United States District Court, District of Maryland
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge
This case arises out of a traffic stop and subsequent prosecution of Plaintiff Traee Daran Lee (“Lee”) in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. Although Lee was initially convicted of and imprisoned for a variety of state charges, the Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney later entered an order of nolle prosequi and Lee was released from custody. Thereafter, Lee filed this action, asserting a variety of federal and state claims for money damages against the State of Maryland and Defendant Deputy Vernell Johnson (“Deputy Johnson”), the officer involved in the traffic stop and who testified at Lee’s trial. After obtaining leave to file an amended complaint, Lee named the Queen Anne’s County Office of the Sheriff and Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann as additional defendants. The Defendants have filed three separate Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 31, 33, and 37). The parties’ submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, Defendant State of Maryland’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 33) is GRANTED. Defendant Deputy Vernell Johnson’s Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (ECF No. 31) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Finally, the Motion of Defendants Queen Anne’s County Office of the Sheriff and Sheriff Gary Hofmann to dismiss the amended complaint (ECF No. 37) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. In addition, the open motions to dismiss the original complaint (ECF No. 13, 15, and 23) are DENIED AS MOOT.
This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). This case originates from a traffic stop by Defendant Deputy Vernell Johnson (“Deputy Johnson”) on or about March 4, 2010. Pl.’s Am. Compl. ¶ 15. In his police report, Deputy Johnson stated that Plaintiff Traee Daran Lee (“Lee”) was driving the car and that the car had driven through a stop sign. Id. ¶¶ 16, 29. However, Lee’s Amended Complaint asserts that he was not driving the car and that the car did not drive through a stop sign. Id. ¶ 16. Subsequently, Lee alleges that an improper warrant was issued for his arrest. Id. ¶ 17. When he learned of the warrant, Lee allegedly surrendered to authorities and was briefly incarcerated before being released on bond that same day. Id. ¶¶ 18-19.
Between his arrest and his trial, Lee alleges that Deputy Johnson “continually harassed” Lee and Lee’s family. Id. ¶ 20. According to the Amended Complaint, Deputy Johnson would follow Lee whenever Deputy Johnson saw him on the road. Id. ¶ 21. In addition, Deputy Johnson allegedly followed Lee into a convenience store on one specific occasion and screamed that he knew Lee was guilty and that he would “do whatever it takes to prove it.” Id. ¶ 22.
At the trial on or about June 17, 2010, Lee alleges that Deputy Johnson provided false testimony. Id. ¶ 23. Based on this testimony, Lee was convicted for fraud, failure to stop, and driving with a revoked license and sentenced to two (2) months imprisonment in the Queen Anne’s County jail. Id. ¶ 24.
After his conviction, Lee’s mother requested an investigation of the case. Id. ¶ 25. Allegedly, the investigation revealed dashboard camera video evidence suggesting that Deputy Johnson had “perjured himself.” Id. Lee was released from custody on July 15, 2010 (after twenty-eight (28) days of imprisonment), and the Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney entered an order of nolle prosequi for each of the charges against Lee on July 28, 2010. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. At some point, the State’s Attorney purportedly stated that “the dashboard camera revealed that the recorded events were ‘contrary to what the officer testified to in his police report’”; “‘that there was . . . no probable cause for the traffic stop’”; and that “‘the State would not have proceeded with the matter’” in light of the new evidence. Id. ¶ 29. Lee asserts that Deputy Johnson’s actions were undertaken with malice and that he has suffered mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, and financial loss as a result. Id. ¶¶ 30, 34. Specifically, Lee asserts that he has received treatment (including both prescription therapy and counseling) from a psychiatrist for anxiety and depression, and that he has trouble sleeping and avoids socializing due to his experiences with Deputy Johnson. Id. ¶ 47.
