Burley et al v. Baltimore City Police Department et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Ellen L. Hollander on 9/12/2019. (ol, Deputy Clerk)
THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
UMAR HASSAN BURLEY, et al.
Civil Action No. ELH-18-1743
BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT,
This civil rights case is rooted in the disturbing events of April 28, 2010, and involves
current and former members of the Baltimore Police Department (“BPD” or the “Department”)
and its now defunct Gun Trace Trask Force (“GTTF”).
In a 59-page Second amended Complaint (“SAC,” ECF 23), plaintiffs Umar Hassan Burley
and Brent Andre Matthews filed suit against the BPD; former Deputy Commissioner Dean
Palmere; and several former and current police officers: former Sergeant Wayne Earl Jenkins;
former Sergeant Richard Willard; Sergeant William Knoerlein; Sergeant Ryan Guinn; Lieutenant
Michael Fries; and former Officer Keith Gladstone.1
Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint on June 13, 2018, naming as defendants the BPD,
the State of Maryland, Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone and the Estate of Sean Suiter. ECF 1. They
filed a First Amended Complaint on September 11, 2018 (ECF 3), adding Palmere as a defendant,
and dismissing the suit as to the State of Maryland and the Estate of Sean Suiter. They also added
a count of supervisory liability. On December 21, 2018, plaintiffs filed the SAC, adding Willard,
Knoerlein, and Fries as defendants, as well as a claim of “Indemnification for Civil Judgment.”
Suiter was a member of the GTTF. He died of a gunshot wound to the head on November
16, 2017, one day before he was scheduled to appear before a federal grand jury. The cause of his
death – suicide or homicide – is the subject of continued investigation and debate.
Plaintiffs allege that on April 28, 2010, members of the BPD, “wearing plainclothes” and
“masks,” “jumped out” of their vehicles “with their guns drawn.” Id. ¶¶ 216, 217, 218. Plaintiffs,
in fear that “they were about to be robbed,” sped away in Burley’s motor vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 2, 221.
During the high speed chase that ensued, Burley drove through an intersection and crashed into a
vehicle driven by Elbert Davis. Id. ¶ 223. Tragically, Mr. Davis was killed. Id.2 The police
officers then “planted approximately 32 grams of heroin on the floor” of Burley’s vehicle to justify
their “illegal acts[.]” Id. ¶ 228. Thereafter, based on “a fabricated statement of probable cause,”
id. ¶ 234, Burley and Matthews were charged in federal court with drug related offenses. See
United States v. Burley, et al., Case No. RDB-11-74; see also ECF 23, ¶ 238. In addition, the State
charged Burley with vehicular manslaughter.
See Baltimore City Circuit Court Case No.
110294026; ECF 23, ¶ 239.
In the federal case, Burley and Matthews ultimately pleaded guilty to possession with intent
to distribute heroin. And, Burley pleaded guilty in State court to vehicular manslaughter. Id. ¶
243. However, in 2017 and 2018, plaintiffs’ convictions were vacated, after it was determined
that the underlying federal charges were unfounded and the product of police corruption. Id. ¶¶
The SAC contains thirteen counts. Id. ¶¶ 267-342. Counts I through VI assert claims under
federal law, and Counts VII through XIII are premised on Maryland law.
compensatory damages, punitive damages, and payment for the civil judgment obtained by the
On August 2, 2018, suit was filed by Shirley Johnson, as Personal Representative of the
Estate of Mr. Davis, and several relatives of Mr. Davis, against the BPD; Jenkins; Guinn; and
several other defendants, including the Estate of Sean Suiter. See Shirley Johnson, Personal
Representative of the Estate of Elbert Davis, Sr., et al. v. Baltimore City Police Department, et al.,
Case No. ELH-18-2375.
family of Mr. Davis against Burley, in the amount of $1,092,500, plus post-judgment interest. Id.
Count I, titled “Violation of Due Process,” is lodged under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard. Id. ¶¶ 267-73. Count II asserts a claim of “Malicious
Prosecution” under § 1983 against Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard. Id. ¶¶ 274-79. Count
III, lodged against Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, Willard, Knoerlein, Fries, and Palmere, alleges a
claim of “Failure to Intervene” under § 1983. Id. ¶¶ 280-83. Count IV, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1983 and 1985, asserts a claim against Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard for “Conspiracy
to Deprive Constitutional Rights.” Id. ¶¶ 284-90. Count V alleges a “Supervisor Liability” claim
under § 1983 against Willard, Knoerlein, Fries, and Palmere. Id. ¶¶ 291-96. Count VI asserts a
“Monell Liability” claim against the BPD, pursuant to § 1983. Id. ¶¶ 297-304.
Count VII asserts a claim of “Malicious Prosecution” against Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone,
and Willard. Id. ¶¶ 305-316. In Count VIII, plaintiffs allege “Abuse of Process,” filed against
Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard. Id. ¶¶ 317-21. Count IX asserts a claim of “Intentional
Infliction of Emotional Distress” against Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard. Id. ¶¶ 322-25.
