On Feb. 25, 1977, Martha A. Hubbard arrived at D.C. Superior Court, as scheduled, ready to contest four parking tickets worth about $75. But the jacket on her case was no where to be found among the hundreds of files that clog the city traffic court each day.
In a lawsuit she has filed, Hubbard also contends that a three-hour search failed to turn up any record of the case against her. As a result, she claims in the lawsuit, an assistant city prosecutor told her that he would dismiss the charges against her and told her she could go home - which she did.
Eight months later, Hubbard said, her 1971 Fiat broke down at the intersection of New Mexico and Nebraska Avenues NW. A District police officer stopped and helped her call a towing service, she said. Another officer who passed by made a routine check of her license plate number, whereupon, Hubbard said, she was arrested, taken to a police precinct and later taken to a special cellblock at Superior Court for women.
The traffic charges had never been dismissed and so, when Hubbard's fines were not paid, a judge had issued a bench warrant for her arrest, Hubbard asserted in a lawsuit filed yesterday in Superior Court. In the suit, Hubbard, who works at American University and lives in McLean, asks the city to pay her $150,000 in damages for alleged false arrest and imprisonment.
Patrick Kavanaugh, an assistant corporation counsel who Hubbard contends promised to drop the traffic charges, said that he could not comment on the lawsuit.
Hubbard said in an interview that she spent about an hour and a half in a Superior Court basement cellblock along with about 30 other women who were charged with a variety of crimes, including drug violations and prostitution.
"It's pretty raunchy," Hubbard said of the cellblock, in her lawsuit, Hubbard claims she feared for her safety while she was incarcerated and was subjected to "taunting insults" by court personnel.
When she got to traffic court that day, Hubbard said, a court-appointed attorney tried to convince her to plead guilty but she refused, was given a new court date and released on her personal recognizance.
About a month later, Hubbard said in the lawsuit, an assistant corporation counsel dismissed all the traffic charges against her. This time, Hubbard said in the interview, she got an official copy of a file that says the case against her was dropped.