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Ihenachor v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 17, 2018

EVANS IHENACHOR, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Evans Ihenachor ("Plaintiff3 or "Ihenachor") has filed this action against Defendants State of Maryland, Queen Anne's County, Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Queen Anne's County Office of Child Support Enforcement, and Judge Frederick Price (collectively, "Defendants"), stemming from a child custody order granting Ihenachor and the mother of his child joint legal custody, but awarding primary physical custody to the mother and requiring Ihenachor to pay monthly child support. Ihenachor v. Martin, No. 17-C-l5-019740 (Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County); Ihenachor v. Martin, No. 2673, 2016 WL 7189897 (Md. Ct Spec. App. Dec. 9, 2016). Currently pending before this Court is Defendants State of Maryland, Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Queen Anne's County Office of Child Support Enforcement, and Judge Frederick Price's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 6) and Defendant Queen Anne's County's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, both Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 6 and 8) are GRANTED and Plaintiffs claims are DISMISSED.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court "accept[s] as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Wikimedia Found, v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Or. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). Further, as a pro se Plaintiff, this Court has "liberally construed" Ihenachor's pleadings and held them to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept., No. 17-1249, __ Fed.App'x __, 2017 WL 4415771 (4th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017). In January of 2014, Ihenachor entered into a sexual relationship with a woman not a part)' to this case. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5.) The couple never married, and in September of 2014 had a child. (Id.) After a series of disputes, Plaintiff filed for child custody on March 2, 2015 in the Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County. (Id.) A trial on the issues of physical custody, legal custody, and child support began on November 23, 2015. Ihenachor v. Martin, No. 2673, 2016 WL 7189897, at *1 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Dec. 9, 2016). Many individuals testified during the trial, including Ihenachor, the mother of the child, and additional family members. Id. At the conclusion of the trial, Defendant Judge Prince announced that:

In this case, I find it's in this child's best interests that the parents have joint legal custody. I do think it's appropriate, in this case, I find that it's appropriate for the mother to have primary physical custody with ample visitation to the father. I find, quite simply, actually, [appellee counsel's] suggestion for weekly visitation is reasonable.

Id. at *3. Plaintiff appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which affirmed the Circuit Court on December 9, 2016. Id. Plaintiff then tiled his thirteen count complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. §1983, seeking declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's fees.[1] He alleges several violations of his first, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights in addition to bringing various miscellaneous claims.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

         Defendants assert that Plaintiffs claims are barred for multiple reasons, including under the Rooker-Feldman[2] doctrine and because Defendants are entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Because both arguments challenge this Court's ability to hear this case, they are properly considered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). See Davani v. Virginia Dept. of Transp., 434 F.3d 712 (2006) (reviewing the district court's dismissal of the plaintiffs claims under Rooker-Feldman for lack of subject matter jurisdiction); see also Beckham v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 569 F.Supp.2d 542 (D. Md. 2008) ("[A]lthough Eleventh Amendment immunity is not a 'true limit' on this Court's subject matter jurisdiction, . . . the Court concludes that it is more appropriate to consider this argument under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) because it ultimately challenges this Court's ability to exercise its Article III power.").

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a court's authority to hear the matter brought by a complaint. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Demetres v. East West Const., Inc., 776 F.3d 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015); Eovern. v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Ck. 1999). A challenge to jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting "that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true." Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         II. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The 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). While a complaint need not include "detailed factual allegations, " it must set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if . . . [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff cannot rely on bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, 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 omitted); Wall v. DiredTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Ck. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer" that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without A Name v. Virginia, 655 l;.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011), cert, denied,566 U.S. 937 (2012). A pro se plaintiffs pleadings are "to be liberally construed" and are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Alky v. ...


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