In Count X, plaintiffs assert a claim of “Civil Conspiracy” against Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard.
Id. ¶¶ 326-30. Count XI, lodged against Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard, is filed pursuant to Article
24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.
Id. ¶¶ 331-33.
In Count XII, plaintiffs seek
“Indemnification” against the BPD. And, in Count XIII, they seek “Indemnification for Civil
Judgment” against Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and the BPD. Id. ¶¶ 334-42.
Three motions to dismiss are pending. BPD and Palmere move to dismiss the SAC,
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim. ECF 29. It is supported by a
memorandum of law. ECF 29-2 (collectively, the “BPD Motion”). They contend that plaintiffs’
claims against them are time-barred. Id. at 2. BPD also asserts that it is protected by sovereign
immunity as to plaintiffs’ State law claims. Id. In addition, defendants argue that plaintiffs fail to
state a claim against Palmere for failure to intervene in Count III, and lack standing to seek
indemnification in Counts XII and XIII. Id.
Fries, Gladstone, Guinn, Knoerlein, and Willard (the “Officer Defendants”)3 join the BPD
motion and move to dismiss the SAC for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
ECF 33. Their motion is supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 33-1 (collectively, the “Officer
Motion”). They assert that all claims, except for plaintiffs’ malicious prosecution claims, are timebarred, because plaintiffs “knew the operative facts underpinning their causes of action well within
the three year period, but chose to wait to file their suit until eight years later.” Id. ¶¶ 5-6. In
addition, they argue that Count V (Supervisory Liability) and Count VII (Malicious Prosecution)
fail to state a claim. Id. ¶¶ 7-9.
In a consolidated submission, plaintiffs oppose the BPD Motion and the Motion. ECF 35.
They assert that their § 1983 claims are timely because “they did not accrue until Plaintiffs’
criminal proceedings fully resolved when their convictions were vacated in December 2017.” Id.
at 13. Further, they contend that they stated claims for malicious prosecution, failure to intervene,
and supervisory liability. Id. at 23.
The BPD (ECF 40) and the Officer Defendants (ECF 42) have replied. In BPD’s reply,
the Department asserts that it is not subject to Monell liability. ECF 40 at 9. With leave of court
(ECF 45), plaintiffs have filed a surreply. ECF 46.
In the SAC, plaintiffs define Jenkins, Guinn, and Gladstone collectively as the “Officer
Defendants” or “Officers.” ECF 23 at 2. Willard, Knoerlein, Fries, and Palmere are not included
in that designation. Id.
Jenkins joins the BPD Motion and the Motion. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), he
also moves to dismiss the SAC, asserting that plaintiffs’ claims are time-barred. ECF 41. The
motion is supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 41-1 (collectively, the “Jenkins Motion”).
Plaintiffs oppose the Jenkins Motion. ECF 43.
No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that
follow, I shall grant in part and deny in part the BPD Motion (ECF 29); deny the Officer Motion
(ECF 33); and deny the Jenkins Motion (ECF 41).
The Police Officers
At all relevant times, Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, Willard, Knoerlein, Fries, and Palmere
were employed by the BPD. ECF 23, ¶ 24.
In 2007, “the BPD formed a new elite, plainclothes unit known as the Violent Crime Impact
Division [“VCID”] to focus on ‘bad guys with guns.’” ECF 23, ¶ 56.5 According to plaintiffs,
the unit is also known as the Violent Crime Impact Section (“VCIS”) and was previously called
the Organized Crime Division. Id. ¶ 25. Also in 2007, the BPD formed the GTTF, “with the stated
goal of tracking and curbing illegal gun sales and gun activity.” Id. ¶ 157.
Gladstone “is a former member of the BPD.” Id. ¶ 27. He joined the Department in 1992.
Id. In 2008, he joined the VCID, and was a member of that unit at the relevant time. Id.
Given the procedural posture of this case, I must assume the truth of all well-pleaded
factual allegations in the Second Amended Complaint. See E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v.
Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011). I may also take judicial notice of matters of
public record. Philips v. Pitt County Mem. Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).
In the SAC, the VCID is referred to alternately as the Violent Crimes Impact Division
and the Violent Crime Impact Division. See, e.g., ECF 23, ¶¶ 25, 56.
Jenkins joined the BPD on February 20, 2003. Id. ¶ 25. And, plaintiffs assert that Jenkins
joined the VCID in June 2006. Id.6 Jenkins was promoted to Sergeant on November 30, 2012,
and in June 2016 he was “named supervisor” of the GTTF. Id.
Guinn “is a current member of the BPD.” Id. ¶ 26. In April 2010, Guinn was a member
of VCID. Id. And, he is a former member of the GTTF. Id.
Willard is a former member of the Department. Id. ¶ 28. He “joined the BPD in 1992.”
