United States District Court, D. Maryland
LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.
Daimler Trust and Daimler Title Company ("Daimler
Title") filed suit on February 25, 2016, against
defendant Prestige Annapolis, LLC ("Prestige"), to
obtain possession of a 2016 Mercedes-Benz. ECF 1. The
Complaint, which is supported by two exhibits (filed
collectively as ECF 1-2), contains five counts: violation of
plaintiffs' due process rights under the Fourteenth
Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983 ("Â§ 1983")
(Count I); replevin (Count II); deprivation of property
without due process of law, in violation of Article 24 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count III); conversion (Count
IV); and Declaratory Relief (Count V). Id. Â¶Â¶
44-106. Plaintiffs also rely on 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1988 ("Â§
1988"). They allege that this Court has federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Â§ 1331 and diversity
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Â§ 1332. Id. Â¶Â¶
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6), Prestige
has filed a "Motion to Dismiss and Incorporated
Memorandum of Law" (ECF 13, the "Motion"),
which challenges, inter alia, the Court's
subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion.
ECF 15 ("Opposition"). Prestige has not replied and
the time to do so has expired. See Local Rule 105.2.
March 16, 2016, plaintiffs filed a "Motion to Release
Motor Vehicle Upon Court Approval of Bond and Request for
Issuance of Show Cause Order." ECF 9. I issued the
requested "Order to Show Cause" on March 28, 2016.
ECF 12. Prestige responded on April 29, 2016 (ECF 22),
seeking to dissolve the show cause order. By Order of May 9,
2016 (ECF 23), I postponed the show cause hearing and
directed plaintiffs to submit further briefing as to the
propriety of holding a show cause hearing in federal court
under Â§ 16-206 of the Commercial Law Article of the Maryland
Code (2013 Repl. Vol., 2015 Supp.). Plaintiffs subsequently
filed a "Reply Memorandum of Law in Further Support of
Motion to Release Motor Vehicle Upon Court Approval of
Bond" (ECF 24), which advances additional arguments in
opposition to the Motion.
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will grant
the Motion as to Count I and Count III and deny it in all
April 25, 2015, William Betteridge leased a silver, two-door
2016 Mercedes Benz AMG GT S (the "Vehicle") from an
automobile dealership in Annapolis, Maryland, pursuant to a
closed-end lease agreement (the "Lease Agreement").
ECF 1 Â¶ 19; ECF 1-2 at 1-2. The lessee has failed to make
monthly lease payments since September 18, 2015. ECF 1 Â¶ 24.
Plaintiffs maintain that the Vehicle is currently worth $137,
576. ECF 1 Â¶Â¶ 10, 43.
to the Vehicle was issued on June 2, 2015, and is held by
Daimler Trust as owner. ECF 1 Â¶Â¶ 21, 22. Plaintiffs allege
that "[t]he Lease Agreement was assigned to and became
the property of Daimler Trust, and as part of the transaction
Daimler Title Co. obtained a lien" on the Vehicle.
Id. Â¶ 20. Daimler Title has held the first priority
lien on the Vehicle since June 2, 2015. Id. Â¶ 23.
Trust is a Delaware Trust, whose trustee, BNY Mellon Bank of
Delaware, is a Delaware banking corporation. The sole
beneficiary of Daimler Trust is Daimler Trust Holding LLC,
whose sole member is Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA
LLC, whose sole member is Daimler Investments U.S.
Corporation, a Delaware Corporation." ECF 11 at 2;
see also ECF 1 Â¶ 7. Daimler Title is "a
corporation organized and existing by virtue of the laws of
the State of Delaware...." ECF 1 Â¶ 8.
contend that Prestige is currently "in control" of
the Vehicle. Id. Â¶ 9. According to plaintiffs'
supplemental briefing (ECF 11 at 2), Prestige "is a
Limited Liability Company organized under the laws of
Maryland, with a principal place of business in Maryland, and
a registered agent in Maryland. Public records indicate
Prestige's sole member is Omid Shaffaat, and public
records indicate Mr. Shaffaat is a Maryland resident."
maintain that Prestige made "modifications to make the
vehicle a racing-type car." ECF 1 Â¶ 32. According to
plaintiffs, "Daimler Trust and Daimler Title Co. did not
grant permission, consent or authority for any racing-type or
any other modifications to be done" to the Vehicle.
