United States District Court, D. Maryland
HAROLD HAMILTON HODGE, JR., et al.
COLLEGE OF SOUTHERN MARYLAND, et al
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Hamilton Hodge, Jr., Plaintiff, Pro se, Prince Frederick, MD.
Nicole Hodge, Plaintiff, Pro se, Prince Frederick, MD.
College of Southern Maryland (CSM), Dr. Bradley M. Gottfried,
President of CSM, Sue Subocz, VP of Academics Affairs Math
Dept., Loretta McGrath, Richard B. Fleming, Jeffrey Potter,
Richard Welsh, Matthew Schatz, Ricardo " Doe" ,
Charlie " Doe" , CSM Computer Tech, Defendants:
Steven David Frenkil, LEAD ATTORNEY, Miles and Stockbridge
PC, Baltimore, MD.
Calvert County Local Government, official and unofficial
capacity, Charles County Local Government, Official and
Unofficial capacity, Defendants: John F Breads, Jr, Law
Office of John F Breads Jr, Hanover, MD.
State of Maryland, Official and Unofficial capacity,
Defendant: Elizabeth Lynn Adams, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the
Attorney General, Tort Litigation, Annapolis, MD.
K. CHASANOW, United States District Judge.
pending and ready for review in this civil rights case are
several motions to dismiss filed by Defendants College of
Southern Maryland and its affiliated Defendants, Calvert
County Local Government, Charles County Local Government, and
the State of Maryland. (ECF Nos. 15, 21, and 26). The
relevant issues have been briefed, and the court now rules,
no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the
following reasons, the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants
will be granted.
Harold Hodge and Chante' Hodge, proceeding pro
se, filed this action on September 5, 2014 against
College of Southern Maryland (" CSM" ); Dr. Bradley
M. Gottfried, President of CSM; Sue Subocz, Vice President of
Academic Affairs in CSM's Math Department; Loretta
McGrath; Richard B. Fleming; Jeffrey Potter; Richard Welsh;
Matthew Schatz; Ricardo " Doe" ; Charlie "
Doe" ; Calvert County Local Government; Charles County
Local Government; and the State of Maryland. (ECF No. 1).
Along with their complaint Plaintiffs filed motions to
proceed in forma pauperis, which were granted. (ECF
Nos. 2, 5, and 6). The complaint asserts multiple civil
rights violations and other claims relating to events that
occurred between 2009 and 2013 while Plaintiffs were enrolled
as students at CSM. Plaintiffs seek $500,000 in compensatory
damages from each individual Defendant, and $3,500,000,000 in
exemplary damages for the injuries they purportedly suffered
as a result of incidents described below. (ECF No. ¶
crux of Plaintiffs' complaint is that Mr. Hodge received
a final grade of " D" when he had purportedly
earned a " C" in the entry-level math class that he
was enrolled in during the spring 2013 semester at CSM. Mr.
Hodge appealed his final grade seeking to have it changed to
a " C" but Plaintiffs allege that the Vice
President of CSM's Math Department, Sue Subocz, refused
to change his grade, stating that Mr. Hodge had miscalculated
his math grade and that his final grade of " D" was
correct. (ECF No. 1, at 6-7). Thereafter, Mr. Hodge submitted
multiple written complaints to various CSM administrators and
the President of CSM, Bradley Gottfried, demanding that his
grade be changed to a " C." These individuals
allegedly did not respond except for Ms. Subocz, who rejected
his complaint that his math grade was incorrect. Plaintiffs
assert that CSM and its administrators " racially
discriminat[ed] and maliciously depriv[ed]" him of his
final math score. ( Id. ¶ 38). When Mr.
