United States District Court, D. Maryland
W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Christopher Mossburg ("Mossburg") claims the State
of Maryland violated Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA") by failing to provide him
with a reader in two separate but related legal proceedings,
one criminal and one civil. Mossburg proceeded pro
se in both cases, as he does now in this case. The State
filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for
summary judgment. After reviewing the filings, and the
transcripts, the Court determines that no hearing is
necessary. Local Rule 105.6. Because the transcripts reveal
that Mossburg was able to participate in both legal
proceedings and Mossburg has pled no facts to contradict the
transcripts, the State's motion to dismiss shall be
alleges that he suffers from learning disabilities that
impact his ability to read and write. ECF No. 22, at 2; ECF
No. 30-5. This case arises first out of a criminal case in
the Circuit Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County, where
Mossburg pled guilty to possession of marijuana. ECF Nos.
25-2 through 25-6. The second is a civil case in the District
Court of Maryland for Montgomery County, which was dismissed
for failure to state a cause of action. ECF No. 25-7.
December 22, 2011, four days after he was arrested for
traffic violations and possession of marijuana, Mossburg
visited the Office of the Public Defender ("OPD")
to determine if he wanted to be represented by a public
defender or private counsel. ECF No. 22, at 1. Mossburg
requested that the OPD record the conversation because of his
disability, and the public defender obliged him. Id.
at 2. Mossburg told the public defender he did not want the
OPD to enter its appearance until he consented. Id.
The OPD asked him to sign a form Mossburg alleges he could
not read accurately. Id. On December 26, 2011,
Mossburg alleges the OPD entered their appearance on his
behalf in the criminal proceedings. Id. Mossburg
further alleges that he was not able to talk to private
attorneys because his case file showed he was represented by
the OPD. Id. at 2.
8, 2012, Judge Nancy D. Loomis signed an order approving
Mossburg's formal request for ADA accommodation for his
disability. ECF No. 25-10, at 13. The following day, at a
status conference, a public defender showed up to represent
Mossburg. ECF No. 25-2, at 2. Judge Michele D. Jaklitsch
listened to the recording of the December 22 conversation,
and ordered the public defender's appearance stricken
from the file. Id. at 6. Mossburg told the court he
wanted time to decide if he wanted representation.
Id. Judge Jaklitsch told him he had until the trial
set for July 11, 2012 to decide if he wanted representation.
the order to strike the appearance from his file, the public
defender still appeared on the case file. It appeared even
after Judge William C. Mulford, II reissued a similar order
at a status hearing on July 27, 2012. ECF No. 25-3, at 5-6.
Mossburg called Charles Dorsey, the person the court
administrator told him could fix the issue, to try to remove
the public defender from his case file. ECF No. 22, at 6.
Dorsey allegedly told Mossburg he should not have signed a
document he could not read entirely, because "that's
not what normal people do, " and hung up. Id.
than a month after the status hearing, on September 4, 2012,
the court granted Mossburg's motion to postpone because
of his inability to retain counsel due to the appearance of
the public defender on his file. ECF No. 25-8. The court
postponed the trial to October 10, 2012. Id. At the
pre-trial hearing on October 10, the court noted the public
defender still appeared on the file. ECF No. 22, at 7.
July 27 status hearing, Judge Mulford asked Mossburg if he
wanted representation or if he wanted to represent himself.
ECF No. 25-3, at 5-6. Mossburg protested to the judge that
his insistence on a yes or no answer regarding his desire to
represent himself or seek counsel was a "fastball."
Id. at 9. Judge Mulford said the case had already
gone on much longer than an ordinary case involving the same
charges, and said, "[T]his case is [not] going on a
fastball track, you're not even at t-ball league at this
point in time, we're still so far behind. You're
sitting in toddler stage where right now daddy is over the
crib saying, ‘Goo-goo, ga-ga.'" Id.
Judge Mulford told Mossburg he could speak to the prosecutor,
and told the prosecutor to explain Mossburg's charges.
Id. at 9. Mossburg alleges the prosecutor refused to
speak to him about the case. ECF No. 22, at 5.
August 9, 2012, Douglas M. Hofstedt, court administrator,
emailed Mossburg to explain the court was not required to
provide him with a reader to help him with research, but
assured him he would have a reader at court appearances to
read to him any written material referred to during the
proceedings. Id. at 6; ECF No. 22-5, at 2 ("If
there is any written material that will be referred to at
trial, a member of the Court staff will read it out loud for
you, if you request.").
October 10, the day of the trial, Mossburg requested a third
postponement because the witnesses he subpoenaed were not
present. ECF No. 22, at 9. Judge Mulford, the postponement
judge for that day, denied his request. ECF No.
25-5. Mossburg argued that the absence of Dr.
Michael April, his subpoenaed witness, merited postponement
of the trial. Id. at 6. He tried to explain the
recent law allowing for an affirmative defense for possession
of marijuana if the defendant was using the marijuana to
treat a debilitating medical condition. Id.;
see Md. Code. Ann., Criminal Law § 5-601(c)(3).
Mossburg held up a printed Maryland Annotated Code and said,
"I have the book. I can't read it very well, but I
can show it to you." ECF No. 25-5, at 6.
Mossburg attempted to explain the relevant law. Id.
Judge Mulford stated the law seemed only to apply to possible
punishment if and when a defendant is found
guilty. Id. at 7. Judge Mulford,
believing the presence of Dr. April would only be relevant at
the sentencing hearing, denied the postponement request.
Id. at 9.
reader was present at the pre-trial hearing later that same
day. Id. at 7. Judge Laura S. Kiessling asked
Mossburg if his disability had any impact on his ability to
understand that day's proceedings. ECF No. 25-4, at 6-7.
Mossburg replied, "Not at all." Id.
Mossburg accepted a plea agreement that dropped the traffic
charges. Id. At sentencing on November 27, 2012, the
court sentenced Mossburg to probation before judgment without
any supervised probation, only requiring him to pay court
costs. ECF 25-6, at 12.
subsequently filed a civil suit against Dr. April in the
District Court of Maryland for Montgomery
County. ECF No. 22, at 9. At the pre-trial hearing
on July 24, 2013, Judge Audrey Creighton recognized
Mossburg's ADA request for a reader had been granted, and
attempted to obtain a reader for him. ECF No. 23-6, at 5.
While a reader was being located, the court discovered that
Mossburg had not properly served his witness and that he
sought a postponement. Id. at 6-7. The court then
inquired as to Mossburg's cause of action, eventually
finding, after substantial discussion, that there was no
cause of action. Id. at 57-58, 75-76. During the
discussion, Mossburg remarked that "I'm getting
asked a lot of questions, I'd love to be reading you know
what I have to you but the readers are not here-."
Id. at 12. Eventually the court recessed to
determine when a reader would arrive. Id. at 33.
When court resumed, Judge Creighton reported that a reader
could arrive "in about an hour and a half."
Id. Judge Creighton continued to discuss
Mossburg's potential causes of action with him, and Dr.
April's counsel and Judge Creighton reviewed
Mossburg's Complaint and read from it. See,
e.g., id. at 40. After much discussion, Dr.
April agreed to redact the objectionable material in
Mossburg's record, provide his records to him, and
reimburse him for ten dollars he spent on faxes. Id.
at 55-56, 75. Judge Creighton granted the motion to dismiss.
Id. at 75.