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Carrero v. Farrelly

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 12, 2018

CHRISTOPHER FARRELLY, et al., Defendants.



         Mirna Rubidia Artiga Carrero (“Plaintiff”) filed a five-count Complaint against various state and federal officials and entities seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages stemming from her alleged unlawful arrest in 2014, which she contends was caused in part by federal policy regarding the identification and apprehension of aliens, like her, that are subject to a final order of removal. Defendants the United States of America; Jefferson B. Sessions III, Attorney General of the United States; Elaine C. Duke, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”); and Thomas D. Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) (the “Federal Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint, which the Court granted in part and held in abeyance in part. (Order, ECF No. 34.) Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 43.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion will be DENIED.

         I. Background[1]

         In her original Complaint, Plaintiff alleged five causes of action stemming from the entry of her information in the National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”) database and her subsequent seizure based on that information. Three of those claims, Counts Three through Five, were asserted against the Federal Defendants. Specifically, in Count Three she alleged that the Federal Defendants' entry and maintenance of her civil administrative warrant in NCIC caused her to be unlawfully seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that she was at imminent risk of suffering another unlawful seizure in the future. In Count Four, she alleged that the individual Federal Defendants exceeded their statutory authority by including civil warrants like hers in the NCIC database. Plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief for her claims in Counts Three and Four.[2]

         Plaintiff's claims for prospective relief (i.e., Counts Three and Four) were premised on the Federal Defendants' continued maintenance of her civil administrative warrant in NCIC, yet the Federal Defendants presented evidence that Plaintiff's civil warrant was “cleared” from the NCIC database on September 11, 2014, more than two years before she filed her Complaint. (Reply Mem. in Supp. of the Fed. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 32, at 7 n.7.) As a result, the Court found that Plaintiff lacked standing to assert her claims for injunctive and declaratory relief because she could not show that her purported injury-“risk of suffering an unlawful seizure by state or local law enforcement officials in the future, ” (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 59, 62)-was real or imminent. However, because the Federal Defendants had not presented this jurisdiction- stripping evidence until their reply brief, the Court held in abeyance its decision regarding Plaintiff's standing. The Court granted Plaintiff ten days to “provide . . . ‘further particularized allegations' in support of her contention that the Federal Defendants continue to maintain a civil warrant of removal for her in the NCIC database.” (Memorandum, ECF No. 33, at 40.)

         Plaintiff has not provided any additional allegations in support of her claim that the Federal Defendants continue to maintain a civil warrant of removal for her in the NCIC database. Instead, she seeks leave to amend her complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2).

         II. Relevant Legal Standards

         A. Legal Standard for Motion for Leave to Amend

         Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her Complaint is governed by Rule 15(a), which directs the Court to “freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Fourth Circuit has stated that leave to amend under Rule 15(a) should be denied only in three situations: when the opposing party would be prejudiced, when the amendment is sought in bad faith, or when the proposed amendment would be futile. Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006). A proposed amendment is considered futile if it cannot withstand a motion to dismiss. Perkins v. United States, 55 F.3d 910, 917 (4th Cir. 1995).

         B. Legal Standard for Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1)

         The Federal Defendants contend that Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend should be denied as futile because, inter alia, she still lacks standing and therefore her proposed Amended Complaint could not survive a motion to dismiss. A challenge to a plaintiff's standing “implicates th[e] court's subject matter jurisdiction.” Long Term Care Partners, LLC v. United States, 516 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008). The Plaintiff bears the burden of proving subject- matter jurisdiction. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982); see also Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (noting challenge may be either facial, i.e., complaint fails to allege facts upon which subject-matter jurisdiction can be based, or factual, i.e., jurisdictional allegations of complaint are not true); Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (“When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenge is raised to the factual basis for subject matter jurisdiction, the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff.”). In the case of a factual challenge, it is permissible for a district court to “consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co., 945 F.2d at 768 (citing Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219).

         C. Analysis

         A plaintiff's standing to sue in federal court is “an integral component of the case or controversy requirement” of Article III. Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006). To have Article III standing, “[t]he plaintiff must have suffered or be imminently threatened with a concrete and particularized ‘injury in fact' that is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1377, 1386 (2014) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)). A plaintiff who seeks declaratory or injunctive relief must show that she is in danger of being injured by the opposing party's conduct and that the danger is both “real” and “immediate” and neither “conjectural” nor “hypothetical.” City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 102 (1983). “Past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief . . . if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects.” O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974); see McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 410-11 (4th Cir. 2010) (holding that “to maintain standing for declaratory and injunctive relief” a plaintiff must “plead an[] ongoing injury”).

         Plaintiff seeks leave to amend her Complaint in order to show that she has standing to obtain prospective declaratory and injunctive relief regarding the Federal Defendants' entry of her civil administrative warrant in NCIC. She contends that her amended pleading plausibly alleges both a present injury and a substantial risk of future injury stemming from her “cleared” record in NCIC. First, Plaintiff contends that “the presence of [her] identifying information in the NCIC database, suggesting a criminal history, subjects her to a substantial risk of increased police scrutiny, including unlawful seizure and investigation.” (ECF No. 43, at 4.) This is the same injury that Plaintiff asserted in her original complaint (i.e., the threat of unlawful seizure in the future). Second, she argues for the first time that maintaining her information in NCIC subjects her to a present and ongoing injury-“[s]tigma and reputational harm” by ...

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