Hodge's written complaints received no response,
Plaintiffs allegedly filed official " intent to
sue" notices with Defendants on September 19, 2013. (ECF
No. 1 ¶ 36). Plaintiffs allege that because Mr. Hodge
received a " D" in the math course, he was unable
to transfer to a four-year University as he had planned, and
Mrs. Hodge was required to delay her transfer to a four-year
university as well because she refused to transfer without
her husband. Plaintiffs allege that " in great
humiliation" Mr. Hodge enrolled in an entry-level math
course at Prince George's Community College ("
PGCC" ) in January 2014 even though he had already
passed the math course at CSM. Plaintiffs further allege that
this math class was harder than the course at CSM and
required Mr. Hodge to drive an hour to get to PGCC. Mr. Hodge
allegedly passed the course at PGCC with a " C"
grade, which enabled him to transfer to a four-year
university with Mrs. Hodge. Plaintiffs assert that they began
attending the University of the District of Columbia ("
UDC" ) starting in August 2014 to work towards earning
Bachelor of the Arts and Juris Doctor degrees. ( Id.
complaint references a number of other unrelated incidents
that occurred between 2009 and 2013 while Plaintiffs were
enrolled as students at CSM. These other incidents also serve
as a basis for the claims Plaintiffs assert. Only a relevant
sampling of the incidents will be discussed here. Plaintiffs
allege that in October 2009, CSM's librarian, Jeffrey
Potter, " maliciously" threw away Mr. Hodge's
math homework completion certification that was sitting on
the library printer even though he knew that it belonged to
Mr. Hodge. (ECF No. 1 ¶ ¶ 52-56). Mrs. Hodge, while
attending a CSM sponsored field trip to the " Black Wax
Museum" in Baltimore in October 2009, was "
left in Baltimore" and the bus driver had to turn the
bus around to go get her. ( Id. ¶ ¶
68-70). Mr. Hodge asserts that in January 2010 he checked his
grades online and noticed that CSM had added to his grade
report two classes from 1986 that Plaintiff never took, which
caused his grade point average (" GPA" ) to drop
from 3.5 to 1.7. Plaintiffs assert that CSM " falsely
added and intentionally meant to damage" Mr. Hodge by
adding these classes. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 63). Based on the
these incidents and others referenced in the complaint,
Plaintiffs assert that CSM was " a hostile and racially
discriminatory environment for both [of them,] but they
endured the environment because they had a right to be at
(CSM) which was receiving Federal and state funds" for
education. ( Id. ¶ 73).
complaint also cites several incidents in which CSM
professors limited the Hodges' self-expression in the
classroom. For example, Plaintiffs allege that in November
2010 CSM Professor Richard Welsh refused to let Mrs. Hodge
express her opinions in class, and when Mr. Hodge mentioned
that an African American woman was one of the first female
pilots, Professor Welsh accused Mr. Hodge of lying.
Plaintiffs assert that: " It was clearly understood that
defendant Wel[s]h had a problem of her being an African
American plane flyer. Moreover, at the end of the semester
the defendant Welsh sent the plaintiffs an email and said:
' I hope that you and she find appropriate forum[s]
for you to present your personal opinions.' (
Id. ¶ ¶ 66-67) (emphasis in original).
Plaintiffs also assert that in October 2013 they took a class
with CSM Professor Matthew Schatz. Plaintiffs assert that
Professor Schatz " maliciously skipped over the Civil
Rights section of the text book and would not even attempt to
teach on it" even though it was in the syllabus. (
Id. ¶ 78). Plaintiffs also assert that at some
point during a class discussion on welfare policy, Professor
Schatz indicated that he " wanted to keep race out of
the matter[.]" ( Id. ¶ 78). They further
allege that Professor Schatz " would allow
'white' students to express any view point they
wanted, but he told the Plaintiff Mrs. Hodge she could not
and indirectly [told]  Mr. Hodge [the same thing.] It got
so bad in the class [that] the 'white' students were
even trying to stop the plaintiff Mrs. Hodge from stressing
her view point[.]" ( Id. ¶ 78). Plaintiffs
assert that " this atmosphere was maliciously and
racially discriminatorily created by the (CSM) Welfare Policy
instructor." ( Id. ¶ 78).
complaint asserts ten purported causes of action arising from
these events: (1) violation of Plaintiffs' Fourteenth
Amendment rights to equal protection and due process; (2)
violation of the Equal Opportunity Act of 1995; (3) 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; (4) race discrimination; (5) loss of consortium;
(6) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (7)
defamation-libel; (8) false light invasion of privacy; (9)
violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of
1974; and (10) pain and suffering.
three separate motions, Defendants moved to dismiss the
complaint on various grounds pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF Nos. 15, 21, and 26).