Id. Â¶ 31. An invoice from Prestige in
Betteridge's name, dated December 22, 2015, reflects a
"TOTAL AMOUNT DUE" from Betteridge to Prestige of
$11, 730. ECF 1-2 at 1. According to plaintiffs, the
"charges were not for repair" to the Vehicle, but
rather for the modifications made to it. ECF 1 Â¶ 32.
noted, Betteridge, the lessee of the Vehicle, made no lease
payments after September 18, 2015, and is in default of the
Lease Agreement. Id. Â¶ 24. On November 20, 2015, an
individual identifying himself as Betteridge's father
notified Daimler Trust that Betteridge could no longer pay
the lease payments and would return the Vehicle. Id.
Â¶ 25. On December 1, 2015, the same individual notified
Daimler Trust that the Vehicle was in Prestige's
possession. Id. Â¶ 26. On December 4, 2015,
Betteridge "telephoned Daimler Trust's
representative to advise that Prestige would return the
vehicle...." Id. Â¶ 27.
allege that they negotiated unsuccessfully with Prestige for
the return of the Vehicle. See id. Â¶Â¶ 28-35.
Plaintiffs assert, id. Â¶ 36: "On January 8,
2016, and without notice to Daimler Trust or Daimler Title
Co., Prestige requested that a lien company named Nationwide
Lien & Recovery, Inc. enforce a lien against [the Vehicle] in
the amount of $49, 084.00." Further, plaintiffs aver,
ECF 1 Â¶ 37: "Prestige's act of raising its lien
demand from $11, 730.00 to $49, 084.00 was done without the
knowledge, consent or authority" of the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs also allege, id. Â¶ 38: "Prestige
then served a Notice of Sale on the Lessee asserting that
[the Vehicle] would be auctioned on March 2, 2016 pursuant to
state law in order to enforce a lien claim of $50,
534.00." See ECF 1-2 at 2, "Notice of Sale
of Motor Vehicle to Satisfy a Lien."
to plaintiffs, "Prestige invoked the power of the State
of Maryland to impress a nonconsensual (supposed) lien for
$50, 534.00 in charges for unauthorized...
modifications" to the Vehicle. ECF 1 Â¶ 11. And, it did
so without affording plaintiffs notice and a hearing to
protect their interests by contesting the validity of
Prestige's claims. Id. Â¶ 15. Plaintiffs contend,
id. Â¶ 39: "Prior to impressing a purported lien
for $11, 730.00, and prior to increasing that lien claim to
$49, 084.00 and again to $50, 534.00, Prestige had not
provided any hearing before an impartial decisionmaker, with
adequate notice...." See also id. Â¶ 15.
Standard of Review
discussed, the Motion (ECF 13) is premised on Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction raises the issue of "whether
the court has the competence or authority to hear and decide
the case." Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d
792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). The question of subject matter
jurisdiction may be raised by the parties or the court,
sua sponte, at any stage of the litigation.
Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006);
see Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors Chassis,
Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 197 (4th Cir. 2008). Upon a
challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears
the burden of proving, by a preponderance of evidence, the
existence of jurisdiction. Robb Evans & Assocs., LLC v.
Holibaugh, 609 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2010); Evans
v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999);
see also United States ex. rel . Vuyyuru v.
Jadhau, 555 F.3d 337, 347 (4th Cir. 2009), cert.
denied, 558 U.S. 875 (2009); cf. Zoroastrian Ctr. &
Darb-E-Mehr of Metro. Washington, D.C. v. Rustam Guiv Found.
of New York, ___ F.3d ___, 2016 WL 2343251, at *5 (4th
Cir. May 4, 2016).
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and "may not
exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis."
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545
U.S. 546, 552 (2005). They "have an independent
obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction
exists, even when no party challenges it." Hertz
Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010).
challenge to subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1)
may proceed "in one of two ways": either a facial
challenge, asserting that the allegations pleaded in the
complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter
jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting "that
the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not
true.'" Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d
187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009)(citation omitted); see also
Buchanan v. Consol. Stores Corp., 125 F.Supp.2d 730,
736 (D. Md. 2001). In a facial challenge, "the facts
alleged in the complaint are taken as true, and the motion
must be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to
invoke subject matter jurisdiction." Kerns, 585
F.3d at 192; see also Ibarra v. United
States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997).
factual challenge, on the other hand, "the district
court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with
respect to subject matter jurisdiction." Kerns,
585 F.3d at 192. In that circumstance, the court "may
regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may
consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting
the proceeding to one for summary judgment. Velasco v.
