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Owen-Williams v. Kwarciany

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 13, 2018

MICHAEL KWARCIANY, et al., Defendants.


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         On April 27, 2017, Plaintiff Adol T. Owen-Williams Jr. (“Owen-Williams”), proceeding pro se, asserted claims for “false arrest and detention, false, imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, negligence, and intentional infliction of the emotional distress” against Michael Kwarciany and the “Montgomery County Police, ”[1] in connection with his arrest at or around October 19, 2016, and subsequent conviction in January 2017. See ECF No. 1 at 1. Owen-Williams requests compensatory damages and punitive damages of $5, 100, 000.00. Id. at ¶ 73.

         Pending before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), and Defendants' motion for sanctions requesting fees, costs and a pre-filing injunction against Owen-Williams. See ECF Nos. 12 & 13, 14. For the following reasons, the motions to dismiss, ECF Nos. 12 & 13, are GRANTED and the Complaint is dismissed. The motion for sanctions, ECF No. 14, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background

         The Court takes the facts from Plaintiff's Complaint as true for purposes of the motions to dismiss. Plaintiff Adol T. Owen-Williams Jr. (“Owen-Williams”) is a duly elected member of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee (MCRCC). ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1. Historically, Owen-Williams has attempted to gain entry to MCRCC's headquarters, located in Rockville, Maryland, and in September 2015, Montgomery County issued a No. Trespass Order to Owen-Williams, barring him from the MCRCC headquarters. Id. at ¶ 8; see also ECF Nos. 13-3 & 13-4. Owen-Williams alleges that the No. Trespass Order was issued because Michael L. Higgs (“Higgs”), the former chair of the MCRCC, “was desperate to remove Owen-Williams from the MCRCC due to the fact that Higgs and several of his comrades did not want a Black American on the MCRCC, ” ECF No. 1 at ¶ 8, and because Owen-Williams “previously exposed to the Montgomery County State Attorney's Office for Financial Fraud and involvement in habitually viewing Child Pornography [sic] at the MCRCC Headquarters, ” id. at ¶ 12. Sometime before October 2016, the September 2015 No. Trespass Order was rescinded or expired. See Id. at ¶ 8; see also ECF No. 13-3 at 2.

         On October 17, 2016, Higgs called the Montgomery County Police and identified himself as the “Owner or Owner Agent” of the MCRCC headquarters. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 20. Higgs stated that Owen-Williams was trespassing on the MCRCC headquarters and requested his arrest. Id. The next day, October 18, 2016, Owen-Williams received a phone call from Detective Michael Kwarciany of the Montgomery County Police Department (“Detective Kwarciany”) regarding the “ongoing Civil Dispute” between Owen-Williams and other members of the MCRCC. Id. at ¶ 7. Owen-Williams agreed to meet with Detective Kwarciany later that afternoon. Id. At the meeting, Detective Kwarciany informed Owen-Williams that Montgomery County was serving him with “ANOTHER UNLAWFUL one (1) year NO TRESPASS ORDER” for the MCRCC headquarters. Id. at ¶ 8. Owen-Williams told Detective Kwarciany that Kwarciany was “willfully overriding the Court[‘s] TWO prior ruling[s] so as to impose Kwarciany[‘s] will on Owen-Williams at the request of one or more of the three individuals committing rampant crimes at the MCRCC, ” and that Owen-Williams would seek an “Injunction, Show Cause Order, and [/] or Sanctions because of Kwarciany's unlawful actions.” Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.

         Owen-Williams received a phone call from Detective Kwarciany the following day informing him that it would not be necessary for Owen-Williams to file an injunction because “after having discussed Kwarciany's previous day's actions with the [Montgomery County Police] ‘Command Staff' . . . they unanimously decided to AGAIN RECEND [sic] the UNLAWFUL No. Trespass Order.” Id. at ¶ 10. Detective Kwarciany then requested that Owen-Williams come and meet with “Command Staff” at the “Police Headquarters.” Id. However, upon Owen-Williams' arrival to the “Police Headquarters . . . Owen-Williams was violently ambushed and descended upon by approximately 8-10 Police Officers who appeared to come out of every closed door in the lobby of the building, and violently placed under arrest.” ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 11, 42, 48, 55. Owen-Williams was presented with a “Statement of Charges” which contained three charges, and Detective Kwarciany “made it pellucidly [sic] clear that his UNLAWFUL Actions were being done at the request, AND AS A FAVOR, to Michael Higgs, R. Dwights Patel, and Mark Uncapher, ” to assist their efforts to remove Owen-Williams from the MCRCC. Id. at ¶ 12.

         At or around January 31, 2017, Owen-Williams was “convicted of 2 of the 3 charges” detailed in the Charging Papers - trespass, burglary, and malicious destruction of property - and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Id. at ¶ 15; ECF Nos. 13-4 & 13-5. The conviction was “[b]ased primarily on the False Charges by Kwarciany” and “absolutely zero factual or physical evidence.” Id. at ¶ 15. On April 11, 2017, “upon a factual review of the false statements made by Kwarciany and Higgs, ” an appellate court overturned his conviction and dismissed the charges. Id. at ¶ 17. Owen-Williams filed this lawsuit on April 27, 2017, alleging state common law claims and violation of his constitutional rights. See ECF No. 1.

         II. Standard of Review

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded allegations are accepted as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “However, conclusory statements or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not [suffice].' ” EEOC v. Performance Food Grp., Inc., 16 F.Supp.3d 584, 588 (D. Md. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “ ‘[N]aked assertions' of wrongdoing necessitate some ‘factual enhancement' within the complaint to cross ‘the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.' ” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Although pro se pleadings are construed liberally to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious case, Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980), courts cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts setting forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (“The ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view such pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate. Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.”) (internal citation omitted)); see also Bell v. Bank of Am., N.A., No. RDB-13-0478, 2013 WL 6528966 (D. Md. Dec. 11, 2013) (“Although a pro se plaintiff is general[ly] given more leeway than a party represented by counsel . . . a district court is not obligated to ferret through a [c]omplaint that is so confused, ambiguous, vague or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.”).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants urge dismissal of this case under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because the Complaint alleges only state common law claims, and thus in Defendants' view, does not present a federal question. Further, they argue, that to the extent any federal claim is articulated in the Complaint, the claims must be dismissed on grounds of qualified immunity or pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), or for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A fair reading of the Complaint demonstrates that it adequately pleads claims against all Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Accordingly the Court retains federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction is denied.

         a. Section 1983 Claims

         Defendants also assert that Owen-Williams has failed to state an adequate claim, and so dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6). Defendants are correct.

         First, any such claims against the Montgomery County Police Department must be dismissed because the police department itself is not an entity capable of being sued. Section 1983 provides for the liability of “[e]very person who, under color of [state law], subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “Local police departments, ” however, “are not legal entities amendable to civil suit - the local police department's parent municipal corporation is the proper defendant.” Costley v. City of Westminster, No. GLR-16-1447, 2017 WL 35437, at *1 n.1 (D. Md. Jan. 4, 2017), aff'd sub nom. Costley v. Steiner, 689 Fed.Appx. 753 (4th Cir. 2017), (citing Revene v. Charles Cty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 874 (4th Cir. 1989). That said, because Owen-Williams is proceeding pro ...

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