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Chamberlain v. Brown

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 31, 2018

Stephen D. Chamberlain
v.
Samuel J. Brown, et al.

         Dear Parties:

         Pending before the Court are Defendant Judith C. Chamberlain's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted (ECF No. 10) and Defendants Samuel J. Brown and Marietta B. Warren's Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15).[1] The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant the Motions.

         On May 22, 2009, Plaintiff Stephen D. Chamberlain and Ms. Chamberlain (collectively, “the Chamberlains”) divorced. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 9).[2] As part of the divorce, the Chamberlains entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”). (Id. ¶ 6). The MSA contained a provision that dictated how the Chamberlains' three children would apply to and select a college to (the “College Education Provision”). (Id. ¶ 7).

         On September 19, 2013, Ms. Chamberlain filed a Petition for Contempt and Declaratory Judgment Complaint to Enforce the MSA in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County (the “Declaratory Judgment Action”). (Am. Compl. ¶ 13; Def.'s Mot. Dismiss [“Def.'s Mot.”] Ex. A at 14, ECF No. 4-2).[3] Ms. Chamberlain sought a declaration that the MSA's College Education Provision permitted the Chamberlains' youngest son to apply to “the schools of his choice.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 13). Brown and Warren represented Ms. Chamberlain in the Declaratory Judgment Action. (See id. ¶¶ 13, 17). The parties entered into a consent order that resolved the Declaratory Judgment Action on June 5, 2014. (Def.'s Mot. Ex. B, ECF No. 4-3).

         On September 28, 2017, Mr. Chamberlain, pro se, sued Ms. Chamberlain, Brown, and Warren. (ECF No. 1). On November 27, 2017, Mr. Chamberlain filed an Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 9), which brings seven counts: (1) abuse of process for wrongful use of discovery against Ms. Chamberlain, Brown, and Warren (Count I);[4] (2) abuse of process for filing known meritless litigation against Ms. Chamberlain, Brown, and Warren (Count II); (3) abuse of process for concealing known information from the court against Ms. Chamberlain and Warren (Count III); (4) abuse of process for sustaining known moot litigation against Ms. Chamberlain, Brown, and Warren (Count IV); (5) abuse of process for tampering with a sealed court record against Brown and Warren (Count V); (6) tortious interference with contract against Brown and Warren (Count VI); and (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) against Ms. Chamberlain, Brown, and Warren. (Id. ¶¶ 41-79). Mr. Chamberlain seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (See, e.g., id. ¶ 45).

         On November 28, 2017, Ms. Chamberlain filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted. (ECF No. 10). On December 11, 2017, Mr. Chamberlain filed an Opposition. (ECF No. 18). To date, the Court has no record that Ms. Chamberlain filed a Reply.

         On November 30, 2017, Brown and Warren filed a Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 15). Mr. Chamberlain filed an Opposition on December 16, 2017. (ECF No. 21). To date, the Court has no record that Brown and Warren filed a Reply.

         Brown and Warren style their Motions as motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd, 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). This Rule provides that when “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court “has ‘complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it.'” Wells-Bey v. Kopp, No. ELH-12-2319, 2013 WL 1700927, at *5 (D.Md. Apr. 16, 2013) (quoting 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2012 Supp.)).

         In this case, because Brown and Warren did not attach any exhibits to their Motion, the Court will not convert it into a motion for summary judgment.

         “The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint, ” not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999)). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 Fed.Appx. 165 (4th Cir. 2013).

         Pro se pleadings, however, are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). Pro se complaints are entitled to special care to determine whether any possible set of facts would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). Nonetheless, “[w]hile pro se complaints may ‘represent the work of an untutored hand requiring special judicial solicitude,' a district court is not required to recognize ‘obscure or extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to unravel them.'” Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for Balt., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         Defendants advance five arguments for dismissing the Amended Complaint:[5] (1) the domestic relations exception to diversity jurisdiction; (2) the Rooker-Feldman doctrine;[6] (3) res judicata; (4) statute of limitations; and (5) failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). The Court agrees with Defendants' fifth argument and addresses Mr. Chamberlain's claims in turn.

         Abuse of Process

         To state an abuse of process claim under Maryland law, [7] a plaintiff must allege that: (1) the defendants “willfully used process after it has issued in a manner not contemplated by law”; (2) the defendants acted with an “ulterior motive”; and (3) damages as a result of the defendants' improper use of process. Clark v. Choudry, No. DKC 16-0261, 2016 WL 3541248, at *4 (D.Md. June 29, 2016) (quoting One Thousand Fleet Ltd. P'ship v. Guerriero, 694 A.2d 952, 956 (Md. 1997)). As to the damages element, “an arrest of the person or ...


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