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Motion To Amend Untimely In Washington DC Civil Case

A U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. held the Plaintiffs in a civil case against U.S. Marshals may not amend the complaint to insert named Marshals in their individual capacities.

On September 27, 2002, Paul Bame, Gregory Keltner and Ivan Welander were arrested and strip searched by U.S. Marshals while protesting the policies of the International Monetary Fund.

On September 15, 2005, the Plaintiffs filed suit against Todd Walther Dillard, U.S. Marshal for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and fifteen unnamed U.S. Marshal Service employees in their individual capacities for the strip searches.

The Plaintiffs had already amended their complaint to identify the unknown Marshals as John Doe defendants. By claiming the proposed amendment “relates back” to the original complaint date, the Plaintiffs tried to substitute names in place of the John Doe references.

Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that unless a non-federal defendant has received notice of the action within 120 days of its filing and knows or should have known that he would likely been named in the initial filing, no amendment is allowed without a clear mistake.

Plaintiffs claimed that, because they followed the governmental notice provision of Rule 15(c) by filing the amendment with the U.S. Attorney and Attorney General, the amendment should be allowed.

In its ruling, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted in part and denied in part the amendment. Granted, without objections, was the addition of Plaintiffs John Joel Duncan and Nicholas Church. However, the court denied Plaintiffs’ request to add named Marshals in their personal capacities because the Rule 15(c) governmental notice clause only applies when parties are being sued in their official capacities. Therefore, the statute of limitations had expired and the amendment was time-barred because it did not “relate back” to the original complaint date. See: Bame v. Dillard, USDC, D.D.C., No. 05-CV-01833-RMC.

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Related legal case

Bame v. Dillard

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