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King v. Nalley

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 20, 2017

DELVON KING, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT NALLEY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In July 2014, Defendant Robert Nalley, then a judge on the Circuit Court for Charles County, Maryland, ordered a deputy sheriff to activate the "stun-cuf' worn by Plaintiff Delvon King during a criminal trial in which King was the defendant. The cuff sent thousands of volts of electricity through King's body, causing him to collapse in the middle of the courtroom and scream in agony. At the time that the cuff was activated, King was addressing the court and was not a danger to himself or others.

         King has now filed suit against Judge Nalley, seeking compensatory and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. S 1983 for violations of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendmenss to the United States Constitution. Pending before the Court is Judge Nalleyss Motion to Dismiss the Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the Complaint and the briefs, the Court finds no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 23, 2014, Judge Nalley was presiding over the jury selection in State v. Delvan Louis King aka Saamir Jhaleed Khaleel KingAli, No. 08-K-13~001347IN, a criminal case in the Circuit Court for Charles County, Maryland in which King was on trial. King, who was representing himself, initially insisted that his name was Saamir Jhaleed Khaleel KingAli. After Judge Nalley repeatedly asked King how he wished to be addressed, King agreed to be referred to as "Mr. KingAli." King then launched into a prepared argument, asserting that the court lacked jurisdiction over him because he is a Moorish American and an "aboriginal indigenous man." Mot. Dismiss Ex. 2 at 5-7, ECF 11-2. When Judge Nalley asked whether King had voir dire questions to offer, King objected to the question, refused to respond, and instead continued his argument that the court lacked jurisdiction over him. Judge Nalley twice ordered him to stop, but King did not comply.

         King was wearing a stun-cuff, a device meant to protect the public from violent defendants by allowing security personnel to apply a physically devastating electric shock from a distance. After Judge Nalley ordered King to stop his jurisdictionll argument to no avail, Judge Nalley directed the deputy sheriff to activate the stun-cuff, instructing him, "[D]o it. Use it." Compl. ~4, ECF No. 1. Up to that point, King had not raised his voice, moved from counsel table, or made any aggressive or threatening statements or actions.

         The surge of electricity from the stun-cuff caused King to crumple. He writhed on the ground, his muscles overwhelmed with painful spasms, and screamed for several minutes. After a recess, King had to continue his own representaiion while still feeling the stun-cuff s effects.

         For his actions that day, Judge Nalley was disqualified from serving as a judge. Order, In re: The Honorable Robert C. Nalley (Md. Sept. 5, 2014,, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 3, ECF No. 11-3. He was also charged in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland with the criminal offense of depriving King of his federally protected rights under color of law, in violation of 18 U.S.C. S 242. Judge Nalley pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $5, 000 fine, and anger-management counseling. Judgment, United States v. Nalley, No. 16-0023-WGC (D. Md. Mar. 31, 2016). This S 1983 suit followed.

         DISCUSSION

         Judge Nalley has moved to dismiss this case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or alternatively, for summary judgment under Rule 56. He argues that he acted in his judicial capacity when he ordered the stun-cuff s use and therefore should be protected from suit by absolute judicial immunity. In opposing the Motion, King asserts that Judge Nalleyss order to use a stun-cuff on a non-threatening, pro se defendant was so unreasonable that it cannot be deemed a judicial act subject to the protection provided by judicial immunity.

         I. Legal Standard

         To defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule l2(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow the Court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice. Id. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm 'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         When deciding a motion to dismiss, a court may "take judicial notice of matters of public record" and may consider exhibits submitted with the motion "so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic." Philips v. Pitt Cty. MemlI Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). Should the court consider exhibits that do not fall into either of these categories, the motion must be construed as a motion for summary judgmen.. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

         With their briefs, the parties have submitted the following exhibits: (1) the transcript of the voir dire proceedings during which Judge Nalley ordered the stun-cuff s use; (2) a video recording of the moment when the stun-cuff was activated and its aftermath; and (3) the transcript of Judge Nalleyss sentencing hearing in federal court. Each of these exhibits may properly be considered on a motion to dismiss. The transcript and video from the voir dire proceedings are integral to King's Complaint, and neither party has objected to their authenticity. The transcript is also a court record subject to judicial notice. See Philips, 572 F.3d at 180; see also Burgess v. Bait. Police Dep't, No. RDB-15-0834, 2016 WL 795975, *3 n.3 (D. Md. Mar. 1, 2016) (taking judicial notice of an official hearing transcript that was also integral to the complaint). As for the sentencing hearing transcrip,, while it is not integral to the Complain,, the Court will take judicial notice of both the sentencing hearing and the judgment in Judge Nalleyss criminal case. See Fed. R. ...


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