Robinson v. State of Maryland Department of the Environment, et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard D Bennett on 5/16/14. (dass, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
JAMES R. ROBINSON, et al.,
Civil Action No. RDB-13-2234
MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF
THE ENVIRONMENT, et al.,
This case is one of several lawsuits filed in this Court challenging the siting and
construction of the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Maryland.1 This Court denied Plaintiffs’
original Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary and Permanent Injunctive
Relief (ECF No. 4) on August 13, 2013. Plaintiffs took no further action to pursue their
claims until they twice amended their complaint at the end of 2013. Plaintiffs now allege
only federal equal protection and civil rights violations and a variety of state-law causes of
action against the Maryland Department of the Environment, Secretary Robert Summers
(Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment), the Baltimore Development
Corporation, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City (“the City”), CBAC Gaming,
LLC, and CBAC Borrower, LLC. Noticeably, the Plaintiffs seek only a declaratory judgment
on certain state-law issues and damages on their remaining claims; all claims for injunctive
The other cases in this Court are Sherrill et al. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, et al., Civ. A. No. RDB-13cv-2768, and Richardson v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (formerly Myers v. Mayor and City Council of
relief have been removed from the Second Amended Complaint. In various filings which
are now fully briefed by all parties, Defendants have moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs
lack standing to pursue their claims and that the Second Amended Complaint fails to state
any viable claim. The parties’ submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, Defendants Maryland
Department of the Environment and Secretary Robert Summers’ Motion to Dismiss (ECF
No. 65), Defendants CBAC Gaming, LLC and CBAC Borrower, LLC’s Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 66), and Defendants Mayor and City Council of Baltimore’s Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 72) are GRANTED.
This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the plaintiffs’ complaint. See Aziz v.
Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011).
The Named Plaintiffs
This case is essentially a challenge to the Horseshoe Casino (“the Casino” or “the
Site”) that is currently under construction in Baltimore, Maryland. The Site is located in in
the Camden-Carroll Industrial Area of Baltimore City on various adjacent properties around
Russell and Warner streets.2 Id. ¶ 68. Plaintiff James R. Robinson (“Robinson”) was the
original lead plaintiff in this case and has been joined in the suit by another fifty-three (53)
The specific plots referenced in the Second Amended Complaint include 1501, 1525, and 1551 Russell
Street (the “Russell Street Properties” or the “Gateway South Phase I Properties”); 1501, 1601, 1629, 1633,
and 1645 Warner Street; 2119 Haines Street; 2104 Worcester Street; and 2102 Oler Street (the “Warner Street
named plaintiffs (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”).3
The Plaintiffs allegedly live in the general vicinity of the Site, at distances ranging
from a quarter-mile (.25 miles) to several miles.4 See id. ¶¶ 44, 39. Plaintiffs assert that the
Site is within 500 feet (or one-tenth of a mile) of three “residential properties”/“residential
homes” located at 1573, 1575, and 1577 Ridgley Street. Id. ¶¶ 69, 76. Many of the Plaintiffs
live in the neighboring Westport and Cherry Hill communities. Id. ¶ 69. It is alleged that the
Westport community is eighty-six percent (86%) African-American and has an average
annual household income of $27,414. Id. ¶ 70. The Plaintiffs further contend that the
Cherry Hill community was originally designated as a black neighborhood by the Baltimore
City “Segregation Ordinance.”5 Id. ¶ 71.
The actual parcels making up the Site were developed for various industrial uses in
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. See id. ¶¶ 88-99. The City acquired the
At this juncture, the named Plaintiffs are Duwain Heim, Rick Gardner, Vanessa Mack, Calvin Wilson,
Maryetta Baquol, Ami Lawson, Kenneth McKenzie, Joseph Jordan, III, Quentin Sawyer, Mia Quattlebaum,
John Quattlebaum, Jeff Link, Michael Hewlett, James Johnson, Larry Ford, Bridgette Hopkins, Ted Shin,
Tyra Patterson, Tony McLamy, Jan Johns, Helen Partlow, Warren Bullock, Audrianne Hopkins, Arthur
Washington, Fred Davis, Joann Owens, Lamonte Thomas, Jimmie and Laura Flythe, Bill Jones, Elmer
Barnheart, Paul Johnson, Lisa Reeder, Jontae Cotton, Linwood J. Gray, Everett Montgomery, Mel Hill,
Tyrone Wheeler, Roderick Robinson, Marc Fox, Dakwon Gilliam, Antonio Washington, Deborah Gaters,
Brian Jacobs, Kelsey Scott, Donald Monroe, Merab Rice, Ruth Sherrill, James Leonard, Tim Bull, Richard
Harris, AJ Robinson El, and Michael Gallagher.
The distance between the individual Plaintiffs’ residences and the Site has not been listed in every case. See,
e.g., Pls.’ Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 40.
In their Response brief, Plaintiffs explain that the “Segregation Ordinance” refers to Baltimore City
Ordinance No. 692, enacted May 15, 1911. The Ordinance “made it unlawful to black citizens (referred to in
the Segregation Ordinance as “colored persons”) from moving into white sections of the City.” Pls.’ Resp. 20
(citing State v. Gurry, 121 Md. 534, 88 A. 546 (1913)).
Russell Street properties on September 28, 2005 and the remaining Warner Street properties
on May 5, 2008. See id. ¶¶ 77-78. The Warner Street properties are adjacent to the Middle
Branch of the Patapsco River and protected open-space wetland and wildlife habitat areas.
Id. ¶ 79. In addition, a portion of the Gwynns Falls Greenway recreational trail, used for
biking and walking, runs through an area abutting the Site. Id. ¶ 80.
The City’s Preparations for Redevelopment
In 2008 and 2009, the City began to prepare the Site for development. On April 25,
2008, the City filed an application to enter the Russell Street properties into Maryland’s
Voluntary Cleanup Program,6 and filed a similar application with respect to the Warner
Street properties on June 4, 2009.7 Id. ¶ 84. These applications relied upon or referred to
several different Environmental Site Assessments completed between 2000 and May 2009.
