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Edokobi v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 19, 2019

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Emmanuel Edokobi has filed suit against 15 individual and organizational defendants including the United States Department of Justice, the United States General Services Administration ("GSA"), the GSA Office of the Inspector General, and ten federal officials (collectively, "the Federal Defendants"); and the Maryland Department of General Services and one Maryland state official (collectively, "the State Defendants"). Edokobi alleges 11 causes of action against Defendants, including violations of Edokobi's rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution; violations of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act ("CAFRA"), 18 U.S.C. § 983 (2012), and its regulations; and a state claim of detinue.

         Pending before the Court are the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and the Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED.


         Because the allegations in the Amended Complaint are limited, and much of the factual background of this case is set forth in this Court's September 27, 2018 Memorandum Opinion in Edokobi v. United States General Services Administration, Nos. TDC-17-2469, 17-2825, 18-0557, 2018 WL 4639102, at *l-3 (D. Md. Sept. 27, 2018) ("Edokobi I"), the Court incorporates by reference that factual background and summarizes only those portions of the history most relevant to the pending Motions and those cases' filings.[1]

         On October 14, 2008, Defendant Ronald Dawkins ("SA Dawkins"), then a Special Agent with GSA Office of the Inspector General, submitted an application and affidavit in support of a search warrant in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. SA Dawkins sought authorization to search Edokobi's residence in Potomac, Maryland for evidence related to the crimes of conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property, tax evasion, and fraud and false statements. In his affidavit, SA Dawkins stated that the evidence was "subject to seizure pursuant to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure." Dawkins Aff. ¶ 35, Am. Compl. Ex. 6, Edokobi I, TDC-17-2469 ECF No. 68-6.

         United States Magistrate Judge William G. Connelly issued the warrant that same day, and the Court's electronic case management system assigned the search warrant a Magistrate Judge case number, 08-mj-3379-WGC, to consolidate and track filings related to the application for and execution of the search warrant. The case management system also assigned a separate case number to the application for a search warrant for Edokobi's office.

         On October 16, 2008, government agents executed the searches and seized various computer equipment, paper records, and identity documents. There is no evidence that following the searches, SA Dawkins or any other law enforcement agent took any action relating to the investigation. There were no further searches conducted, and no criminal charges were filed against Edokobi.

         On December 7, 2017, Edokobi filed his Complaint, alleging 28 violations of the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2012). With leave of the Court, Edokobi amended his Complaint on November 20, 2018, abandoning his FOIA claims and instead alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Counts 5 and 6); violations of the Fifth Amendment (Counts 7 and 9); violations of CAFRA and its regulations (Counts 2, 3, 4, and 8) ("the CAFRA Claims"); a claim for detinue (Count 1); and claims for compensatory and punitive damages (Counts 10 and 11). The claims relate to the failure of Defendants to return the seized property to Edokobi. The State Defendants and Federal Defendants then filed their Motions to Dismiss.


         Given the overlap between the arguments in both Motions, the Court will address the issues together. Defendants argue that the Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and detinue claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations; the CAFRA claims are beyond this Court's jurisdiction; and the damages claims are not freestanding claims and are in any event barred by the Eleventh Amendment as to the State Defendants.

         I. Legal Standard

         Defendants' statute of limitations argument does not rely upon facts outside the Amended Complaint, so it is properly considered as the subject of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007). To defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The 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 of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         II. Statute ...

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