United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
JEROLD D. BROWN, #240830, 1238834 Plaintiff,
OFC SCHRLAU, et at., Defendants.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jerold D. Brown, a self-represented litigant incarcerated at
the Jessup Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland
("JCI"). has filed a civil rights Complaint
alleging that Salisbury Police Officer Schrlau used excessive
force in detaining him. ECF No. I. Specifically, he alleges
that on February 24, 2017. in response to a request by
Schrlau to produce his identification card, he attempted to
run away from Schrlau. Id. at 5. Brown alleges
that he was tackled by another Officer, and that Schrlau
"grabbed [Brown's] hair and  deployed a knee
strike to my ribs." Id. Brown names Officer
Schrlau and the Salisbury Police Department as Defendants,
and seeks money damages and payment of current and future
medical expenses. Id. at 7. Defendants have filed a
Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 7. which Brown opposed on February
15, 2018. No hearing is necessary. See Loc.
R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). "a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face."' Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
"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 678.
"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 ("a plaintiffs obligation to provide the
"grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation
of a cause of action's elements will not do.")).
purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) "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." Presley v. City of Charlottesville,
464 F.3d 480. 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). When deciding a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6). a court "'must accept as true
all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint." and must "draw all reasonable
inferences [from those facts) in favor of the
plaintiff." E.I., du Pont de Nemours & Co. v.
Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435. 440 (4th Cir. 2011)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The Court
need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations,
see Rerene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d
870. 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S.
265. 286 (1986). or conclusory factual allegations devoid of
any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters
of Norfolk v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
Claim Against the Salisbury Police Department
42 U.S.C. § 1983 authorizes a plaintiff to bring a suit
for damages against any individual whom "under color of
any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any
State .. . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen
of the United States or other person .. . to the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution." Brown sues the Salisbury Police
Department, a municipal government agency, under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. and must prove two elements to succeed in this
claim. First, he must establish the existence of a
constitutional violation on the part of the police officer.
See Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796. 799 (1986)
(jury's finding that a police officer inflicted no
constitutional injury on the plaintiff removed any basis for
municipal liability against city and members of police
commission); Temkin v. Frederick Cty. Comm'rs,
945 F.2d 716. 724 (4th Cir. 1991) (§ 1983 claim of
inadequate training or supervision cannot be established
without a finding of a constitutional violation on the part
of the person being supervised): see also Dawson v.
Prince George 's Cty., 896 F.Supp. 537. 540 (D. Md.
1995). Second, he must show that any constitutional
violations were proximately caused by a policy, custom, or
practice of the municipality. See Monell v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658. 691. 694 (1978).
Municipal policy arises from written ordinances, regulations,
and statements of policy, id. at 690: decisions by
municipal policymakers. Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475
U.S. 469. 482-83 (1986): and omissions by policymakers that
show a "deliberate indifference" to the rights of
citizens. See Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S.
378. 388 (1989). Brown's Complaint focuses solely on the
actions of Officer Schrlau. and he has failed to allege that
his injuries were caused in any way by policies of the
Salisbury Police Department. As such, the Court dismisses
Brown's claims against the Salisbury Police Department.
Claim Against Officer Schrlau
Brown's claim against the Police Department fails, his
claim against Officer Schrlau may state a cognizable
constitutional claim of excessive use of force by an
arresting officer. The Court, however, stays his claim
pending his state criminal proceeding.
civil plaintiff brings a § 1983 action while there is a
pending criminal proceeding against him in state court,
federal courts must apply the Younger doctrine.
Traversa v. Perm, 874 F.2d 209. 212 (4th Cir. 1989).
The abstention doctrine articulated in Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), "requires a federal
court to abstain from Interfering in state proceedings, even
if jurisdiction exists, if there is: (1) an ongoing state
judicial proceeding. instituted prior to any substantial
progress in the federal proceeding, that (2) implicates
important, substantial, or vital state interests: and (3)
provides an adequate opportunity for the plaintiff to raise
the federal constitutional claim advanced in the federal
lawsuit."" Laurel Sand & Gravel v.
Wilson, 519 F.3d 156. 165 (4th Cir. 2008) (citations
omitted). "Younger is not merely a principle of
abstention; rather the case sets forth a mandatory rule of
equitable restraint, requiring the dismissal of a federal
action." Williams v. Lubin, 516 F.Supp.2d 535.
539 (D. Md. 2007) (quoting Nivens v. Gilchrist, 444
F.3d 237, 247 (4th Cir. 2006)) (internal quotations omitted).
there is clearly an ongoing state judicial proceeding; Brown
is charged in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County with,
among other charges, resisting arrest in connection with the
underlying crime. See Maryland v. Brown No.
C-22-CR-17-000213 (Wico. Co. Cir. Ct.). A jury trial is
scheduled for April 10. 2018. Id. The proceeding
clearly implicates a substantial state interest, as it
involves the stale's police power. See. e.g.,
Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 13 (1987) (in
applying Younger doctrine, noting important interest
that states have "in the enforcement of its criminal
laws"). Finally, the concerns raised by Brown (that
Officer Schrlau used excessive force in detaining him) are
inherently implicated in Brown's state trial which
includes, among other charges, a charge for resisting arrest;
a defendant may raise the lawfulness or excessive nature of
an officer's use of force as a defense to a charge of
resisting arrest. See, e.g., Riddick v. Lott, 202
Fed.App'x 615 at 616 (4th Cir. 2006) ("a successful
§ 1983 suit [for use of excessive force by a police
officer] would necessarily imply invalidity of that
conviction [for resisting arrest], since a person cannot be
found guilty of resisting arrest if he is simply protecting
himself, reasonably, against an officer's unprovoked
attack or use of excessive force"). As such, the Court
stays Brown's § 1983 claim against Officer Schrlau,
pending his state criminal proceeding. See Traverso,
874 F.2d at 212 (courts must abstain "where granting the
requested relief would require adjudication of federal
constitutional issues involved in the pending state
foregoing reasons. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. ECF No.
7. is granted-in-part and denied-in-part. A separate Order
shall be ...