Id. ¶ 85. Allegedly, the contractor that conducted these assessments, KCI Technology, had
been unable to access the entire site to complete all of the proposed testing. Id. ¶ 102.
However, the Environmental Site Assessments still identified wide-spread contamination of
the soil at the Site, including arsenic, lead, chlorinated solvents (including trichloroethylene
and vinyl chloride) and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons. Id. ¶¶ 100, 101. In addition,
contaminated groundwater was detected, with concentrations of trichloroethene,
The Voluntary Cleanup Program is administered by the Maryland Department of the Environment and was
designed to help alleviate the problem of abandoned industrial properties that were contaminated by past
activities and uses. The program is codified at MD. CODE, ENVIR. § 7-503 et seq.
Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that these applications were filed by the Baltimore Development Corporation, a
“quasi-government entity.” See Pls.’ Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 56, 84. The City has not contested that it would be
liable for the actions of the Baltimore Development Corporation. Accordingly, for purposes of these
motions and this Memorandum Opinion, this Court treats the City and the Baltimore Development
Corporation as synonymous.
tetrachloroethene, and dichloroethene exceeding Maryland’s legal clean-up standards. Id. ¶¶
103, 104. The assessments also indicated that the contaminated groundwater flowed
through the Site and discharged into the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. Id. ¶ 105.
The Maryland Department of the Environment published notice of the City’s
Voluntary Cleanup Program application, granted the City “Inculpable Person Status” with
respect to both properties, and directed the City to develop a plan for remediating the Site
(known as a “Response Action Plan” or “RAP”). Id. ¶ 107. The City submitted a combined
Response Action Plan on May 2, 2011. Id. ¶ 108. The City published noticed of the
Response Action Plan and the Voluntary Cleanup Program applications in the Baltimore Sun
on May 14 and May 21, 2011. Id. ¶ 109. The Maryland Department of the Environment
held a public information meeting on the City’s Plan at the Harbor Hospital in Baltimore,
Maryland on June 1, 2011. Id. ¶ 110.
The Plaintiffs allege that the City’s Response Action Plan was deficient in a number
of ways. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that the Plan “contained an incomplete analysis of
the contamination at the Properties, prematurely selected ‘cleanup’ methods which would be
the least expensive and thus the most attractive to a future developer and failed to include an
implementation schedule as mandated by § 7-508 of the Environment Article.” Id. ¶ 111.
Plaintiffs assert that, despite these deficiencies, the Maryland Department of the
Environment issued a final Response Action Plan Approval Letter to the City on September
15, 2011. Id. ¶ 112. Plaintiffs contend that this approval was improper because,
“[i]nconsistent with the requirements of the Environment Article §7-511(c), MDE’s
September 15, 2011 RAP Approval Letter erroneously stated that, among other things, ‘no
further action will be required to accomplish the objectives set forth in the approved revised
RAP other than those actions described therein.’” Id. ¶ 113.
Development of the Site as a Casino by CBAC Gaming
In November of 2008, the voters of Maryland had approved Article XIX of the
Maryland Constitution, which permitted the operation of video lottery facilities within the
State and expressly allowed for such a facility within the City of Baltimore. See id. ¶¶ 174-75.
On or about July 31, 2012, CBAC Gaming was awarded a video lottery operation license to
develop the Casino at the Site.8 Id. ¶ 114. Accordingly, CBAC Gaming entered into a
Ground Lease Agreement and Land Disposition Agreement with the City. Id. ¶ 115. Under
the terms of those agreements, CBAC Gaming was required to participate in the Voluntary
Cleanup Program and to negotiate any changes to the City’s Response Action Plan with the
Maryland Department of the Environment. Id. ¶¶ 116, 117. Those agreements also
provided for a termination clause in the event that CBAC Gaming’s costs exceeded $4
million. Id. ¶ 119.
Thereafter, the Plaintiffs allege that the Maryland Department of the Environment
allowed the City and CBAC Gaming to bypass various regulatory guidelines and statutory
requirements and to begin construction of the Casino “prior to any public inspection or
comments to the plans for the Site and prior to the implementation of a final RAP.” Id. ¶
121. In July 2012, CBAC Gaming filed its Voluntary Cleanup Program application and
proposed a Response Plan Amendment, which the Plaintiffs allege was less protective of the
The State of Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission oversees the development for casinos in
the state. See MD Code, State Government, § 9-1A-36.
environment and the surrounding communities and reduced CBAC Gaming’s cleanup
obligations.9 Id. ¶¶ 123, 129, 131, 132. In addition, Plaintiffs assert that the Maryland
Department of the Environment failed to notify the public of CBAC Gaming’s application.
Id. ¶ 124. Plaintiffs also allege that the applications were defective and in violation of the
Maryland Department of the Environment’s Guidance Document because CBAC Gaming
had submitted the same “defective” Environmental Site Assessments and sampling data that
the City had used in its 2008 and 2009 applications.10 Id. ¶¶ 125, 127, 128. Finally, Plaintiffs
allege a laundry list of other specific deficiencies, including a failure to account for (1)
“adverse impacts associated with groundwater flow, velocity or contaminants transported
off-site through leaching, migration, or construction created pathways”; (2) the need for
removal and excavation of hazardous substances and contaminated soil; and (3) the harmful
effects caused by the installation of below-grade utilities. Id. ¶¶ 133-40. Plaintiffs allege that
“[d]espite [having] no final RAP approval, CBAC Gaming began construction and soil
disturbance at the Site in March 2013.”11 Id. ¶ 126.
Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that CBAC Gaming’s Voluntary Cleanup Program and proposed Response
Action Plan “intended to ‘use’ and ‘build upon’” the City’s previous approved submissions, but that CBAC
Gaming “did not propose to implement” the City’s Plan but rather submitted their own proposed plan. Pls.’
Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 129-30.
The Guidance Document calls for Environmental Site Assessments and sampling data that is no more than
one (1) year old. Id. ¶¶ 127-28.
The Plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the alleged premature commencement of construction and earth
moving activities at the Site are a bit convoluted. Specifically, as indicated above, Plaintiffs allege that
“[d]espite no final RAP approval, CBAC gaming began construction and soil disturbance at the Site in March
2013.” Pls.’ Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 126. However, Plaintiffs elsewhere allege that the Maryland Department of
the Environment issued an approval letter for CBAC Gaming’s Response Action Plan on November 27,
2012. Id. ¶ 147. Presumably, Plaintiffs’ suggestion that construction was premature therefore arises from the
Defendants alleged failure to provide an opportunity for further public comment.
On August 10, 2012, the Maryland Department of the Environment approved CBAC
Gaming’s Voluntary Cleanup Program application and granted it Inculpable Person status.
Id. ¶ 142. The Department also promised to review CBAC Gaming’s proposed Response
Action Plan and required CBAC Gaming to prepare and submit sampling to “evaluat[e]
groundwater contamination for light non-aqueous phase liquids” and to conduct
supplemental testing for heptachlor vapor emissions. Id. ¶ 144. Plaintiffs allege that the
Maryland Department of the Environment failed to issue a public notice, hold a public
information hearing, or allow for a public comment period with respect to CBAC Gaming’s
proposed Response Action Plan. Id. ¶ 145. Similarly, Plaintiffs allege that CBAC Gaming
failed to publish notice of its proposed Response Action Plan. Id. ¶ 148. In August of 2012,
the Department required CBAC Gaming to make several modifications to the Plan. CBAC
Gaming submitted a revised Plan in November 2012, which was approved on November 27,
2012. Id. ¶¶ 146, 147. Plaintiffs allege that this final, revised Plan was deficient because it
“deviated substantially from professional standards, id. ¶ 159; failed to provide for sufficient
testing or contamination controls, id. ¶ 160; suppressed “crucial data that is important to the
extent of remediation needed at the Site by omitting factors from the body of the text of the
[Response Action Plan] and us[ed] an incomprehensible appendix which generally requires
professional training to sufficiently understand,” id. ¶ 161; and inadequately accounted for
the effects of the project on the environment and the potential for future environmental
degradation, id. ¶¶ 162, 163.
On April 11, 2013, the Maryland Department of the Environment conducted what
Plaintiffs characterize as a “sham public hearing” on CBAC Gaming’s Response Action
Plan, which had already been approved. Id. ¶ 154. Plaintiffs assert that construction had
already begun, id. ¶ 155, and that the meeting was cut short after officials declared the air
conditioner would turn off automatically after two hours, which allegedly deprived the public
and the Plaintiffs in attendance from fully voicing their opinions. Id. ¶ 156.
Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s
actions violated the Memorandum of Agreement that the Department had with the United
States Environmental Protection Agency for the redevelopment of brownfields.12 The
Memorandum of Agreement formalizes the responsibilities of the Maryland Department of
the Environment with respect to its oversight of the Voluntary Cleanup Program. Id. ¶¶
169-71. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that the Department violated the agreement by failing
“to conduct any meaningful public discussions” regarding the Casino project. Id. ¶ 172.
The Pending Lawsuit
The original Plaintiffs13 filed this suit on August 1, 2013, asserting eleven counts—
claims for declaratory relief; violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000d et seq.; violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; violation of the Fourteenth Amendment;
violations of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq.; public nuisance; fraudulent
misrepresentation; negligence; breach of contract; civil conspiracy; and requests for
injunction relief. Plaintiffs named the following defendants: the Maryland Department of
Brownfields are tracts of real estate contaminated by hazardous substances or pollutants where
redevelopment or reuse is unlikely. Cf. 42 U.S.C.A. § 9601(39) (‘The term “brownfield site” means real
property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential
presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”).
The originally named Plaintiffs included James R. Robinson, Duwain Heim, Rick Gardner, Vanessa Mack,
Calvin Wilson, Maryetta Baquol, Ami Lawson, Kenneth McKenzie, Joseph Jordan, III, and Quentin Sawyer.
See Pls.’ Compl., ECF No. 1.
the Environment; Robert Summers, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Maryland
Department of Environment; the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore; Stephanie
Rawlings-Blake, in her official capacity as Mayor of Baltimore City; CBAC Gaming LLC;
Baltimore Development Corporation; Whiting Turner Contracting Company; the United
States Environmental Protection Agency; Urban Green Environmental LLC; and the United
States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Services.
Plaintiffs also filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (ECF No. 4), seeking
to enjoin Whiting Turner Contracting Co. and CBAC Gaming from continuing construction
of the Casino at the Site until existing environmental contaminants at the site were
thoroughly tested. This Court held hearings on August 2, 2013, and August 9, 2013, and
issued an order denying the Motion on August 12, 2013.
Following that initial flurry of activity, Plaintiffs took no further action to pursue their
claims for several months. On November 15, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint
that added several new individual plaintiffs and removed the federal government defendants,
Whiting Turner Contracting Co., and Urban Green Environmental, LLC. Thereafter, on
December 26, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint in order to add CBAC
Borrower, LLC as a defendant.
Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint asserts six claims.14 Count I is a claim for
declaratory judgment and seeks a declaration that (1) the Response Action Plan for the Site is
In addition to the named Plaintiffs, the Second Amended Complaint asserts that this action is brought on
behalf of the named Plaintiffs and “[a]ll residents that live in close proximity to the Site in the Westport and
Cherry Hill Communities in Baltimore City where contaminants have been determined to exist.” Pls.’ Sec.
