United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
RONALD H. POSYTON, III, Plaintiff,
MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.
W. Grimm United States District Judge
Ronald Posyton, III enrolled at the University of Maryland,
College Park for about a month in 2015, where he lived in a
dormitory. During that time, University of Maryland Police
Department (“UMPD”) officers came to his dorm
room twice, once entering briefly and the second time asking
him to accompany them to the station, where they questioned
him for three and a half hours. Upset by these interactions,
Posyton withdrew from the university and filed suit against
the police officers (“Individual Defendants”) in
their individual and official capacities, as well as the
State of Maryland.
is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint with Prejudice and/or for Summary Judgment, ECF No.
33. Because, as Posyton concedes, he cannot state a claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State, those claims
will be dismissed. And, because the Individual Defendants are
immune to suit in their individual capacities with regard to
Posyton's state constitutional tort claims, I will
dismiss those claims as well. Defendants fail to establish
Eleventh Amendment or qualified immunity, however, and
Posyton has stated claims against the Individual Defendants
in their individual capacities under § 1983 and Maryland
under state law.
this case will proceed to discovery with regard to those
claims, and I will appoint pro bono counsel for Posyton, for
the limited purpose of advising him throughout the discovery
period, without entering an appearance or representing him in
transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park
(“UMCP”) at the beginning of fall semester 2015,
and he lived in a dormitory. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶
16-22, ECF No. 26; Pl.'s Aff. to Clarify ¶ 1, ECF
No. 32. Late on September 19, 2015, he
“snorted his prescription medications (one 10mg
Adderall pill) in the vantage-point of his roommate, ”
who “asked Mr. Posyton ‘to either stop snorting
the substance or leave the room because it [was] not allowed
in the residence halls.'” Pl.'s Aff. to Clarify
¶ 2. Posyton left the room, and his roommate reported
his actions to the “RA” (Residential Advisor);
another RA called the University of Maryland Police
Department (“UMPD”). Id. ¶¶
2-3. UMPD officers went to Posyton's dorm room but,
because he was not there, they asked the RA “to contact
UMPD when Mr. Posyton was located.” Id. ¶
4. At about 12:30 p.m. on September 20, 2015, the RA learned
that Posyton was in his dorm room, asleep, and she called
UMPD. Id. ¶¶ 6-7.
UMPD officers responded to her call. Id. ¶ 7;
Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-22. They knocked on
Posyton's room door, waking him. Second Am. Compl. ¶
23. He opened the door and “backed away slowly, and sat
down in a chair.” Id. ¶ 25. After
speaking briefly with Posyton while standing in the hallway,
Officer Brian Naecker asked if he and the other officers
(John Doe 1, John Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4) could enter;
“[i]n response to NAECKER's request, MR. POSYTON
unequivocally did absolutely nothing.” Id.
Naecker took two steps into the room, Posyton “yelled,
‘No!'” and Nacker left the room, continuing
his conversation from the hallway. Id. ¶¶
claims that Doe 4 “reminded [him] to take his
prescription medications, ” he went to his bathroom to
do so, and invited Naecker to accompany him. Second Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 30-31, 33; Pl.'s Aff. to Clarify
¶ 18. Naecker “walk[ed] over to Mr. Posyton's
bed and start[ed] looking around, ” instead of
accompanying him to the bathroom. Pl.'s Aff. to Clarify
¶ 19. When Posyton returned, he saw Doe 1 standing five
feet inside his room; Does 3 and 4 failed to stop Doe 1 from
entering. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30-31, 33.
Ultimately, the officers “decided to vacate the
premises”; Posyton asserts that he “never felt
free to terminate the encounter.” Id. ¶
September 23, 2015, Officers William Mable, Michael Thomas
and John Doe 2 went to Posyton's dorm room. Second Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 38, 40. The officers had their weapons,
but not their body cameras with them. Id.
¶¶ 40, 43. When Posyton opened the door, Mable
said, “We'd like you to come down to the station
for questioning.” Id. ¶ 44. Posyton
agreed to go and invited the officers in, although as he sees
it, he “believed that MABLE was getting prepared to
imminently pull him from his home, ” and “MR.
