United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
18, 2019, Aaron Rogers, an inmate presently incarcerated at
the Howard County Detention Center (“HCDC”) in
Jessup, Maryland, proceeding without counsel, filed a civil
action against the State of Maryland; Howard County,
Maryland; Danielle M. Duclaux, a Howard County prosecutor;
Jack Kavanagh, the Director of the Howard County Department
of Corrections; K. Sciandra, a District Court Commissioner;
an unknown Howard County District Court judge; and Howard
County Police Officers Phelps, Moon, and Hennessey. Compl.,
ECF No. 1. Rogers alleges that Officers Moon and Hennessey
arbitrarily arrested and detained him. Id. at 8-10.
Rogers also claims that Officer Phelps improperly filed a
statement of charges following the arrest, that both
Commissioner Sciandra and a Howard County District Court
judge committed judicial misconduct during Rogers's
initial appearance and bail review hearing, that Duclaux
engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, and that the policies
and conditions at HCDC are unconstitutional. Id. at
11-18. His filing was construed and instituted as a civil
rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
State of Maryland, Duclaux, Commissioner Sciandra and the
unknown Howard County District Court judge are immune to
suit, and the claims against them will be dismissed with
prejudice. His claims against Officers Phelps, Moon and
Hennessey, as well as his claims against Howard County and
Kavanaugh based on conditions of confinement, shall proceed.
1983 provides that a plaintiff may file suit against any
person who, acting under color of state law, “subjects,
or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States
or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the
deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983, however, “is not
itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides
‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere
conferred.'” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S.
137, 144 n.3 (1979)); Wahi v. Charleston Area Med.
Ctr., 562 F.3d 599, 615 (4th Cir. 2009).
the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, a
state, its agencies and departments are immune from citizen
suits in federal court absent state consent or Congressional
action. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). The State of
Maryland has not waived such immunity for claims brought
pursuant to § 1983. See Nureni v. Maryland, No.
ELH-18-2069, 2019 WL 2250570, at *6 (D. Md. May 24, 2019).
Accordingly, the State of Maryland is immune from suit and
shall be dismissed with prejudice.
unknown Howard County District Court judge is a Maryland
state judge whom plaintiff is suing for decisions made in his
or her capacity as a judge. Rogers's claim against the
judge cannot be maintained because it is prohibited by the
doctrine of judicial immunity. See Forrester v.
White, 484 U.S. 219, 226-27 (1988) (“If judges
were personally liable for erroneous decisions, the resulting
avalanche of suits, most of them frivolous but vexatious,
would provide powerful incentives for judges to avoid
rendering decisions likely to provoke such suits.”).
The doctrine of judicial immunity shields judges from
monetary claims against them in both their official and
individual capacities. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9,
9-10 (1991) (per curiam). Judicial immunity is an absolute
immunity; it does not merely protect a defendant from
assessment of damages, but also protects a judge from damages
suits entirely. Id. at 11. Moreover, “judges
of courts of superior or general jurisdiction are not liable
to civil actions for their judicial acts, even when such acts
are in excess of their jurisdiction, and are alleged to have
been done maliciously or corruptly.” Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978); see Dean v.
Shirer, 547 F.2d 227, 231 (4th Cir. 1976) (stating that
a judge may not be attacked for exercising judicial authority
even if done improperly). The unknown Howard County District
Court judge is thus immune from suit.
Commissioner Sciandra, his alleged actions occurred in his
quasi-judicial capacity. “‘Quasi-judicial
immunity extends to those persons performing tasks so
integral or intertwined with the judicial process that these
persons are considered an arm of the judicial officer who is
immune.'” Grant v. Maryland, Civil Action
No. PWG-17-2816, 2018 WL 1069363, at *2 (D. Md. Feb. 26,
2018) (quoting Bush v. Rauch, 38 F.3d 842, 847 (6th
Cir. 1994)). State court commissioners are entitled to
absolute quasi-judicial immunity for their actions in
approving warrants and setting conditions of release and
bond. Id. (citing Horsey v. State Comm'r
#2112, 2014 WL 2548130, at *1-2 (D. Md. 2014));
accord Horn v. Maryland, No. PWG-17-3633, 2018 WL
704851, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 2, 2018); see also Davis v.
DiPino, 337 Md. 642, 652, 655 A.2d 401, 406 (1995)
(recognizing that the district court commissioner was
“entitled to absolute judicial immunity from civil
liability for violations of both Maryland law and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for his actions as a judicial officer in issuing
the arrest warrant”). Rogers alleges that Sciandra
arbitrarily denied him pretrial release, and therefore the
Commissioner is entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity.
Maryland's State's Attorneys, such as Howard County
prosecutor Duclaux, are quasi-judicial officers who enjoy
absolute immunity when performing prosecutorial functions, as
opposed to investigative or administrative ones. See
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 422-23 (1976); see
also Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 127 (1997);
Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993);
Nero v. Mosby, 890 F.3d 106, 118 (4th Cir. 2018);
Springmen v. Williams, 122 F.3d 211 (4th Cir. 1997).
Absolute immunity is designed to protect judicial process.
Thus, the inquiry is whether a prosecutor's actions are
closely associated with judicial process. See Burns v.
Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 479 (1991) (citing Imbler,
424 U.S. at 422-23). Here, Rogers alleges that Duclaux
violated his constitutional rights when he filed an
indictment without a determination by a district court judge.
The decision as to “whether and when to
prosecute” is “quasi-judicial, ” therefore,
Duclaux in this case enjoys absolute immunity. See Lyles
v. Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 376-77 (4th Cir. 1996). The
claims against her will be dismissed with prejudice.
to Proceed in Forma Pauperis
has filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis
(ECF No. 2); however, the affidavit in support of the motion
fails to conform with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(2), the relevant portion of which provides:
A prisoner seeking to bring a civil action . . . without
prepayment of fees or security therefore, in addition to
filing the [requisite] affidavit . . . shall submit a
certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or
institutional equivalent) for the prisoner for the 6-month
period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint . .
. obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at
which the prisoner is or was confined.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Thus, Rogers must obtain from
each of the prisons where he was incarcerated over the past
six months an inmate account information sheet showing the
deposits to his account and monthly balances maintained
order to assist Rogers in providing this information to the
Court, the Finance Officer at HCDC shall be directed to file
a certificate which indicates (1) the average monthly balance
in the account for the six-month period immediately preceding
the filing of this ...