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Mills v. Hassan

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 30, 2019

ANTHONY HASSAN, et al., Defendants.


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Senior Trooper Anthony Hassan (“Sr. Tpr. Hassan”), Trooper First Class Matthew Dull (“Tpr. Dull”), Corporal James Lantz (“Cpl. Lantz”) (collectively, the “Trooper Defendants”), State of Maryland (the “State”), and Maryland State Police's (“MSP”) Motion to Dismiss Complaint or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 11) and Plaintiff Lawrence Mills' Cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (the “Cross-Motion”) (ECF No. 23). The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons set out below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion and deny Mills' Cross-Motion as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Just after midnight on March 13, 2015, Mills was driving south on Interstate 95, after spending the evening at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Maryland, when Sr. Tpr. Hassan pulled him over. (Compl. ¶¶ 18-19, ECF No. 1). According to Sr. Tpr. Hassan's Incident Report, Mills' car was swerving between lanes. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Compl. Altern. Summ. J. [“Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. 2 [“Incident Report”] at 3, ECF No. 11-4). Hassan smelled alcohol on Mills' breath and observed his eyes were “glassy and bloodshot.” (Id.). In response to Sr. Tpr. Hassan's questions, Mills denied having had “anything to drink, ” before conceding that he “had some juice.” (Compl. ¶ 19; see Incident Report at 3). Mills stepped out of the car at Sr. Tpr. Hassan's request, but when Sr. Tpr. Hassan stated he was going to conduct field sobriety tests, Mills declined. (Compl. ¶¶ 19-21; Incident Report at 3). While checking Mills' Maryland driver's license, Sr. Tpr. Hassan noticed Mills had a restriction that required him to use an Ignition Interlock System (“Ignition Interlock”) in his car. (Incident Report at 3).[2] When asked why there was no Ignition Interlock on his car's steering wheel, Mills said he had taken it out recently. (Id.). After stating he would “take [Mills] to jail, ” Sr. Tpr. Hassan searched Mills' vehicle. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-22). At that point, Tpr. Dull and Cpl. Lantz arrived at the scene. (Id. ¶ 22). Mills complained to them about Sr. Tpr. Hassan's search, but they declined to intervene. (Id. ¶ 23). Sr. Tpr. Hassan then searched Mills, placed Mills in his police cruiser, and drove him to MSP's Waterloo Barracks. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25; Incident Report at 5).

         At the Barracks, Sr. Tpr. Hassan read Mills the “DR-15 advise of rights” and asked him if he would submit to an Intoximeter breath test. (Compl. ¶ 25; Incident Report at 5). Mills requested to speak to an attorney, but Sr. Tpr. Hassan did not honor that request. (Compl. ¶ 25). Sr. Tpr. Hassan noted that Mills refused to take the breath test, (id.; Incident Report at 5), which resulted in the automatic suspension of Mills' driver's license, (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 4 [“DR-15 Form”], ECF No. 11-6); see Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 16-205.1(i) (West 2019). Sr. Tpr. Hassan charged Mills with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (“DUI”), (Compl. ¶ 26), as well as negligent driving, reckless driving, failure to obey properly placed traffic control device, driving or attempting to drive while impaired by alcohol (“DWI”), driving or attempting to drive a vehicle not equipped with an Ignition Interlock, and failure to obey designated lane directions, (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 6 [“Court Records for Mar. 13, 2015 Stop”] at 2-4, ECF No. 11-8). Sgt. Mitchell Nuzzo told Sr. Tpr. Hassan to let Mills speak with an attorney, and Sr. Tpr. Hassan allowed Mills call a friend to pick him up. (Compl. ¶¶ 26-27). Sgt. Nuzzo took Mills' mug shot and then informed Mills that his friend had arrived. (Id. ¶ 27). Mills walked to the lobby to meet his friend, received paperwork from Sr. Tpr. Hassan, and left. (Id.).

         On June 30, 2015, Mills was tried in the District Court of Maryland in Howard County and convicted of all charges. (Court Records for Mar. 13, 2015 Stop at 2-4; Compl. ¶ 35).[3] The District Court sentenced him to two years and sixty days in prison, with all but sixty days suspended; later that day, Mills posted bond and appealed. (Compl. ¶¶ 35-36); see State v. Lawrence Justin Mills, Nos. 2YW0B1R, 2YX0B1R, 2YZ0B1R, 2Z00B1R, 2Z10B1R, 2Y20B1R, (Dist.Ct.Md. filed Mar. 13, 2015), On December 15, 2015, a jury in the Circuit Court for Howard County convicted Mills of the driving without an interlock device charge, which had been severed from the others, and the Circuit Court sentenced Mills to one year in prison, with all but seventy-five days suspended. (Court Records for Mar. 13, 2015 Stop at 3-4). On February 18, 2016, another Circuit Court for Howard County jury heard the remaining charges against Mills. (Compl. ¶ 41; see Court Records for Mar. 13, 2015 Stop at 2-4, 10). Sr. Tpr. Hassan testified about the indications that Mills had been drinking, but the friend who came to pick Mills up from the MSP Barracks that night, Fernando Garcia, testified that Mills showed no signs of being drunk. (Compl. ¶¶ 41-42). The jury acquitted Mills of the reckless driving, failure to obey properly placed traffic control device, DUI, and DWI charges, but convicted him of the negligent driving and failure to obey lane directions charges, for which he was fined a total of $230.00. (Id. ¶ 43; Court Records for Mar. 13, 2015 Stop at 2-4).

