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Monk v. Maryland State Police Ne Barracks

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 4, 2019



          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.

         Alishawaine Raheen Monk[1] filed the above-captioned civil rights action alleging that the “Maryland State Police NE Barracks” used illegal tactics to interrogate him and gather evidence during a murder investigation and that the Cecil County State's Attorneys' Office violated his constitutional rights by filing a notice of intent to seek life imprisonment without parole. ECF No. 1. Defendants Cecil County State's Attorney's Office and “Maryland State Police NE Barracks each filed a motion to dismiss (ECF Nos. 10 & 17) which Plaintiff opposes. ECF Nos. 17 & 20.[2]Plaintiff also filed a second motion to amend the complaint. ECF No. 27. The matters are now ripe for review. The court finds a hearing in these matters unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions to dismiss will be granted and Plaintiff's motion to amend will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Alishawaine Raheen Monk filed this complaint on July 18, 2018, alleging that on July 20, 2014, he and three other individuals were arrested for the murder of Vincent McKinley Robertson. ECF No. 1, p. 5. Plaintiff maintains that the charges were “fabricated and trumped up” and that “[t]he Maryland State Police NE Barracks soon began fabricating and using illegal tactics” to obtain evidence against him in violation of his right to due process and Maryland law. Id. Plaintiff named the Maryland State Police NE Barracks as a Defendant and directed the court to “see attached sheet for complete list of Defendants at State Police.” Id., p. 1. Attached to the complaint are the docket entries from Plaintiff's criminal case in the Circuit Court for Cecil County which lists a number of police officers as well as a number of other individuals who are not employed by the Maryland State Police. ECF No. 1-1, p. 2. None of the individuals are identified in the body of the complaint as allegedly engaging in any unlawful conduct.

         Plaintiff also alleges that unidentified investigators used evidence obtained from an informant who claimed that Plaintiff was seen with a handgun of the same caliber that killed the victim, however the informant later recanted. ECF No. 1, p. 5. Plaintiff alleges that “defendants used manipulated-inducements and illegal tactics” during the investigation that led to his arrest. Id. Additionally, he states that the State's Attorney's Office, served a notice to seek life without parole. Id., p. 6. Plaintiff was detained for nine months before he was able to make bond. Id. Ultimately, a state circuit court judge suppressed evidence which prevented the trial from moving forward and the charges were “dropped against the Plaintiffs.” Id.; see also ECF No. 1-1, p. 1 (docket entries reflecting charges entered nolle prosequi on August 5, 2015).

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review

         In reviewing the complaint in light of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”

         The Supreme Court of the United States explained that a “plaintiff's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, the complaint does not need “detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 555. Instead, “once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563. To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         A suit under § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Analysis

         As “Maryland State Police NE Barracks” and Cecil County State's Attorney's Office each correctly note, neither is a “person” subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (creating a cause of action against “every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, 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” (emphasis added); Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, 767 F.3d 379, 393 (2014) (holding “the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office is not a suable entity.”). Thus, the court will grant Defendants' motions to dismiss. ECF Nos. 18 & 20.

         Moreover, Cecil County State's Attorney's Office is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Likewise, had Plaintiff named the Maryland State Police as a Defendant, it too would be immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, a state, its agencies and departments are immune from suits in federal court brought by its citizens or the citizens of another state, unless it consents. See Pennhurst State Sch. and Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). “It is clear, of course, that in the absence of consent a suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment.” Id. While the State of Maryland has waived its sovereign immunity for certain types of cases brought in state courts, see Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 12-202(a), it has not waived its immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to suit in federal court.[3] “A State's constitutional interest in immunity encompasses not merely whether it may be sued, but where it may be sued.” Halderman, 465 U.S. at 100. Thus, Plaintiff's complaint against the Cecil County State's Attorney's Office and the Maryland State Police, arms of the State, is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

         Additionally, even if Plaintiff had named a proper person from the Cecil County State's Attorney's Office as a Defendant, his claim would fail as prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity. Maryland State's Attorneys 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, 116-117, (4th Cir. May 7, 2018); Springmen v. Williams, 122 F.3d211 (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). The court must use a “functional approach” to “determine whether a particular act is ‘intimately associated with the judicial phase.'” Nero, 890 F.3d at 118 (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430). The Fourth Circuit recently stated in Nero, 890 F.3d at 118: “A prosecutor acts as an advocate when she professionally evaluates evidence assembled by the police, Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273, decides to seek an arrest warrant, Kalina, 522 U.S. at 130, prepares and ...

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