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Little v. Estes

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

February 24, 2015

LAWRENCE LITTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
DONAL ESTES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Lawrence Little (the "Plaintiff"), pro se, sued Donald Estes, [1] Herbert Segar, Brandon Chambers, and Cedric Booth[2] (collectively the "Defendants"), for false arrest and related violations of his constitutional rights. Pending is the Defendants' motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, summary judgment. No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the following reasons, the Defendants' motion, construed as a motion to dismiss, will be granted.

I. Background[3]

A. Procedural History of Federal Suit

On May 23, 2013, the Plaintiff sued the Defendants for false arrest and related violations of his constitutional rights. ECF No. 1. The Plaintiff alleged that on February 27, 2012, several police officers arrested him based on false statements that he had been video recorded buying narcotics. ECF No. 1 at 2.

On May 23, 2013, the Plaintiff moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. On May 28, 2013, the Court granted the Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 3. In the May 28, 2013 order, the Court also dismissed the claims against the "Eastern District Police Station" because it is not an entity subject to suit. ECF No. 3 at 1. The Court directed the Clerk to mail four copies of the U.S. Marshal service of process form to the Plaintiff to complete and return within 21 days. Id. The May 28, 2013 order also provided that: "The U.S. Marshal IS DIRECTED to effectuate service of process on the Defendants at the addresses provided by [the Plaintiff] on the service form once they [are] returned. If the U.S. Marshal intends to effect service by mail, it shall do so by CERTIFIED MAIL, RESTRICTED DELIVERY." ECF No. 3 at 2 (emphasis in original).

On May 30, 2013, the Plaintiff moved for leave to amend the complaint.[4] On May 30, 2013, the Plaintiff also returned the U.S. Marshal service of process forms, directing the U.S. Marshal to serve each Defendant at the headquarters of the Eastern District of the Baltimore Police Department. See ECF No. 5-1. On June 20, 2013, the Marshal served the Defendants by certified mail at the address provided by the Plaintiff. ECF No. 6.

On October 7, 2013, the Plaintiff moved for default judgment. ECF No. 8. On January 22, 2014, the Court denied the Plaintiff's motion for default judgment because he had failed to properly serve the Defendants, and ordered the Plaintiff to show good cause why the complaint should not be dismissed. ECF Nos. 15-16. On February 6, 2014, the Plaintiff responded to the Court's order. ECF No. 17. On April 1, 2014, the Court ordered new service of process. ECF Nos. 18-19.

On April 14, 2014, summonses were returned executed as served on Booth, Chambers, and Segar. ECF No. 21. Their answers were due on May 1, 2014. Id. The summons for Estes was returned unexecuted. ECF No. 22. On May 6, 2014, the Plaintiff moved for default judgment. ECF No. 24.

On May 30, 2014, the Defendants, including Estes, filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, summary judgment. ECF No. 26. The Defendants asserted that the Plaintiff's claims were barred by res judicata because he had previously filed three complaints in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City. ECF No. 26-1 at 1-2. On June 11, 2014, the Plaintiff opposed the motion. ECF No. 33. The Plaintiff asserted that he had voluntarily dismissed the state court actions in order to file in federal court. Id. On June 16, 2014, the Defendants replied. ECF No. 35.[5] On June 30, 2014, the Plaintiff moved for leave to file a surreply. ECF No. 37.

On December 16, 2014, the Court granted the Plaintiff's motion to file a surreply, denied his motion for entry of default, and ordered the parties to supplement the motion to dismiss "informing the Court of the nature and content of [the state court proceeding], including whether a merits determination was made." ECF No. 39. On December 22, 2014, the Defendants filed their supplemental brief, including a recording of the state court proceeding. ECF No. 41. On December 29, 2014, the Plaintiff submitted his response, in which he continued to maintain that there had been no state court hearing and that he had voluntarily dismissed the case. ECF No. 42.

B. The State Court Proceedings

On February 27, 2013, the Plaintiff filed three cases in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City against the Defendants.[6] See ECF Nos. 26-2; 26-3; 26-4. The three cases were numbered XXXX-XXXX, XXXX-XXXX, and XXXX-XXXX. Id. On May 3, 2013, the Defendants moved to consolidate XXXX-XXXX and XXXX-XXXX. ECF No. 26-4. The district court granted the motion. Id. On May 6, 2013, the separate court proceeding for XXXX-XXXX set for July 10, 2013 was cancelled. ECF No. 33-1 at 10. On the same day, the court sent a reminder to the parties about the proceedings for XXXX-XXXX set for July 10, 2013.[7] ECF No. 35-2 at 1.

On June 17, 2013, the district court dismissed case XXXX-XXXX at the Plaintiff's request. ECF No. 26-6. In his motion to voluntarily dismiss, the Plaintiff stated that he wanted the case to be dismissed "without prejudice" so that he could file his claims in this Court. ECF No. 33-1 at 8.[8] The Plaintiff mistakenly believed that he had ...


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