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Blanchard v. United States

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

October 10, 2013

RAY BLANCHARD, II, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNITED STATES STEVEN M. DUNNE DAVID GORRELL, A.T.F. AGENT Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PETER J. MESSITTE, District Judge.

I. Procedural History

Before the Court is Ray Blanchard's (ABlanchard@) self-represented Complaint seeking reimbursement for or the return of confiscated property, to wit, a cellular telephone, $306.00 in cash, a black Chevy Tahoe truck, and "other needed documents" taken by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF") during his March 14, 2007 arrest by federal authorities. (ECF No. 1). He contended that the property was taken and destroyed without a forfeiture hearing and Defendants' actions constitute negligence. He claims that he submitted a tort claim to the Department of Justice in July of 2012, and did not receive a response. ( Id. at pgs. 2-3). The action was instituted as a new Complaint and Defendants were directed to file an Answer.

II. Pending Motions

Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss and Plaintiff has filed an Opposition Response. (ECF Nos. 4 & 5). The case is ready for consideration. A hearing is unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2011).

III. Standard of Review

The purpose of a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. See Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3, (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or "naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

At this stage, a 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)). Because Plaintiff is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating the Complaint, a Court need not accept unsupported legal allegations. Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 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)). Thus, "[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Defendants' Motion to Dismiss relies on documents filed outside the scope of the pleading and Plaintiff has filed an Opposition. In my view, it is appropriate to address Defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment.

Summary Judgment is governed by Fed. R.Civ. P. 56(a), which provides, in part:

The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion:

By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). In resolving the motion, the court should "view the evidence in the light most favorable to... the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility." Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). However, "[t]he party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Moreover, the court must abide by the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually ...


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