Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 92cv01862)
Before: Buckley, Ginsburg, and Tatel, Circuit Judges.
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
Argued September 29, 1995
Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge Tatel.
In this action by a victim of a police shooting, we consider the pleading requirements for a complaint alleging that a municipality violated a plaintiff's civil rights by failing to train or supervise its police officers. Applying the Supreme Court's holding in Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 113 S. Ct. 1160 (1993), that plaintiffs alleging municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 1983 need not satisfy any heightened pleading standard, we reverse the district court's dismissal of appellant's civil rights claims against the District of Columbia. We find no abuse of discretion, however, in the district court's denial of appellant's motion to amend his complaint to name a defendant police officer, sued initially in his official capacity only, in his individual capacity as well.
According to the complaint, shortly after noon on August 14, 1991, appellant Richard Atchinson was walking along a Chinatown street in the District of Columbia carrying a machete that he had just purchased at a surplus store. Hearing someone shout "freeze," Atchinson turned around to see two uniformed police officers across the street. Without further warning, one of the officers fired his gun, shooting Atchinson in the abdomen. Seriously injured, Atchinson required hospitalization and surgery. Atchinson was charged with assault on a police officer, but the charge was later dropped.
Atchinson filed suit in United States district court against the District of Columbia, the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the officer who shot him-Benjamin Collins-and other officers involved in the shooting, bringing both common-law tort claims and federal claims under 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 1983 and the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The complaint stated that "[d]efendants who are individuals are sued solely in their official capacity."
The district court dismissed the claims against the Mayor and the Chief of Police, ruling that the complaint failed to meet this circuit's heightened pleading standard for allegations of constitutional violations by government officials carrying out discretionary functions. Atchinson v. District of Columbia, No. 92-1862, slip op. at 2-5 (D.D.C. Dec. 23, 1992) (mem.) (citing Hunter v. District of Columbia, 943 F.2d 69, 75 (D.C. Cir. 1991); Martin v. Malhoyt, 830 F.2d 237, 254 & nn.40-41 (D.C. Cir. 1987)). The district court also dismissed the federal claims against the District of Columbia, finding that Atchinson had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. Id. at 5-8. The court explained that Atchinson's respondeat superior claim against the District failed under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691-94 (1978). As for Atchinson's other section 1983 claims against the District of Columbia-the claims at issue in this appeal-the court ruled that the complaint "failed to state with specificity an unconstitutional policy, custom, or procedure of the District of Columbia" responsible for his injuries. Atchinson, slip op. at 6-7 (Dec. 23, 1992) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 690, 694).
After the district court dismissed these claims, the Supreme Court announced in Leatherman that complaints alleging municipal liability under section 1983 need not satisfy any heightened pleading standard. See Leatherman, 113 S. Ct. at 1161. Relying on Leatherman, Atchinson filed a motion for reconsideration, charging that the district court had applied a heightened pleading standard in dismissing his section 1983 claims against the District.
Shortly before trial was scheduled to begin, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the section 1983 claims against Officer Collins in his official capacity, contending that those claims were identical to the claims against the District of Columbia that the court had previously dismissed. Noting that the dismissal of the section 1983 claims against Officer Collins would leave no federal claims in the case, the defendants asked the district court to dismiss the entire case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
The district court denied Atchinson's Leatherman motion, dismissed the federal claims against Officer Collins in his official capacity, and denied Atchinson leave to amend his complaint to name the officer in his individual capacity. Atchinson v. District of Columbia, No. 92-1862 (D.D.C. June 16, 1994) (mem.). Agreeing with defendants that the dismissal of all federal claims left it without subject matter jurisdiction over the common-law claims, the district court dismissed the entire case with prejudice. Id., slip op. at 6-7, 9. The court later denied a motion for reconsideration. Atchinson v. District of Columbia, No. 92-1862 (D.D.C. Aug. 23, 1994) (mem.).
Atchinson appeals the dismissal of his section 1983 claims against the District of Columbia. He also challenges the district court's denial of his request to amend his complaint to ...