Am. Compl. ¶ 61. However, Plaintiffs have not pursued the certification of a class action.
inadequate; (2) neither the City nor CBAC Gaming are “Inculpable Persons” under the
Maryland Voluntary Cleanup Program; and (3) the Site fails to conform with Article XIX of
the Maryland Constitution with respect to the siting of the Casino. Count II asserts a
violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with respect to the implementation of
the Voluntary Cleanup Program and alleged intentional discrimination against predominantly
African-American communities. Count III alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
equal protection violations. Count IV alleges a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of
the United States Constitution. Count V alleges that the Site constitutes a public nuisance.
Count VI alleges that the Maryland Department of the Environment breached its agreement
with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the administration of the
Voluntary Cleanup Program.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When a defendant moves to dismiss a plaintiff’s claim for lack of standing, courts
commonly address the motion under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See Payne v. Chapel Hill North Properties, LLC, 947 F. Supp. 2d 567 (M.D.N.C. 2013)
(“Generally, challenges to standing are addressed under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction.”); see also Nat’l Alliance for Accessibility, Inc. v. Rite Aid of N. Carolina, Inc.,
1:10CV932, 2011 WL 4499294 (M.D.N.C. Sept. 27, 2011) (“Pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may assert that a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
a plaintiff’s complaint, including by challenging a plaintiff’s standing.”); Food & Water Watch
v. United States Envtl. Prot. Agency, CV 12-1639(RC), 2013 WL 6513826, at *5 (D.D.C. Dec.
13, 2013) (“[A] motion to dismiss for lack of standing constitutes a motion under Rule
12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because the defect of standing is a defect in
subject matter jurisdiction.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a court’s authority to hear the matter brought
by a complaint. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F. Supp. 2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). This
challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the
allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a
factual challenge, asserting “that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not
true.” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). With
respect to a facial challenge, a court will grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction “where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction.”
Davis, 367 F. Supp. 2d at 799. When addressing such a facial challenge, “the plaintiff, in
effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as he would receive under a Rule 12(b)(6)
consideration.” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Adams v.
Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). Where the challenge is factual, the district court
may look beyond the pleadings and “decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject
matter jurisdiction.” Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192; see also Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F. Supp. 2d 600, 606
(D. Md. 2003) (“[T]he court may look beyond the pleadings and ‘the jurisdictional allegations
of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine
whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.’”).
A plaintiff carries the burden of
establishing subject matter jurisdiction. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999).
Where, as here, a party makes a facial challenge to the district court’s jurisdiction
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the district court evaluates the jurisdictional allegations under the
standard set forth in Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain
a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” FED.
R. CIV. P 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the
dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The
purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).
The Supreme Court’s recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “require that complaints in civil actions be
alleged with greater specificity than previously was required.” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d
435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court’s decision in Twombly
articulated “[t]wo working principles” that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6)
motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the
factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are
not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim);
see also Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (“Although we are
constrained to take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept
legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for
relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain
“more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the plausibility requirement does not impose a
“probability requirement,” id. at 556, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Robertson v. Sea
Pines Real Estate Cos., 679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) (“A complaint need not make a case
against a defendant or forecast evidence sufficient to prove an element of the claim. It need only
allege facts sufficient to state elements of the claim.” (emphasis in original) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted)). In making this assessment, a court must “draw on its judicial
experience and common sense” to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible
claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “At bottom, a plaintiff must nudge [its] claims across
the line from conceivable to plausible to resist dismissal.” Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680
F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Under Article III of the United States Constitution, federal courts may only
adjudicate “actual cases and controversies.” Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750 (1984). The
doctrine of standing is designed to give effect to this requirement by “ensur[ing] that a
plaintiff has a sufficient personal stake in a dispute to render judicial resolution appropriate.”
Piney Run Preservation Ass’n v. Cnty. Com’rs of Carroll Cnty., Md., 268 F.3d 255, 262 (4th Cir.
2001) (quoting Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Gaston Copper Recycling Corp., 204 F.3d 149, 153 (4th
Cir. 2000)). In order to establish standing to sue, the plaintiff must demonstrate three basic
elements: (1) the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact,” (2) the injury must be “fairly
traceable” to the defendant’s challenged conduct, and (3) it must be likely that the plaintiff’s
injury would be redressed by the requested relief. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555,
560-61 (1992). When assessing standing before a federal court, “[t]he party invoking federal
jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements.” Id. at 561.
In this case, all Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs’ allegations are inadequate to
establish the jurisdiction of this Court. 15 As such, the Defendants’ Motions raise facial
challenges, and this Court will determine whether the allegations in the Second Amended
Complaint, when taken as true, are sufficient to establish standing under the plausibility
standard of Rule 12(b)(6) and Iqbal/Twombly. See Davis, 367 F. Supp. 2d at 799; Zander v.
U.S., 786 F. Supp. 2d 880, 883 (D. Md. 2011) (applying Iqbal/Twombly standard to motion to
dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)); see also Kerns, 585
F.3d at 192.
Specifically, the Maryland Department of the Environment begins its legal argument with a section titled
“Plaintiffs Lack Standing to Bring this Lawsuit.” See Def. MDE’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 8 (emphasis
added). Similarly, the City includes a section titled “This Court Lacks Subject Matter Jurisdiction Because
Plaintiffs Lack Standing to Bring This Action.” See Def. City’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 7 (emphasis added).
CBAC Gaming noted that it incorporated “MDE’s argument that Plaintiffs lack . . . Article III standing.”
Def. CBAC’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 21. Moreover, the Defendants’ reply briefs reiterate the broad scope
of their standing arguments. See Def. MDE’s Reply 10 (“Plaintiffs have not established Standing for
Purposes of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”); Def. City’s Reply 2 (“The only claims based in federal law in
the Complaint – Counts II-IV – claim violations of civil rights laws, but this Court lacks subjection [sic]
matter jurisdiction over those claims.”).