POSYTON would have been chastised by UMCP's Code of
Conduct if he had refused.” Id.
¶¶ 48-49. Additionally, he “believed that he
had no choice other than to travel to ‘the station,
'” and because the officers were not in uniform,
“during brief moments, he believed that he was being
kidnapped.” Id. ¶ 54. Posyton asked to be
questioned in his dorm room, but Mable simply repeated that
they wanted him to go to the police station. Id.
¶¶ 47, 53. Thomas showed Posyton his badge on the
way to the officers' unmarked car. Id. ¶
55. Thomas and Doe 2 ordered Posyton to sit in the front
seat, which Posyton perceived as an “attempt to
cover-up [his] seizure.” Id.
police station, the officers brought Posyton to a room, which
they “covertly video record[ed], ” and where they
took a photograph of him. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶
56-57. Posyton states that he “was never told that he
was free to leave, ” and he informed the officers that
he was “really scared” and concerned that
“he would be expelled from UMCP's program”
for being at the station. Id. ¶¶ 61-63. He
claims that “MABLE and THOMAS implied that they would
not enlighten UMCP of MR. POSYTON's situation if he
cooperated, which effectively induced MR. POSYTON into
expressing every cognizable act of possible
wrongdoing.” Id. ¶ 65. Within less than
two minutes, “MR. POSYTON . . . confess[ed] to every
offense that he ever committed, ” including that
“he made brief contact with an unknown person on their
‘shin.'” Id. ¶¶ 66-67. He
provided a statement. Id. ¶¶ 69-72.
then admitted “to having said something sexual to
GAREY, ” after having “previously denied [it]
approximately 14 times”; he claims that Thomas
“coerce[d] him” and said he would not “get
in trouble.” Id. ¶ 72. When Posyton asked
if he could open the door, “THOMAS chuckled and left
THE ROOM.” Id. ¶ 70. He was
“released” after three and a half hours.
Id. ¶ 75. He claims that this was a
“false confession” and that he would not have
been “released . . . if he had not provided a
confession.” Id. According to Posyton,
“MABLE's and THOMAS's primary objective was to
capture MR. POSYTON's photograph” while he was at
the station. Id. ¶ 76. Mable included
Posyton's photograph in a photo line-up shown to Garey,
who identified Posyton as the one involved in the September
18, 2015 incident. Id. ¶¶ 77-78.
days later, on September 25, 2015, Posyton was charged with
underage possession of alcohol; the charge was nolle
prosequi. Second Am. Compl. ¶ 80. He claims that
the officer who charged him, James Runuldue,  “drove off
with [his] UMCP identification card.” Id. The
same day, Posyton withdrew from UMCP because he “was
afraid that UMPD officers would return to his home.”
Id. ¶ 79.
September 26, 2015, Posyton was charged with second degree
assault; he claims that the charge was based on Mable's
warrant application, which provided that “Posyton
stated” that he asked to kiss Garey, when Posyton
actually wrote that he “maybe, probably” asked to
kiss her. Id. ¶¶ 73-74, 81, 84. Posyton
contacted UMPD about the charges a few days later, but Mable
refused to speak with him, and Deanna Renner, who did speak
with him, refused to provide the police report and threatened
to charge him with assault and harassment if he contacted
UMPD again. Id. ¶¶ 86-87. He asserts that
he was not properly served with process in his criminal case.
Id. ¶¶ 88-89. His criminal trial was
scheduled for December 12, 2015 but had to be rescheduled
when Garey and Mable did not appear, “thereby,
depriving MR. POSYTON of the right to a speedy trial.”
Id. ¶ 91. The case was placed on the
stet docket. Id. ¶ 92. Thereafter,
“[o]n February 22, 2016, MR. POSYTON was involuntarily
committed to a psychiatric hospital for the mentally insane
due to the foregoing events.” Id. ¶ 93.
filed suit on October 25, 2016 in the Circuit Court for
Prince George's County, ECF No. 2, and Defendants removed
to this Court on December 5, 2016, ECF No. 1. He sought leave
to file a “second” amended complaint, ECF No. 17,
but, because no prior amendment appeared on the docket, I
informed him that he could amend as a matter of course, Jan.
