One morning in June 2015, multiple U.S. Marshals stormed into Donya Williams’ home in Southeast D.C. where she lived with her daughter J.W., then 12 years old. The Marshals, who were there to carry out a routine eviction, entered with guns drawn, even though they had no information to indicate anyone in the apartment would pose a threat. The Marshals then burst in on Ms. Williams naked, despite her warning that she was getting dressed. Ms. Williams inadvertently grabbed a pair of pants belonging to her daughter, so when she put them on, they split at the crotch. Despite the large hole in her pants, the Marshals marched Ms. Williams with her daughter past an eviction crew of twenty men and out to the building’s parking lot. The Marshals taunted Ms. Williams and refused to allow her to return to the apartment to put on clothes.
In February 2017, the ACLU filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Marshals Service seeking damages for the Williams family’s ordeal. The Marshals Service never responded.
In January 2018, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Ms. Williams and her daughter, seeking damages from the federal government and from the individual U.S. Marshals for violations of the Fourth Amendment and D.C. law. After conducting limited discovery to identify the Marshals, in April 2018, we filed an amended complaint with their names.
In apparent response to our filing this case and to another problematic eviction, the Marshals Service announced that in the summer of 2018 it would roll out two policy directives: one to provide tenants better notice of upcoming evictions and the other to prevent tenants’ belongings from being dumped on the sidewalk by the eviction crew.
In August 2018, with the assistance of a mediator, the case settled; our clients agreed to dismiss in exchange for a payment by the government.