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Joseph v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

February 4, 2014

STATE OF MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Fidelito L. Joseph, pro se, sued the State of Maryland and others[1] for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3). ECF No. 1. Pending are three motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim and three motions to dismiss or for summary judgment, by various defendants. ECF Nos. 11, 26, 27, 34, 41, 42. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the following reasons, the defendants' motions will be granted.

I. Background[2]

On September 29, 2010, police officers made "a routine traffic stop" of a car in which Joseph was a passenger.[3] ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 2, 24. Joseph, who is African-American and a resident of New York State, was not issued a citation, [4] but police "illegally" searched the car during the stop using a dog, which apparently detected drugs.[5] See id. ¶¶ 5, 8, 12, 15. Joseph was arrested and taken to the Cumberland Police station "where he was held down forcibly[, ] stripped down of his clothing, " and subjected to a cavity search which "caus[ed] him serious physical injury." Id. ¶¶ 7, 17. He was charged with, inter alia, possession with intent to distribute narcotics. Id. ¶ 8.

On November 10, 2010, Joseph pled guilty to similar charges in West Virginia. Id. ¶ 9. He served 20 months of a one to five year sentence. See id. On the day he was to be released from the West Virginia prison, "the State of Maryland illegally detained [and] extradited [him] by apprehension."[6] See id. ¶ 10. He was transported to Allegany County Detention Center (the "Detention Center") and held from September 11, 2012 until October 16, 2012, when he was released on bond. Id. ¶¶ 10, 13.

On October 5, 2012, while at the Detention Center, "a legal issue... occurred at the law library, " which resulted in Joseph's placement on "23 [hour] cell restriction" and "deni[al] [of his] access to the law library for two weeks."[7] See id. ¶ 11. The restrictions prevented Joseph from fully preparing for an October 16, 2012 hearing in the Allegany County Circuit Court.[8] See id. ¶¶ 11, 12. Despite these restrictions, however, Joseph was able to file "several motions to dismiss his charges based on the legality" of the traffic stop, "the statute of limitations for speedy trial, " and the State's failure to prosecute. See id. ¶ 14. On October 31, 2012, the charges against Joseph were dismissed. Id. ¶ 16.

Joseph alleges that, in carrying out these "unlawful acts, defendants were prejudice[d], bias[ed], and motivated at least in part, by the fact that plaintiff was an African American not from the State of Maryland." Id. ¶ 19. He also alleges that the defendants' acts caused him "various physical injuries, fear[, ] embarrassment [, ] humiliation, emotional distress, lost consortium, and pain [and] suffering." Id. ¶ 20.

On January 4, 2013, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Joseph sued the defendants, who allegedly "are members of the State of Maryland[, ] Allegany County Police [Department], and Allegany County Sheriff Department ([the Detention Center]) who were employed at the time of said incident." Id. ¶ 6. He brought two claims under § 1983, asserting that the defendants: (1) used excessive force against him during the body cavity search, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (count one); and (2) "refus[ed] him a quick and speedy trial" by "failing to allow him to attend his pretrial hearings, " in violation of the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act[9] (count two). Id. ¶ 23. He also brought a § 1985(3) claim that the defendants' "conduct was the product of a conspiracy designed to punish plaintiff for exercising his Fourth Amendment right to complain" about the body cavity search and the traffic stop, [10] in violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments (count three). See id. ¶ 24. The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and "[s]uch other... relief as this court may deem just and proper, including injunctive and declaratory relief." Id. at 8.

On January 17, 2013, the case was transferred to this Court, because venue was improper in the District of Columbia. ECF No. 3. On June 24, 2013, the State of Maryland, Twigg, and the Sheriff's Department moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction. ECF No. 11. On July 16, 2013, Joseph opposed the motion. ECF No. 22. On August 12, 2013, the County and Sibley moved separately to dismiss for failure to state a claim. ECF Nos. 26, 27.

On August 29, 2013, Kyle, Merritt, and Sivic moved to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF No. 34. On September 23, 2013, Joseph opposed this motion. ECF No. 38. On October 12, 2013, the Police Department moved to dismiss, ECF No. 41, and Burt, Pressman, and Rumgay moved to dismiss or for summary judgment.[11] ECF No. 42.

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standards

1. Motion to Dismiss

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), an action may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint, but does not "resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

The Court bears in mind that Rule 8(a)(2) requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l, Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001). Although Rule 8's notice-pleading requirements are "not onerous, " the plaintiff must allege facts that support each element of the claim advanced. Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 764-65 (4th Cir. 2003). These facts must be sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

This requires that the plaintiff do more than "plead[] facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability;'" the facts pled must "allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ( quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). The complaint must not only allege but also "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Whe[n] 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 shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted).

2. Summary Judgment[12]

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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).[13] In considering the motion, the judge's function is "not... to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248.

The Court must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to... the nonmovant and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor, " Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002), but the Court must abide by the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial, " Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens ...

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