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Fields v. Montgomery County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 26, 2014

STEFAN L. FIELDS Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY MONTGOMERY COUNT POLICE DEPT. MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE OFFICER C. BRODZINSKIC Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

I. Background

This undated[1] self-represented prisoner civil rights Complaint, received for filing on November 18, 2013, raised a false arrest claim against Montgomery County, Maryland, Montgomery County Police Department, and Montgomery County Police Officer C. Brodzinskic.[2] Plaintiff, who is currently confined in a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility, invokes this court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1346 and 1357 and its supplemental and pendant jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 1345 & 1367. In the cause of action filed against Montgomery County Defendants, which has been construed as a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint, Plaintiff alleges in toto that:

"[O]n or about 7-21-2010 I was arrested for the charge of theft and 2nd degree burglary. I was held for 2 days in the county jail and was eventually released once I saw the Commissioner on my own recognizance. I was given home confinement for 4 months, and the case was eventually released for lack of evidence on 11-15-2010."

ECF No. 1, p. 6.

Plaintiff claims that he was arrested and held in the county jail for that 48-hour period on a charge that he did not commit. He additionally alleged that he was placed on house arrest for four months further "restricting plaintiff's life and liberty." ECF No. 1, p. 11. He seeks $6, 000, 000.00 in damages. Id., p. 1

On January 13, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the Montgomery County Police Department is not an entity subject to suit and that Plaintiff's claims against Montgomery County and Brodzinski are barred under the applicable three-year statute of limitations and/or are not viable because they are "devoid" of any facts to support a civil right claim. ECF No. 5. Plaintiff opposes Defendants' Motion claiming that his complaint, setting out a claim of false arrest, was filed within the three-year statute of limitations and is thus timely. ECF No. 10. Defendants have submitted a Reply and Plaintiff has filed a Surreply, which Defendants seek to strike.[3] ECF Nos. 11, 12 & 13. The case is ready for the court's consideration. Oral hearing is unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For reasons to follow, the Motion to Dismiss shall be granted.

II. Standard of Review

The purpose of a motion to dismiss under 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). 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, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed 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 evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted. See Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

III. Analysis

Plaintiff has named the Montgomery County Police Department as a Defendant in this action. Police Departments are not suable entities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See, e.g., Lyons v. Edgefield County Police, No. 8:05-2503-MBS, 2006 WL 3827501, at *3 (D.S.C. Dec. 28, 2006) (police department not a separate suable entity amenable to suit); Waller v. Butkovich, 584 F.Supp. 909, 925 (M.D. N.C. 1984) (police department not amenable to suit); see also Terrell v. City of Harrisburg Police Dep't, 549 F.Supp.2d 671, 686 (M.D. Pa. 2008) ("It is well-settled that police departments operated by municipalities are not persons' amenable to suit under § 1983."); Petaway v. City of New Haven Police Dep't, 541 F.Supp.2d 504, 510 (D. Conn. 2008) ("[A] municipal police department is is not subject to suit under section 1983 because it is not an independent legal entity."); Buchanan v. Williams, 434 F.Supp.2d 521, 529 (M.D. Tenn. 2006) (concluding that "police departments are not bodies politic' " and therefore are not persons subject to action under § 1983). Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted against the Montgomery County Police Department. The claim against that entity shall be dismissed.

The remaining Defendants Montgomery County and Brodzinski, argue that Plaintiff's claim is barred by the statute of limitations. To the extent that Plaintiff wishes to raise a pendant common-law false arrest claim, it would be "co-extensive" with the Due Process Clause, Fourth Amendment, and First Amendment, respectively, and is construed in a like matter with those federal protections. Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cnty., Md., 684 F.3d 462, 468 n. 3 (4th Cir. 2012); Richardson v. McGriff, 361 Md. 437, 452-53, 762 A.2d 48 (1999); Doe v. Dep't of Pub. Safety and Corr. Servs., 185 Md.App. 625, 636, 971 A.2d 975 (2009).

The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense that a party typically must raise in a pleading under Rule 8(c) and is not usually an appropriate ground for dismissal. See Eniola v. Leasecomm Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 520, 525 (D. Md. 2002); Gray v. Metts, 203 F.Supp.2d 426, 428 (D. Md. 2002). Dismissal is proper, however, "when the face of the complaint clearly reveals the existence of a meritorious affirmative defense." Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem, N.C. , 85 F.3d 178, 181 (4th Cir. 1996); see 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357, at 714 (3d ed. 2004) ("A complaint showing that the governing statute of limitations has run on the Plaintiff's ...


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