United States District Court, D. Maryland
RAYMOND J. BLY Plaintiff,
CIRCUIT COURT FOR HOWARD COUNTY, MD, et al Defendants.
MARK COULSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case is before me for all proceedings by the consent of the
parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF Nos. 40 and
Now pending is Lenore Gelfman and Wayne A. Robey's
(collectively “Defendants”) Motion for Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 21). Plaintiff, Raymond J. Bly, filed two
pleadings in Opposition (ECF Nos. 24 and 27); Defendants
filed a reply addressing each. (ECF Nos. 26 and 31).
Plaintiff also filed his own “Motion for Limited
Summary Judgment” which the Court will consider as a
cross-motion. (ECF No. 51). A hearing was held on October 7,
2019, and this proceeding involved: production of the
original court files at issue, hearing testimony from the
custodian of the records, and the opportunity for cross
examination. As set forth more fully below,
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21) is
GRANTED and Plaintiffs' Motion for Limited Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 51) is DENIED.
proceeding pro se, originally filed suit in this
action on May 8, 2018 alleging various violations of the
United States Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of
Rights. (ECF Nos. 1, 2). This suit was based on
Plaintiff's assertion that Defendants Circuit Court for
Howard County (“Howard County”), Honorable Lenore
Gelfman (“Judge Gelfman”) and Clerk of Court
Wayne A. Robey (“Clerk Robey”) wrongfully sealed
or removed (or acquiesced in the removal of) two case files
from their “customary and appropriate place of
storage” and from their “digital place within the
data maintained by the Maryland Judiciary . . . .” (ECF
No. 2 ¶¶ 1, 7, 11, 14). These files relate to a
criminal matter (of which Plaintiff was ultimately convicted)
from 1986. Id. ¶¶ 1-5. Defendants
moved to dismiss the action. (ECF No. 7). Plaintiff filed an
Opposition. (ECF No. 13).
26, 2019, Judge Russell of this Court granted in part and
denied in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No.
15). Judge Russell dismissed all claims except
Plaintiff's claim against Judge Gelfman and Clerk Robey
based on a denial of his First Amendment right of access to
the above-described court records. Id. at
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to
“grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving
party can do so by demonstrating the absence of any genuine
dispute of material fact or by showing an absence of evidence
to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). A dispute as to
a material fact “is genuine if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P.
Dev. Ltd. P'ship, 115 F.Supp.3d 593, 600 (D. Md.
2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
nonmoving party “opposing a properly supported motion
for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather
must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore
Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir.
2003) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court is
“required to view the facts and draw reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to” the
nonmoving party. Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230
(4th Cir. 2008) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 377 (2007)). However, the Court must also “abide
by the ‘affirmative obligation of the trial judge to
prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from
proceeding to trial.'” Heckman v. Ryder Truck
Rental, Inc., 962 F.Supp.2d 792, 799-800 (D. Md. 2013)
(quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th
Cir. 1993)). Consequently, a party cannot create a genuine
dispute of material fact through mere speculation or
compilation of inferences. See Deans v. CSX Transp.,
Inc., 152 F.3d 326, 330-31 (4th Cir. 1998).
response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment,
the specific facts which the nonmoving party must identify
(to avoid summary judgment) must be evidentiary
facts. The evidentiary standard under “Rule 56 requires
the nonmoving party ‘to set forth specific facts
showing there is a genuine issue for trial' by affidavit,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, or other
evidence that would be admissible at trial.” Warren
v. Fort Lincoln Cemetery, Inc., 2001 WL 743199, at *3
(D. Md. June 26, 2001) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), (e)).
“Accordingly, ‘the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment.'” Sher v. Barclays Capital,
Inc., 35 F.Supp.3d 725, 733 (D. Md. 2014) (citing
Anderson, 447 U.S. at 248)). In sum, factual
disputes that are irrelevant, i.e., those that would
not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,
will not be counted. Id.
se pleadings are to be liberally construed and held to a
less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Pro
se complaints are entitled to special care to determine
whether any possible set of facts would entitle the plaintiff
to relief. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980)
(discussing dismissal for failure to state a claim). However,
even a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does
not allege a plausible claim for relief. Forquer v.
Schlee, 2012 WL 6087491, at *3 (D. Md. Dec. 4, 2012).
“Finally, ‘[w]hile pro se complaints may
represent the work of an untutored hand requiring special
judicial solicitude,' a district court is not required to
recognize ‘obscure or extravagant claims defying the
most concerted efforts to unravel them.'”
Id. (quoting Weller v. Social Servs, 901
F.2d 397, 391 (4th Cir. 1990)).
1987, a jury in the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland
convicted Plaintiff of “criminal charges, including a
felony, predicated upon the victim of the alleged crimes
being a ‘child.'” (ECF No. 2 ¶ 7).
Plaintiff, both then and now, “vigorously
denie[s]” the charges. Id. At some point,
Plaintiff claims that Defendants acting with the
“authorization” or “acquiescence” of
Judge Gelfman and/or Clerk Robey, “removed the subject
[case] records from their customary and appropriate place of
storage authorized by the Defendant Court and from their
digital place within the data maintained by the Maryland
Judiciary, ” whose public portal is the Maryland
Judiciary Case Search. Id. ¶¶ 1, 7, 14.
December of 2015, Plaintiff moved for and was denied a new
trial. Id. ¶ 9. In 2016, he attempted to access
his case records at the Clerk's Office of the Circuit
Court and at an off-site records facility but, according to
Plaintiff, he was told that the records did not exist.
Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff never received any notice
that his records might be sealed. Id. ¶¶
7, 14. Generally, Plaintiff avers that the alleged removal of
the records interfered with unspecified efforts to overturn
or materially undermine the credibility of his convictions,
to question the integrity of the state courts, and to run for
Congress. Id. ¶¶ 24, 27.
their part, Defendants have contended from the outset that
the court records from Plaintiff's criminal case are
available at the Clerk's office for his inspection. (ECF
No. 19). In support of such, Defendants' Answer included
correspondence from Howard County to Plaintiff dated October
24, 2017, authored by Chief Deputy Clerk Diana Liebno
advising Plaintiff of the availability of his records. (ECF
No. 19-1). Defendants have now also put before the Court, as
exhibits in support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, the
following: Plaintiff's October 13, 2017 request letter
(to which the above-refenced October 24, 2017 was a response)
(ECF No. 21- 2); and a Declaration from Howard County's
Chief Deputy Clerk Diana Liebno (ECF No. 21-4). At the