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Davis v. Baltimore City Community College

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 31, 2019

BENJAMIN DAVIS, III, Plaintiff,
v.
BALTIMORE CITY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          A. DAVID COPPERTHITE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Defendants, Baltimore City Community College ("B.C.C.C") and Darryl C. Moore, Freddie McGraffinried, Stuart Park, James Wright, Michael Stephens, and Debra L. McCurdy (collectively "individual Defendants"), move this Court to dismiss the Complaint of pro se Plaintiff, Benjamin Davis, III, for violations of due process, equal protection, excessive force pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and retaliation (the "Motion to Dismiss") (ECF No. 16). After considering the Motion to Dismiss and the responses thereto (ECF Nos. 19, 20), the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The Court also GRANTS Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint.

         Factual Background

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the challenged complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiffs Complaint is brief and contains few specific factual allegations. On May 14, 2019, Plaintiff was on B.C.C.C.'s campus to register for classes. ECF No. 1 at 2. While on campus, Plaintiff was assaulted by a campus security officer. Id. At some point during the incident, Plaintiff kicked Defendant DeGraffinried. Id. at 3. Defendants called the Baltimore City Police Department and "by use of excessive force illegally arrested" Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff was then placed in involuntary psychiatric hold, where he received a "clean evaluation and was released expeditiously." Id. at 2.

         The following day, Plaintiff received a letter from B.C.C.C.'s Vice President for Student Affairs informing him that he was scheduled for a hearing in front of the Incident Management Advisory Committee regarding the May 14 incident. ECF No. 16-3 at 2.[1] The hearing was scheduled for May 28, 2019. Id. At the hearing, Plaintiff was confronted with allegations he assaulted Defendant Freddie DeGaffmried, an officer who responded to the May 14 incident. ECF No. 1 at 3. Defendant DeGaffinried was the only Defendant present at the hearing, and he was the only person who filed an administrative complaint against Plaintiff. Id.

         On May 29, 2019, Plaintiff received notice that the Advisory Committee recommended he be expelled from B.C.C.C, and the Vice President of Student Affairs was adopting this recommendation. ECF No. 16-4 at 2. Plaintiff appealed this decision to B.C.C.C. President Defendant Debra L. McCurdy, who upheld the decision to expel Plaintiff in a letter on August 8, 2019. ECF No. 16-5 at 2.

         Procedural Background

         On July 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against Defendants, alleging constitutional violations of due process and equal protection, excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and retaliation, seeking $10, 000, 000 in "punitive, monetary, and nominal damages" as well as a change to the B.C.C.C. administrative hearing procedure. ECF No. 1 at 2-A[2]On October 1, 2019, Defendant filed the Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 16. Plaintiff filed an opposition on October 2, 2019, ECF No. 19, to which Defendant replied on October 9, 2019, ECF No. 20.

         This matter is now fully briefed, and the Court has reviewed Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, as well as the responses thereto. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16) will be GRANTED. Additionally, Plaintiff will be GRANTED leave to amend the Complaint.

         Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs claims of violation of due process, violation of equal protection, § 1983 excessive force, and retaliation pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) and 12(b)(6). ECF No. 16-1 at 1.

         1. Motion to Dismiss for Insufficient Service of Process

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(c) governs the proper procedure for serving a summons and complaint; the purpose of a Rule 12(b)(5) motion is to challenge a Plaintiffs failure to comply with Rule 4. When a defendant files a Rule 12(b)(5) motion to dismiss, "the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the validity of service pursuant to Rule 4." O'Meara v. Waters, 464 F.Supp.2d 474, 476 (D.Md. 2006). "Generally, when service of process gives the defendant actual notice of the pending action, the courts may construe Rule 4 liberally to effectuate service and uphold the jurisdiction of the court." Id. (first citing Karisson v. Rabinowitz, 318 F.2d 666, 668 (4th Cir. 1963), then citing Armco, Inc. v. Penrod-Stauffer Bldg. Sys., Inc., 733 F.2d 1087, 1089 (4th Cir. 1984)). Although courts may give Rule 4 liberal construction, the "plain requirements for the means of effecting service of process may not be ignored." Armco, 733 F.2d at 1089. While pro se litigants are typically afforded greater leniency than represented litigants, "[p]ro se status ... is insufficient to establish good cause" for failure to comply with Rule 4, "even where the pro se plaintiff mistakenly believes that service was made properly." Team v. Fisher, 276 F.R.D. 190, 193 (D.Md. 2011) (quoting Hanson v. Fairfax Cnty. Sch. Bd, 405 Fed.Appx. 793, 794 (4th Cir. 2010)).

         2. Motion to Dismiss for ...


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