Gov't of Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir.
2004); Evans, 166 F.3d at 647. That is, "the
court may look beyond the pleadings and the jurisdictional
allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has
been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact
subject matter jurisdiction exists." Khoury v.
Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003) (citation
omitted), aff'd, 85 Fed.Appx. 960 (4th Cir.
Prestige raises a facial challenge in that it asserts that
the allegations pleaded in the Complaint are insufficient to
establish subject matter jurisdiction. Under the
"well-pleaded complaint" rule, the facts showing
the existence of subject matter jurisdiction "must be
affirmatively alleged in the complaint." Pinkley,
Inc. v. City of Frederick, 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir.
1999) (citing McNutt v. Gen'l Motors Acceptance
Corp., 298 U.S. 178 (1936)). "A court is to
presume, therefore, that a case lies outside its limited
jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to
be proper." United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d
263, 274 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).
defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by
way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Goines v.
Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., ____ F.3d ____, 2016 WL
2621262, at *3 (4th Cir. May 9, 2016); McBurney v.
Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010),
aff'd sub nom. McBurney v. Young, ___
U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 1709 (2013); Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule
12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that,
even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the
complaint fails as a matter of law "to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted." Whether a complaint
states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the
pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It provides
that a complaint must contain a "short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief." The purpose of the rule is to provide the
defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and the
"grounds" for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain facts sufficient to "state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at
570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
684 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded
the pleading standard for all civil actions'...."
(citation omitted)); see also Simmons v. United
Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir.
2011). But, a plaintiff need not include "detailed
factual allegations" in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading
rules "do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for
imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim
asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby, ___ U.S.
___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).
the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere
speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d
342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). A complaint is insufficient if it
provides no more than "labels and conclusions, " or
"a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action, " is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at
satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the
complaint must set forth "enough factual matter (taken
as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action,
"even if... [the] actual proof of those facts is
improbable and... recovery is very remote and unlikely."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal quotations
omitted). Put another way, in reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion, a court "must accept as true all of the factual
allegations contained in the complaint, '" and must
"draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in
favor of the plaintiff.'" E.I. du Pont de
Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440
(4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Houck
v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th
Cir. 2015); Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522
(4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ____, 132
S.Ct. 402 (2011); Monroe v. City of Charlottesville,
579 F.3d 380, 385-86 (4th Cir. 2009), cert. denied,
559 U.S. 992 (2010). But, a court is not required to accept
legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "A
court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by
separating the legal conclusions from the factual
allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual
allegations, and then determining whether those allegations
allow the court to reasonably infer" that the plaintiff
is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without
A Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011),
cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1960 (2012).
motion asserting failure to state a claim typically
"does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the
merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses."
Edwards, 178 F.3d at 243 (quotation marks omitted);
see Houck, 791 F.3d at 484; Tobey v.
James, 706 F.3d 379, 387 (4th Cir. 2013). But, "if
all facts necessary to the affirmative defense clearly
appear on the face of the complaint, '"
or in other material that is the proper subject of
consideration under Rule 12(b)(6), such a defense can be
resolved on the basis of the facts alleged in the complaint.
Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th
Cir. 2007) (en banc) (citation omitted) (emphasis in
Goodman ); see Houck, 791 F.3d at
in resolving a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court is
"generally limited to a review of the allegations of the
complaint itself." Goines, 2016 WL 2621262, at
*3. See Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 510
F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007); Clatterbuck v. City of
Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013) (
abrogated on other grounds by Reed v. Town of
Gilbert, Ariz., ____ U.S. ____, 135 S.Ct. 2218 (2015),
as recognized in Cahaly v. Larosa, 796 F.3d 399 (4th
Cir. 2015)). Under certain limited exceptions, however, a
court may consider documents beyond the complaint without
converting the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment.
Goldfarb v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 791
F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015).
relevance here, a court may properly consider documents that
are "explicitly incorporated into the complaint by
reference and those attached to the complaint as
exhibits...." Goines, 2016 WL 2621262, at *3
(citations omitted); see U.S. ex rel. Oberg v.
