United States District Court, D. Maryland
JEROME L. GRIMES, Plaintiff,
OFFICER ROBERT FARMER, MONTGOMERY CO. POLICE DEPT., Defendants.
XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court in this civil rights action is
Defendant's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint for
failure to state a claim. ECF No. 30. The matter is ripe for
review and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the following reasons, the motion is
the Amended Complaint is confusing and, at times, incoherent,
it appears to challenge the propriety a June 2016 traffic
stop executed by Montgomery County police officer Robert
Farmer on the car Grimes was driving. ECF No. 21-2 at 4, 5.
In connection with the traffic stop, law enforcement seized
the vehicle and charged Grimes with several traffic
violations, including failure to display a license plate.
Id. at 4-6. According to Grimes, the traffic
citations were ultimately dismissed. Id. at 11.
Grimes avers that the stop and seizure violated his rights
under the Fourth and Eleventh Amendments to the United States
Constitution, and defamed his character. Id. at 5.
The Amended Complaint proceeds against the County only as a
municipality, although Grimes contends in his responsive
pleading that the Fourth Amendment claim against Officer
Farmer “should not be dismissed with prejudice”
and argues why Farmer is liable. ECF No. 32 at 9. Because
Grimes proceeds pro se, the Court construes the Amended
Complain liberally, and will address the viability of the
claim as if Officer Farmer were a named defendant.
Standard of Review
reviewing a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court accepts the
well-pleaded allegations as true and in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “However,
conclusory statements or a ‘formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not [suffice].'”
EEOC v. Performance Food Grp., Inc., 16 F.Supp.3d
584, 588 (D. Md. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above a speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “‘[N]aked
assertions' of wrongdoing necessitate some ‘factual
enhancement' within the complaint to cross ‘the
line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
relief.'” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d
186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
pro se pleadings are construed generously to allow for the
development of a potentially meritorious case, Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980), courts cannot ignore a clear
failure to allege facts setting forth a cognizable claim.
See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d
387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (“The ‘special judicial
solicitude' with which a district court should view such
pro se complaints does not transform the court into an
advocate. Only those questions which are squarely presented
to a court may properly be addressed.”) (internal
citation omitted)). See also Bell v. Bank of Am.,
N.A., No. RDB-13-0478, 2013 WL 6528966 (D. Md. Dec. 11,
2013) (“Although a pro se plaintiff is
general[ly] given more leeway than a party represented by
counsel . . . a district court is not obligated to ferret
through a [c]omplaint that is so confused, ambiguous, vague
or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any,
is well disguised.”). “A court considering a
motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying
pleadings that, because they are not more than conclusions,
are not entitled to the assumption of truth.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 665 (2009).
Fourth Amendment and Eleventh Amendment Claims
Amended Complaint seeks to hold Montgomery County liable for
violating Grimes' Fourth and Eleventh Amendment rights in
connection with the June 2016 traffic stop. Accordingly, the
Amended Complaint must aver plausibly that an individual
officer's acts or omissions violated the plaintiff's
constitutional rights and that the violation arose from an
unconstitutional pattern, practice custom or policy of the
defendant municipality. See Monell v. Dep't of Social
Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 691, 694 (1978).
Amended Complaint, read most favorably to Grimes, does not
aver any facts from which this Court may infer that the
officer who stopped Grimes did so pursuant to an
unconstitutional policy, pattern, practice or custom. Thus,
Montgomery County's motion to dismiss must be granted on
this basis alone.
Officer Farmer, the Amended Complaint offers no facts to
support that the traffic stop, as executed, violated
Grimes' constitutional rights. To be sure, the Amended
Complaint baldly asserts that the Officer acted with malice
and as part of a conspiracy to prevent him Grimes from
traveling to another state. But without any facts to support
these allegations, the Amended Complaint cannot survive
challenge. To the extent Grimes intended to pursue such
violations against Officer Farmer individually, these claims
The Defamation Claim
Amended Complaint also contends that Montgomery County,
through Officer Farmer, defamed Grimes when the officer
“broadcast” that his car was subject to seizure.
ECF No. 21-2 at 4. Defamation is a common law tort that, when
brought against a local government agency, triggers the
notice requirements of Maryland's Local Government Tort
Claims Act (LGTCA). Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc.
§ 5-304(b). The LGTCA requires a plaintiff to first
notify the County of the alleged tortious conduct within one
year from the date of injury. Id. Where, as here, a
plaintiff does not plead or otherwise demonstrate compliance
with the LGCTA's notice requirement, the claim must be
dismissed. Hansen v. City of Laurel, 420 Md. 670,
684, 25 A.3d 122 (2011). The same analysis applies to
Grimes' defamation claim against Officer Farmer
individually, as a County employee. Md. Code Ann., ...