5, 2017 Ltr. Order, ECF No. 23. Posyton filed a document
titled “Second Amended Complaint, ” which
actually was his first amended complaint. ECF No. 24.
Defendants filed a letter stating their intent to file a
motion to dismiss and outlining the perceived deficiencies in
the amended complaint. ECF No. 25. In response, Posyton filed
a Second Amended Complaint (erroneously titled “Third
Amended Complaint” but referred to in this Memorandum
Opinion and Order as Second Amended Complaint). ECF No. 26;
see Jan. 5, 2017 Ltr. Order (permitting Posyton to
amend to address deficiencies that Defendants identified,
after which Defendants could move to dismiss if they still
believed the pleading failed to state a claim). He further
amended his pleadings through Consent Motions to Dismiss
Counts IV, VIII, IX, X and XI of the Second Amended Complaint
and all claims against James Runuldue and Deanna Renner in
their official and individual capacities, ECF Nos. 27, 29,
which I approved, ECF Nos. 30, 31. Thus, the Second Amended
Complaint, as amended by the Consent Motions to Dismiss, is
the operative complaint.
I, II, and III are claims under the Fourth Amendment
(pursuant to § 1983) and Md. Const., Art. 26 against
Naecker and Doe 1, Count I for invasion of privacy, Count II
for unlawful entry, and Count III for unreasonable search.
Posyton claims that when Naecker and Doe 1 entered his dorm
room on September 20, 2015 “without a warrant, consent,
notice probable cause, or exigency/safety concerns, ”
and as a result gained “a better viewpoint, ”
they violated his privacy rights and his rights not to have
his premises entered or searched unlawfully. Second Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 105, 111, 117-18. Count IV has been
dismissed. Count V is a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment
(pursuant to § 1983) and Md. Const., Art. 24 against
Does 3 and 4 for failure to intervene when Naecker and Doe 1
entered his dorm room. Id. ¶¶ 128-30.
VI is a claim under the Fourth Amendment (pursuant to §
1983) and Md. Const., Art. 26 against Mable, Thomas, and Doe
2 for unreasonable seizure based on the incident on September
23, 2015, when they asked him to go to the police station for
questioning and he felt that “he had no choice but to
travel to UMPD headquarters.” Id. ¶ 140.
Count VII is a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment (pursuant
to § 1983) and Md. Const., Art. 24 against Mable,
Thomas, and Doe 2 for unlawful custody, based on the time he
spent in the interrogation room on September 23, 2015, during
which he was not told he was free to leave and, in his view,
“[n]o reasonable person would feel free to leave an
interrogation room. . . .” Id. ¶¶
149-50. Counts VIII, IX, X and XI have been dismissed. Under
the heading “Epilogue, ” Posyton alleges that he
has at least substantially complied with the Maryland Torts
Claims Act and that none of the Defendants have immunity with
regard to his claims. Second Am. Compl. 20.
Posyton filed the Second Amended Complaint, Defendants filed
the pending Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with
Prejudice and/or for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 33, which the
parties fully briefed, ECF Nos. 33-1, 36, 38. Additionally,
Posyton has filed a Motion for Leave to File Sur-Reply, ECF
No. 39 (which Defendants opposed, ECF No. 41, and to which
Posyton filed a reply, ECF No. 42), and a Motion for Leave to
File a Supplement to Sur-Reply, ECG No. 40, both of which are
pending. He also filed a letter request to file a motion to
file a third amended complaint that would add a
Monell claim, add facts, and “strike things
that were already dismissed with prejudice.” ECF No.
43. I denied his request, without prejudice to filing a
motion to amend to state a Monell claim after the
motion to dismiss is resolved. ECF No. 44. Finally, he filed
a Motion for Leave to Clarify, ECF No. 46, which Defendants
opposed, ECF No. 47, and which also is pending. Although
Posyton's pleadings have not been a model of clarity,
neither additional allegations nor additional briefing are
likely to provide clarity; nor are they necessary to
understand the nature of the claims in this case.
Accordingly, Posyton's three pending motions to augment
his filings are denied.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for
“the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Velencia
v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D.