Pennsylvania Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, 745 F.3d
131, 136 (4th Cir. 2014) (quoting Philips v. Pitt Cty.
Memorial Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009));
see Anand v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 754
F.3d 195, 198 (4th Cir. 2014); Am. Chiropractic Ass'n
v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir.
2004), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 979 (2004);
Phillips v. LCI Int'l Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618
(4th Cir. 1999). A court may also "consider a document
submitted by the movant that was not attached to or expressly
incorporated in a complaint, so long as the document was
integral to the complaint and there is no dispute about the
document's authenticity." Goines, 2016 WL
2621262, at *3 (citations omitted). To be "integral,
" a document must be one "that by its very
existence, and not the mere information it contains,
gives rise to the legal rights asserted.'"
Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal Sparrows Point,
LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 611 (D. Md. 2011) (citation
omitted) (emphasis in original).
"before treating the contents of an attached or
incorporated document as true, the district court should
consider the nature of the document and why the plaintiff
attached it." Goines, 2016 WL 2621262, at *5
(citing N. Indiana Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of
S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 455 (7th Cir. 1998)). "When
the plaintiff attaches or incorporates a document upon which
his claim is based, or when the complaint otherwise shows
that the plaintiff has adopted the contents of the document,
crediting the document over conflicting allegations in the
complaint is proper." Goines, 2016 WL 2621262,
at *5. Conversely, "where the plaintiff attaches or
incorporates a document for purposes other than the
truthfulness of the document, it is inappropriate to treat
the contents of that document as true." Id.
basis, I have considered the exhibits that plaintiffs
appended to their Complaint.
Motion advances two primary arguments. First, Prestige
contends that plaintiffs fail to state a claim under Â§ 1983
and, accordingly, that this Court lacks federal question
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Â§ 1331. See ECF
13 at 5. Second, Prestige maintains that this Court lacks
diversity jurisdiction because "the amount in
controversy between the diverse parties does not in fact
exceed $75, 000 as required by 28 USC Â§1332...."
Id. at 2. I shall address each argument in turn.
U.S.C. Â§ 1331; 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983; and 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1988
1331 of Title 28 of the United States Code grants federal
district courts "original jurisdiction of all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
the United States." As the Supreme Court has noted,
"there is no serious debate that a federally created
claim for relief is generally a sufficient condition for
federal question jurisdiction, " because in that case
"federal law creates the right of action and provides
the rules of decision." Mims v. Arrow Fin. Servs.,
LLC, ___ U.S. ____, 132 S.Ct. 740, 748 (2012) (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted). The "presence or
absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the
well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides that
federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is
presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint.'" Rivet v. Regions Bank of La.,
522 U.S. 470, 475 (1998) (citation omitted).
1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code states:
"Every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or
Territory... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen
of the United States or other person with 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...." It provides a private
cause of action for constitutional violations committed by
persons acting under color of state law. However, it "is
not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely
provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere
conferred.'" Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S.
137, 144 n. 3 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under Â§
1983 allows "a party who has been deprived of a federal
right under the color of state law to seek relief."
City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey,
Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999); see also
West v. Adkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988); Lugar v.
Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 928-930 (1982).
establish a claim under Â§ 1983, a plaintiff must prove: (1)
that the defendant, a person, "deprived [the plaintiff]
of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United
States;" and (2) that the defendant acted "under
color of [State] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage." Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301,
310 (4th Cir. 2001) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 952 (2001). Thus,
in order successfully to assert a claim of violation of
constitutional rights under Â§ 1983, the defendant must be a
state actor. In other words, "the
under-color-of-state-law element of Â§ 1983 excludes from its
reach merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or
wrongful.'" American Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v.
Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999) (citation omitted).
regard, the Fourth Circuit has described the "Bill of
Rights as a shield that protects private citizens from the
excesses of government, rather than a sword that they may use
to impose liability upon one another." Holly v.
Scott, 434 F.3d 287, 292 (4th Cir. 2006), cert.
denied, 547 U.S. 1168 (2006). Notably, the Fourth
Circuit has said: "[P]rivate activity will generally not
be deemed state action' unless the state has so dominated
such activity as to convert it to state action: Mere approval
of or acquiescence in the initiatives of a private party'
is insufficient.'" Wahi v. Charleston Area Med.
Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 616 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting
DeBauche v. Trani, 191 F.3d 499, 507 (4th Cir. 1999)
(alterations in Wahi ), cert. denied, 558
U.S. 1158 (2010).
