United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
EARL D. JOHNSON, JR. Plaintiff,
MORLEY GAYFLOR, et al., Defendants.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Earl D. Johnson, presently an inmate at the Maryland
Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, Maryland, filed
this pro se lawsuit against Defendants, the
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
("DPSCS") and Sergeant Morley Gayflor (collectively,
"Defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Johnson claims that he was denied due process because Sgt.
Gayflor filed a false report against Johnson for possession
of a weapon. ECF No. 1. Johnson provided a supplement to the
Complaint at the Court's direction. See ECF Nos.
4 and 5. Defendants, by their counsel, have filed a Motion to
Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment,
ECF No. 16, to which Johnson has filed an Opposition. ECF No.
18. The matter is briefed and ready for disposition. The
Court finds a hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons to follow, the
Defendants' Motion, treated as a Motion to Dismiss, shall
filed suit on March 25, 2016, presenting claims arising from
the time he was incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional
Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland in July of201.. ECF No. 1
at 3. Johnson claims that on July 16, 2011, Defendant Gayflor
charged him with possession of a weapon. Id. Johnson
was found guilty after a disciplinary hearing and sanctioned
with 240 days of solitary confinement and loss of 18 months
of visiting privileges. Id., ECF No. 5 ¶ 4.
Johnson maintains that he was found guilty despite the
absence of a weapon, corroborating video footage, or evidence
that he was present in the recreation yard where a weapon was
found. ECF No. 1 at 3. He claims that because of
Gayflor's "'false report" he could have
been regarded as a "rat" and killed by prison gang
members. Id. Johnson presents no claim of injury. He
requests $2 million dollars in damages and other relief.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
may "test the adequacy of a complaint by way of a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)." Prelich v. Med.
Res.. Inc., 813 F.Supp.2d 654, 660 (D. Md. 2011) (citing
German v. Fox, 267 F.App'x 231, 233 (4th Cir.
2008)). Motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim do
"not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits
of a claim, or the applicability of defenses'"
Prelich. 813 F.Supp.2d at 660 (citing Edwards v.
City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999).
The court should not grant a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim for relief unless "it is clear that no
relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be
proved consistent with the allegations." GE Inv.,
Private Placement Partners II, Parker, 247 F.3d
543, 548 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing H.J. Inc. v.
Northwestern Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 249-50)
(1989)). To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must
allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief.
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
A claim is plausible when "the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
evaluating the sufficiency of the Plaintiffs claims, the
Court accepts factual allegations in the complaint as true
and construes the factual allegations in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver,
510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Ed. of Comm'rs
of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). In
addition, when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court
"may consider documents attached to the complaint, as
well as documents attached to the motion to dismiss, if they
are integral to the complaint and their authenticity is not
disputed." Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l
Hasp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal
citations omitted). The filings of self-represented
plaintiffs, as here, are to be liberally construed. See
Erickson v. Pardus, 55I U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
Nevertheles,, the complaint must contain more than
"legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and
bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement."
Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc.,
591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). The Court is not obligated
to accept unsupported legal allegations, Revene v.
Charles County Commissioners, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th
Cir. 1989) or legal conclusions couched as factual
allegations, Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286
claim that, to the extent they are sued as state agencies,
they are immune from suit, and that Plaintiffs claims against
them are time-barred by the applicable statute of
limitations. See ECF No. 16-1 at 6-7. Further,
Defendants argue that there was no violation of Johnson's
due process rights, and move to dismiss the Complaint for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
See Id. at 4-6.
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
threshold matter, the federal claims against DPSCS, and the
claims for damages against Gaytlor in his official capacity
are barred by the Eleventh Amendmen.. ECF No. 16-1 at 6-7.
Under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States
Constitution, a state, its agencies, and departments are
immune from suits in federal court brought by its citizens or
the citizens of another state, unless it consents. See
Pennhurst State Sch. and Hasp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S.
89, 100 (1984). While the State of Maryland has waived its
sovereign immunity for certain types of cases brought in
state courts, see Md. Code, State Gov't §
12-202(a), it has not waived its immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment for all suits in federal court. See Gray v.
Laws, 51 F.3d 426, 431-32 (4th Cir. 1995) (noting that
"it is well established that an unconsenting State is
immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own
citizens ...") (internal citations omitted). DPSCS is a
state agency. See Md. Code., Corr. Servs.
§1-101(f). Hence, the claims against DPSCS shall be
dismissed because it is immune from suit under the Eleventh
judgment against a public employee "in his official
capacity" imposes liability on the public entity.
See Brandon v. Holt. 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985)
(citing Monell v. New, York Dep't of Soc.,
Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978) (internal quotation
omitted)). The Complaint is silent as to whether the
allegations are raised against Sgt. Morley in his official or
personal capacities, or both. Thus, to the extent
Johnson's Complaint brings claims for damages against
Sgt. Gaytlor in his official capacity, they are tantamount to
claims against the State of Maryland, and must also be
Statute of Limitations
addition, Johnson's claims, arising from events in 2011,
are time-barred. "Section 1983 provides a federal cause
of action. but in several respects relevant here, federal law
looks to the law of the State in which the cause of action
arose. This is so for the length of the statute of
limitations: it is that which the State provides for
personal-injury torts." Wallace v. Kato, 549
U.S. 384, 387 (2007) (citing Owens v. Okure. 488
U.S. 235, 249-50 (1989)). In Maryland, the applicable statute
of limitations is three years from the date of the
occurrence. See Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. Code
§ 5-101. The question when a cause of action has accrued
under § 1983. however, is a federal question. See
Nassim v. AM House of Correction,64 F.3d 951, 955 ...