The Plaintiffs argue that they have met all three standing requirements 16
particular, they assert that they have adequately alleged injury-in-fact by alleging that (1)
contamination from the Site discharges into the Middle Branch; (2) the Plaintiffs “use the
trails and waterways, including the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, adjacent to the
Site,” id. ¶ 184; (3) the contamination “will impact the Plaintiffs’ health in raising the
contamination in the fish in the Patapsco River that are eaten by the Plaintiffs,” id. ¶ 195
(emphasis added); and (4) the contamination will “enter the groundwater and rise to the
surface and the Plaintiffs using the path will be exposed to contamination,” id. (emphasis
added). As such, it is important to note that Plaintiffs have identified only prospective
harm—i.e., that the activities at the Site will lead to some future injury, rather than some
currently-existing or past concrete harm.
Plaintiffs’ brief is notably silent on the issue of redressability. Plaintiffs seek a
declaratory judgment on various questions of state law, and demand $100 million in damages
with respect to their other claims. As the Maryland Department of the Environment points
out, a judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor will only award them damages and will not stop the
Casino from being built. See Def.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 11 (hereinafter, “MDE’s
Mem. Mot. Dismiss”), ECF No. 65-1. Indeed, Plaintiffs have failed to explain how an award
As indicated above, see supra note 15, the Defendants clearly challenged Plaintiffs standing to pursue its
federal claims in this Court. Inexplicably, however, Plaintiffs appear to interpret the standing challenge as
“limited to Count I for Declaratory Relief.” Pls.’ Resp. 10; see also id. 10 (“Defendants have made no
argument whatsoever that Plaintiffs’ [sic] lack standing to maintain a suit for Declaratory Judgment and
Defendants make no argument that the Plaintiffs’ [sic] lack standing to bring their claims against Defendants
under Counts II through VI.”). Nor did Plaintiffs attempt to clarify their arguments after receiving the
Defendants’ reply briefs.
of damages will remedy the prospective environmental harm identified as the injury
undergirding their various claims.
Nor does Plaintiffs’ claim for declaratory judgment save its case. See Comite de Apoyo a
Los Trabajadores Agricolas v. United States Department of Labor, 995 F.2d 510, 514 (4th Cir. 1993)
(“The fact that a declaratory judgment may have persuasive or even precedential weight in a
subsequent proceeding will not alone suffice to confer standing upon a party seeking to
invoke federal jurisdiction.”).
Notably, Plaintiffs originally requested temporary and
permanent injunctive relief. After this Court denied a temporary restraining order and a
preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs amended their complaint and removed all references to
injunctive relief. See id. at 513 (“By itself, a declaratory judgment cannot be the redress that
satisfies the third standing prong. Rather, plaintiffs must identify some further concrete relief
that will likely result from the declaratory judgment. Otherwise plaintiffs with mooted claims
of injury could gain federal jurisdiction simply by demanding declaratory relief.”).
Accordingly, Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that this action will provide redress for the
alleged harm, and as such, Plaintiffs have not met their burden of demonstrating standing to
pursue this action. 17 Alternatively, even if the Plaintiffs had adequately demonstrated
standing, Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a valid claim as a matter of law.18
This Court notes Plaintiffs’ redressability issues are further complicated by the decision of the Circuit Court
for Baltimore City in Sherrill, et al. v. Maryland Department of the Environment, et al., No. 24-C-13-00100. See ECF
No. 72-5. In that case, Ruth Sherrill, Merab Rice, and Tim Bull—who are plaintiffs in this action and Sherrill
v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Civ. A. No. RDB-13-2768, as well—brought claims against the Maryland
Department of the Environment, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, and CBAC Gaming for
mandamus (against the Department only), declaratory judgment, and public nuisance. The court dismissed as
moot plaintiffs’ claims based upon lack of opportunity to participate in the administrative process or provide
comments on the Response Action Plan because the court found that plaintiffs had two opportunities to
participate, and it also dismissed plaintiffs’ public nuisance claim due to a lack of particularized harm or a
ELEVENTH AMENDMENT IMMUNITY
The Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution acts as a bar to certain
actions against a State and the State’s officials. Specifically, the Eleventh Amendment states
The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed
to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted
against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or
by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.
U.S. CONST. Amend. XI. Although not expressly stated in the text, the Eleventh
Amendment is commonly understood to apply to state agents and other “arms of the state.”
Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997).
Despite this general bar on suits against arms of the State, a State may nevertheless
consent to suit in federal court; in addition, Congress may abrogate a State’s sovereign
immunity pursuant to its power under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Va. Office for Prot. &
Advocacy v. Stewart, 131 S. Ct. 1632, 1637-38 (2011). In this case, Plaintiffs assert claims under
Title VI, § 1983, and various provisions of state law.
special and distinct interest on behalf of the plaintiffs. The Circuit Court’s decision is now on appeal to the
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
Plaintiffs argue that this Court should ignore this parallel litigation for the simple reason that it was
not pled in the Second Amended Complaint. See Pls.’ Resp. 32. Of course, it is well-established that Courts
may take judicial notice of matters of public record, and this Court will take judicial notice of the decision of
the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
Specifically, all of Plaintiffs’ claims against the Maryland Department of the Environment, with the one
exception of the Title VI claim, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See infra Part II. Additionally,
Plaintiffs have failed to plead a plausible claim under Iqbal and Twombly.
With respect to Plaintiffs’ Title VI claim, the Eleventh Amendment poses no bar. As
is well-established, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act abrogates Maryland’s Eleventh
Amendment Immunity. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-7(a)(1) (“A State shall not be immune under
the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States from suit in Federal court
for a violation of . . . title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”).
With respect to Plaintiffs’ § 1983 claims, however, there is no applicable exception to
the State’s sovereign immunity. See Md. Code, State Gov’t § 12-103(2) (noting that the
Maryland Tort Claims Act “does not . . . waive any right or defense of the State or its units,
officials, or employees in an action in a court of the United States or any other state,
including any defense that is available under the 11th Amendment to the United States
Constitution”); Thompson v. State of Maryland Dep’t of Transp., Civ. A. No. AW-09-297, 2010
WL 2473269, at *3 (D. Md. June 14, 2010) (holding that Maryland has not consented to §
1983 claims in federal court); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 338-45 (1979) (holding that §
1983 was not intended to abrogate states’ Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity).
