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Sikes v. Ward

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 6, 2017

LINDSAY W. SIKES, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CARRIE M. WARD, HOWARD BIERMAN, JACOB GEESING, PRIMA LELE, TAYYABA C. MONOTO, JOSHUA COLEMAN, RICHARD R. GOLDSMITH, LUDEEN McCARTHY-GREEN and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND BRIAN E. FROSH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In 2014, eight Substitute Trustees instituted foreclosure proceedings in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland against the residence of Plaintiff Lindsay W. Sikes, Jr. After the Circuit Court authorized a foreclosure sale, Sikes filed a motion to stay the sale and cancel the foreclosure, which the Circuit Court denied without a hearing. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed that decision. Proceeding pro se, Sikes has filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which he alleges that the Substitute Trustees and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh violated his due process rights. Sikes further asserts that the Substitute Trustees violated Section 7-113(b) of the Real Property Article of the Maryland Code by canceling his homeowner's insurance.

         Pending before the Court are two Motions to Dismiss, one filed by the Substitute Trustees and the other by Attorney General Frosh. Having reviewed the pleadings and the briefs, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         In May 2014, Defendants Carrie M. Ward, Howard Bierman, Jacob Geesing, Prima Lele, Tayyaba C. Monoto, Joshua Coleman, Richard R. Goldsmith, and Ludeen McCarthy-Green (collectively, the “Substitute Trustees”), in their capacity as Substitute Trustees filed a foreclosure action in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland (“Circuit Court”) to repossess and sell Sikes's residence. On November 12, 2014, after an unsuccessful mediation session, the Circuit Court authorized the scheduling of a foreclosure sale. On November 26, 2014, Sikes filed a motion, pursuant to Md. Rule 14-211, to stay the sale and dismiss the foreclosure action. In the motion, Sikes argued that the Substitute Trustees could not foreclose on his residence because they had failed to provide the original debt instrument to establish that they had a valid lien on the property. On December 3, 2014, however, the foreclosure sale took place, prior to any ruling by the Circuit Court on Sikes's motion.

         The Circuit Court ultimately denied the motion on February 9, 2015 and ratified the foreclosure sale three days later. On appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Sikes argued that he was improperly denied a hearing on the motion, as generally required by Md. Rule 14-211, and repeated his contention that the Substitute Trustees had not provided a copy of the original debt instrument, a claim that the Substitute Trustees contended was “plainly false.” Sikes v. Ward, No. 0027, 2016 WL 1394494, at *1-2 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Apr. 8, 2016). The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court's decision, concluding that Sikes was not entitled to a hearing because he filed his motion 19 days late and that, since his motion was untimely, it did not need to address his claim that the Substitute Trustees never provided the original debt instrument. Id. at *3-4.

         On December 28, 2016, Sikes filed suit in this Court against the Substitute Trustees. On April 7, 2017, he filed an Amended Complaint to add Attorney General Frosh as a defendant. In the Amended Complaint, Sikes alleges pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that because the Circuit Court ruled on his motion without holding a hearing, his right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and his right to a trial by jury under the Maryland Constitution, were violated. He further asserts that the Substitute Trustees violated Section 7-113(b) of the Real Property Article of the Maryland Code by canceling his homeowner's insurance. Finally, Sikes makes various disjointed statements that he has been subjected to “false arrest[s] and unsubstantial protective orders” that appear unrelated to the foreclosure proceeding. Am. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 29. From the various protective orders, police records, and docket sheets that Sikes has attached to his Amended Complaint, it appears that he has had a tempestuous romantic relationship with a woman not named as a defendant in this action. In his Amended Complaint, Sikes requests an injunction against both her and the State of Maryland to prohibit them from seeking additional protective orders against him without first posting a substantial bond; the expungement of his arrest record; an injunction ordering the State of Maryland or the Circuit Court to write letters to the three major credit bureaus to remove negative reports about his credit; and $7 million in punitive damages from the State of Maryland and the Circuit Court for the alleged false arrests and for “allowing” so many protective orders to be filed against him. Am. Compl. at 3-4.

         DISCUSSION

         The Substitute Trustees are seeking dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the grounds that they are not state actors subject to § 1983, that Sikes's claims are barred by res judicata or, in the alternative, by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and that the Amended Complaint otherwise fails to assert a cognizable claim against them. Attorney General Frosh seeks dismissal under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on the basis of Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and Sikes's failure to plead any facts relating to Frosh.

         I. Legal Standards

         The Substitute Trustees seek dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). To defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(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. Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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). Courts may also “consider documents attached to the complaint” if “they are integral to the complaint and authentic.” Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation, Inc., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion based on res judicata, the courts may “take judicial notice of facts from a prior judicial proceeding” when the defendant's assertion of res judicata “raises no disputed issue of fact.” Andrews v. Daw, 201 F.3d 521, 524 n.1 (4th Cir. 2000).

         Attorney General Frosh seeks dismissal under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(1) allows a defendant to move for dismissal when it believes that the plaintiff has failed to carry its burden to show that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). Where, as here, the defendant argues that the facts as pleaded are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, “the Court must accept the allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs.” Beckham v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 569 F.Supp.2d 542, 547 (D. Md. 2008).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has not definitively stated whether motions to dismiss based on Eleventh Amendment immunity are properly considered under Rule 12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6). See Andrews, 201 F.3d at 525 n.2 (noting the lack of clarity in Fourth Circuit cases regarding whether motions to dismiss based on Eleventh Amendment immunity should be considered under Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6)). Compare Fulcrum Int'l, Inc. v. Prince George Ctr. I, Inc., 503 F. App'x 193, 194 (4th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (“Assertions of governmental immunity are properly addressed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), which permits the assertion of the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of a claim for relief.”) with Hutto v. S.C. Ret. Sys., 773 F.3d 536, 545 (4th Cir. 2014) (“[W]e have often affirmed Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss on the basis of Eleventh Amendment immunity.”). This distinction does not matter in this case, as there is no dispute regarding the accuracy of the pleaded allegations, and the Court has limited its consideration to the Amended Complaint and the exhibits attached to it. See Beckham, 569 F.Supp.2d at 547.

         II. The ...


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