On March 4, 2013, Lee filed his original Complaint (ECF No. 1) against Deputy Vernell Johnson, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland (“the County”), and the State of Maryland (“the State”). After the County and the State filed motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 13 and 15),  Lee sought leave to file an amended complaint. See Pl.’s Mot. Leave File Am. Compl., ECF No. 19. This Court granted Lee leave to amend on June 27, 2013, and Lee’s Amended Complaint (ECF No. 29) against Defendants Deputy Johnson, Sheriff Gary Hoffman (“Sheriff Hofmann”), the Queen Anne’s County Office of the Sheriff (“the Sheriff’s Office”), and the State (collectively, “the Defendants”) was automatically filed.Lee’s Amended Complaint asserts twenty-three (23) claims against the Defendants, including claims for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I, II, III, and XXII), conspiracy (Counts IV, V, and XIII), Maryland Declaration of Rights claims (Counts VI and VII), false arrest (Count VIII), false imprisonment (Count IX), malicious prosecution (Count X), abuse of process (Count XI), invasion of privacy (Count XII), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count XIV), negligent hiring (Count XV), negligent training and supervision (Count XVI), negligent retention (Count XVII), negligent entrustment (Count XXI), gross negligence (Count XIX), general negligence (Count XX), unlawful custom, pattern or practice of improper conduct (Count XVIII), and reckless endangerment (Count XXIII).
On July 10, 2013, Deputy Johnson filed his Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (ECF No. 31). On July 11, 2013, the State filed a separate Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (ECF No. 33). Finally, Sheriff Hofmann and the Sheriff’s Office filed their Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 37) on July 30, 2013. All three motions to dismiss were fully briefed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to 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 Supreme Court’s recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required.” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court’s decision in Twombly articulated “[t]wo working principles” that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim); see also Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (“Although we are constrained to take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 679. Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the plausibility requirement does not impose a “probability requirement, ” id. at 556, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Cos., 679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) (“A complaint need not make a case against a defendant or forecast evidence sufficient to prove an element of the claim. It need only allege facts sufficient to state elements of the claim.” (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). In making this assessment, a court must “draw on its judicial experience and common sense” to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “At bottom, a plaintiff must nudge [its] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible to resist dismissal.” Wag More Dogs, LLC, 680 F.3d at 365 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff Lee’s Amended Complaint asserts a variety of federal and state causes of action against the Defendants. In their various motions to dismiss, Defendants raise a variety of issues, including various immunity doctrines, failure to state a plausible claim under Iqbal and Twombly, and procedural defects. In the interests of efficiency, this Court will address the issues raised by the parties in their papers in the following manner. First, this Court will address the argument raised by Sheriff Hofmann and the Sheriff’s Office regarding the failure to serve a red-line version of the Amended Complaint. Second, this Court will address the issue of sovereign immunity as to all Defendants. Third, this Court will examine whether Deputy Johnson may claim immunity for his trial testimony. Fourth, this Court will address Lee’s federal claims. Finally, this Court will address Lee’s state law claims,  considering the state immunity questions as a preliminary matter.
I. Service of a Red-Line Copy of the Amended Complaint Pursuant to Local Rule 103.6.
In their Memorandum in Support of the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 37-2), Defendants Sheriff Hofmann and the Sheriff’s Office argue that Lee’s Amended Complaint should be dismissed because Lee failed to serve them with a red-line copy of the Amended Complaint pursuant to Local Rule 103.6 (D. Md. 2011). Indeed, the rules of this Court state that:
Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, the party filing an amended pleading shall file and serve (1) a clean copy of the amended pleading and (2) a copy of the amended pleading in which stricken material has been lined through or enclosed in brackets and new material has been underlined or set forth in bold-faced type.
Local Rule 103.6(c) (D. Md. 2011). Sheriff Hofmann and the Sheriff’s Office argue that they were prejudiced by this failure due to the difficulty in identifying the new allegations in the lengthy Amended Complaint. In response, Lee does not dispute that he failed to serve a red-line copy on the Sheriff’s Office or Sheriff Hofmann. Instead, Lee argues that he appropriately filed a red-line copy with his Motion for Leave to Amend and that there was no real prejudice to either Sheriff Hofmann or the Sheriff’s Office because they had access to the red-line copy through this Court’s electronic filing system.
This Court sees no reason to dismiss Sheriff Hofmann and the Sheriff’s Office from this suit based solely on Lee’s failure to serve a red-line copy of the Complaint. In fact, this Court has not required strict compliance with the red-line copy requirement of Local Rule 103.6(c). See Chambers v. Choice Hotels Intern., Inc., Civ. A. No. DKC-11-0404, 2011 WL 2457645, at *2 (D. Md. June 15, 2011) (Chasanow, C.J.) (excusing plaintiff’s failure to attach red-lined copy to motion for leave to file amended complaint in order to add a defendant where red-lined copy was attached to plaintiff’s reply brief); Awah v. Board of Educ. of Baltimore Co., Civ. A. No. WMN-09-cv-1044, 2010 WL 1929908, at *2 (D. Md. May 11, 2010) (Nickerson, J.) (refusing to deny pro se plaintiff’s motion to amend on the sole ground that plaintiff had not filed a red-line copy and where there was no prejudice to the defendant). Although involving an issue of service, this matter does not trigger any due process or jurisdictional questions; indeed, such matters are never mentioned in the Defendants’ motion.