With respect to Plaintiffs’ state claims, the State of Maryland has not waived its
sovereign immunity to suits brought against it in federal court. See Lindsey, 2011 WL 454475,
at *3 (“[T]he Eleventh Amendment immunizes states from suit brought in federal court
absent waiver from the state or a clear congressional exercise of its power under the
Fourteenth Amendment. The State of Maryland has not expressly waived its immunity
under the Eleventh Amendment to such suits.” (internal citations omitted)). Additionally, it
is firmly established that a litigant may not invoke supplemental jurisdiction in order to avoid
the Eleventh Amendment’s bar to federal court jurisdiction over actions against states. See
Gray v. Maryland, 228 F. Supp. 2d 628, 640 (D. Md. 2002) (citing Pennhurst State School &
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984)).
This same reasoning applies to the claims against Secretary Summers in his official
capacities because, as explained above, Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state
officials sued in their official capacity for damages.
See Gray, 228 F. Supp. 2d at 640
(dismissing state-law claims against Maryland county sheriff in official capacity under
Eleventh Amendment); Strong v. Swaim-Stanley, Civ. A. No. WMN-12-1924, 2012 WL
4058054, at *2 (D. Md. Sept. 13, 2012) (dismissing claims under the Americans with
Disabilities Act against the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation under
the Eleventh Amendment); see also Ex parte Young (permitting suits against state officials for
prospective injunctive relief only). Accordingly, the only claim not barred by the Eleventh
Amendment is the Title VI claim against the Maryland Department of the Environment.19
As Plaintiffs premise jurisdiction on 28 U.S.C. § 1331, this Court first turns to
Plaintiffs’ federal claims. Plaintiffs assert three claims arising under federal law: a Fourteenth
Amendment claim, a § 1983 claim, and a claim under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of
Assuming, arguendo, that Plaintiffs had met their burden of establishing standing to
sue, this Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to allege any plausible federal claim.
While the Title VI claim against Secretary Summers is not technically barred by the Eleventh Amendment,
the law does not recognize a Title VI cause of action against a state official as is explained below.
A. Fourteenth Amendment Claim (Count IV)
Plaintiffs’ fourth claim asserts a cause of action directly under the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution and demands damages as a remedy.
However, it is well established that there is no direct cause of action under the Equal
Protection Clause against state or municipal entities or officials for damages. See Farmer v.
Ramsay, 41 F. Supp. 587, 591 (D. Md. 1999) (citing Cale v. Covington, 586 F.2d 311, 313 (4th
Cir. 1978)). To the extent that the Plaintiffs properly allege a violation of the Equal
Protection clause, liability for that violation would arise under § 1983.20
B. § 1983 Claim (Count III)
Plaintiffs alternatively assert a § 1983 claim against all Defendants in order to pursue
their allegations of racial discrimination. Section 1983 states:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or causes
to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,
shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in
equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in
any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or
omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive
relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was
violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 does not create “substantive rights”; instead, the statute
provides “a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Thompson v. Dorsey,
Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint does not name the CBAC Defendants in its Fourteenth
Civ. A. No. ELH-10-1364, 2011 WL 2610704, at *3 (D. Md. June 30, 2011) (quoting Albright
v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994)).
In this case, Plaintiffs claim violations of their equal protection rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment states that “[n]o State shall . . . deny
to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. CONST. Amend.
XI. The specific allegations of equal protection violations pertaining to the remaining
Defendants—the City, CBAC Gaming, and CBAC Borrower21—arise out of (1) the City’s
siting of undesirable industry, Pls.’ Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 206; (2) the prevention of public
comment or participation in the discussion of the Response Action Plan, id. ¶ 209; and (3)
“[t]he submission of the deficient RAP by CBAC Gaming, in conjunction with and/or on
behalf of CBAC Borrower,” id. ¶ 211; (4) “[the] approval of the RAP by MDE and
Baltimore City,” id.; and (5) the “construction without sufficient investigation at the Site,”
As noted above, Plaintiffs may not pursue their § 1983 against the Maryland Department of the
Environment due to the bar posed by the Eleventh Amendment.
Specifically, with respect to the § 1983 claim, Plaintiffs allege that:
219. The Defendants MDE, the City, CBAC Gaming and CBAC Borrower, by their
regulations, custom and actions have failed and refused to terminate and abolish such
discriminatory practices. The injury to Plaintiffs is continuous, great and irreparable; is
calculated to affect and does affect, their health, rights and privileges as citizens of the
220. By this suit and proceeding, Plaintiffs seek to redress the deprivation by Defendant
Secretary Summers in his official capacity as director of MDE, and as an officer of the State
of Maryland, Defendant Rawlings-Blake in her official capacity as Mayor, the City, CBAC
Gaming and CBAC Borrower, under color of state law and of regulation, custom, or usage
of Plaintiffs’ civil rights, privileges, and immunities secured to them by the laws of the
221. Defendants’ aforementioned conduct is illegal and is in violation of Plaintiffs’ rights and
privileges as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Civil Rights Act,
and in pursuance of their unlawful conduct to injure and oppress Plaintiffs herein in the free
exercise and enjoyment of their rights and privileges as secured and guaranteed to them as
As a preliminary matter, this Court notes the black-letter rule that a § 1983 claim does
not lie against a private actor. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999)
(“To state a claim for relief in an action brought under § 1983, respondents must establish
that they were deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States,
and that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law. Like the stateaction requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment, the under-color-of-state-law element of §
1983 excludes from its reach merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or
citizens of the United States by the Constitution of the United States, as particularly
provided under the Fourteenth Amendment, and under the said Civil Rights Act. Plaintiffs
are entitled to such equal protections, advantages and privileges, and to equal treatment and
rights with other persons of the United States, in the use and enjoyment of lands and
waterways adjacent to the Site and near their community free from contamination and to the
equal protection of the laws in their use and enjoyment of said privileges as provided and
afforded to other persons.