"there are infrequently arising circumstances under
which the actions of an ostensibly private party will be
deemed to satisfy the color-of-law requirement."
Philips, 572 F.3d at 181. As the Fourth Circuit has
noted, "cases deciding when private action might be
deemed that of the state have not been a model of
consistency...." Mentavlos, 249 F.3d at 313
(citations and quotation marks omitted). But, "the
critical inquiry has remained constant. After examining the
relevant facts and circumstances, the inquiry in each case is
whether the conduct is fairly attributable to the
state." Id. (citations and quotation marks
omitted); see Philips, 572 F.3d at 182
("In the end, however, there is no specific formula'
for determining whether state action is present.... What is
fairly attributable [to the state] is a matter of normative
judgment, and the criteria lack rigid
simplicity.'")(quoting Holly, 434 F.3d at
292 (4th Cir. 2006)(alterations in Philips )).
Mentavlos, 249 F.3d at 313, the Fourth Circuit
explained various tests that it has employed to determine
whether the conduct of a private party may be "fairly
attributable' to the State." The Court said,
id. at 313-14:
[I]n Andrews v. Federal Home Loan Bank, 998 F.2d 214
(4th Cir. 1993), we identified four circumstances under which
the Supreme Court had held that a private party may be deemed
a state actor for purposes of Â§ 1983 liability:
(1) when the state has coerced the private actor to commit an
act that would be unconstitutional if done by the state; (2)
when the state has sought to evade a clear constitutional
duty through delegation to a private actor; (3) when the
state has delegated a traditionally and exclusively public
function to a private actor; or (4) when the state has
committed an unconstitutional act in the course of enforcing
a right of a private citizen.
Id. at 217; see also DeBauche v.
Trani, 191 F.3d 499, 507 (4th Cir. 1999), cert.
denied, 529 U.S. 1033, 120 S.Ct. 1451, 146 L.Ed.2d 337
In Haavistola [ v. Community Fire Co. of Rising
Sun, 6 F.3d 211 (4th Cir. 1993)], another panel of this
court summarized three situations in which conduct by a
private entity could be fairly attributable to the state: (1)
when a sufficiently close nexus exists between a regulated
entity and a state such that the actions of the former are
fairly treated as those of the state; (2) when the state
"has exercised coercive power or has provided such
significant encouragement that the action must in law be
deemed to be that of the state"; and (3) "when the
private entity has exercised powers that are traditionally
the exclusive prerogative of the state." [ Id.
] at 215 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Most recently, in Goldstein [ v. Chestnut Ridge
Volunteer Fire Co., 218 F.3d 337 (4th Cir. 2000)], we
emphasized the fact-based nature of the state action inquiry,
reiterating that "the state action determination
requires an examination of all the relevant circumstances, in
an attempt to evaluate the degree of the Government's
participation in the private party's activities." [
Id. ] at 342 (internal quotation marks omitted).
There, we identified several considerations which are
pertinent to the inquiry: (1) "whether the injury caused
is aggravated in a unique way by the incidents of
governmental authority"; (2) "the extent and nature
of public assistance and public benefits accorded the private
entity"; (3) "the extent and nature of governmental
regulation over the institution"; and (4) "how the
state itself views the entity, i.e., whether the
state itself regards the actor as a state actor."
Id. at 343 (internal quotation marks omitted). Like
its predecessors in this circuit, however, the
Goldstein decision summarized considerations already
set forth by precedent, and did not purport to overrule our
prior precedents or espouse new areas of inquiry. Indeed,
Haavistola summarized the standard set forth by the
Supreme Court in Blum [ v. Yaretsky, 457
U.S. 991, 1004-05 (1982)], see Haavistola, 6 F.3d at
215, which is still relied upon by the Court today,
see Brentwood [ Acad. v. Tennessee
Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288 (2001)].
Fourth Circuit concluded by identifying "the ultimate
inquiry": "Is there a sufficiently close nexus'
between the challenged actions of [the defendants] and the
State... such that their actions may be fairly treated as
that of the State itself.'" Mentavlos, 249
F.3d at 314 (quoting Brentwood Acad., 531 U.S. at
also rely on Title 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1988. It provides that in
federal civil rights actions "the court, in its
discretion, may allow the prevailing party... a ...