Md. Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose “‘is
to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve
contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.'” Id. (quoting
Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480,
483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind
the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint
must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a plausible claim
for relief, ” as “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678-79; see also Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4
(discussing standard from Iqbal and
Twombly). “A claim has facial plausibility
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 663.
a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) invites an inquiry into
the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not an analysis of
potential defenses to the claims set forth therein, dismissal
nevertheless is appropriate when the face of the complaint
clearly reveals the existence of a meritorious affirmative
defense, ” such as qualified immunity. Occupy
Columbia v. Haley, 738 F.3d 107, 116 (4th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Brockington v. Boykins, 637 F.3d 503, 506
(4th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Thus,
“[a] qualified immunity defense can be presented in a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, but, . . . when asserted at this early
stage in the proceedings, ‘the defense faces a
formidable hurdle' ” and “‘is usually
not successful.'” Owens v. Baltimore City
State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 396 (4th
Cir. 2014) (quoting Field Day, LLC v. Cty. of
Suffolk, 463 F.3d 167, 191-92 (2d Cir. 2006)).
is proceeding pro se, and his Complaint is to be
construed liberally. See Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); however, liberal construction does
not absolve Plaintiff from pleading plausible claims. See
Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D. Md. 1981)
(citing Inmates v. Owens, 561 F.2d 560, 562-63 (4th
It is neither unfair nor unreasonable to require a pleader to
put his complaint in an intelligible, coherent, and
manageable form, and his failure to do so may warrant
dismissal. District courts are not required to be mind
readers, or to conjure questions not squarely presented to
Harris v. Angliker, 955 F.2d 41, 1992 WL 21375, at *
1 (4th Cir. 1992) (per curiam) (internal citations omitted).
judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates,
through “particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . .,
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials,
” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see
Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th
Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment
demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a
genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986). The existence of only a
“scintilla of evidence” is not enough to defeat a
motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Instead, the
evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which
the finder of fact reasonably could find for the party
opposing summary judgment. Id.
claims fall into four categories, and I will address each
category in turn: (1) his claims against “Defendant
STATE OF MARYLAND (‘UMCP')” and the
Individual Defendants in their official capacities under
§ 1983, (2) his claims against “Defendant STATE OF
MARYLAND (‘UMCP')” and the Individual
Defendants in their official capacities under the Maryland
Declaration of Rights, (3) his claims against the Individual
Defendants in their individual capacities under the Maryland
Declaration of Rights, and (4) his claims against the
Individual Defendants in their individual capacities under
1983 Claims against the State
1983 provides a remedy for individuals who have been deprived
of their constitutional rights under color of state law.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012); City of
Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes, 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999)).
The statute states:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom or usage of any State or Territory or the
District of Columbia, subjects or causes to be subjected, any
citizen of the United States or other person within 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 in an action at
law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
42 U.S.C. § 1983. “To state a claim under Section
1983, a plaintiff must allege that: 1) a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and 2)
the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under
the color of state law.” Peters v. City of Mount
Rainier, No. GJH-14-00955, 2016 WL 1239921, at *4 (D.
Md. Mar. 24, 2016) (quoting Brown v. Bailey, 2012 WL
2188338, at *5 (D. Md. June 13, 2012)), aff'd sub
nom. Peters v. Caplan, 672 Fed.Appx. 327 (4th Cir.
2017); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
names the Individual Defendants in their individual and
official capacities, as well as “Defendant, STATE OF
MARYLAND (‘UMCP').” Second Am. Compl.
¶¶ 4-14. He asserts that he is suing defendants in
their “official capacity[ies] for equitable
relief.” Id. ¶ 94. Notably, “a suit
against a state official in his or her official capacity is
not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against
the official's office. As such, it is no different from a
suit against the State itself.” Will v. Michigan
Dep't of State Police,491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989)
(internal citations omitted). And, regardless of relief
sought, a state is not “a ‘person' within the
meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Kelly v.
Bishop, No. RDB-16-3668, 2017 WL 2506169, at *4 (D. Md.
June 9, 2017) (citing Will, 491 U.S. at 64-65 &
70-71). Consequently, Posyton fails to state a claim under
§ 1983 against the Individual Defendants in their
official capacity, ...