United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
William Dixon, a prisoner incarcerated at North Branch
Correctional Institution ("NBCI") in Cumberland,
Maryland, has brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §1983 against Administrative Law Judge Michelle
W. Cole of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings
("OAR"). He alleges that ALJ Cole violated his
rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and the Code of Maryland Regulations when she
refused to award him damages pursuant to a complaint he had
filed with the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO"). ALJ
Cole has filed a Motion to Dismiss on the basis that Dixonss
claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United
States Constitution and that she is absolutely immune from
liability for actions taken in her role as an administrative
law judge. Having reviewed the pleadings and briefs, the
Court finds that no hearing is necessary to decide this
Motion. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons
set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.
February 17, 2015, Dixon filed a grievance with the IGO
alleging that his television, remote control, and sunglasses
were damaged by Maryland Division of Correction
("DOC") staff while he was in administrative
segregation at NBC!. On June 8, 2015, ALJ Cole convened a
video conference hearing. See Dixon v. Maryland Div. of
Corr., No. DPSC-IGO-002V-15-18857 (Md. Office of Admin.
Hearings Sept. 1, 2015) ("ALJ Gp."), ECF No.
Cole dismissed the IGO grievance, finding that although Dixon
had established that his television was damaged by DOC staff,
he had offered insufficient evidence of the fair market value
of his property and thus could not be awarded damages.
Id. at 5-6. Cole's determination to withhold a
damages award is the basis for this suit.
filed his Complaint with this Court on December 7, 2016,
seeking the replacement cost of the property, damages for
"disrespect, " punitive damages, and injunctive
relief mandating that ALJ Cole be suspended for 60 days.
Compl. at 4, ECF NO.1. Dixon alleges that the value of his
property could be derived from an Inmate Standard Property
Inventory Sheet, and that Cole did not take into
consideration the difficulty faced by prisoners who are
transferred among institutions in maintaining such evidence.
seeks dismissal of the Complaint on the grounds that
Dixon's claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and
that she is entitled to absolute judicial immunity.
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). Documents
attached to the complaint or motion may be considered if
"they are integral to the complaint and authentic."
Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigaiion
Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007). The court may
also take judicial notice of matters of public record, such
as administrative proceeding.. Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem l
Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009); Dyer v.
Maryland State Bd. of Educ, 187 F.Supp.3d 599, 608 (D.
Md. 2016) ("Courts sitting in this Circuit have taken
judicial notice of such administrative documents as decisions
of the Maryland OAFL").
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
not delineated in the Complain,, the Court assumes that Dixon
is suing Cole in both her official and individual capacities.
Cole contends that she is protected from suit in her official
capacity under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States
Eleventh Amendment provides that "[t]he Judicial power
of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any
suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of
the United States by Citizens of another State, or by
Citizens or subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const.
amend XL In effect, the Eleventh Amendment
bars suits for damages against a state in federal court
unless the state has waived its sovereign immunity or
Congress has abrogated its immunity. See Pennhurst State
Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100-02
(1984) ("It is clear, of course, that in the absence of
consent a suit in which the State or one of its agencies or
departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the
Eleventh Amendment."). Moreover, "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
officials office. As such, it is no different from a suit
against the State itself." Will v. Michigan Dep tt
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (internal
Cole is a State employee under Maryland law. See Md.
Code Ann., State Gov't §12-101(a)(1) (2015)
(defining "state personnel"). To the extent,
therefore, that Dixon is seeking damages against Cole in her
official capacity, he has asserted a claim against the State
of Maryland. Although Dixon asserts that he may sue ALJ Cole
under 42 U.S.C. §1983, the statute allowing private
lawsuits against government officials for violations of
federal law, Congress did not abrogate the states'
sovereign immunity when it enacted §1983. Will,
491 U.S. at 66; Dyer, 187 F.Supp.3d at 611 &
n.16. Furthermore, Maryland has not waived it sovereign
immunity for claims brought in federal court. Md. Code Ann.,
State Gov't §12-104(a); Dyer, 187 F.Supp.3d
at 611. Thus, Dixon's claim for monetary damages against
Cole in her official capacity is barred by the Eleventh
Amendmen.. See Pennhurs,, 465 U.S. 100-01;
Darling v. Falls, 236 F.Supp.3d 914, 925-26 (M.D.
N.C. 2017) (holding that a §1983 claim against state
judges was barred by the Eleventh Amendment).