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Wright v. Maynard

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 26, 2015



CATHERINE C. BLAKE, District Judge.

For decades, Ronald Lee Wright has educated Maryland residents about the dangers of alcohol abuse, mostly via an educational program he administers. Beginning in 2011, officials of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene questioned the adequacy of that program's certification under Maryland law. On the basis of that dispute, Wright sues a host of state and county officials, as well as Baltimore County, under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 and 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242. Those defendants have moved to dismiss Wright's complaint for failure to state a claim. And Wright has moved via multiple filings to stay this action and to initiate criminal proceedings against the defendants. Those motions have been briefed, and no hearing is necessary to their resolution. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons described below, Wright's motions to initiate criminal proceedings will be denied and the defendants' motions to dismiss will be granted.[1]


For four decades, Wright has served as the pastor of the Merritt Park Baptist Church. ( See Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1.) And for nearly as long, he has served as an alcohol-abuse educator, primarily through the church's "Alpha Program." ( See id. ) State agencies, including the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation, referred individuals to the Alpha Program. ( See id. at ¶¶ 26, 34.) In September 2011, Wright allegedly discovered that "offenders" referred to the Alpha Program were failing to comply with court-ordered alcohol treatment. ( See id. at ¶¶ 38-39.) He then filed what he describes as a complaint, requesting what he calls an "audit" and simultaneously warning certain state personnel of "a catastrophic public safety issue" associated with the inadequate treatment of "offenders." ( See, e.g., id. at ¶¶ 42-45.) Several of Wright's former students or other persons allegedly in need of alcohol abuse education subsequently committed violent acts, which Wright attributes to their inability to obtain the treatment they required. ( See id. at ¶¶ 71-72, 75.)

At roughly the same time, officials of the Department of Parole and Probation began to question whether the certification of the Alpha Program was adequate. ( See id. at ¶ 37, 40-41, 45.) In early 2012, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a cease and desist order to the Alpha Program. ( See id. at ¶ 49.) Officials of the Department of Parole and Probation acquired that order and shared it with administrative judges of the Circuit Court and District Court for Baltimore County. ( See id. at ¶ 51.) After that event, an employee from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene attempted to assist Wright in obtaining certification for the Alpha Program. ( See id. at ¶¶ 52-54, 57.) Wright did not accept that help, insisting that the Alpha Program was "a self-help program" that did not need to be certified. ( See id. at ¶¶ 53, 55, 57-58.)

Wright alleges that questioning the Alpha Program's certification harmed his reputation, including his capacity to speak at local colleges. ( See id. at ¶¶ 51, 89(e)-89(h).) He adds that state officials have never "charged [him] of any wrong doing [sic], " an omission that allegedly deprives him of an opportunity to "clear [his] name and restore the integrity of the Merritt Park Baptist Church Alpha Program." ( Id. at ¶ 63.)

Wright alleges that he has sought some form of redress from the Baltimore County State's Attorney, the former Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and the U.S. Department of Justice. ( See id. at ¶¶ 73, 74, 76, 77.) Those entities have not responded to his requests.

On the basis of these and related facts detailed in his complaint, Wright invokes 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, asserting violations of the First, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as two criminal statutes, 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242. He sues each of the individual defendants in both their personal and official capacities, alleging that many of them "failed to take reasonable steps to end the unlawful conduct alleged in this complaint." ( See id. at ¶¶ 6-11, 15-19.) In addition, he sues Baltimore County, both for its alleged policies and on a theory of respondeat superior.

Wright is not represented by counsel.


I. Motions to Initiate Criminal Proceedings

In a series of filings, Wright has repeatedly sought to stay proceedings and initiate the criminal process, either by charging the defendants he has named in his complaint or, conversely, charging himself.[2] The court lacks the power to grant those motions. "[T]he Executive Branch has exclusive authority and absolute discretion to decide whether to prosecute a case." Greenlaw v. United States, 554 U.S. 237, 246 (2008) (quoting United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 693 (1974)). For this reason, "federal courts have traditionally and, to [the Second Circuit's] knowledge, uniformly refrained from overturning, at the instance of a private person, discretionary decisions of federal prosecuting authorities not to prosecute persons regarding whom a complaint of criminal conduct is made." Inmates of Attica Corr. Facility v. Rockefeller, 477 F.2d 375, 379 (2d Cir. 1973). Where, as here, private persons move a federal court to compel state prosecuting authorities to charge would-be defendants under state law, principles of federalism counsel still greater deference. Cf. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 106 (1984) ("[I]t is difficult to think of a greater intrusion on state sovereignty than when a federal court instructs state officials on how to conform their conduct to state law.").

Accordingly, Wright's motions to stay this case and initiate criminal ...

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