United States District Court, D. Maryland
STEVEN W. HOGAN
CARROLL COUNTY, MARYLAND, et al
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
serious altercation transpired between Steven W. Hogan and
officers of the Westminster Police Department on July 14,
2016, in the yard outside Mr. Hogan's Westminster home.
Subsequently, Mr. Hogan filed suit in this court under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, naming Carroll . County, Maryland,
Officer Michael Beaumont, and Sergeant Radcliffe Darby as
defendants. At issue here are the defendants' motions to
dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on Mr.
Hogan's Second Amendment claim (Count I), his equal
protection claim (Count II), and his excessive use of force
claim (Count Hi). See Officer Defendants' Mot.
Dismiss / Summ. J., ECF 3; Carroll County's Mot. Dismiss
/ Summ. J., ECF 4. The parties agree that Count I and Count
II should be dismissed, although they disagree over whether
that dismissal should be with prejudice. The Fourth Amendment
excessive force claim, by contrast, is argued on the merits.
Under the Heck doctrine, Count I and Count II will
be dismissed without prejudice. Because the officer's actions
under the circumstances do not amount to excessive force
under the Fourth Amendment, Count III will be dismissed with
certain aspects of what occurred are very much in dispute,
the parties agree on the basic points of how the events of
July 14, 2016, unfolded. The month prior; Mr. Hogan had been
convicted of a state criminal offense rendering it unlawful
for him to possess a firearm. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Mr. Hogan
called the Westminster Police Department on the day in
question, reporting a broken door. (Compl. ¶ 19.)
Sergeant Lambert responded to the call. There ensued an
encounter between Mr. Hogan and Sergeant Lambert at Mr.
Hogan's doorway in which Mr. Hogan displayed, but did not
hand over, a small silver Derringer firearm in his
pocket. (Compl. ¶ 20; Officer Defs' Mot.
to Dismiss / Summ. J, Ex. A at p. 2, ECF No. 3.) Sergeant
Lambert called for backup, and Officer Beaumont and Sergeant
Darby, who both knew Mr. Hogan and of his prior conviction,
responded. (Compl. ¶ 22.) The radio call specified that
Mr. Hogan was armed with a handgun. (Pi's Opp'n
Defs' Mot. Dismiss / Summ. J., Ex. 2, ECF No. 7.) While
the play-by-play accounts of what happened next markedly
diverge, a standoff of sorts came about in which all agree
that words were exchanged, Mr. Hogan retreated into his home
(perhaps more than once), retained control over the
Derringer, and Sergeant Darby and Officer Beaumont each
deployed a taser against Mr. Hogan and used force to
effectuate his arrest. (Compl. ¶ 31-35.) Mr. Hogan was
later convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm in
violation of Md. Code of Pub. Safety § 5-133 but was
acquitted of resisting arrest. (Pi's Opp'n Defs'
Mot. Dismiss / Summ. J. at pp. 2-3, ECF No. 7.) He was
sentenced to five years in prison, the statute's
mandatory minimum. (Compl. ¶ 40.)
Standard of Review
defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for
summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A court considers
only the pleadings when deciding a Rule I2(b)(6) motion.
Where the parties present matters outside of the pleadings
and the court considers those matters, as here, the motion is
treated as one for summary judgment. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(d); Gadsby by Gadsby v. Grasmick, 109
F.3d 940, 949 (4th Cir. 1997); Paukstis v. Kenwood Golf
& Country Club, Inc., 241 F.Supp.2d 551, 556 (D. Md.
2003). "There are two requirements for a proper Rule
12(d) conversion." Greater Baltimore Ctr. for
Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor and City Council of
Baltimore, 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013). First, all
parties must "be given some indication by the court that
it is treating the I2(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary
judgment," which can be satisfied when a party is
"aware that material outside the pleadings is before the
court." Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th
Cir. 1985); see also Laughlin v. Metro. Washington
Airports Autk, 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998)
(commenting that a court has no obligation "to notify
parties of the obvious"). "[T]he second requirement
for proper conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is that the
parties first 'be afforded a reasonable opportunity for
discovery.3" Greater Baltimore, 721 F.3d at
the plaintiffs had adequate notice that the defendants'
motions might be treated as those for summary judgment. The
motions' alternative captions and attached materials are
in themselves sufficient indicia. See Laughlin, 149
F.3d at 260-61. Moreover, the plaintiffs referred to the
motions in their opposition brief as those for summary
judgment and submitted additional; documentary exhibits. If
the plaintiffs had thought they needed additional evidence to
oppose summary judgment, Rule 56(d), which they have not
invoked, afforded them the opportunity to seek further
discovery through an affidavit. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(d); see also Greater Baltimore, 111 F.3d at 281
("[The defendant] took 'the proper course' when
it filed the Rule 56([d]) Affidavit, 'stating that it
could not properly oppose ... summary judgment without a
chance to conduct discovery.'") (citation omitted);
Laughlin, 149 F.3d at 261 (refusing to overturn
district court's grant of summary judgment on assertions
of inadequate discovery when the nonmoving party failed to
make an appropriate motion under Rule 56([d])). Therefore,
the court will consider the affidavits and additional
materials submitted by the parties and will treat the motions
of the defendants as motions for summary judgment.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (emphases added). "A dispute is
genuine if 'a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the nonmoving party.'" Libertarian Party of Va.
v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330
(4th Cir. 2012)). "A fact is material if it 'might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly,
"the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment[.]"
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The court must view
the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014)
(per curiam), and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C
Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th
Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court must "prevent
factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to
trial." Bouchat v. Bait. Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir.
and Count II will be dismissed without prejudice.
Heck currently bars Mr. Hogan's claims, but if
his conviction should somehow be set aside in the future, he
may be permitted to file a new action. See Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (stating that
"to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by
actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called
into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages
bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that
has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under §
1983."). The court expresses no opinion on the merits,
if any, of those future claims.
immunity is an affirmative defense to liability under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S.
800, 815 (1982). Qualified immunity shields government
officials from liability for civil damages as long as
"their conduct does not violate clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known." Harlow, 457 U.S. at
818. "Qualified immunity balances two important
interests-the need to hold public officials accountable when
they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield
officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when
they perform their duties reasonably." Pearson v.
Callahan,555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). Defendants bear the
burden of proving their entitlement to qualified immunity.
Danser v. Stansberry,777 F.3d 340, 345 (4th Cir.
2014). To prevail on a qualified immunity defense, a
government official must demonstrate either (1) that the
facts, construed in the plaintiffs favor, do not constitute ...