Pls.’ Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 219-21. Earlier in the Second Amended Complaint, with respect to the Title VI
claim, Plaintiffs allege that:
206. Baltimore City has a pattern of intentional discrimination in the siting of undesirable
industry that causes toxic contamination near predominantly African-American communities
within the boundaries of Baltimore City, such as the Site.
207. MDE, by approving and permitting RAPs for the VCP of such contaminated sites
within the boundaries of Baltimore City near predominately African-American communities
without requiring proper investigation of the contaminated sites and remediation of the
contaminated sites is engaging in a pattern of intentional discrimination against those
predominantly African-American communities.
209. MDE and Baltimore City pursued a plan to prevent public comment and participation
of Plaintiffs in discussions concerning the RAP for the Site at a meaningful point in the
210. The approval of the deficient RAP has a disparate impact on the predominantly
African-American communities of Westport and Cherry Hill and upon Plaintiffs and other
similarly situated members of the predominantly African-American communities of
Westport and Cherry Hill.
211. The submission of the deficient RAP by CBAC Gaming, in conjunction with and/or on
behalf of CBAC Borrower, approval of the RAP by MDE and Baltimore City, and
construction without sufficient investigation at the Site, as well as violating Article XIX of
the Maryland Constitution, constitute an ongoing intentional violation of Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Id. ¶¶ 206-11.
wrongful.” (internal quotation marks omitted)); see also Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem’l Hosp., 572
F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (“The statutory color-of-law prerequisite is synonymous with
the more familiar state-action requirement—and the analysis for each is identical.”). A
private actor may only be held liable under four specific circumstances:
(1) when the state has coerced the private actor to commit an
act that would be unconstitutional if done by the state; (2) when
the state has sought to evade a clear constitutional duty through
delegation to a private actor; (3) when the state has delegated a
traditionally and exclusively public function to a private actor;
or (4) when the state has committed an unconstitutional act in
the course of enforcing a right of a private citizen.
DeBauche v. Trani, 191 F.3d 499, 507 (4th Cir. 1999). Although the CBAC Defendants raised
this issue in its papers, see Def. CBAC’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 24-26, ECF No. 66-1,
Plaintiffs response is devoid of any argument on the point. Moreover, Plaintiffs’ Second
Amended Complaint contains no facts that would subject CBAC Gaming or CBAC
Borrower to liability under one of the private actor exceptions. Accordingly, Plaintiffs
claims must be dismissed as to the CBAC entities.
Plaintiffs’ allegations as to Baltimore City are similarly unavailing. In particular, the
Second Amended Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to give rise to liability under
Plaintiffs’ various theories. Despite claiming that the City violated the Plaintiffs’ rights by
approving a deficient Response Action Plan, Plaintiffs elsewhere allege that the Maryland
Department of the Environment administers the Voluntary Cleanup Program. Id. ¶ 205.
There is no allegation whatsoever that the City had any influence or control over the
Voluntary Cleanup Program or the Response Action Plan approval process.
With respect to the “pattern of siting of undesirable industry,” Plaintiffs have not
explained the City’s role in picking the site for the Casino; rather, Plaintiffs’ Second
Amended Complaint suggests that the Site was actually selected by CBAC Gaming. See Pls.’
Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 177 (“CBAC Gaming and/or CBAC Borrower submitted a video lottery
operation license application on September 23, 2011 to operate a [Video Lottery Facility] in
Baltimore City at the [Site].”). 23 Even if Plaintiffs had explained the City’s role in this
process in its Second Amended Complaint,24 Plaintiffs simply offer bald allegations that the
City acted with racial animus and then attempt to insulate their claims from dismissal by
contending that this Court should not determine the “sensitive inquiry” into racial animus at
the motion to dismiss stage. See Pls.’ Resp. 17.
Despite Plaintiffs’ contentions, the Second Amended Complaint simply fails to
plausibly allege purposeful racial discrimination on the part of the City. In essence, Plaintiffs
have asserted that the City’s efforts at redevelopment—at a Site where contamination was
pre-existing and wide-spread—was somehow intended to discriminate against the AfricanAmerican residents in the nearby areas. To permit Plaintiffs to pursue their claim in this
context would expose Baltimore City (or any other municipality) to wide-spread, open-ended
§ 1983 liability for any redevelopment project in blighted areas that are in some proximity to
Notably, Maryland Casinos must be approved by the State of Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location
Commission, which is a state agency. See MD Code, State Government, § 9-1A-36.
Undoubtedly, the City played some role in the Siting decision. Amendment XIX, for example, requires that
the Casino be located on City-owned land. Defendants’ exhibits provide some further insight into this
process. See Def. CBAC’s Reply Ex 3, ECF No. 81-5 (City documents voicing support for the Casino and
noting properties on Russell street as potential location). However, none of those facts are alleged in the
neighborhoods with significant populations of racial minorities simply based upon bald
allegations of purposeful discrimination.25
Nor does this Court find that Plaintiffs’ argument pursuant to Village of Arlington
Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252 (1977), changes this Court’s
conclusion. In sum, Plaintiffs argue that:
The totality of the circumstances of the approval of the RAP,
the deficiencies in the RAP, the failure of the required public
notice, the deviation from normal substantive standards, the
historical race related policy making of Baltimore City, the
location of this Site for the Casino and the disparate treatment
of this Site as compared to other sites, all lead to the reasonable
inference that there exists an invidious discriminatory purpose
that was the motivating factor in the decision to select this Site
for the Casino and to allow Defendant CBAC Gaming to begin
and continue construction at the Site without proper testing of
the groundwater and soil.
