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Franklin v. Office of Baltimore City State's Attorney

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

February 24, 2015



WILLIAM D. QUARLES Jr., District Judge.

Byron Franklin sued the Office of the Baltimore City State's Attorney and others[1] for violating his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Maryland state law claims. Pending is the Defendants' motion to dismiss.[2] No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

I. Background[3]

On October 25, 2013, the Plaintiff's next-door neighbor, Matthew Clagett, began "ferociously banging" on the adjoining wall between his and the Plaintiff's apartments so that the Plaintiff would turn his music down. ECF No. 2 at ¶¶ 10-11. While banging on the wall, Clagett "aggressively yell[ed] the anathema epithet N*gger...."[4] Id. at ¶ 11. After several minutes of banging and yelling, "Clagett left his apartment to then start banging aggressively on [the] Plaintiff['s] [] door." Id. at ¶ 12. The Plaintiff opened the door and stood "within his threshold." Id. at ¶ 13. Clagett "yell[ed] and scream[ed] more N*gger epithets and spit[] into [the] Plaintiff's face." Id.

The Plaintiff felt "threatened and in fear of imminent bodily injury due to Clagett being within the threshold of his doorway and committing a battery upon him with spit...." ECF No. 2 at ¶ 13. The Plaintiff "pushed Clagett out of the threshold of his doorway." Id. "Clagett hit the floor, got back up[, ] and took a swing at [the] Plaintiff...." Id. at ¶ 14. The Plaintiff "defended himself again, and the matter was over."[5] Id. On October 26, 2013, the Plaintiff and Clagett filed criminal assault and battery charges against each other. ECF No. 2 at ¶ 15.[6]

On December 6, 2013, [7] "Assistant State's Attorney Wes Corning, with the approval of his supervisor, Assistant State's Attorney, Oana Brooks... dismissed the charges against Clagett... without providing any notice to Plaintiff."[8] ECF No. 2 at ¶ 16. "[T]he true-test copy of the District Court of Maryland court record... shows that [] Clagett's assault charge was disposed of by a nolle prosequi." ECF No. 5-2 at 3 (citing ECF No. 5-3 at 2). The Plaintiff alleges that the dismissal violated Maryland's Victim's Rights Act, and was done "solely because Clagett is white and [the] Plaintiff is African American." ECF No. 2 at ¶ 16.

Although the State dismissed the case against Clagett, it "maintained the prosecution of the assault charges against [the] Plaintiff...." ECF No. 2 at ¶ 18. "[The] Plaintiff, [a] law professor, had no criminal convictions and Clagett, an arcade mechanic, had been previously convicted for assault, drug and paraphernalia possession, and [had] an initial peace order taken out against him...." Id. at ¶ 22. When it dismissed the charges against Clagett, "the State was aware of Clagett's violent criminal history." Id.

The Plaintiff refiled the charges against Clagett, but again, the State's Attorney's Office declined to prosecute. ECF No. 2 at ¶¶ 19-20. The Plaintiff met with Corning and Brooks "to inquire why his charges against Clagett were dismissed." Id. at ¶ 19. During the meeting, the Plaintiff "protested the racial disparity in [his] treatment." Id. at ¶ 20. After the Plaintiff's mention of race, "Brooks[] became disinterested in his complaint." Id. The Plaintiff told Corning and Brooks that he was going to refile the charges, but - "told [him that] he was prohibited at that point from doing so." Id.

On June 17, 2014, the Plaintiff sued the Defendants in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City alleging that Corning, Brooks, and Bernstein "intentionally, maliciously, and/or with gross negligence, violated Plaintiff's rights under [Maryland's Victim's Rights Act], and thus the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by twice dismissing charges of assault duly filed by the district court commissioner against... Clagett, without first obtaining from [the] Plaintiff his agreement to do so... solely because [the] Plaintiff was African American and Clagett was white." ECF No. 2 at ¶¶ 37-38. The Plaintiff asserts that the State's Attorneys violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. See id. at ¶¶ 37-38, 45. Further, the Plaintiff alleges that the Office of the State's Attorney violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by having

a policy, practice, and/or custom of selectively prosecuting African Americans who are charged with assaulting whites in cross-complaints filed by both the parties (African Americans against whites, vice versa), alleging the same conduct (arising out of the same facts), while dismissing on pre-trial motions (without notice or agreement), and thus declining to prosecute, whites charged with assaulting African Americans in the corresponding cross-complaints filed by African Americans, where the African Americans are victims.

ECF No. 2 at ¶ 93.

On July 24, 2014, the Defendants removed the case to this Court. ECF No. 1. On July 25, 2014, the Defendants moved to dismiss. ECF No. 5. On August 21, 2014, the Plaintiff opposed the motion. ECF No. 13. On September 18, 2014, the Defendants replied. ECF No. 26.

II. Analysis

A. Legal ...

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