United States District Court, D. Maryland
STARSHA M. SEWELL, M.ED., Plaintiff,
MARK PRITCHARD, Defendant.
J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
se Plaintiff Starsha Sewell has sued Mark Pritchard of
the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland
(“RTA”) and Judge John P. Davey of the Circuit
Court for Prince George's County, alleging that she was
fired from a job as a Bus Operator with RTA for
discriminatory and retaliatory reasons. Sewell includes Judge
Davey in her Complaint (ECF No. 1) because he was the state
court judge who issued an order requiring her to pay child
support through the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Agency
which was then forwarded to the RTA for garnishment. On June
1, 2017, the Court dismissed the claim against Judge Davey as
barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity. ECF No. 3. On
July 10, 2017, Pritchard filed a Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim, or, in the Alternative, for Summary
Judgment. ECF No. 9. In his Motion, Prichard also asks for an
injunction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a)(2000),
restricting Sewell from filing vexatious submissions or
additional lawsuits in any way relating to the matters
addressed in her Complaint.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
began her at-will employment with the RTA as a bus driver on
January 22, 2017. On or about February 13, 2017, RTA received
an order from the Prince George's County Office of Child
Support directing RTA to withhold certain amounts from
Sewell's pay to cover current and past due child support.
Complaint at 2, ECF No. 1. Sewell also received a copy of the
Order and, on the evening of February 13, 2017, she sent an
email to RTA's Chief Financial Officer Suzanne Brown, RTA
Operations Administrator Cindy Gibson and Judge Davey.
Id.; Exhibit A, ECF No. 8-2. She indicated that the
subject of the email was “Unlawful Wage Garnishment
Attempt- Civil Rights Complaint of Discrimination Will Be
Filed if Enforced.” Exhibit A, ECF No. 8-2.
text of Sewell's email, she accused Judge Davey, who had
presided over a domestic relations matter involving custody
of her children, of violating the rights of a “United
States Treasury Whistle-blower” and of engaging in
human trafficking. Id. She also accused Judge Davey
and two social workers, whom she personally named in the
email, of slandering her. Id. She further accused
the Child Support Enforcement Division of the
“Department of Human Resources” of conspiring
with the Maryland Mortgage Task Force to engage in
racketeering. Id. Finally, she asked the attorney
copied on the email to add her to a lawsuit against the
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
(“WMATA”), alleging that Judge Davey served on
its Board of Directors. Id. Sewell attached
documents to the email which included, among other things, an
order issued by the United States District Court for the
District of Maryland on September 17, 2012, remanding a
domestic relations case to state court. Id.
following morning Sewell was notified that she was being
placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the RTA's
review of her email. Exhibit 2A, ECF No. 1-3. On February 17,
Mark Pritchard, RTA's General Manager, sent Sewell a
letter notifying her of RTA's decision to terminate her
employment. Exhibit 5, ECF No. 1-9. The letter set forth
RTA's conclusions that Sewell had violated two provisions
of the Employee Handbook, Section 11.1 that states that
“threats, harassment, [and] intimidation” are
prohibited, and Section 11.2 prohibiting discourteous or
inappropriate behavior towards other employees. Id.
February 15, 2017, prior to her termination, Sewell had filed
a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, alleging
discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex and
retaliation. Exhibit 4, ECF No. 1-8. Eight days later, on
February 23, 2017, RTA received notice of the EEOC Charge.
ECF No. 8-1 at 8. The proceeding was administratively closed
by the EEOC on February 27, 2017. Id.
February 27, 2017, Sewell filed yet another Charge of
Discrimination with the Howard County Office of Human
Relations (the “HCOHR Charge”), which was
co-filed with the Baltimore office of the EEOC. In the HCOHR
Charge, Sewell alleged that she was terminated in retaliation
for filing the District of Columbia Charge of Discrimination.
Sewell has not indicated whether she received a Notice of
Right to Sue from the EEOC as to this second Charge.
24, 2017, Sewell filed the present Complaint against
Pritchard and Davey. Although her Complaint is difficult to
decipher, she appears to allege that she was terminated in
retaliation for her February 13, 2017 email and her February
15, 2017 EEOC filing. On June 1, 2017, this Court issued an
Order dismissing the claim against Davey as barred by the
doctrine of judicial immunity. Sewell then filed a
“Motion to Stay Barring of Claims Against Judge
Davey” (ECF No. 4), which the Court interpreted as a
Motion to Reconsider its June 1, 2017 Order dismissing Davey
from the case. The Court denied that Motion on June 7. On
June 8, 2017, Sewell filed a Rule 62(b)(3) Motion To Stay of
Proceeding to Enforce a Judgment of Court, which the Court
interprets as a second Motion to Reconsider its June 1, 2017
Order. ECF No. 7.
7, 2017, Prichard filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment.
ECF No. 9. Sewell responded with a Motion for Default
Judgment of Plaintiff's Rule 62(b) Motion to Stay, which
the Court interprets as a Response in Opposition to the
Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 10.
STANDARDS OF LAW
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) prescribes “liberal
pleading standards, ” requiring only that a plaintiff
submit a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that [he or she] is entitled to relief.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007)
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). To survive a motion to dismiss
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff
must plead facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007). But this standard
requires “more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although a court will
accept factual allegations as true, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Id. Indeed, the court need not accept legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations or
“unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” E. Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D.
Associates Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir.
2000). In the end, the complaint must contain factual
allegations sufficient to apprise a defendant of “what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
quotations and citations omitted).
federal courts are obliged to liberally construe a pro
se litigant's claims in applying the above analysis,
this requirement “does not transform the court into an
advocate.” United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d
789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). The Fourth Circuit has noted that “[w]hile
pro se complaints may ‘represent the work of an
untutored hand requiring special judicial solicitude, ' a
district court is not required to recognize ‘obscure or
extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to
unravel them.'” Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277
(4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088
(1986)). Accordingly, although the facts alleged in a pro se
plaintiff's complaint must ordinarily be taken as true,
bare conclusory statements “are not entitled to the
assumption of truth.” Aziz v. Alcolac,
Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 391 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679)) (internal quotation marks