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Mauler v. Arlotto

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 11, 2018

GEORGIE JESSUP MAULER, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE ARLOTTO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Georgie Jessup Mauler (“Plaintiff” or “Mauler”) brings this action against Defendants George Arlotto (“Arlotto”), Sarah Czach (“Czach”), and Doyle Batten (“Batten”) (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that she was unlawfully arrested on the Anne Arundel County Board of Education's property in retaliation for exercising her First Amendment right to free speech (Count I) and in violation of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure (Count II). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Currently pending before this Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 7.) The submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7) is GRANTED and Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         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 Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). Plaintiff Georgie Jessup Mauler (“Plaintiff” or “Mauler”), a transgender female, began working for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education (“the Board”) as a teacher's assistant in 1984. (Id. at ¶ 8.) She alleges that when she first began expressing her feminine identity at work in 1993, Board officials began openly harassing her and discriminating against her. (Id. at ¶ 9.) When she underwent a sex reassignment surgery in 1998, the harassment and discrimination intensified. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Despite what she contends was pervasive harassment, Mauler continued to work at the Anne Arundel County Board of Education for seventeen years, until her effective retirement on June 30, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 11.)

         One week before her retirement, Mauler decided to have a “peaceful protest” at the Board's central office to protest “the Board's mistreatment of herself and all transgender individuals and to remonstrate against what she perceived to be the Board's waste of taxpayer money.” (Id. at ¶ 12.) She asked the president of her union where groups normally held rallies or protests at the Board's central office and was told that they normally took place under the trees just off the sidewalk on the Board's property. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.) The spot is about seventy-five to one hundred feet from the Board's main entrance. (Id. at ¶ 29.)

         On June 23, 2015, the morning of her protest, Mauler first went into the Board's Human Resources Department to retrieve an award. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-21.) She then went back to her car to retrieve some items for her protest. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Mauler alleges that as she was retrieving her items, she saw the Defendant Czach standing in the parking lot watching her along with two other individuals. (Id. at ¶ 24.) From where Czach was standing, Mauler contends that Czach could see her guitar, coup stick, and sign saying “AACPS is transphobic.” (Id. at ¶ 30.)

         Around 10:30 a.m. on the morning of June 23, 2015, Mauler began singing her protest songs. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Before she sang her first song, she noticed that Czach and the two individuals were no longer outside. (Id. at ¶ 34.) She then sang three songs, during which she still did not observe anyone outside. (Id. at ¶ 37.) When she began singing her fourth song, Defendant Doyle Batten (“Batten”), the Board's Supervisor of School Security, approached her and ordered her to move off the Board's property to the public sidewalk or threatened that she would be arrested. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Mauler responded to Batten that his threat of arrest was improper because union protests had occurred there previously. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Batten then told her “let's see how dedicated you are to your cause” and walked away. (Id. at ¶ 42.)

         Approximately three to five minutes later, while Mauler was singing her next song, two police officers with the Anne Arundel County Police Department arrived. (Id. at ¶ 45.) One of the police officers immediately ordered Mauler to put her hands behind her back and told her that she was being arrested for trespass. (Id. at ¶ 47.) When Mauler told the officer that she would obey a “lawful order to move, ” she alleges that Batten stated it was not an “option” for Ms. Mauler to move and he “wanted her arrested.” (Id. at ¶¶ 48-49.) Mauler was arrested, and she alleges that Defendant Czach and other Board employees watched from the entryway of the Board. (Id. at ¶ 50.) Mauler was held at the police station for approximately one hour and charged with wanton trespass on private property, in violation of Section 6-403 of the Criminal Law Article of the Maryland Code. (Id. at ¶¶ 52-53.) Three months later, the State's Attorney's Office for Anne Arundel County entered a nolle prosequi.[1](Id. at ¶ 55.)

         Almost three years after this one hour incident, on May 17, 2018, Mauler filed the instant action alleging, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that her arrest was in retaliation for exercising her First Amendment right to free speech and violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. (ECF No. 1.) She alleges that Czach and Batten “acted with palpable hostility in suppressing [her] expression of Free Speech and effectuating her unlawful arrest because she is a transgender woman who dared to protest the Board's mistreatment of transgender individuals” and that their actions were “in full view of their superiors, including [Defendant] Superintendent Arlotto.” (Id. at ¶¶ 58-59.) On July 5, 2018, all three Defendants moved to dismiss the Plaintiff's claims. (ECF No. 7.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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) 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. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         ANALYSIS

         Section 1983 authorizes 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: “(1) a deprivation of a constitutional right or some right secured by the laws of the United States, and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a state actor.” Corral v. Montgomery County, 4 F.Supp.3d 739, 744-45 (D. Md. 2014) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250 (1988)). Plaintiff Mauler alleges that each of the three Defendants caused her illegal arrest both in retaliation against her for exercising her First Amendment right to free speech and in violation of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

         Defendants Arlotto and Czach argue that Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed against them because they did not cause the alleged deprivation of Mauler's constitutional rights, specifically the arrest. On the other hand, Defendant Batten argues that “it must be assumed that Defendant Batten reported []his interaction with Ms. Mauler to the officer, ” but that he did not cause an illegal arrest or cause her to be arrested in retaliation for exercising her ...


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