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Glover v. Carroll County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 2, 2014

CASSANDRA GLOVER, Plaintiff,
v.
CARROLL COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.

Plaintiff Cassandra Glover brought this suit against Detective Douglas Epperson ("Epperson"), Detective Major Nicholas Plazio ("Plazio"), Sherriff Kenneth Tregoning ("Tregoning"), Major Philip Kasten ("Kasten"), the Carroll County States Attorney's Office ("CCSAO"), State's Attorney Jerry Barnes ("Barnes"), Deputy State's Attorney David Daggett ("Daggett"), Deputy State's Attorney Kelly Galvin ("Galvin"), the Town of Hampstead ("Hampstead"), Officer Christina Holland ("Holland"), Corporal Robert Riggio ("Riggio"), and the State of Maryland ("Maryland")[1] alleging violations of her rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and alleging the following state-law torts: (1) false imprisonment, (2) malicious prosecution, (3) violation of Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, (4) battery, (5) false arrest, (6) violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, (7) assault, (8) abuse of process, and (9) violation of Article 22 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 22.) Now pending before the Court are (A) Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for a more definite statement (ECF No. 4), (B) Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 11), (C) Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative to bifurcate (ECF No. 25), (D) Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 26), (E) Barnes, CCSAO, Daggett, Galvin, and Maryland's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 27), and (F) Hampstead's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 35).[2] The issues have been briefed and no hearing is required. Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below (A) Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for a more definite statement (ECF No. 4) will be found moot, (B) Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 11) will be found moot, (C) Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative to bifurcate (ECF No. 25) will be granted in part and denied in part, (D) Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 26) will be granted in part and denied in part, (E) Barnes, CCSAO, Daggett, Galvin, and Maryland's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 27) will be granted, and (F) Hampstead's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 35) will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND[3]

Plaintiff has incorporated by reference five exhibits into her complaint. (Am. Compl.; ECF Nos. 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, 2-5.) These exhibits are (1) two state court memorandum opinions, namely the July 21, 2011 opinion by Judge Galloway of the Circuit Court for Carroll County, Maryland in the matter of Maryland v. Laderer, case no. 06-K-10-040718 (ECF No. 2-1) and the August 11, 2011 opinion in the same matter (ECF No. 2-2), (2) a transcript of Epperson's October 27, 2011 testimony in the same matter (ECF No. 2-3), (3) an interoffice memorandum discussing prior statements by Epperson regarding Plazio (ECF No. 2-4), and (4) Plaintiff's motion to dismiss the indictment in the matter of Maryland v. Glover, case no. K-10-40719 before the Circuit Court for Carroll County, Maryland (ECF No. 2-5). The Court will treat factual statements-but not legal analysis or legal conclusions-contained in these exhibits as part of the factual allegations of Plaintiff's complaint. The Court emphasizes that these factual statements will be treated as allegations by Plaintiff and are not received as facts.[4]

The following factual allegations are excerpted from the July 21, 2011 memorandum opinion (ECF No. 2-1):

On September 13, 2010, at approximately 10:07pm, Officer Holland of the Hampstead Police Department responded to a 911 call to 4041 Gill Avenue, Hampstead, Carroll County, Maryland. The address includes apartment buildings. The 911 call came in initially as a cardiac arrest at the Gill Avenue address. When Office[r] Holland arrived at the address, she saw Mr. Demario lying on the landing of the staircase. Patricia Winters... was performing CPR on Mr. Demario. Teresa Utz and Clarence Edwards were observing the scene. When the paramedics arrived at the scene, Officer Holland was informed that Mr. Demario was stabbed.... No weapons were found at the crime scene or in Mr. Demario's possession.
Officer Holland began to secure the scene and interview witnesses. Officer Holland interviewed Ms. Winters who informed her that earlier in the day, [Mr. Laderer], [Plaintiff] and Mr. Demario had a "confrontation." Officer Holland indicated that... she did not obtain any further information at that time from Ms. Winters about what she meant by "confrontation." Based on the information given to Officer Holland by Ms. Winters, [Mr. Laderer] and [Plaintiff] were listed as suspects along with... Eric Baker through the Emergency Operations Center.
At 11:02 pm, Officer Holland testified that she observed [Mr. Laderer] and [Plaintiff] walking toward the apartment complex. Officer Holland did not observe any blood on their clothing. She did not observe anything that would indicate the couple were a flight risk or that they were armed and dangerous. [Mr. Laderer] approached the officers on the scene and attempted to engage the officers in conversation about what was happening.... [Officers Holland and Riggio then stopped Plaintiff and Mr. Laderer, handcuffed them, and told them to sit on the curb while they and other Hampstead police officers secured the scene and waited for the Carroll County Sheriff's Department and Maryland State Police to arrive. (Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 17, 18.)] Officer Holland informed [Mr. Laderer] and [Plaintiff] that they were not under arrest, but they were being detained for the investigation.
Officer Holland... did not pat down [Mr. Laderer] or [Plaintiff] for weapons. Officer Holland did not question [Mr. Laderer] or [Plaintiff] while they were handcuffed and seated on the ground.... [Plaintiff] repeatedly requested permission to go to the bathroom from Hampstead police officers as she was not free to leave, but her requests were denied. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 19.)

