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Barber v. Montgomery County Government

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 8, 2018

CLAUDIA BARBER, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY GOVERNMENT and BOARD OF EDUCATION FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT, GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO FILE A SURREPLY, GRANTING AS FRAMED DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SANCTIONS, AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AND MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

          FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Background

         This is a civil rights case arising out of an alleged violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The pro se[1] plaintiff, Claudia Barber, filed this civil action in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. The defendants, the Board of Education for Montgomery County Public Schools (the “Board of Education”) and Montgomery County Government (the “County Government”), removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, citing federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint in the United States District Court, and the case was later reassigned to the undersigned judge. In her single-count amended complaint, the plaintiff alleges that she is a 57-year-old African American female who applied for several positions as a substitute teacher and assistant general counsel for employment and labor law with the Board of Education. The plaintiff further alleges that she was overqualified for all of the positions but that she was not hired on the basis of her race, sex, age, and color, in violation of Title VII. The plaintiff previously filed a motion to remand, which this Court denied by a prior memorandum opinion and order.

         The defendants have now filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. The plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file her surreply to the motion dismiss. The defendants have also filed a motion for sanctions, to which the plaintiff responded with a cross-motion for sanctions. The plaintiff has also filed a separate motion for sanctions. The motions are fully briefed at this time and ripe for decision. For the following reasons, the Court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint, grants the plaintiff's motion to file her surreply to the motion to dismiss, grants as framed the defendants' motion for sanctions, and denies the plaintiff's cross-motion for sanctions and motion for sanctions.

         II. Applicable Law

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         In assessing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pled facts contained in the complaint as true. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc, 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). However, “legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement fail to constitute well-pled facts for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes.” Id. (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). This Court also declines to consider “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Wahi v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 615 n.26 (4th Cir. 2009).

         It has often been said that the purpose of a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the formal sufficiency of the statement of the claim for relief; it is not a procedure for resolving a contest about the facts or the merits of the case. 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (3d ed. 1998). The Rule 12(b)(6) motion also must be distinguished from a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, which goes to the merits of the claim and is designed to test whether there is a genuine issue of material fact. Id. For purposes of the motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the party making the claim and essentially the court's inquiry is directed to whether the allegations constitute a statement of a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Id. § 1357.

         A complaint should be dismissed “if it does not allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on is face.'” Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Facial plausibility is established once the factual content of a complaint ‘allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Nemet Chevrolet, 591 F.3d at 256 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but the facts alleged must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         B. Motions for Sanctions

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 provides in relevant part as follows:

By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper-whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it-an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances: . . . the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery[.]

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 (emphasis added). “[T]he standard is the same for unrepresented parties, who are obliged themselves to sign the pleadings . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 advisory committee's note to 1983 amendment.

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has stated as follows:

The language of Rule 11 requires that an attorney conduct a reasonable investigation of the factual and legal basis for his claim before filing. See Cleveland Demolition Co. v. Azcon Scrap Corp., 827 F.2d 984, 987 (4th Cir. 1987). The prefiling investigation must appear objectively reasonable. In re Kuntsler, 914 F.2d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 111 S.Ct. 1607, 113 L.Ed.2d 669 (1991). Inexperienced or incompetent attorneys are not held to a lesser standard under Rule 11. Cabell v. Petty, 810 F.2d 463, 466 (4th Cir. 1987).

Brubaker v. City of Richmond, 943 F.2d 1363, 1373 (4th Cir. ...


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