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Gray v. Unidentified Metro Transit Police Officers 1

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 9, 2017



          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.

         Presently pending and ready for resolution is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Ronald A. Pavlik, Jr., Kevin P. Gaddis, Adam Fields, Emily Woodward Deutsch, and A. Thompson (collectively, the “Defendants”). (ECF No. 33). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background[1]

         Defendants are employees in various positions in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”). WMATA operates a police unit called the Metro Transit Police Department (“Transit Police”). Defendant Pavlik is the Chief of the Transit Police, and Defendant Gaddis is the Deputy Chief. (ECF No. 25, at 1). Defendant Thompson is a police officer for the Transit Police. (Id.). Defendants Deutsch and Fields are an attorney and a paralegal, respectively, in WMATA's Office of General Counsel. (ECF No. 36, at 5).[2]

         Plaintiff alleges that, on two separate occasions, he was unlawfully pulled over by Transit Police officers and issued traffic citations. (ECF No. 25, at 2). First, Plaintiff was stopped by three Transit Police officers, including Defendant Thompson, on July 22, 2011 (the “2011 Stop”). (Id.). Second, he was stopped by several unidentified officers on July 30, 2013 (the “2013 Stop”). (Id.). Plaintiff contends that the Transit Police officers who pulled him over were acting outside the geographic and legal scope of their authority. (Id. at 3-4).

         B. Procedural Background

         On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit in this court against the General Manager of WMATA, Richard Sarles, and three unnamed officers from the 2013 Stop, alleging violations of 18 U.S.C. § 241, 18 U.S.C. § 242, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1, at 1).[3] Plaintiff alleged that the 2013 Stop occurred outside Transit Police jurisdiction and that the citations he was issued during the stop were false charges. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff appears to have contested the citations, and he attached a trial summary from the District Court of Maryland for Prince George's County showing that the citations were dismissed. (ECF No. 1-1, at 1).[4] Although he made no allegations related to the 2011 Stop in his initial complaint, he also attached a similar trial summary issued by the same court for the 2011 Stop. (Id. at 2). On November 3, Defendant Sarles filed a motion to dismiss the case against him. (ECF No. 6). The court found that Defendant Sarles had been sued in his official capacity and that, in that capacity, he was immune from suits for torts committed by Transit Police officers performing governmental functions. (ECF No. 9, at 4). Because Plaintiff had failed to name or serve any of the other defendants, the court also ordered Plaintiff to show cause why the case against the three unnamed officers should not also be dismissed. (Id. at 8).

         Plaintiff responded, describing issues he was having identifying the unnamed officers (ECF No. 11), and the court granted him sixty days to identify the defendants by name, amend his complaint, and provide addresses for the service of process on these officers. (ECF No. 12, at 3). Over the next several months, Plaintiff filed multiple motions for discovery, which were denied because there were no defendants in the case to serve with discovery requests, and multiple motions for extension of time, which the court granted. (See ECF Nos. 13; 14; 16; 18; 20; 21). Plaintiff eventually filed an amended complaint naming Defendants Pavlik, Gaddis, and Fields, but the court ordered that no summons should be issued on the amended complaint. (ECF No. 21, at 2). Because there were no factual allegations pertaining to these three defendants in the body of the complaint, it appeared that Plaintiff was suing these Defendants in their official capacities and that the amended complaint “suffer[ed] from the same defects as his initial complaint against Mr. Sarles.” (Id.). Plaintiff was granted another extension of time to identify defendants, describe what each allegedly did wrong, and file a second amended complaint. (Id.). Plaintiff then moved for injunctive relief, seeking records related to the 2013 Stop from WMATA under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552. (ECF No. 22). The court denied that motion, explaining that WMATA was not a named defendant in this case and that Plaintiff must name WMATA as a defendant and serve it with process if he sought to allege his substantive claims against it or to challenge its response to his records requests. (ECF No. 24, at 3). Plaintiff then instituted a new civil action against WMATA for their alleged violations of public records laws. (See ECF No. 30). That case has been dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Gray v. WMATA, No. DKC-16-1792, 2017 WL 511910, at *3 (D.Md. Feb. 8, 2017).

         On May 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint, naming Defendants Pavlik, Gaddis, Fields, Deutsch, and Thompson. (ECF No. 25). For the first time, he alleged that the 2011 Stop was unlawful, and that Defendant Thompson was one of the officers who pulled him over in the 2011 Stop. (Id. at 2). The second amended complaint failed to identify any of the three officers involved in the 2013 Stop. (Id.).

         Counsel for WMATA accepted service on behalf of all Defendants on June 8 (ECF No. 31, at 2), and Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss on August 3 (ECF No. 33). Plaintiff responded, and Defendants replied. (ECF Nos. 36; 37).

         II. Standard of Review

         The 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 Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (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 (2009) (citations omitted).

         At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (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 ...

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