Detective Epperson... was assigned as lead investigator in this case. [He] arrived at the scene at 11:29 pm. He was informed that [Mr. Laderer] and [Plaintiff] had been detained since 11:02 pm. Ms. Winters provided Detective Epperson [with] more details about the "confrontation" [Mr. Laderer] and [Plaintiff] had with Mr. Demario. Ms. Winters stated that one hour before discovering Mr. Demario lying on the steps, she was having a conversation with him. [Mr. Laderer] and [Plaintiff] walked past them. Before entering their apartment, [Plaintiff] yelled something at the direction of Mr. Demario and then she slammed the door shut. Detective Epperson learned that Mr. Baker physically assaulted Mr. Demario in the past and threatened to kill him. At 12:02 am. Mr. Baker arrived at the scene and was placed in handcuffs and was being "detained" at the scene as well.... [At approximately 1:30 am, Detective Epperson ruled out Mr. Baker as a suspect and released him.]

(ECF No. 2-1 at 2-5.)

Plaintiff remained handcuffed on the curb for five hours until she was transported to an interrogation room at about 4:00 am on September 14, 2010. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 21.) She was then interrogated for an additional five hours by Epperson. ( Id. at ¶ 22.) During this interrogation, Plaintiff invoked her right to counsel on six occasions and was visibly sick, vomiting twice. ( Id. at ¶ 23.)

At about 4:12 am, when Epperson began questioning Plaintiff, she gave Epperson some general information about herself. (ECF No. 2-2 at 3.) Epperson then informed Plaintiff of her Miranda rights but told her that some of those rights did not apply to her because he had not charged her with a crime. ( Id. ) After Plaintiff's third request for an attorney, Epperson stopped questioning her but was subsequently ordered to reinterview Plaintiff by Plazio. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 24; ECF No. 2-3 at page 22 lines 19-24.) At 9:04, Epperson reentered the room and took a full statement. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 26.) At that time, he did not inform Plaintiff of her Miranda rights again. ( Id. )

During Plaintiff's interrogation, Epperson expressed to Plazio, Kasten, and Tregoning his concerns about the legality of continuing to question Plaintiff after she invoked her right to counsel and continuing to detain Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶ 27; see also ECF No. 2-4.) Epperson also voiced concerns to Tregoning, Galvin, and Daggett after Plaintiff's interrogation. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 28.) Epperson's concerns were memorialized in a memorandum authored by Corporal Walter Dayton on November 10, 2011. ( Id. at ¶ 29; ECF No. 2-5 at 7.) This memorandum was not turned over to Plaintiff or her counsel until March 1, 2012. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 31.) Further, Barnes, Galvin, and Daggett withheld exculpatory evidence and failed to disclose to Plaintiff "constitutional violations, namely illegal detention, seizure and interrogation procedures used against Plaintiff." ( Id. at ¶ 34.)

Plaintiff was charged on October 7, 2010 in a single count indictment "with Accessory After the Fact To Murder" and spent seventeen days incarcerated at the Carroll County Detention Center until she was able to post bond. ( Id. at ¶ 35; ECF No. 2-5 at 3.) In February and March, 2011, the Circuit Court for Carroll County held a hearing on "[Plaintiff] Defendant [Glover's] Motion to Suppress Evidence and Statements." (ECF No. 2-15 at 3.) On April 5, 2011, before the court issued a ruling on Plainitff's motion to suppress, as part of a plea agreement with the State, Plaintiff "entered a Not Guilty Statement of Facts (NGSF) plea to a single count of Obstructing and Hindering an Investigation." ( Id. at 3-4.) "The [Circuit] Court [for Carroll County] accepted the plea, and [Plaintiff's] sentencing was postponed to a date to occur after the trial of [Mr.] Laderer." ( Id. )

