United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
February 24, 2017, plaintiff Raymond Drumgoole, who is
confined at the Eastern Correctional Institution
(“ECI”), filed this self-represented, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 civil rights action seeking compensatory and
punitive damages, stating that on May 15, 2015, he was
arrested in a traffic stop by a transit officer for
possession of a handgun. He files suit against the
“Governor of Baltimore” and the unnamed state
court judges and prosecutors who presided over and prosecuted
his case, along with the police officer who arrested and
charged him. Drumgoole claims that he was falsely accused,
arrested, and imprisoned in Baltimore City. He asserts that
the prosecutors “use[d] unprofessional tactics to try
to convict me, ” and all judges should have dismissed
the case prior to his 11-month pre-trial confinement on
“unconstitutional actions.” He states that he was
found not guilty and that “all defendants operate under
the Governor.” ECF No. 1, p. 3.
sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Although the
Fiscal Administrator at ECI was granted a period of time to
file necessary account information under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(b)(1) (ECF No. 4), no account information has been
received. Therefore, no initial partial filing fee shall be
assessed. Drumgoole's motion for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis shall be granted, subject to the collection of
partial filing fees at a later date under 28 U.S.C. U.S.C.
forma pauperis statute authorizes district courts to dismiss
a case if it is satisfied that the action fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted, is frivolous or
malicious, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who
is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). Because Drumgoole is proceeding in forma
pauperis, the court must conduct a sua sponte screening of
his complaint. It must dismiss any part of the action which
is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
state court docket shows that on June 3, 2015, Drumgoole was
charged with several counts of firearm and handgun
possession, and was thereafter acquitted of all those charges
on March 28, 2016. State v. Drumgoole Case Nos.
115154007 & 1151544008 (Circuit Court for Baltimore
Therefore, his claims, generously construed as alleging false
arrest and imprisonment, as well as malicious prosecution,
may proceed in part.
claims are subject to dismissal as filed against the unnamed
judges and prosecutors assigned to his criminal cases as they
are entitled to absolute immunity under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. It is well-established that judges, in exercising the
authority vested in them, are absolutely immune from civil
lawsuits for money damages. See Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991) (per curiam) (“A long line of this
Court's precedents acknowledges that, generally, a judge
is immune from a suit for money damages.”); Chu v.
Griffith, 771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985); see also
Mandel v. O'Hara, 320 Md. 103, 107, 576
S.2d 766, 768 (1990) (“Absolute ‘immunity
protects ... judges . .. so long as their
acts are “judicial” ... in nature and within the
very general scope of their jurisdiction' ”).
Judicial immunity applies to judicial action taken in error,
done maliciously, or in excess of authority. See Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). Essentially, a
judge is entitled to absolute immunity if the judge acted in
his judicial capacity and had jurisdiction over the subject
matter. See King v. Myers, 973 F.2d 354, 356-57 (4th
Cir. 1992). Accordingly, a plaintiff alleging a claim for
money damages against a judge can overcome absolute judicial
immunity only by showing (1) the judge's actions were
taken outside of the judge's judicial capacity or (2) the
judge acted in the complete absence of jurisdiction.
Id. Drumgoole has not made such a showing.
the complaint for damages may not proceed against the unnamed
prosecutors. A prosecutor is a quasi-judicial officer who
enjoys absolute immunity when performing prosecutorial, as
opposed to investigative or administrative, functions.
See Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31 (1976);
Springmen v. Williams, 122 F.3d 211, 212-13 (4th
Cir. 1997); Lyles v. Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 376-77
(4th Cir. 1996). General decisions whether or not to
prosecute a case fall within those prosecutorial functions.
Drungoole has filed a complaint against the “Governor
of Baltimore.” There is no known dignitary under that
name. To the extent that Drumgoole's complaint may be
generously construed to raise a complaint against Maryland
Governor Larry Hogan, he has failed to state a claim. Under
§ 1983, individual liability must be based on personal
conduct. See Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850
(4th Cir. 1985); see also Foote v. Spiegal, 118 F.3d
1416, 1423 (10th Cir. 1997). Drumgoole has failed to allege
any personal liability of the part of the Governor.
as Drumgoole is alleging that Governor Hogan is liable in his
supervisory capacity for the actions of his employees,
Drumgoole has failed to state a claim. Under Shaw v.
