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Saleem Muwwakk'el v. Haefner

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 18, 2015

DEREK JACQUETTE SALEEM MUWWAKK'EL, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER HAEFNER and OFFICER CREER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Derek Jacquette Saleem Muwwakk'el ("Plaintiff" or "Muwwakk'el") brings this pro se action against Officer Timothy Haefner ("Haefner") and Officer Paul Creer ("Creer") ("Defendants") of the Baltimore City Police Department, alleging violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 1-2.

Currently pending before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff has filed a Response to Defendants' Motion (ECF No. 8), as well as several supplementary filings in support of his position (ECF Nos. 9, 10, 11). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) is GRANTED and this case is DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND

This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the Complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Moreover, a Plaintiff filing pro se is held to "less stringent standards" than is a lawyer, and the Court must liberally construe his claims, no matter how "inartfully" pled. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted); accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 724 (4th Cir. 2010) (observing that liberal construction of a complaint is particularly appropriate where a pro se plaintiff alleges civil rights violations).

It appears from Plaintiff's Complaint that Mr. Muwwakk'el has suffered a series of setbacks over the past several years. The complaint includes court documents related to the 2011 foreclosure of his residence at 2327 Linden Avenue in Baltimore. Pl.'s Compl., at 12-33. Mr. Muwwakk'el's Complaint also includes administrative and court documents related to his violation of Maryland traffic and vehicle safety laws in 2012 and 2013. Id. at 36-37, 42-43. While the Complaint contains Maryland State Court orders showing that the State did not pursue criminal charges for the 2012 violations, Id., at 43, other allegations in the Complaint suggest that Plaintiff's automobile was impounded in conjunction with these offenses. Id. at 62-69. Though other sections of Mr. Muwwakk'el's Complaint allude to his efforts to recover the automobile and his property therein, Id. at 45-50, Mr. Muwwakk'el apparently failed to comply with the provisions of Maryland's Local Government Tort Claims Act ("LGTCA"), Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-301, et seq., when making such efforts. See "Heinrich Affidavit, " Pl.'s Compl., at 52, ECF No. 1-2.

In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants Haefner and Creer acknowledge that Plaintiff's Complaint against them arose out of Plaintiff's encounters with Defendants at separate traffic and vehicle safety stops in 2012 and 2013. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, 1-2, ECF No. 5-1.

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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). 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 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). In Twombly, the Supreme Court 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. 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 short, 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 664. Finally, "[w]hile pro se complaints may represent the work of an untutored hand requiring special judicial solicitude, ' a district court is not required to recognize obscure or extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to unravel them.'" Weller v. Dept. of Social Servs. for City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 397, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985), cert denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986)).

ANALYSIS

Section 1983 creates a private right of action for any United States citizen seeking to remedy alleged constitutional violations, specifically:

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 ...

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