On October 11, 2011, Plaintiff filed a "Motion to Withdraw Not Guilty Statement of Facts Plea or, in the alternative, for New Trial." ( Id. at 4.) The Circuit Court held a hearing on this motion in February and March, 2012. ( Id. at 5.) During this hearing, Epperson admitted that his testimony at Plaintiff's suppression hearing had not been truthful and stated that "he had revealed to Assistant State's Attorneys Kelley Galvin, David Daggett, and possibly others in the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office, prior to the Glover suppression hearings, that he knowingly and intentionally interrogated Ms. Glover after she invoked because he was ordered to do so by command staff-specifically, by Major Nicholas A. Plazio, his immediate superior." ( Id. at 6.) The State conceded Plaintiff's motion for a new trial and the Court granted it, as well as a motion to disqualify Ms. Galvin from prosecuting Plaintiff. ( Id. at 5.) Finally, on March 7, 2012, the State entered a nolle prosequi as to all charges against Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶ 36.)

As a result of the State's actions, Plaintiff has "lost jobs, repeatedly been threatened, has and is being followed and otherwise has no peace and continues to suffer." ( Id. at ¶37.)

Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Carroll County, Maryland on August 23, 2013. (ECF No. 2.) Defendants removed the action to this Court on October 28, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) On November 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (ECF No. 22.) Presently before the Court are (A) Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for a more definite statement (ECF No. 4), (B) Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 11), (C) Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative to bifurcate (ECF No. 25), (D) Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 26), (E) Barnes, CCSAO, Daggett, Galvin, and Maryland's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 27), and (F) Hampstead's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 35).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) is a test of the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To pass this test, a complaint need only present enough factual content to render its claims "plausible on [their] face" and enable 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). The plaintiff may not, however, rely on naked assertions, speculation, or legal conclusions. Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556-57 (2007). In assessing the merits of a motion to dismiss, the court must take all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). If after viewing the complaint in this light the court cannot infer more than "the mere possibility of misconduct, " then the motion should be granted and the complaint dismissed. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

III. ANALYSIS

a. Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for a more definite statement (ECF No. 4) and Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 11)

Both Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for a more definite statement (ECF No. 4) and Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 11) were filed before Plaintiff filed her amended complaint. (Am. Compl.) As a technical matter, these two motions to dismiss are mooted by the filing of Plaintiff's amended complaint (Am. Compl.), which supersedes the original complaint. In cases like the present one, where the amended complaint is similar to the original complaint, this Court ordinarily gives defendants an opportunity to advise it of whether the motion to dismiss should be considered in relation to the amended complaint or whether defendants would like an opportunity to file a revised motion to dismiss that specifically addresses the amended complaint. Here, however, Defendants took it upon themselves to file new motions with the Court, namely Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative to bifurcate (ECF No. 25) and Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 26).

Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's motion to dismiss or in the alternative to bifurcate (ECF No. 25) specifically addresses the amended complaint. ( See ECF No. 25 at 3.) Therefore the Court shall consider Epperson, Kasten, Plazio, and Tregoning's original motion to dismiss or in the alternative for a more definite statement (ECF No. 4) as moot and deny it as such.

Holland and Riggio's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 26) incorporates by reference the memorandum of grounds and authorities filed along with their initial motion to dismiss (ECF No. 11-1.) The Court will therefore consider Holland and Riggio's original motion to dismiss (ECF No.11) as moot and will deny it as such but will consider Defendants' memorandum of grounds and authorities (ECF No. 11-1) as part of their second motion to dismiss (ECF No. 26).

b. Defendant Carroll County States Attorney's Office ("CCSAO")

Although the CCSAO is named as a defendant in this case, it is not named in any count of Plaintiff's complaint. (Am. Compl.) Plaintiff has conceded that her complaint fails to state a claim against the CCSAO. (ECF No. 30 at 7.) Therefore, the Court shall grant Barnes, CCSAO, Daggett, Galvin, and Maryland's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 27) as to Defendant CCSAO on the basis that the complaint (Am. Compl.) fails to state a claim against the CCSAO.

c. Section 1983 claims against Maryland and against Epperson, Plazio, Tregoning, and Kasten in their official capacities (Counts IX, X, XII)