Moreover, this Court finds the Defendants’ claims of prejudice unpersuasive. Sheriff Hofmann and the Sheriff’s Office were not originally parties to this suit and they were only named as defendants by Lee’s Amended Complaint. As such, the Amended Complaint constitutes the first time that a claim of any sort was asserted against them. In light of this fact, the Defendant’s Motion does not explain why a red-line copy was necessary. The mere length of the Amended Complaint could not have prejudiced the Defendants, as one would expect them to read the pleading in its entirety upon initial receipt. Moreover, the red-line copy was, in fact, available to Sheriff Hofmann and the Sheriff’s Office through this Court’s electronic filing system. Accordingly, this Court refuses to grant the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss based upon Lee’s failure to serve a red-line copy of the Amended Complaint alone. However, this Court expects Lee to fully comply with Local Rule 103.6(c) in the event of any further amended pleadings.
II. Eleventh Amendment Immunity
The Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution acts as a bar to certain actions against a State and the State’s officials. Specifically, the Eleventh Amendment states that:
The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.
U.S. Const. Amend. XI. States may nevertheless consent to suit in federal court, and Congress may also abrogate the states’ sovereign immunity pursuant to its power under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Va. Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Stewart, 131 S.Ct. 1632, 1637-38 (2011). However, the types of claims raised here—claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, § 1985, and § 1986—are not subject to either of these exceptions and, as such, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Md. Code, State Gov’t § 12-103(2) (noting that the Maryland Tort Claims Act “does not . . . waive any right or defense of the State or its units, officials, or employees in an action in a court of the United States or any other state, including any defense that is available under the 11th Amendment to the United States Constitution”); Thompson v. State of Maryland Dep’t of Transp., Civ. A. No. AW-09-297, 2010 WL 2473269, at *3 (D. Md. June 14, 2010) (holding that Maryland has not consented to § 1983 claims in federal court); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 338-45 (1979) (holding that § 1983 was not intended to abrogate states’ Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity); Clark v. Md. Dep’t of Pub. Safety & Corr. Servs., 247 F.Supp.2d 773, 776 (D. Md. 2003) (same with respect to § 1985); Coffin v. South Carolina Dep’t of Social Services, 562 F.Supp. 579, 585 (D.S.C. 1983) (same with respect to § 1983, § 1985, and § 1986). Accordingly, this Court cannot entertain Lee’s federal claims against the State of Maryland, and those claims are dismissed.
The other Defendants in the case—i.e., Deputy Johnson, Sheriff Hofmann, and the Sheriff’s Office—also argue that the Eleventh Amendment bars this Court from entertaining Lee’s federal claims against them. Indeed, Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity “extends to arms of the State, including state agencies and state officers acting in their official capacity.” Cromer v. Brown, 88 F.3d 1315, 1332 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In making the determination whether a particular individual or entity is an arm of the State, the main consideration is “whether the state treasury will be liable for the judgment.” Id.
The particular question at issue in this case—whether a county Sheriff and the Sheriff’s deputies are arms of the State for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment—has been previously considered by this Court and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Those cases hold that county sheriffs offices are state agencies and that county sheriffs and their deputies are state officials when acting in their law enforcement capacities. See, e.g., McDonnell v. Hewitt-Angleberger, Civ. A. No. WMN-11-3284, 2012 WL 1378636, at *4 n.3 (D. Md. April 19, 2012); Lindsey v. Jenkins, Civ. A. No. RDB-10-1030, 2011 WL 453475 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2011); Rossignol v. Voorharr, 321 F.Supp.2d 642, 651 (D. Md. 2004); State v. Card, 104 Md.App. 439 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1995). Thus, Lee’s suit against the Sheriff’s Office—an arm of the State of Maryland—is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Moreover, Lee’s claims against Deputy Johnson and Sheriff Hofmann in their official capacities are also barred because Lee’s claims relate to the Defendants’ official duties. Lee’s claims against Deputy Johnson arise from the vehicle stop and the allegedly perjured testimony offered at trial. Similarly, Lee’s claims against Sheriff Hofmann relate to Sheriff Hoffman’s oversight and administration of the Sheriff’s Office. Thus, the Eleventh Amendment bars Lee’s suit against Deputy Johnson and Sheriff Hofmann in their official capacities. Accordingly, Lee’s federal claims against the State, the Sheriff’s Office, and the claims asserted against the individual Defendants in their official capacities must all be dismissed.