Pls.’ Resp. 29. As discussed to some degree above, this analysis fails to raise a plausible
claim of purposeful racial discrimination with respect to the City. The Plaintiffs jumble
together a variety of unpled matters26 and perceived state procedural improprieties allegedly
committed by other entities—and many of these claimed improprieties have already been
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ allegations with respect to discriminatory intent should not be given
credence because they fail to satisfy the pleading standards of Iqbal and Twombly. See MDE’s Mem. Supp.
Mot. Dismiss 21-22, ECF No. 65-1 (“[T]o the extent Plaintiffs allege that MDE and Secretary Summers have
‘engaged in a pattern of intentional discrimination against those predominantly African-American
communities,’ and ‘approval of the RAP by MDE . . . constitute[s] an ongoing intentional violation of Title
VI,’ Plaintiffs have not presented a single fact, statistic, or evidence of a pattern to meet the plausibility
standard of Twombly.”); City’s Reply 7, ECF No. 82 (“The unconstitutional discrimination claimed in this case
is thus essentially set forth in two conclusory statements in the Complaint, unsupported by fact, that fail to
meet the plausibility standard of Federal Rule 12(b)(6) and Iqbal/Twombly.”).
For example, the Second Amended Complaint fails to mention any other site that was treated differently
despite their attempt to discuss the Harbor Point Development project in their papers. See Pls.’ Resp. 18.
rejected by the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. 27
Their claims of a pattern of
discriminatory siting of industry are only supported by references to the City’s segregation of
neighborhoods over a century ago, and Plaintiffs have not offered any explanation regarding
the connection between the two. As such, Plaintiffs have failed to allege any plausible theory
under which the City or the CBAC entities could be liable, and Plaintiffs’ § 1983 claim will
C. Title VI Claim (Count II)
Plaintiff’s second count states a claim for violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964. Title VI provides that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of
race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or
be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial
assistance.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. “Under Fourth Circuit case precedent, a state actor’s
conduct violates Title VI only where this conduct constitutes purposeful discrimination in
violation of the Equal Protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.” Thompson v. U.S. Dep’t
of Hous. & Urban Dev., 348 F. Supp. 2d 398, 452 (D. Md. 2005) (citing Peters v. Jenney, 327
F.3d 307, 315 (4th Cir. 2003)). Thus, there is no private right of action under Title VI for
disparate impact discrimination. See Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 281 (2001); see also
Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287, 293 (1985) (summarizing Guardians Ass’n v. Civil Serv.
Comm’n of New York City, 463 U.S. 582 as holding that “Title VI itself directly reache[s] only
For example, in Sherrill v. Maryland Department of the Environment, No. 24-C-13-001000, the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City found that the additional opportunity for public comment mooted any claim for procedural
defect as public comment pursuant to § 7-509 of the Environmental Article of the Maryland Code. See Def.
CBAC’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Ex 1, ECF No. 66-3.
instances of intentional discrimination”). Accordingly, to the extent Plaintiffs attempt to
proceed on a purely disparate impact theory, their claim must be dismissed.
To the extent that Plaintiffs have alleged that the Defendants intentionally
discriminated against Plaintiffs, their allegations fail to state a claim as well. This Court has
already determined that Plaintiffs have failed to allege a constitutional violation with respect
to the City, CBAC Gaming, and CBAC Borrower that would give rise to those entities’
liability under § 1983. As such, Plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient for purposes of Title VI
as well. Accord Thompson, 348 F. Supp. 2d at 452. With respect to the Maryland Department
of the Environment,28 this Court’s reasoning as to the other Defendants is illuminative.29
Moreover, it is well-established that a Title VI claim cannot lie against an individual acting in
his or her official capacity, so the claim must also be dismissed with respect to Secretary
Summers. See Farmer v. Ramsay, 41 F. Supp. 2d 587, 592 (D. Md. 1999).
In addition to their federal claims, Plaintiffs assert a variety of claims arising under
Maryland law. Count I is a claim for declaratory judgment and seeks a declaration that (1)
The allegations pertaining to the Maryland Department of the Environment are that the Department (1)
approved the Response Action Plan and Voluntary Cleanup Program application without sufficient
investigation or remediation; (2) prevented public comment and participation in the discussions concerning
the Response Action Plan at a meaningful time; and (3) permitted construction to begin without sufficient
investigation. See Pls.’ Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 207-11.
With respect to the Plaintiffs’ allegations pertaining to the Department, see supra note 28, this Court does
not find that any more plausible claim on which Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint could survive.
Notably, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City found that the plaintiffs in Sherrill v. Maryland Department of the
Environment had failed to allege that the Department had acted arbitrarily and capriciously because their
allegations were too sparse and conclusory. See Def. CBAC’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Ex 1. Moreover,
Plaintiffs’ allegations are even more implausible in light of the fact that the Department had no role in picking
the Site as the location for the Casino.
the Response Action Plan for the Site is inadequate; (2) neither the City nor CBAC Gaming
are “Inculpable Persons” under the Maryland Voluntary Cleanup Program; and (3) the Site
fails to confirm with Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution with respect to the siting of
the Casino. Count V alleges that the Site constitutes a public nuisance. Count VI alleges
that the Maryland Department of the Environment breached its agreement with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency regarding the administration of the Voluntary Cleanup
As noted above, this Court has already dismissed all of the federal claims against the
Defendants. As such, this Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1367 over Plaintiffs’ state law claims—particularly in light of the dismissal of the
related action in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and the pending appeal to the Court of
Special Appeals of Maryland.30 Accordingly, those claims will be dismissed.
For the reasons stated above, Defendants Maryland Department of the Environment
and Secretary Robert Summers’ Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 65), Defendants CBAC
Gaming, LLC and CBAC Borrower, LLC’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 66), and Baltimore
Development Corporation, Stephanie Rawlins-Blake, and Mayor and City Council of
Baltimore’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 72) are GRANTED.
A separate Order follows.
May 16, 2014
Richard D. Bennett
United States District Judge
See supra note 17.
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