Plaintiff's federal claims, pursuant to § 1983, against Defendant Maryland, as well as against Defendants Epperson, Plazio, Tregoning, and Kasten in their official capacities are barred by the fact that Maryland and Defendants Epperson, Plazio, Tregoning, and Kasten in their official capacities are not "persons" within the meaning of § 1983. Indeed, "neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are persons' under § 1983." Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 26 (1991) (quoting Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989)). Here, Defendant Tregoning, the Carroll County Sheriff, Defendant Kasten, a Major in the Carroll County Sheriff's Department, Defendant Epperson, a Detective in the Carroll County Sherriff's Department, and Defendant Plazio, a Detective Major in the Carroll County Sherriff's Department, are all state officials. Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 321 F.Supp.2d 642, 651 (D. Md. 2004) ("Accordingly this Court concludes that the St Mary's County Sheriff and his Deputies are state officials when acting in their law enforcement capacities. It follows that the official capacity claims raised against Voorhaar and Alioto under § 1983 are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.") (Emphasis added). See Hovatter v. Widdowson, No. Civ. CCB-02-2904, 2004 WL 2075467 at *4 (D. Md. Sept. 15, 2007) ("Judges in this court have found that sheriffs and their deputies are state officials, and thus not subject to suit under § 1983.") (collecting cases). See also Md. Const. art. IV § 44 (designating Maryland county sheriffs as state constitutional officials); Rucker v. Harford County, 558 A.2d 399, 407 (Md. 1989) (holding that sheriffs and their deputies are state employees as a matter of Maryland law). But see Doston v. Chester, 937 F.2d 920, 927-933 (4th Cir. 1991) (The court held that depending on the particular function a Maryland County Sheriff is performing, he may sometimes be a county employee in addition to, or instead, of a state employee. Specifically, the court found that "[t]he Sheriff held the final policymaking authority for the County over the operation and management of the County Jail.") (Emphasis added); Durham v. Somerset County, Maryland, No. WMN-12-2757, 2013 WL 1755372 at *3 n.3 (D. Md. April 23, 2013) (holding that in an action regarding a Sheriff's decision to terminate the employment of a Deputy Sheriff, the Sheriff may not be a state official for purposes of § 1983). Therefore, Count IX will be dismissed as to Defendants Epperson and Plazio in their official capacities, Count X will be dismissed as to Defendant Maryland and as to Defendants Kasten and Tregoning in their official capacities, [5] and Count XII will be dismissed as to Defendants Kasten and Tregoning in their official capacities.

d. Count IX (Violation of rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution) against Defendants Epperson, Plazio, Holland, and Riggio

In Count IX, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Epperson, Plazio, Holland, and Riggio violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by depriving her of rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, namely the rights "not to have her person or property unlawfully searched, seized, detained in an unreasonable manner, not to be deprived of her liberty without due process of law, not to be summarily punished or be compelled to be a witness against herself." (Am. Compl. at ¶ 84.) Defendants Epperson, Plazio, Holland, and Riggio have asked the Court to dismiss Count IX on the basis that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); (ECF Nos. 25, 26.)[6], [7]

A claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 has four requirements: "(1) a violation of rights protected by the federal Constitution or created by federal statute or regulation, (2) proximately caused, (3) by the conduct of a person (4) who acted under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State...." 1 Martin A. Schwartz, Section 1983 Litigation: Claims and Defenses § 1.04[A] (4th ed. 2013 suppl.) (collecting cases). Further, where a suit is against a government official in his official capacity, as opposed to his individual capacity, there is a fifth element, namely that the violation of Plaintiff's federal right was attributable to enforcement of a municipal policy, practice, or custom. Id. Here, Plaintiff has sued Defendants Epperson, Plazio, Holland, and Riggio in both their individual and official capacities. (Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 6, 7, 10, 11.)

The Court begins by evaluating Plaintiff's claim that she was "unlawfully searched, seized, detained in an unreasonable manner." (Am. Compl. at ¶ 84.) As the Fourth Amendment provides an explicit source of textual protection against government seizure, it provides the frame of analysis for Plaintiff's claim that she was unlawfully searched and seized. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394-95 (1989).

The first step in any Fourth Amendment analysis is determining whether there was a seizure. In resolving this first step, the "crucial test is whether, taking into account all of the circumstances surrounding the encounter, the police conduct would have communicated to a reasonable person that he was not at liberty to ignore the police presence and go about his business.'" Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 437 (1991) (quoting Michigan v. Chesternut, 486 U.S. 567, 569 (1988)). Here, it is clear Plaintiff was seized. She was handcuffed by Holland and Riggio, who informed her that she was being detained; she was not at liberty to leave and use a restroom; and she was ...


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