Lee’s state-law claims against these entities also must be dismissed. The State of Maryland has not waived its sovereign immunity to suits brought against it in federal court. See Lindsey, 2011 WL 454475, at *3 (“[T]he Eleventh Amendment immunizes states from suit brought in federal court absent waiver from the state or a clear congressional exercise of its power under the Fourteenth Amendment. The State of Maryland has not expressly waived its immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to such suits.” (internal citations omitted)). Additionally, it is firmly established that a litigant may not invoke supplemental jurisdiction in order to avoid the Eleventh Amendment’s bar to federal court jurisdiction over actions against states. See Gray v. Maryland, 228 F.Supp.2d 628, 640 (D. Md. 2002) (citing Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984)). Accordingly, this Court is barred from hearing any of Lee’s state law claims against the State of Maryland. This same reasoning applies to the claims against the Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Johnson and Sheriff Hoffman in their official capacities because, as explained above, Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state officials in their official capacity. See Gray, 228 F.Supp.2d at 640 (dismissing state-law claims against Maryland county sheriff in official capacity under Eleventh Amendment). Therefore, both the federal and state claims against the State of Maryland, the Sheriff’s Office, and Sheriff Hoffman in his official capacity must be dismissed. The only remaining counts, therefore, are Lee’s claims against Deputy Johnson and Sheriff Hofmann in their individual capacities.
III. Immunity for Trial Testimony
Deputy Johnson argues that he has absolute immunity for his trial testimony. Indeed, under Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 342-43 (1983), a witness is immunized from liability for his testimony even if the testimony is perjured. This absolute immunity is recognized by Maryland law as well. See Offen v. Brenner, 402 Md. 191, 200 (2007). Accordingly, to the extent that Lee asserts claims premised upon Deputy Johnson’s trial testimony, those claims must fail. As such, in assessing Lee’s remaining claims, this Court will consider Deputy Johnson’s alleged misconduct pertaining to the original traffic stop, involvement with the issuance of the warrant, and subsequent pre-trial harassment, but not his trial testimony.
IV. Federal Claims
This Court next turns to Lee’s federal claims, at least one of which must survive in order for this Court to maintain jurisdiction over the action. See Gray, 228 F.Supp.2d at 635.
A. Merits of Federal Claims
1) Count I – § 1983 Claim Relating to Violation of the Fourth Amendment
Lee asserts his first claim under § 1983 for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Section 1983 states:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.
28 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 does not create “substantive rights”; instead, § 1983 provides “a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Thompson v. Dorsey, Civ.A. No. ELH-10-1364, 2011 WL 2610704, at *3 (D. Md. June 30, 2011) (quoting Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994)).
In his Amended Complaint, Lee identifies the Fourth Amendment as the underlying source of his § 1983 claim. Specifically, he alleges that “the excessive force, the arrest of Plaintiff without probable cause, and the malicious prosecution of Plaintiff . . . deprived him of his rights under the Fourth Amendment.” Pl.’s Am. Compl. ¶ 62. In addition, Lee asserts that he was “search[ed] without probable cause.” Pl.’s Am. Compl. ¶ 64.
Deputy Johnson’s sole contention with respect to Lee’s first count is that he is not a federal actor governed by the Fourth Amendment and, therefore, may not properly be sued. Of course, the constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizures has been incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment and applied against the states; as such, Lee’s claim is properly construed as a claim for violation of the Fourth Amendment as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment. See Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23 (1963); Dodson v. Merson, Civ. A. No. AMD 03-3209, 2004 WL 1534209, at *1 (D. Md. July 8, 2004). Accordingly, Deputy Johnson is subject to suit under § 1983.
