United States District Court, D. Maryland
ELIA T. WATKINS, Plaintiff,
JOHN CULLEN, et al., Defendants.
L. Russell, III United States District Judge.
before the Court is Defendants' Supplemental Motion to
Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 45). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no
hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md.
2018). For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the
April 7, 2016, Plaintiff Elia T. Watkins sued several
employees of the Thomas B. Finan Center (the “Finan
Center”) in Cumberland, Maryland and an Allegany County
Circuit Court judge, alleging violations of his
constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018).
(Compl., ECF No. 1). Watkins, who now lives at the Spring
Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, Maryland, alleges that
Finan Center employees treated him improperly, breached his
confidentiality, and failed to protect him from assaults by a
fellow Finan Center patient. (See id.; Suppls., ECF
Nos. 6, 8). As relevant here, Watkins avers that, during a
May 8, 2015 conditional release hearing, Defendant Dr. Janet
Hendershot falsely testified that Watkins inappropriately
touched a fellow patient. (Compl. at 9-10).
20, 2018, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of
Defendants, except with respect to Watkins's assertion
that Dr. Hendershot testified falsely during Watkins's
conditional release hearing, a claim that Defendants did not
address in their dispositive motion. (July 28, 2018 Mem. Op.
at 17, ECF No. 41). After the Court ordered Defendants to
show cause why relief should not be granted to Watkins on his
remaining claim, (Oct. 26, 2018 Order, ECF No. 44),
Defendants filed their Supplemental Motion to Dismiss or, in
the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on November 16,
2018, (ECF No. 45). To date, Watkins has not filed a
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) is to “test[ ] the sufficiency of a complaint,
” not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts,
the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206,
214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). A
complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to
forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the
complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each
element. Goss v. Bank of America, N.A., 917
F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v.
McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)),
aff'd sub nom. Goss v. Bank of America, NA, 546
Fed.Appx. 165 (4th Cir. 2013).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the
complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the
complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v.
Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of
Comm'rs, 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). But,
the court need not accept unsupported or conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events,
United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844,
847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions couched as factual
allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976));
accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d
720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). Pro se complaints are entitled to
special care to determine whether any possible set of facts
would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). But “even a pro se
complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege ‘a
plausible claim for relief.'” Forquer v.
Schlee, No. RDB-12-969, 2012 WL 6087491, at *3 (D.Md.
Dec. 4, 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
“While pro se complaints may ‘represent the work
of an untutored hand requiring special judicial
solicitude,' a district court is not required to
recognize ‘obscure or extravagant claims defying the
most concerted efforts to unravel them.'”
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387,
391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985)).
argue that Dr. Hendershot is entitled to absolute immunity
with respect to the testimony she provided at the conditional
release hearing. The Court agrees.
immunity is designed to protect the judicial process and
extends to all those who assist the truth-seeking mission of
the court. See Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554
(1967) (explaining judicial immunity); Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427 (1976) (holding immunity
extends to prosecutors); Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S.
325, 330-34 (1983) (holding immunity extends to witnesses).
Witnesses' absolute immunity with regard to their
testimony shields them from actions for damages brought under
§ 1983. See Briscoe, 460 U.S. at 335.
immunity provided to witnesses is broad. It extends to
voluntary witnesses as well as compelled witnesses. Day
v. Johns Hopkins Health System Corp., 907 F.3d 766, 771
(4th Cir. 2018) (citing Briscoe, 460 U.S. at 333).
It extends to witnesses who provide factual as well as those
who offer opinion testimony. Id. (citing Bruce
v. Byrne-Stevens & Assoc. Eng'rs. 776 P.2d. 666,
668-69 (Wash. 1989)). Witness immunity extends to
administrative proceedings. Id. at 772 (citing
Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 512 (1978)).
Further, it ...