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Lamar v. Maryland Department of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 30, 2019



          Ellen Lipton Hollander United States District Judge

         In this civil rights suit, plaintiff Da'Juan'dre Lamar Sr. of the Family Latting ("Latting"), proceeding pro se, has sued the Maryland Department of Human Services ("MDHS"); Dorchester County, Maryland ("Dorchester County"); the Circuit Court for Dorchester County, Maryland (the "Circuit Court"); and Karen R. Ketterman, a former family court magistrate for the Circuit Court. ECF 1 (the "Complaint").[2]

         The suit appears to be rooted in a child support enforcement action brought by MDHS against Latting in the Circuit Court. Latting alleges that he was unlawfully compelled to disclose his Social Security number so that the State could employ child support collection remedies under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, which created the federal Child Support Enforcement Program. Id. at 1-2.

         The Complaint contains nine § 1983 claims: "Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law"; compelled disclosure and use of a Social Security number in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 408; violation of Article I, § 9, clause 3 of the United State Constitution; and violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Id. at 7-13. Plaintiff seeks general damages, special compensatory damages, punitive damages, reimbursement of income, legal fees and costs, and various forms of equitable relief. Id. at 14-15.

         MDHS, the Circuit Court, and Ketterman have moved to dismiss (ECF 5) on various grounds, supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 5-1 (collectively, the "Motion"). Dorchester County adopted and incorporated the Motion. See ECF 7. Plaintiff has not filed an opposition, and the time to do so has expired. See Local Rule 105.2.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant defendants' Motion, with leave to amend.

         I. Factual Background[3]

         MDHS is a State agency that provides social services throughout the state of Maryland and, of relevance here, brings child support enforcement actions. Md. Code (2007, 2018 Supp.), § 2-201 of the Human Services Article. The Circuit Court is also a State entity. See Md. Code (2013 Repl. Vol., 2018 Supp.), § 1-501 of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article ("C.J.") ("The circuit courts are the highest common-law and equity courts of record exercising original jurisdiction within the State.").

         The Complaint is not a model of clarity, and the Court struggles to determine the precise nature of plaintiff s suit. See ECF 1. Nevertheless, it appears that Latting's suit arises out of a child support enforcement action brought against him by MDHS in the Circuit Court. Id. at 1-3. Although not expressly stated in the Complaint, the Court assumes that Ketterman, a former family court magistrate, presided over the action. Id. at 3-4; ECF 5-1 at 1 n.1. In the proceeding, the State compelled Latting to disclose his Social Security number. The State then used his Social Security number to employ collection remedies and thereby satisfy child support obligations. Id. at 8, 12. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the defendants placed liens on his real and personal property and collected money from his income. Id. at 8.

         II. Standard of Review

          Defendants have moved to dismiss, in part, under Rule 12(b)(6). A defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd, 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'dsub nom., McBumey v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendants with "fair notice" of the claims and the "grounds" for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must set forth facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (citation omitted) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions'......"); see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). But, a plaintiff need not include "detailed factual allegations" in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules "do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S., 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).

         Nevertheless, the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint provides no more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action," it is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather, to satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the complaint must set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if.. . [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         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); see Semenova v. MTA,845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc.,791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015); Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir. 2011), cert, denied,565 U.S. 943 (2011). But, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain,478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow ...

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