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Rhoe v. Kunz

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

December 4, 2018

KUNZ, et al., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Robert Lee Rhoe, II brings this pro se action against various Maryland judges, state child support attorneys, and state entities alleging that Defendants have violated several federal laws and the U.S. Constitution during the course of an ongoing paternity proceeding.[1]ECF No. 1. Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. ECF No. 12. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Enma Q. Perez gave birth to a child in July 2009. ECF No. 1-5 at 4.[3] On January 21, 2016, the Montgomery Office of Child Support Enforcement (MCOCSE) filed a paternity complaint against Mr. Rhoe in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland (the “Circuit Court”) regarding the minor child. ECF No. 1 ¶ 4. Attorneys Christopher Kunz, Amy Fusting, and Rina Erhart-Defendants and employees of the Maryland Attorney General's office-all served as counsel for MCOCSE at various stages of the paternity proceedings. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 10, 13. Plaintiff alleges that MCOCSE filed the paternity complaint in bad faith. ECF No. 1 ¶ 4. Apparently in support of this position, Plaintiff asserts that Enma Perez is “not legally domiciled” in Maryland and that MCOCSE failed to produce “written representations” made by Ms. Perez about Plaintiff's paternity status. See e.g., ECF No. 1 ¶ 16. Throughout the discovery process and the ongoing proceedings, MCOCSE has raised relevance objections to Plaintiff's interest in Ms. Perez's legal status in the United States. Id.; ECF No. 1 ¶ 16.

         Plaintiff further alleges that the MCOCSE Defendants missed discovery deadlines and/or failed to comply with discovery requests. ECF No. 1 ¶ 13. Specifically, he points out that MCOCSE's discovery responses were signed by Ms. Perez and MCOCSE and Ms. Perez made certain objections. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 13-18.

         On May 18, 2016, Defendant Special Magistrate Keith J. Rosa presided over a hearing and ordered Mr. Rhoe to submit to genetic testing to determine if he was the father of the minor child. ECF No. 1 ¶ 27. Maryland law requires that “on the motion of the Administration, a party to the proceeding, or on its own motion, the court shall order the mother, child, and alleged father to submit to blood or genetic tests to determine whether the alleged father can be excluded as being the father of the child. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 5-1029. At the hearing, Plaintiff argued that MCOCSE's complaint should be dismissed as a discovery sanction and he should not be required to submit to a paternity test because he cannot be forced to present evidence against himself. ECF No. 1 ¶ 22; ECF No. 1-18 at 8. Plaintiff alleges that by following § 5-1029's mandate, Defendant Rosa conspired with MCOCSE to help the agency obtain evidence. ECF No. ¶ 25.

         On June 1, 2016, Defendant Judge John M. Maloney signed Defendant Rosa's order requiring Mr. Rhoe to submit to genetic testing. ECF No. 1 ¶ 29. Mr. Rhoe then filed two interlocutory appeals to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, arising out of Judge Maloney's order requiring Mr. Rhoe to submit to genetic testing and Judge Maloney's order denying Mr. Rhoe's request for sanctions for alleged discovery violations. ECF No. 1 ¶ 30-31. Although the trial court proceedings were not stayed while his interlocutory appeals pended, Mr. Rhoe refused to submit to genetic testing and failed to appear at subsequent hearings. ECF No. 1 at 33-34; ECF No. 12-2 at 12.

         On July 25, 2016, MCOCSE filed a petition for contempt against Mr. Rhoe based upon his failure to submit to genetic testing. ECF No. 12-2 (certified docket entries) at 12. The hearing on contempt was postponed multiple times over the course of the next year while MCOCSE attempted to serve Mr. Rhoe. Id. at 12, 14, 16. MCOCSE eventually served Mr. Rhoe with the contempt complaint. Id. at 16. Mr. Rhoe filed a motion to quash the contempt petition, which Defendant Judge Joseph M. Quick denied. Id. at 17. The Office of the Public Defender then entered its appearance on behalf of Mr. Rhoe. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the MCOCSE Defendants violated his constitutional due process rights by filing their contempt petition and Defendant Quick violated those rights by granting the petition. ECF No. 1 ¶ 37.

         On July 21, 2017, the Circuit Court held a hearing on the contempt petition. ECF No. 12-2 at 17; ECF No. 1-24. Plaintiff's then-counsel appeared, but Plaintiff failed to appear, instead sending the Circuit Court a letter indicating his belief that he could not be held in contempt. ECF No. 12-2 at 17. As a result of Plaintiff's failure to appear, Defendant Judge Debra L. Dwyer issued a body attachment for Mr. Rhoe. ECF No. 1-24 at 5.

         On October 24, 2017, the Montgomery County Police arrested Mr. Rhoe. ECF No. 1 ¶ 41. The Circuit Court held a bond review hearing at which Mr. Rhoe was represented by counsel. ECF No. 1 ¶ 42. At the hearing, Mr. Rhoe was released and a new court date for the petition for contempt was scheduled for December 1, 2017. ECF No. 12-2 at 19. At the rescheduled contempt hearing, Plaintiff argued that he could not be held in contempt by the Circuit Court because he had appeals pending and requested a stay of the trial court proceedings. ECF No. 1 ¶ 46. To determine whether a stay was appropriate, Defendant Judge Dwyer requested that the parties provide copies of their appellate briefs and allow for a brief recess so that she could review Plaintiff's interlocutory appeals. Id. The parties did so, and after reviewing the appellate briefs, Defendant Dwyer “hypothesized that Plaintiff would not prevail in his Appeal” and denied Plaintiff's motion to stay on this basis. ECF No. 1 ¶ 47. Defendant Judge Dwyer then found Mr. Rhoe in contempt and ordered that he purge the contempt by submitting to genetic testing by December 21, 2017. ECF No. 12-2 at 20. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Dwyer's decision unconstitutionally interfered with his appeals. ECF No. 1 ¶ 47. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals later dismissed the interlocutory appeals as premature. ECF No. 12-4.

         On December 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint and requested an injunction against the Circuit Court. ECF No. 1. Although Plaintiff did not explicitly state whether he sued Defendants in their official or individual capacity, he served them at their employment addresses and the Complaint addresses actions taken by Defendants in their official capacities. ECF No. 1 at 1-3. After filing his federal lawsuit, Mr. Rhoe complied with the Circuit Court's contempt order and submitted to genetic testing. ECF No. 12-2 at 21. The Circuit Court then held a child support hearing regarding paternity on March 30, 2018. ECF No. 12-2 at 26. At Ms. Perez's request, the MCOCSE Defendants withdrew their request for child support and focused solely on establishing paternity. ECF No. 15-2 at 8-9. The Circuit Court established that Mr. Rhoe is the father of the minor child. Id. Mr. Rhoe noticed a timely appeal of that order to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which according to the Complaint is currently pending. ECF No. 1 ¶ 5.


         A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

         Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). When a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), “the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Id. (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)). The district court ...

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