United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se Plaintiff Bismark Kwaku Torkornoo seeks compensatory
and punitive damages against Defendants Stale of Maryland.
Attorney General Frosh. and State Treasurer Kopp based on the
actions of Judge Cynthia Callahan and Magistrate Clark Wisor
in Plaintiffs state court divorce and child custody matter.
Bismark Kwaku Torkornoo v. Mary Torkornoo. No.
71419FL (Cir. Ct. Montgomery Cty. 2008). ECF No. 1. This
Court has already dismissed with prejudice Plaintiff's
same claims brought directly against Callahan and Wisor.
See Torkornoo v. Callahan. et ai. No. PJM-1.5-2445,
2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123298 (D. Md. Sept. 16. 2015)
affd 627 F App'x 183 (4th Cir. 2015)
(hereinafter "Torkornoo l"). No hearing is
necessary, Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following
reasons. Plaintiffs Complaint is barred by the doctrine of
collateral estoppel, and Defendants" Motion to Dismiss.
ECF No. 18. shall be granted.
has filed a 64-page Complaint, alleging a litany grievances
against Callahan and Wisor based on a variety of rulings made
in his state court divorce and child custody matter. bringing
claims of fraud, discrimination, negligence, and abuse of
process attributed to six "Incidents" that occurred
over the course of the domestic dispute. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants arc liable for the conduct of Wisor
and Callahan, who:
acted inappropriately and fraudulently to deny plaintiff
equity, which is not limited to: (i) loss of his freedom and
liberty with his children; (ii) evasion of court ordered
visitation rights under the 3/25/2009 order: (iii) evasion of
court ordered rights under 8/12/10 purge provision order;
(iv) Ms. Torkornoo's interferences with plaintiffs rights
under 3/25/2009 visitation order. 8/12/2010 purge order, and
11/21/2012 modified custody order: and (v) fraudulent
misrepresentation in light of loss in equity of the fair
market share of the proceeds of the sale of former marital
7 ¶ 8.
Complaint is one of many filed in this Court, alleging error
and misconduct relating to his State court domestic dispute.
See, e.g.. Torkornoo v. Hetwig, No. TDC-15-2652,
2017 WL 4898260 (D. Md. Oct. 27. 2017). appeal
docketed No. 17-2319 (4th Cir. Nov. 15. 2017);
Torkornoo l; Torkornoo v. Torkornoo, No.
PJM-15-0980. 2015 WL 1962271 (D. Md. Apr. 29. 2015).
aff'd 607 Fed.Appx. 341 (4th Cir. 2015).
Defendants' motion raises a number of arguments,
contending that the claims are barred by Defendants"
state, federal and common law immunities, collateral
estoppel, and by Plaintiffs failure to comply with the
Maryland Tort Claims Act. ECF No. 18-1 at 2-3. While any of
Defendants" reasons provides the Court with an adequate
and independent basis to dismiss the Complaint, the Court
need only address collateral estoppel at this time.
doctrine of collateral estoppel provides that. "]w]hen
an issue of fact or law is actually litigated and determined
by a valid and final judgment, and the determination is
essential to the judgment, the determination is conclusive in
a subsequent action between the parties, whether on the same
or a different claim." Cosby v. Dep'l of Human
Res.. 42 A.3d 596. 602 (Md. 2012) (quoting Murray
fnt'l Freight Corp. v. Graham, 555 A.2d 502. 504
(Md. 1989)). Once a court decides an issue of law or fact
necessary to its judgment, that decision can be binding upon
a party to it if the party was given a "full and fair
opportunity to litigate that issue in the earlier case."
Allen v. MeCwry, 449 U.S. 90. 94-95 (1980)
(citations omitted)): Fullerhm Aircraft Sales
& Rentals v. Beech Aircraft Corp.. 842 F.2d 717.
720 (4th Cir. 1988). For collateral estoppel to apply, the
proponent must establish that: (1) the issue or fact sought
to be precluded is identical to one previously litigated: (2)
the issue or fact has been actually determined in the prior
proceeding; (3) determination of the issue or fact was a
critical and necessary part of the decision in the prior
proceeding: (4) the prior judgment is final and valid: and
(5) the party against whom estoppel is asserted had a full
and fair opportunity to litigate the issue or fact in the
previous forum. In re Microsoft Corp. Antitrust
Litig., 355 F.3d 322. 326 (4th Cir. 2004).
this Court has already determined that Wisor and Callahan
cannot be held liable for their conduct in Plaintiffs prior
State court proceeding because their actions "fall
within the purview of the absolute judicial immunity
doctrine." Torkornoo I. 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
123298. at *8. As stated in Torkornoo I:
Given the well-established precedent that "judges have
long enjoyed a comparatively sweeping form of immunity"
from claims for money damages. Forrester v. White.
484 U.S. 219. 225 (1988), Torkornoo's § 1983 action
against Judge Callahan is clearly not viable. As Torkornoo
details throughout his Amended Complaint. Judge Callahan
presided over a family law dispute, hearing and considering
evidence and issuing orders. However allegedly
"erroneous" Judge Callahan's "acts"
in (his regard may have been, and however allegedly
"injurious" they may have been or seemed to be to
Torkornoo, see Cleavinger v. Saxner. 474 U.S. 193,
199-200. Judge Callahan was clearly performing "judicial
acts" in resolving Torkornoo's family law dispute.
Id. at *5-6.
in Torkornoo I. Plaintiffs Complaint herein
"amounts to a catalogue of the reasons why the outcome
of Family Law Case No. 71419 was. in Torkornoo"s view.
Hawed and unjust." Id. at *3. The only
difference now is that Plaintiff brings his claims against
State defendants instead of Callahan and Wisor directly and
points to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act instead of 42
U.S.C. § 1983 as the basis for his underlying action.
Neither difference avoids the preclusive effect of
appears to argue that Defendant is prohibited from invoking
collateral estoppel based on an exception contained in
Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 26(1)(d). ECF No.
ECF No. 20-1 at ¶ 55. Section 26(1)(d) provides that a
claim may be split from a valid final judgment when
"[t]he judgment in the first action was plainly
inconsistent with the fair and equitable implementation of a
statutory or constitutional scheme, or it is the sense of the
scheme that the plaintiff should be permitted to split his
claim." The Court has no basis to find that this
provision is applicable here. In reviewing the Complaint, the
Court is unable to discern any conduct by Callahan or Wisor
that would fall outside of the broad protections of judicial
immunity. Therefore. Plaintiff is collaterally
estopped from bringing his claims against the State
defendants, and his Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
Court once again cautions Plaintiff that his continual effort
to obtain relief in Federal Court based on his
dissatisfaction with Family Law Case No. 71419 is bordering
upon conduct prohibited by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11