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Williams v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 4, 2014

TROY WILLIAMS,
v.
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY, et al.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by the Baltimore Police Department and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, ECF No. 6, as well as a partial motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Sergeant Brian Flynn and Detective Dane Hicks. ECF No. 11. The motions are fully briefed. Upon review of the Complaint, the briefing, and the applicable case law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that both motions will be granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises out of an alleged brutal attack on Plaintiff by Defendant Brian Flynn, an officer of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD). Plaintiff asserts that this attack, which occurred on July 22, 2011, was in retaliation for his submission a few weeks earlier of a complaint to the BPD concerning another attack he had witnessed by a different BPD officer on another individual. Plaintiff also asserts that this kind of misconduct was widespread in the BPD. The allegations in the Complaint are as follows.

On June 24, 2011, Plaintiff was taken into custody during a police raid of a local bar and was held in jail overnight. While in the jail, Plaintiff observed "John Doe #1" enter a cell and attack another individual who had been arrested in the same raid. ECF No. 1 ¶ 24. Upon release the next morning, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the BPD concerning the attack he had witnessed. On or about July 1, 2011, Plaintiff had a conversation with Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Russell of the BPD who was the supervisor of John Doe #1 and Defendant Flynn and, by happenstance, is also Plaintiff's cousin. Plaintiff inquired about the complaint he had filed and Russell responded that he had heard nothing about it, but would "get to the bottom of what happened." Id . ¶ 27.

A few weeks later, as Plaintiff was coming out of church in East Baltimore, an unmarked BPD cruiser driven by John Doe #1 approached him. Id . ¶ 30. Defendant Flynn jumped out of the passenger side of the vehicle and ran at Plaintiff. Flynn "began aggressively touching Mr. Williams' body" and swung his left fist at Plaintiff's head but Plaintiff was able to move out of the way. Id . Flynn then swung the police radio that he was holding in his right hand and hit Plaintiff on the top of his head with the radio. Plaintiff lost consciousness and awoke a few moments later lying in a pool of his blood with mechanical restraints on his wrists.

Shortly thereafter, a female BPD officer, Jane Doe #1, arrived in her police cruiser and recognized Plaintiff as a family friend.[1] She also informed Defendant Flynn that Plaintiff was Lieutenant Russell's cousin. Plaintiff alleges that "in what only could have been an effort to save face, " Flynn began questioning Plaintiff "where it' was, " pretending that he was searching for some sort of drugs or weapon. Id . ¶ 34. Plaintiff was then taken to the emergency room where the wound on his head was treated. Plaintiff asserts that Flynn instructed the emergency room staff to note in the medical records that Plaintiff was a heroin addict although Plaintiff denies that he is an addict or that Flynn had any reason to believe that he is an addict. Plaintiff was then falsely charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance but the charge was subsequently nolle prossed.

Plaintiff has filed a five count complaint in this Court naming as Defendants: the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City; Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake;[2] the BPD; BPD Commissioner, Anthony Batts; Brian Flynn; and Dane Hicks.[3] Plaintiff brings a Monell[4] claim against the BPD (Count One), arguing that the BPD had "policies, customs, and/or patterns, and practices encouraging and requiring officers to fabricate evidence, " "to use excessive force, " and "to intimidate civilians with unlawful physical force." Id . ¶¶ 43-45. Within that same count, Plaintiff also alleges that the BPD has failed to discipline, train, and supervise its personnel. In Count Two, asserted against Commissioner Batts in his individual and official capacities, Plaintiff alleges that Batts either knew or, in the exercise of due diligence, should have known that BPD officers, particularly those named in the Complaint, "posed a pervasive and unreasonable risk of harm to civilians." Id . ¶ 64. Plaintiff contends that Batts' failure to train and discipline his officers led to the incident of which he complains.

In Count Three, Plaintiff asserts an excessive use of force claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Flynn. Counts Four and Five are also claims under § 1983, Count Four for malicious prosecution and Count Five for false arrest and imprisonment. Named as Defendants in these last two counts are Defendants Flynn and Hicks. The Complaint is not at all clear as to the role played by Defendant Hicks, however, alleging only that "Defendant Flynn and Defendant Hicks falsely arrested and imprisoned Mr. Williams, " with no additional detail. Id . ¶ 51. These counts also allege, in addition to the underlying constitutional violations, conspiracies to violate those constitutional rights.

Defendant BPD has moved to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that the Complaint contains insufficient factual allegations to support a Monell claim, but instead, relies solely on formulaic legal conclusions. Defendant Batts moves to dismiss the claim against him on the ground that the Complaint contains no allegations that he had any direct contact with Plaintiff or direct involvement with the incident. ECF No. 6-1 at 13-15.[5] Although in his "Omnibus Opposition" to the motions to dismiss, Plaintiff suggests that Defendants are seeking to dismiss his Complaint in its entirety, Defendants Flynn and Hicks in their partial motion to dismiss seek only the dismissal of the conspiracy aspects of Counts Four and Five.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

To survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible when "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation marks and citations omitted). Rather, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id . In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver , 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994).

Of note, while Plaintiff's counsel references Twombly in his discussion of the legal standard for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), he actually relies on language from pre-Twombly/Iqbal decisions. Plaintiff's counsel posits that a claim can only be dismissed "if it appears beyond doubt that the [P]laintiff can prove no set of facts to support his allegations.'" ECF No. 12 at 11 (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. Forst , 4 F.3d 244 (4th Cir. 1993)). This standard, however, which originated in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41 (1957) was specifically abrogated in Twombly. 550 U.S. at 561-62. Elsewhere in his opposition, ...


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