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Spencer v. Guessford

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 25, 2019

PFC JESSIE GUESSFORD, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court is Defendants PFC Jessie Guessford and Det. Edward Howard's (collectively, “the Officers”) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the Motion.


         The facts of this case are not entirely clear from Plaintiff Harvey C. Spencer's Complaint. (See Compl., ECF No. 1). The Complaint, which consists of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018) form and a handwritten statement, names the Officers and Ray Klekotka as Defendants[2] but does not identify the right or rights they allegedly violated. (Id. at 1-2).[3]

         The Court takes judicial notice[4] of the docket from Spencer's criminal case in the Circuit Court for Dorchester County, Maryland, which he cites in the Complaint. (Id. at 3). According to the docket in that case, the incident that forms the basis of the Complaint occurred on June 29, 2015. (No. 09-K-15-015654, Docket, Cir. Ct. Dorch. Cty.). After a trial on February 11, 2016, a jury convicted Spencer of two misdemeanors-theft of under $1, 000.00 and resisting arrest-and acquitted him of several other charges, including felony counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and disarming a law officer. (Id.). The state court sentenced him to four-and-a-half years in prison, (id.), which he is serving at the Eastern Correctional Institution Annex in Westover, Maryland, (Compl. at 1). The Complaint's handwritten statement includes excerpts or summaries of testimony from Spencer's criminal trial. (Compl. at 2). As to Klekotka, the summary concerns the location of certain pieces of evidence. (Id.).[5] As to the Officers, the Complaint states:

PFC Jessie Guessford:
He said I mean, he made no threats. He wasn't tr[y]ng to fight[.] This man hit me in the face [sixteen] time[s] and was on top of me[;] said I'll kill you dead. [illegible]
Detective Edward Howard: was choking me and said he saw my head hit the as[phalt] so many time[s] he lost count. And my blood was on his shirt. Mr. Spencer['s] blood. I was acquitted of the most serious charges with them!

Id. (some capitalization altered).

         On January 26, 2018, Spencer sued the Officers and Klekotka. (ECF No. 1). On September 6, 2018, the Officers filed their Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 7). On Spencer 17, 2018, Spencer filed an Opposition. (ECF No. 10).[6] On October 9, 2018, the Officers filed a Reply. (ECF No. 11).


         A. Standard of Review

         The 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).

         In 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, Unite ...

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