Stroud, 13 F.3d 791 (4th Cir. 1994), supervisory
liability may attach under § 1983 if a plaintiff can
establish three elements. These are: (1) “that the
supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his
subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed ‘a
pervasive and unreasonable risk' of constitutional injury
to citizens like the plaintiff”; (2) “that the
supervisor's response to that knowledge was so inadequate
as to show ‘deliberate indifference to or tacit
authorization of the alleged offensive practices'
”; and (3) “that there was an ‘affirmative
causal link' between the supervisor's inaction and
the particular constitutional injury suffered by the
plaintiff.” Id. at 799 (citations omitted).
state court judges, prosecutors, and police officers are not
“subordinates” of the Governor. The Governor has
no direct supervisory authority over individual state's
attorney's offices, judges, or police officers.
Therefore, no claim has been stated against Governor Hogan.
Drumgoole may not proceed against the unnamed police officer
involved in arresting and charging him on state criminal
firearm and handgun counts. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a) provides that
“the complaint must name all the parties.” A
plaintiff may name a “John or Jane Doe” as a
defendant when the identity of a defendant is unknown.
Boyd v. Gullet, 64 F.R.D. 169 (D. Md. 1974).
However, a district court is not required “to wait
indefinitely” for the plaintiff to provide the
defendant's true identity to the Court. Figueroa v.
Rivera, 147 F.3d 77, 83 (1st Cir.1998) (quoting
Glaros v. Perse, 628 F.2d 679, 685 (1st Cir.1980)).
Drumgoole's original complaint does not furnish the names
of the Defendant officer who issued a criminal complaint and
charged Drumgoole with the handgun and firearm offenses.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a) provides that “the complaint must
name all the parties.” A plaintiff may name a
“John or Jane Doe” as a defendant when the
identity of a defendant is unknown. Boyd v. Gullet,
64 F.R.D. 169 (D. Md. 1974). However, a district court is not
required “to wait indefinitely” for the plaintiff
to provide the defendant's true identity to the Court.
Figueroa v. Rivera, 147 F.3d 77, 83 (1st Cir.1998)
(quoting Glaros v. Perse, 628 F.2d 679, 685 (1st
Cir.1980)). The court shall grant Drumgoole sufficient time
to amend his complaint to name the police
officers. In the event that Drumgoole fails to do
so, he is cautioned that his complaint with respect to the
unnamed police officer hall be dismissed without prejudice.
Drumgoole has filed a motion to appoint counsel. He claims
that he is unable to afford counsel, his imprisonment greatly
limits his ability to litigate the case, the issues in the
case are complex, he has limited access to the prison law
library and limited knowledge of the law, and an appointed
counsel would better enable him “to present evidence
and cross-examine witnesses” should his case go to
trial. ECF No. 3.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) permits a court to request an
attorney to represent an litigant, it “does not
authorize the federal courts to make coercive appointments of
counsel.” Mallard v. U.S. District Court for the S.
Dist. of Iowa, 490 U.S. 296, 309-10 (1989). A district
court need not request an attorney's assistance pursuant
to § 1915(e)(1) unless the case presents complex issues
or exceptional circumstances. See Whisenant v. Yuam,
739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984). Exceptional
circumstances include a litigant who “is barely able to
read or write, ” id. at 162, or clearly
“has a colorable claim but lacks the capacity to
present it, ” Berry v. Gutierrez, 587
F.Supp.2d 717, 723 (E.D. Va. 2008); see also Altevogt v.
Kirwan, No. WDQ-11-1061, 2012 WL 135283, at *2 (D. Md.
Jan. 13, 2012).
case presents no clear, exceptional circumstances warranting
representation pursuant to § 1915(e)(1). He has capably
filed his self-represented complaint and motions and, at this
stage of the proceedings, has failed to show a particular
need or exceptional circumstances which would require the
assistance of a trained practitioner. Therefore, the motion
to appoint ...