United States District Court, D. Maryland
ADOL T. OWEN-WILLIAMS, II
MICHAEL L. HIGGS, JR., ESQ., et al.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
motions are presently pending and ready for resolution in
this civil rights action. Plaintiff Adol T. Owen-Williams, II
(“Plaintiff”) filed a motion for judgment,
default judgment and/or declaratory judgment in this civil
rights action on May 4, 2018. (ECF No. 8). Defendants Michael
L. Higgs, Jr., Katja Bullock, Mark Uncapher, Richard Hansin,
Joseph Gillin and the Montgomery County Republican Central
Committee (“Defendants”) filed a motion to
dismiss on May 11, 2018. (ECF No. 11). The issues have been
briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed
necessary. Local Rule 105.6. Because Plaintiff's First
Amendment claim is barred under the res judicata
doctrine and in any event fails to demonstrate necessary
state action, that claim will be dismissed for failure to
state a claim. There is no independent basis for federal
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's supplemental state law
claims and the court declines to consider them. Accordingly,
all of Plaintiff's claims will be dismissed.
filed a complaint on February 12, 2018, alleging that some of
the Defendants violated his First Amendment Rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1, at 26-28). Plaintiff also
asserts eight state law claims, including false arrest, false
imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process,
assault, defamation, breach of contract, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. (Id., at 17-33).
claims stem from his long-standing involvement in the
Montgomery County Republican Central Committee (the
“MCRCC”). (ECF No. 1, at 2). Plaintiff states
that the MCRCC named Plaintiff as the MCRCC's nominee to
sit on the Board of Elections, but his nomination did not
come to fruition because it was not approved by then Governor
Martin O'Malley. (Id., at 5). He claims that, in
lieu of a seat on the Board of Elections, the MCRCC offered
Plaintiff the position of MCRCC Liaison to the Board of
Elections. Plaintiff alleges that when he accepted this
alternative assignment, the MCRCC promised to elevate him as
nominee to the Board of Elections if a Republican later
assumed the Governorship in Maryland. Plaintiff accepted the
role of liaison and attended Board of Election meetings for
four years in that capacity.
Michael Higgs (“Higgs”) allegedly joined the
MCRCC in Fall, 2012 and, by the end of his first year on the
MCRCC, negotiated an agreement with then chairman Mark
Uncapher wherein Higgs would succeed Uncapher as chairman.
(Id., at 5-6). The remainder of Plaintiff's
complaint explains how Higgs and other members of the MCRCC
mistreated Plaintiff, attempted to limit Plaintiff's
participation in the MCRCC, and barred Plaintiff from
entering the MCRCC headquarters. (Id., at 6-17).
filed a motion for judgment, default judgment and/or
declaratory judgment on May 4, 2018, seeking default judgment
in the amount of $10, 300, 000 “pursuant to Rule 8
[§§] 1254 & 1255.” (ECF No. 8, at 2-3).
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice,
enjoin new case filings, and requested attorneys' fees
and costs on May 11, 2018. (ECF No. 11). Defendants request
dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants also
seek dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted because
Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is precluded under the
doctrine of res judicata and Defendants do not
qualify as state actors. (ECF No. 12, at 2-5). Finally,
because Plaintiff has filed two nearly identical cases
against Defendants, they also request an injunction barring
Plaintiff from filing future cases against them.
(Id., at 11-12).
Motion to Dismiss
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is
governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).
Generally, “questions of subject matter jurisdiction
must be decided ‘first, because they concern the
court's very power to hear the case.'”
Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Meade, 186 F.3d 435, 442 n.4
(4th Cir. 1999) (quoting 2 James Wm. Moore, et
al., Moore's Federal Practice § 12.30
(3rd ed. 1998)). The Plaintiff always bears the
burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction properly
exists in federal court. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins
Co., a Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166
F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). According to 28
U.S.C. § 1331, “[t]he district courts shall have
original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
Courts must “look no farther than the plaintiff's
complaint in determining whether a lawsuit raises issues of
federal law capable of creating federal-question jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.” Custer v.
Sweeney, 89 F.3d 1156, 1165 (4th Cir. 1996).
Plaintiff's complaint asserts one federal cause of action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants
violated his First Amendment rights. Because Plaintiff's
§ 1983 claim arises under federal law, it satisfies the
requirements of subject-matter jurisdiction.
sufficiency of Plaintiff's complaint must also be
assessed under Rule 12(b)(6). Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir.
2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the
standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule
8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing,' rather than a
blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007).
That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or
“naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual
enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).
stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be
considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be
construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176
F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134
(4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint,
unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted.
Revene v. Charles Cty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870,
873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of
any reference to actual events, United Black
Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847
(4th Cir. 1979).
an affirmative defense, such as res judicata, which
must be raised and established by the defense, is an
inappropriate consideration on a motion to dismiss.
Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 46
(4th Cir. 2007). On the other hand, “[i]n
the limited circumstances where the allegations of the
complaint give rise to an affirmative defense, the defense
may be raised under Rule 12(b)(6), but only if it clearly
appears on the face of the complaint.” Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. Forst, 4 F.3d
244, 250 (4th Cir. 1983) (citation omitted).
[Although] an affirmative defense such as res
judicata may be raised under Rule 12(b)(6) “only
if it clearly appears on the face of the complaint, ”
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v.
Forst, 4 F.3d 244, 250 (4thCir. 1993), when
entertaining a motion to dismiss on the ground of res
judicata, a court may take judicial notice of facts from
a prior judicial proceeding when the res judicata
defense raises no disputed issue of fact, see Day v.
Moscow, 955 F.2d 807, 811 (2d Cir. 1992);
Scott v. Kuhlmann, 746 F.2d 1377, 1378
(9th Cir. ...