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Rembold v. Lettau

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 23, 2019

DONALD G. REMBOLD, DOC #449211, SID #174653, Plaintiff,
v.
INITIA LETTAU, CLERK JAMES REILLY, SHERRI HELLMANN, BARBARA GILL, CLERK JULIE L. ENSOR, BRENDAN COSTIGAN, Acting CLERK MARILYN BENTLEY, HALLE BENNETT, CLERK TERRI MUMMA, and CLERK GREGORY HILTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN L. HOLLANDER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The self-represented plaintiff, Donald G. Rembold, an inmate currently incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Training Center (“MCTC”) in Hagerstown, Maryland, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against James Reilly, Julie L. Ensor, and Marilyn Bentley, who are Maryland circuit court clerks; Gregory Hilton, Clerk of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals; Court Reporters Sherri Hellmann and Barbara Gill; Judicial Law Clerk Halle Bennett; Terri Mumma, Administrative Clerk of the District Court of Maryland for Harford County (collectively, the “Court Defendants”), and Assistant State Public Defenders Initia Lettau and Brendan Costigan (collectively, the “PD Defendants”). ECF 1.[1] Rembold claims that defendants have denied him access to the courts and denied him due process of law. Id.; ECF 34. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages.

         Rembold filed a related case, Rembold v. Reilly, et al., Civil Action ELH-19-72. I shall refer to Case ELH-19-16 as “Case I” and Case ELH-19-72 as “Case II.” By Order of January 14, 2019, I consolidated Case I and Case II, designated Case I as the remaining case, and closed Case II. See Case I, ECF 3; Case II, ECF 4.

         On May 20, 2019, the PD Defendants moved to dismiss. ECF 24 (“PD Motion”). On May 28, 2019, the Court Defendants moved to Dismiss (ECF 25), supported by a memorandum (ECF 25-1) (collectively, the “Court Defendants' Motion”) and five exhibits.

         Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court informed Rembold of his right to respond to the motions, and that the failure to file a response in could result in dismissal of his Complaint or entry of judgment against him. ECF 26; ECF 27. Rembold filed a response in opposition to the PD Motion on June 10, 2019. ECF 31. However, he did not respond to the Court Defendants' Motion. Instead, he filed an Amended Complaint on June 19, 2019, reiterating claims presented in his previous filings and alleging a violation of his due process rights. ECF 34. Rembold also voluntarily withdrew his claims against defendants Hilton, Bennett, and Bentley. Id. at 6. The PD Defendants filed a reply on June 27, 2019. ECF 37.

         The matter is now ripe for disposition. Upon review of the record, exhibits, and applicable law, the court deems a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). Rembold's claims against defendants Hilton, Bennett, and Bentley shall be dismissed, without prejudice. The remaining motions shall be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Rembold's Complaint is not a model of clarity. He states that on May 30, 2016, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Harford County, Maryland, and subsequently amended it several times: on May 23, 2017; August 17, 2017; September 7, 2017; March 15, 2018; July 2, 2018; August 6, 2018; and December 22, 2018. ECF 1 (Complaint) at 1, 3; No. 19-72, ECF 1 at 5.[2]

         Rembold alleges that defendant Initia Lettau, the Chief Attorney in the Post-Conviction Division of the Office of the Public Defender, “orchestrated clandestine proceedings” and actively shielded court personnel by “willfully and negligently refusing to intercede in the denial of access to the court.” Case I, ECF 1 at 2. According to Rembold, Lettau “failed to perform the ministerial duties of the Chief Attorney.” Id. He acknowledges, however, that on June 10, 2018, Lettau “created a new file” within the Officer of the Public Defender regarding Rembold's post-conviction case and assigned Brendan Costigan to represent Rembold. Id. at 3; No. 19-72, ECF 1 at 7.

         Rembold attempted to file a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against Lettau, alleging obstruction of access to court, which he claims Marilyn Bentley, the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, refused to file. Case II, ECF 1 at 7; see also Case I, ECF 34 (Amended Complaint) at 5. Rembold asserts that Bentley thus “obstructed and destroyed [his] right to access the court.” No. 19-72, ECF 1 at 7. Further, he alleges that on September 28, 2018, Halle Bennett, a judicial law clerk in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, “obstructed” his attempt to refile the civil rights action. Id. at 4; see also Case I, ECF 34 at 5.

         In his Complaint, Rembold states that he filed an application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in June 2016. Yet, he alleges that James Reilly, the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Harford County, “refus[ed] to file the petition for post-conviction relief up until August 13th, 2018.” Case I, ECF 1 at 2. Rembold claims that Reilly's obstruction necessitated the filing of a complaint under § 1983 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County on June 12, 2018, which he alleges Julie L. Ensor, the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, refused to file. Id.; ECF 34 at 5; No. 19-72, ECF 1 at 6. Rembold states that he appealed Ensor's refusal to file the complaint, which the Circuit Court for Baltimore County denied. Case II, ECF 1 at 6.

         According to Rembold, on July 8, 2018, he filed a Notice of Appeal in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals with respect to the ruling of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Id. He alleges that defendant Gregory Hilton, the Clerk of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, refused to respond to his inquiries regarding that appeal. Case II, ECF 1 at 6; Case I, ECF 1 at 3. In addition, Rembold claims that on August 6, 2018, he filed a Motion for Appointment of Post-Conviction Counsel, which “[t]he clerk refused to file.” ECF 1 at 3.

         Last, Rembold alleges that Court Reporters Sherri Hellmann and Barbara Gill fabricated transcripts of proceedings that occurred on September 29, 2014 and January 26, 2015, in violation of his due process rights. See Case I, Supplemental Complaint, ECF 10; Declaration, ECF 14; ECF 34 at 2-3; see also No. 19-72, ECF 1 at 7. Rembold states that he provided Brendan Costigan with the “phony record, ” which involved Terri Mumma, the Clerk of the District Court for Harford County, Maryland, and that Costigan has refused to give Rembold the original recordings. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants have filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court Defendants submitted matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration.

         Ordinarily, a court “is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss.” Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, in its discretion, may consider matters outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the court does so, “the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, ” and “[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see Adams Housing, LLC v. The City of Salisbury, Maryland, 672 Fed.Appx. 220, 222 (4th Cir. 2016) (per curiam).

         The nonmoving party must also be notified of the potential conversion of the motion to one for summary judgment. Here, plaintiff was advised that judgment could be entered against him. ECF 26 at 1. He was also provided with a copy of Rule 12, alerting him to the content of the rule. Id. at 1.

         A district judge 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.” 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.). This discretion “should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties' procedural rights.” Id. at 149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material “is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action, ” and “whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure” is necessary. Id. at 165-67.

         In general, summary judgment is inappropriate “where 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, 448-49 (4th Cir. 2011); see Putney v. Likin, 656 Fed.Appx. 632, 638 (4th Cir. 2016) (per curiam); McCray v. Maryland Dep't of Transportation, 741 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2015). However, “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)); see also Dave & Buster's, Inc. v. White Flint Mall, LLLP, 616 Fed. App'x 552, 561 (4th Cir. 2015).

         To raise adequately the issue that discovery is needed, the nonmovant typically must file an affidavit or declaration pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)), explaining why, “for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, ” without needed discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule 56(f)). “[T]o justify a denial of summary judgment on the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be ‘essential to [the] opposition.'” Scott v. Nuvell Fin. Servs., LLC, 789 F.Supp.2d 637, 641 (D. Md. 2011) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). A nonmoving party's Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery is properly denied “where the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 954 (4th ...


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