Plaintiffs filed an opposition (ECF No. 34), and Defendant
CSM replied (ECF No. 36).
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b) (6) is to
test the sufficiency
of the complaint. Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A
complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which
requires a " short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). " Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a
'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of
entitlement to relief." Bell A. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167
L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). That showing must consist of more than
" a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action" or " naked assertion[s] devoid of further
factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)
(internal citations omitted).
stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be
considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994), and all
factual allegations must be construed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison v.
Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th
Cir. 1999) ( citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v.
Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In
evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need
not be accepted. Revene v. Charles Cnty.
Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events.
United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844,
847 (4th Cir. 1979).
while courts generally should hold pro se pleadings
" to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers," they may nonetheless dismiss
complaints that lack a cognizable legal theory or that fail
to allege sufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594,
30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Turner v. Kight, 192
F.Supp.2d 391, 398 (D.Md. 2002), aff'd, 121
F.App'x. 9 (4th Cir. 2005) (unpublished).
are no strangers to this court. They have filed numerous
civil lawsuits over the years in the United States District
Court for the District of Maryland, including: Hodge v.
Stephens, No. 12-cv-01988-AW, 2013 WL 398870 (D.Md. Jan.
31, 2013); Hodge v. Bd. of Cnty. Com'rs, No.
RWT-10-2396, 2010 WL 4068793 (D.Md. Oct. 15, 2010); Hodge
v. Calvert Cnty, No. PJM 09-2252, 2009 WL 2884928 (D.Md.
Sept. 4, 2009); Hodge v. St. Mary's Cnty.
Sheriff's Office, No. PJM 08-2522, 2009 WL 8708855
(D.Md. June 22, 2009); and Hodge v. Taylor Gas Co.,
No. DKC-05-319, 2005 WL 5501493 (D.Md. June 21, 2005).
current suit, although Plaintiffs' complaint almost
exclusively discusses their grievances with CSM, they have
also named several local county governments and the state of
Maryland as Defendants. All Defendants have moved to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Because
Plaintiffs are proceeding in forma pauperis, the
court is also required to dismiss their case if it "
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted."
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
The County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
state only one allegation in their complaint pertaining to
Calvert County, Maryland and Charles County, Maryland local
governments (the " County Defendants" ). Plaintiffs
assert that County Defendants violated Plaintiff Harold
Hodge's Fourteenth Amendment rights by " turning a
blind eye to Mr. Hodge's complaints" regarding his
reported math class grade. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 88). Plaintiffs
assert a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the County
Defendants based on this single allegation. ( Id.
¶ 97). The County Defendants move to dismiss the
complaint arguing that the it does not state any viable
claims against them because it does not contain any factual
allegations showing that the County Defendants " played
any role in any of the events  or that any of the named
individual Defendants currently are or were at the time [of
the events in question] local government employees."
(ECF No. 15-1, at 2). In addition, the County Defendants
contend that the complaint fails to state a proper §
1983 claim based on the standard for municipal liability set
forth in Monell v. Department of Social Services of City
of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611
the Monell standard, " a municipality can be
found liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only where the
municipality itself causes the constitutional
violation at issue." City of Canton, Ohio v.
Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385, 109 S.Ct. 1197, 103 L.Ed.2d
412 (1989) (emphasis in original). Municipalities are not
liable under respondeat superior principles for the
constitutional violations of their employees simply because
of the employment relationship. Monell, 436 U.S. at
692-94. " Liability arises only where the
constitutionally offensive acts of city employees are taken
in furtherance of some ...