         Mills also requested a hearing regarding the suspension of his driver's license after he refused to take the alcohol breath test. (Compl. ¶ 39); see Md. Code Ann., Trans. § 16-205.1. On February 4, 2016, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing at the Motor Vehicle Administration (“MVA”) to determine whether Mills had refused to submit to an Intoximeter test on the night he was stopped and arrested. (Compl. ¶ 39; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 9 [“ALJ Decision”] at 1, ECF No. 11-11). Sr. Tpr. Hassan testified and was subjected to cross-examination by Mills' attorney. (Compl. ¶ 39). The ALJ found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Hassan had “reasonable grounds to believe that [Mills] was driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of or impaired by alcohol . . . .” (ALJ Decision at 2). The ALJ based his conclusion on Mills' alcohol-scented breath, glassy eyes, slurred speech, stumbling, and refusal to take field sobriety tests. (Id.). The ALJ concluded Mills violated § 16-205.1(f) and suspended his license for 120 days. (Id. at 3). The ALJ's Decision informed Mills of his right to appeal the administrative decision to the Circuit Court within thirty days. (Id.).

         On February 23, 2018, Mills sued Defendants. (ECF No. 1). Mills' sixteen-count Complaint alleges: fabricated probable cause and unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and false police report and perjury in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (Count I)[4]; unlawful arrest and detention in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count III); unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count IV); wrongful conviction and deprivation of substantive due process in violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count V); unreasonable search and seizure in violation of Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count VI); false arrest and false imprisonment (Count VII); malicious prosecution, perjury, and fraud (Count IX); battery, only as to Sr. Tpr. Hassan, MSP, and the State (Count X); negligence (Count XI); gross negligence (Count XII); negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention, against MSP and the State (Count XIV); civil conspiracy (Count XV); and unlawful custom, pattern, or practice, against MSP and the State (Count XVI). (Compl. ¶¶ 79-205). Mills brings his federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018). (Id. at 15, 17, 19, 20). He seeks monetary damages. (Id. at 17, 19-24, 26-28, 30-33, 35-36).

         On May 17, 2018, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss Complaint or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 11).[5] On November 7, 2018, Mills filed an Opposition, (ECF No. 24), and a Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 23). On November 21, 2018, Defendants filed a Reply. (ECF No. 26). On November 30, 2018, Mills filed a Reply. (ECF No. 27).


         A. Defendants' Motion

         1. Conversion

         Defendants style their Motion as motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd, 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). This Rule provides that when “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court “has ‘complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it.'” Wells-Bey v. Kopp, No. ELH-12-2319, 2013 WL 1700927, at *5 (D.Md. Apr. 16, 2013) (quoting 5C Charles Wright & Arthur Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004 & Supp. 2012)).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion: notice and reasonable opportunity for discovery. See Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013). When the movant expressly captions its motion “in the alternative” for summary judgment and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur. See Moret v. Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D.Md. 2005). The Court “does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998).

         Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate when “the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011). Yet, “the party opposing summary judgment ‘cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party had made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.'” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). To raise sufficiently the issue that more discovery is needed, the non-movant must typically file an affidavit or declaration under Rule 56(d), explaining the “specified reasons” why “it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). A Rule 56(d) affidavit is inadequate if it simply demands “discovery for the sake of discovery.” Hamilton v. Mayor of Balt., 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 342 (D.Md. 2011) (citation omitted). A Rule 56(d) request for discovery is properly denied when “the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Ingle ex rel. Estate of Ingle v. Yelton, 439 F.3d 191, 195 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Strag v. Bd. of Trs., 55 F.3d 943, 953 (4th Cir. 1995)).

         Here, Mills filed a Rule 56(d) affidavit, requesting various specific discovery, including depositions of MSP employees related to the case. (Pl.'s Resp. & Mem. L. Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Altern. Summ J. at 44-48, ECF No. 24). As a result, the Court will not convert Defendants' Motion into one for summary judgment and will instead consider it under Rule 12(b)(6).

         2. ...

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