt joins counts one through four, pertaining to accessibility of parking meters, and Folan joins counts five though ten, pertaining to D.C.'s placard system. The organizational plaintiffs, DRC and USA, join all counts of the Complaint.

Plaintiff Folan's claims are relate to the intrusive and burdensome nature of the application process for the District of Columbia's handicap parking placard.See Comp. ¶ 46. According to Folan's affidavit, he is qualified to receive a D.C. parking placard but refuses to apply because of the intrusive questions on the application, as well as the burden of completing the application. See Pl. Opp., Ex. E, Declaration of John Folan. Defendants claim that because Folan has refused to apply for the handicap parking placard, he does not have standing to challenge it. However, it is not necessary for a plaintiff to expose himself to an allegedly intrusive application in order to have standing to challenge it. See, e.g., Chandler v. Miller, 520 U.S. 305 (1997) (plaintiff challenged state requirement of drug testing for candidates although plaintiff had not submitted to the drug test). Indeed, the risk of disclosing personal information itself may constitute a cognizable injury.See Plain Dealer Publ`g Co. v. United States Dep`t of Labor, 471 F.Supp. 1023, 1028 (D.D.C. 1979) (disclosure of medical information within the FOIA context constitutes a threatened injury). Therefore, Folan`s allegations of an injury-in-fact regarding the intrusive and burdensome nature of the D.C. handicap parking placard application process are sufficient to establish standing for his claims.

Finally, defendants argue that neither organizational plaintiff has standing to bring its claims because each does not have direct standing and has not established representational standing. See Def. Mot. at 9-11. Defendants contend that the organizations must produce actual members of their organizations as plaintiffs in order to qualify for representational standing. But such a requirement would gut the doctrine of representational standing. An organization can assert representational standing if it establishes that: (1) some of its members would have standing; (2) the interests of the organization that it seeks to protect are germane to the suit; and (3) neither the claims asserted nor the relief sought requires participation of any individual members. See Hunt v. Washington State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333 343 (1977). In affidavits attached to plaintiffs' opposition, both organizations allege that they have members injured by the inaccessible parking meters, intrusive and burdensome placard application process, and the impairment of interstate commerce. See Pl. Opp., Exs A B. Both organizations have alleged interests aligned with this suit, and neither the claims of nor the relief sought by plaintiffs require any of the individual members to be part of this suit. Id. Therefore, both DRC and USA have established representational standing and may bring their claims against defendants.

Both organizations also assert direct standing, but because the Court finds they have established representational standing it is not necessary to consider any additional basis for standing.

Defendants' final basis for their motion to dismiss is that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Defendants argue that there is no legally enforceable guideline pertaining to the accessability of parking meters, and that there is no legal requirement that D.C. must grant reciprocity to other states' handicap parking placards. However, this argument misconstrues plaintiffs' claims, which do not depend upon any alleged finalized guidelines or legal reciprocity requirement, but rather are based on the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, the D.C. Human Rights Act, and the Commerce Clause. As such, in their Complaint plaintiffs have stated claims based upon these provisions of law for which relief may be granted.

Defendants also move for summary judgment on the ground that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute, and the facts show that defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Defendants again contend that there is no dispute that there are no legally enforceable guidelines regarding the accessibility of parking meters, and that there is no legal requirement for the District of Columbia to grant reciprocity to other states regarding handicap parking placards. Defendants also argue that the facts establish the parking placard system is a sufficient accommodation to preclude a finding that the District's parking meters are inaccessible under the law. At the motions hearing on March 1, 2005, defendants chose to focus the attention of the Court exclusively on their motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds. That was for good reason, as it has been shown that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude granting defendants' motion for summary judgment, and therefore the motion is denied without prejudice.

Lastly, defendants move to strike the allegations from plaintiffs' Complaint that pertain to the dedication ceremonies for the World War II Memorial. Defendants view the allegations in the Complaint that the District intended to discriminate against disabled World War II veterans as scurrilous and unsupported by fact. See Def. Mot. at 3. However, defendants' motion to strike is puzzling because plaintiffs do not actually allege that defendants intended to discriminate against the visiting veterans, but rather simply predict that the harms suffered by plaintiffs from the allegedly unlawful conduct of defendants would also occur to the visiting veterans. It is not necessary, moreover, that every factual allegation in a complaint come to fruition. Therefore, defendants' motion to strike is denied.

Plaintiffs also have a motion to substitute a party before the Court. Plaintiffs have informed the Court that plaintiff John Folan is now deceased, and they wish to substitute his wife, Mary Folan, as a plaintiff in the case. Defendants object, asserting that a deceased plaintiff cannot pursue injunctive relief, and that plaintiffs have not established that Mary Folan is John Folan's legal representative. Although John Folan's claims for equitable relief are extinguished, he sought as well both actual and nominal damages resulting from defendants' parking placard application process. Plaintiffs have established that, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 25, Mary Folan is the proper party to substitute for John Folan. Therefore, plaintiffs' motion to substitute Mary Folan for John Folan is granted.

Although John Folan did not ever apply for a D.C. parking placard, and hence may not be entitled to nominal or actual damages on that basis, at this early stage his allegations of an injury (and hence damages) are sufficient to warrant survival of his claims.

Accordingly, it is this 3rd day of March 2005, hereby

ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, explained above; it is further

ORDERED that the claims against defendants Tangherlini, Witt and Hotaling are dismissed for lack of jurisdiction; it is further

ORDERED that defendants' motion for summary judgment is DENIED without prejudice to later renewal; it is further

ORDERED that defendants' motion to strike is DENIED; it is further

ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion to substitute party is GRANTED; it is further

ORDERED that Mary Folan shall be substituted for plaintiff John Folan; and it is further

ORDERED that a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2005 at 9:15 a.m., at which the Court intends to review a proposed discovery schedule and the prospects of mediation. Plaintiffs should submit a proposed discovery schedule (including specific areas of discovery) to defendant by March 21, 2005, and the parties should meet and confer on the scope and timing of discovery prior to the March 29, 2005 status conference.


Summaries of

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington v. D.C

United States District Court, D. Columbia
Mar 3, 2005
Civil Action No. 04-0529 (JDB) (D.D.C. Mar. 3, 2005)
Case details for

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington v. D.C

Case Details

Full title:DISABILITY RIGHTS COUNCIL OF GREATER WASHINGTON, et al. Plaintiffs, v.…

Court:United States District Court, D. Columbia

Date published: Mar 3, 2005

Citations

Civil Action No. 04-0529 (JDB) (D.D.C. Mar. 3, 2005)

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