United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar Chief Judge
Jerome Grant II filed this civil rights action on May 3,
2018, and paid the full filing fee. ECF 1. The complaint
concerns a foreclosure proceeding that was initiated in 2015
and resulted in the sale of his property. Grant contends that
the manner in which the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County
permitted notice of the proceeding constitutes a policy of
Anne Arundel County that violates the constitution. For the
reasons that follow, the complaint must be dismissed.
proceedings against Grant's property were filed on April
14, 2015. See Rosenberg, et al. v. Grant, et al.,
No. C-02-CV-15-001263 (Anne Arundel Co. Cir. Ct.) at
http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/inquiry. At a hearing
held on September 14, 2015, the Hon. Philip T. Caroom
presiding, neither Grant nor his ex-wife was present, but the
hearing nevertheless took place in their absence. ECF 1-2
(transcript of hearing). After the court confirmed that
notice was sent to the only address on file for the Grants,
that Nydia Grant's notice was returned as undeliverable,
the court observed:
So this is the only address I think that the Court has for
them, and although it says no known address, perhaps that was
from postage having them returned before, and it does appear
that at least one of the notices went to the Grants and was
returned as undeliverable by the post office.
So putting those things together, it appears that there
evidently was a change of address by the Grants or that they
gave the court an incorrect address in the first place, and
so the court is not able to give better notice to them. Since
it is the obligation of parties to keep the court - to notify
the court of a correct address and keep the court updated if
they change, I am going to find that in effect they are in
default for not having complied with that, and that we should
proceed in their absence.
ECF 1-2 at pp. 3-4. At the time of the hearing, Mr. Grant had
filed a motion challenging the validity of the foreclosure
proceeding. Id. at p. 5. On October 20, 2015, the
Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County issued an order
granting the foreclosure and permitting the sale of the
property. ECF 1-4. Grant states that following the sale of
his property on January 4, 2017, an additional personal
judgment in excess of 52 thousand dollars was “approved
and ratified” by Judge Harris, Jr. ECF 1-6.
first claim is that the “county's unconstitutional
no-notification policy is executed under color of Maryland
foreclosure law” that “gives the appearance that
notice has been provided when in actuality, only an
invitation that notification should be forthcoming is
sent.” ECF 1 at p. 6. He maintains that this
“policy” is unconstitutional and “manifests
itself as a discriminatory housing practice” because it
“allows the court to provide constitutional protections
at its own discretion as opposed to applying them equally
under the law.” Id. at p. 7. He further states
that such a policy allows the county to engage in equal
protection violations by applying or not applying the policy
for “homeowners of a certain status, age, class, or
ethnicity.” Id. Grant asserts this
“policy” has the potential of violating the equal
protection clause. Id.
second claim is entitled “Fifth Amendment Violations;
Inverse Condemnation.” ECF 1 at p. 7. He states that
the “county's policy allows the property to be sold
to the public at the propert[y] owner's expense while the
county receives a portion of the value of the
proceeds.” Id. at p. 8. He explains that the
“policy saves the county administrative costs
associated with the takings because there is no
proceeding.” Id. He seems to claim that
because the Circuit Court found that he failed to provide a
current or correct address, rendering the notice provided
seemingly ineffective because he did not show up for the
hearing, the County executed a taking of private property
without just compensation. Id.
third claim is that the “unlawful policy to injure
[him] by imposing a penalty of $52, 874” violates the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition against “state
governments from excessive fines against actions involving
forfeiture.” ECF 1 at p. 10. He states that the
“penalty is excessive in view of the nature of the
deprivation of due process and the unlawful taking of [his]
property.” Id. at p. 11.
is neither a prisoner nor is he proceeding in forma pauperis,
so the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A
(2006), permitting sua sponte dismissal of complaints that
fail to state a claim, are inapplicable. See Stafford v.
United States, 208 F.3d 1177, 1179 n.4 (10th Cir. 2000);
Porter v. Fox, 99 F.3d 271, 273 n.1 (8th Cir. 1996).
This court, however, has the inherent authority to dismiss
frivolous complaints even when the filing fee has been paid.
See, e.g., Mallard v. United States Dist.
Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989) (“Section
1915(d) . . . authorizes courts to dismiss a ‘frivolous
or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they
would have the power to do so even in the absence of this
statutory provision.”); Fitzgerald v. First E.
Seventh St., 221 F.3d 362, 364 (2d Cir. 2000).
Additionally, this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over a frivolous claim making dismissal prior to service
permissible. See Ricketts v. Midwest Nat'l Bank,
874 F.2d 1177, 1181-83 (7th Cir. 1989); Franklin v. Or.
State Welfare Div., 662 F.2d 1337, 1342-43 (9th Cir.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 authorizes a plaintiff to bring a suit
for damages against any individual “who, under color of
any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any
State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen
of the United States or other person . . . to the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution.” In suing a municipal government and
agency under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Grant must prove two
elements to succeed in this claim. First, he must establish
the existence of a constitutional violation on the part of
the municipality through a county employee or agency. See
Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986)
(jury's finding that a police officer inflicted no
constitutional injury on the plaintiff removed any basis for
municipal liability against city and members of police
commission); Temkin v. Frederick Cty. Comm'rs,
945 F.2d 716, 724 (4th Cir. 1991) (§ 1983 claim of
inadequate training or supervision cannot be established
without a finding of a constitutional violation on the part
of the person being supervised); see also Dawson v.
Prince George's County, 896 F.Supp. 537, 540 (D. Md.
1995). Second, Grant must show that any constitutional
violations were proximately caused by a policy, custom, or
practice of the defendants. See Monell v. Dep't of
Social Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 691, 694 (1978).
Municipal policy arises from written ordinances, regulations,
and statements of policy, id. at 690; decisions by
municipal policymakers, Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475
U.S. 469, 482-83 (1986); and omissions by policymakers that
show a “deliberate indifference” to the rights of
citizens. See Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388
Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, which is a
state agency, and the judges who issue decisions for
the court are not engaged in municipal policymaking for
purposes of Monell liability. In essence,
Grant's claims, if this complaint is permitted to
proceed, would create a cause of action for persons aggrieved
by a state court's decision where such a cause of action
would otherwise be barred by the doctrine of judicial
immunity. It is well established that judges are immune from
suit for money damages for decisions made in their capacities
as judges. See e.g., Forrester v. White,
484 U.S. 219 (1988); Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S.
193 (1985); Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24 (1980);
Supreme Court of Va. v. Consumers Union of United States,
Inc., 446 U.S. 719 (1980); Butz v. Economou,
438 U.S. 478 (1978); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349
(1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967). Here
the asserted “policy” is a decision by the
presiding state court judge that the opposing party met its
obligation to provide notice to Grant, but that Grant failed
to fulfill his responsibility to keep on file with the court
an accurate address. This is nothing more than a judicial
decision made on the facts presented to the court; it is not
a “policy” for Anne Arundel County, nor was it
promulgated by a policy-making authority.
complaint must be dismissed by ...