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Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County

March 15, 2011

CENTRO TEPEYAC
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah K. Chasanow United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Several motions are presently pending in this action under the First and Fourteenth Amendments: (1) a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (ECF No. 5) filed by Defendants; (2) a motion for a preliminary injunction (ECF No. 6) filed by Plaintiff; and (3) a motion to strike (ECF No. 19) filed by Defendants. A hearing was held and the parties have briefed the issues. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to strike will be denied, while their motion to dismiss will be denied in part and granted in part. Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction will be granted in part and denied in part.

I.Background

A.Factual Background

On February 2, 2010, Defendant Montgomery County Council, acting as the County Board of Health, passed Resolution Number 16-1252 ("the Resolution"). The Resolution requires "Limited Service Pregnancy Resource Centers" ("LSPRCs") to make certain disclaimers. (ECF No. 5-1). An LSPRC is defined within the Resolution as any "organization, center, or individual" that "(A) has a primary purpose to provide pregnancy-related services; (B) does not have a licensed medical professional on staff;*fn1 and (C) provides information about pregnancy-related services, for a fee or as a free service." (Id. at 2). The Resolution further defines "licensed medical professional on staff" as "one or more individuals" who:

(A) are licensed by the appropriate State agency under Title 8, 14, or 15 of the Health Occupations Article of the Maryland Code;

(B) provide medical-related services at the Center by either:

(i) providing medical services to clients at the Center at least 20 hours per week; or

(ii) directly overseeing medical services provided at the Center; and

(C) are employed by or offer services at the Center.

The Resolution obliges any LSPRC to post a sign in its waiting room that reads: (1) "the Center does not have a licensed medical professional on staff;" and (2) "the Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider."*fn2

(Id.). The sign must be conspicuously posted, easily readable, and written in English and Spanish. (Id.). Violation of the Resolution is a Class A civil violation. (Id.). The Resolution may be enforced by a court action initiated by the County Attorney or a citation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. (Id. at 3).

The County Council passed the Resolution after holding a public hearing on December 1, 2009. (Id. at 1). According to the Resolution's Background section, the evidence in the record led the County Council to conclude that "a disclaimer for certain pregnancy resources centers [was] necessary to protect the health of County residents." (Id.). In particular, the Council was concerned that: . . . clients may be misled into believing that a Center is providing medical services when it is not. Clients could therefore neglect to take action (such as consulting a doctor) that would protect their health or prevent adverse consequences, including disease, to the client or the pregnancy. (Id.).

Plaintiff Centro Tepeyac is a non-profit corporation that, according to the complaint, "discusses pregnancy options with women in . . . Montgomery County." (ECF No. 1 ¶ 11). Among other things, Centro Tepeyac provides "pregnancy testing, referral services, . . . confidential discussion of pregnancy options[,] . . . information on parenting and post-abortion guidance[,] . . . [and] practical support in the form of diapers, baby clothes, and other needed items." (Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff does not refer for or provide abortions. (Id. ¶ 14). All services are offered free of charge. (Id. ¶ 13). Plaintiff considers itself an LSPRC. (ECF No. 1-6, at 6).

B.Procedural Background

On May 19, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting two violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983: deprivation of a First Amendment right and deprivation of a Fourteenth Amendment right. (ECF No. 1). The complaint included, among other things, a request for a preliminary injunction.*fn3 (ECF Nos. 1, at 12; 1-6). On June 3, 2010, Defendants filed an "opposition to motion for preliminary injunction and motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment." (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff filed a response to the motion to dismiss on June 17, 2010 via a paper that also served as its reply brief on the preliminary injunction motion. (ECF No. 17). In their own reply brief on the motion to dismiss on June 28, Defendants included a one-paragraph motion to strike several footnotes in Plaintiff's June 17 filing. (ECF No. 19). The court then held a hearing on all three motions on July 23, 2010. (ECF No. 23).

II.Motion to Strike

Defendants move to strike several footnotes in Plaintiff's opposition to the motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 19, at 6). The only provision allowing a motion to strike is Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). Rule 12(f) allows a court to strike certain matters "from a pleading." Defendants' motion to strike does not seek to strike any portion of a pleading, but rather certain footnotes in a memorandum opposing a motion. Under Rule 7(a), motions, memoranda, and the exhibits attached to them are not pleadings. See Manson v. Inge, 13 F.2d 567, 568 (4th Cir. 1926) (defining pleadings). Rule 12(f) may only address the papers listed in Rule 7(a). See, e.g., Hrivnak v. NCO Portfolio Mgmt, Inc., 723 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1029 (N.D.Ohio 2010) ("While some courts have employed Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) to strike an affidavit or a brief, or portions thereof, there is no basis in the Federal Rules for doing so."). Therefore, Defendants' motion to strike will be denied.

III.Motion to Dismiss

A.Standard of Review

Defendants have moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 5). The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). At this stage, the court must consider all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and must construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In addition to the complaint itself, a court may consider "any documents that are attached to it." CACA Int'l, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 566 F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009).

In evaluating the complaint, the court need not accept unsupported legal allegations. Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009), or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979). See also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not 'show[n] . . . that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

B.Analysis

1.Proper ...


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