Lee’s Amended Complaint also seeks to hold Sheriff Hofmann individually liable, asserting that Sheriff Hofmann is “vicariously liable for the constitutional violations” of Deputy Johnson. Sheriff Hofmann argues that Lee has failed to state a cognizable claim against him, arguing that the claim must fail because Lee has not alleged that Sheriff Hofmann directed or personally participated in the deprivation of the Lee’s rights. Sheriffs’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 11, ECF No. 37-2.
Under § 1983, the doctrine of supervisory liability—rather than the doctrine of respondeat superior—governs the liability of law enforcement supervisors in cases where the supervisors’ subordinates inflict the harm. See Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994). The Fourth Circuit has articulated three elements for establishing supervisory liability:
We have set forth three elements necessary to establish supervisory liability under § 1983: (1) that the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed “a pervasive and unreasonable risk” of constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff; (2) that the supervisor’s response to that knowledge was so inadequate as to show “deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices, ”; and (3) that there was an “affirmative causal link” between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff.
Shaw, 13 F.3d at 799.
In order to satisfy the first element of supervisory liability, a plaintiff must allege “pervasive” unconstitutional conduct—i.e., the conduct must be “widespread” or occurring on multiple occasions. See Miller v. Hamm, Civ. A. No. CCB-10-243, 2011 WL 9185, at *12 (D. Md. Jan. 3., 2011); see also Randall v. Prince George’s Cnty., Md., 302 F.3d 188, 204 (4th Cir. 2002) (“Under the first prong of Shaw, the conduct engaged in by the supervisor’s subordinates must be pervasive, meaning that the conduct is widespread, or at least has been used on several different occasions.”). The necessary frequency of the conduct—the precise number of occasions—has not been definitively stated,  but a number of judges from this Court have addressed cases involving supervisory liability on motions to dismiss. See, e.g., Miller, 2011 WL 9185 (dismissing supervisory liability claim because allegation that supervisor had “reason to believe” the subordinate was violating the constitutional rights of individuals and exercising final decision-making power were “too broad and vague” and failed to establish that other instances were sufficiently similar to plaintiff’s case); Thompson v. Dorsey, 2011 WL 2610704, at *3-5 (Hollander, J.) (dismissing supervisory liability claim where plaintiff alleged only “conclusory language” regarding a history of unconstitutional occurrences and defendant’s knowledge of problems within his agency); Bishop v. Lewis, Civ. A. No. WMN-10-3640, 2011 WL 1704755 (D. Md. May 4, 2011) (Nickerson, J.) (rejecting possibility of supervisory liability claim where plaintiff generally alleged a policy or custom of tolerating the harassment, stalking, and illegal arrests of African-Americans but failed to identify the supervisor’s role in forming or supporting the pattern or practice).
Sheriff Hofmann argues that the allegations contained in Lee’s Amended Complaint are conclusory and fail to allege adequate facts to support any of the three elements of supervisory liability. See Sheriffs’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 12-13, ECF No. 37-2. In opposition, Lee argues that his Amended Complaint contains sufficient examples of past occurrences to state a valid claim and avoid dismissal at this early stage of the litigation. See Pl.’s Opp. Sheriffs 9-12, ECF No. 39. In particular, Lee points to the following allegations in the Amended Complaint:
Defendants State of Maryland, the Office of the Sheriff, and Sheriff Hofmann have instituted and maintained formal and informal customs, policies, and practices that foster, promote and encourage deputies to engage in misconduct and to deprive individuals of their constitutional rights. Without any limitation whatsoever, among the facts supporting a pattern and practice of the type of unlawful behavior here are the following statements and examples:
a. On May 12, 2011, Queen Anne’s County deputy John Dennis Hofmann pled guilty to second-degree assault after groping a woman inside his patrol car in August 2009. Deputy Hofmann is the brother of the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff, Gary Hofmann. Hofmann remains employed by the Queen Anne’s Office of the Sheriff b. In August 2007, the Queen Anne’s County Office of the Sheriff suspended three deputies for misconduct that occurred during a traffic stop. The misconduct concerned violations of departmental policies and procedures having to do with vehicle searches. After the investigation, all three deputies were reinstated even though two deputies had been found to have violated policies and procedures.
c. On March 17, 2004, Queen Anne’s County Deputy Sheriff Mark Barbre shot and paralyzed Andrew Pope, III during a traffic stop. Deputy Barbre had signaled for Pope to stop and pull over, but Pope continued to drive his vehicle until he reached his house, where he exited his vehicle and raised his hands in surrender. ...