Id. In April 2010, Willard was “a Sergeant in VCID” and “directly supervised” Jenkins. Id.
Knoerlein “is a current member of the BPD.” Id. ¶ 29. In April 2010, he “was a Sergeant
in VCID and directly supervised” Gladstone and Jenkins. Id.
Fries is “a current member of the BPD.” Id. ¶ 30. From at least 2004 to 2006, Fries “was
part of a Special Enforcement Team” (“SET”) and he “supervised” Jenkins. Id.7 In April 2010,
Fries “was a Lieutenant in VCID and directly supervised” Gladstone. Id.
Palmere was employed by the Department for more than twenty years before he retired in
2018. Id. ¶ 31. During his employment, he “held various supervisory roles within the BPD in
which he oversaw plainclothes units.” Id.; see also ¶ 134. From 2008 to 2010, Palmere “led
VCID.” Id. As the head of VCID, Palmere “was a supervisor responsible for Officers Jenkins,
Guinn, and Gladstone[.]” Id. ¶ 140. And, in 2010 “he was promoted to Chief of the Criminal
Investigations Division, into which VCID merged.” Id. In 2011, Palmere “briefly served as Chief
As noted, plaintiffs assert in ECF 23, ¶ 56, that the VCID was created in 2007. But, in
ECF 23, ¶ 25, they state that Jenkins joined the VCID in 2006, which would have been prior to the
formation of the VCID.
Similar to so called flex squad units, “SET members normally worked in plainclothes and
patrolled the streets in unmarked vehicles.” Id. ¶ 53. Although the flex squads were managed by
each of the Department’s nine district commanders, the SETs “were managed directly by the
BPD’s Chief of Patrol.” Id.
of the Patrol Division.” Id. In 2012, he returned “to his role as Chief of the Criminal Investigations
Division.” Id. From 2013 until Palmere retired in 2018, he “served as Deputy Commissioner
overseeing the BPD’s Patrol and Operations Bureaus, under which the plainclothes units fell.” Id.
1. Gladstone and Jenkins
Gladstone “served as a mentor” to Jenkins, and the officers “began working with each other
as early as 2008, frequently making arrests together in 2010.” ECF 23, ¶ 78. Plaintiffs allege that
the Department had actual or constructive knowledge of the history of “illegal actions” of
Gladstone and Jenkins while they were employed by the BPD. Id. ¶ 72.
Plaintiffs assert, id. ¶ 73: “Gladstone was involved in the 2003 arrest of Mason Weaver, in
which a federal judge held that the BPD officers involved had violated Mr. Weaver’s constitutional
rights.” In addition, he was found to have committed misconduct between 2002 and 2004 while
working in the Northwest District. Id. ¶ 74. And, “on multiple occasions prior to 2010, Officer
Gladstone allowed his sources to keep drugs in exchange for information.” Id. ¶ 75.
In May 2015, while Lieutenant Christopher O’Ree was working with Gladstone, O’Ree
“pepper sprayed a man in the face from only a few feet way.” Id. ¶ 76. Then, Gladstone “grabbed
the man by his hair and pulled him to the ground, before running to chase other residents in the
vicinity with pepper spray.” Id. Thereafter, the victim filed a civil rights suit against the officers,
and a jury found that Gladstone and O’Ree “had used excessive force and awarded $75,000” to
Similarly, plaintiffs claim that Jenkins “engaged in repeated misconduct as a police
officer,” id. ¶ 79, and he “was the subject of several . . . investigations” conducted by the BPD’s
Internal Affairs Division (“IAD”). Id. ¶ 95. Over the course of Jenkins’ employment with the
BPD, he “repeatedly crashed BPD-issued vehicles, damaging them and/or rendering them
inoperable.” Id. ¶ 80. For example, on July 24, 2004, “Jenkins was involved in a car accident
while on duty.” Id. ¶ 81. And, “IAD subsequently conducted an investigation and disciplined Mr.
Jenkins for an accident that it deemed ‘preventable.’” Id. In addition, plaintiffs allege that
“Jenkins modified or enhanced the department-issued vehicles in an effort to withstand frequent
collisions – in contravention of BPD policy.” Id. ¶ 82.
In 2005, Jenkins “struck a private citizen, Timothy O’ Conner, in the face.” Id. O’Conner
“suffered a fracture of the bone near his eye.” Id. Thereafter, O’Conner filed a lawsuit in
connection with the incident. Id. ¶ 86. In September 2008, Baltimore City “agreed to settle the
case . . . for $75,000.” Id. ¶ 86.
In February 2008, Jenkins, as a VCID member, “fabricated an affidavit in support of a
search warrant, writing that a confidential source had told him that a black male by the name of
Mickey Oakley was distributing large amounts of cocaine and heroin in Baltimore and that a
confidential source had been inside an apartment where the drugs were stored with Mr. Oakley.”
Id. ¶ 87. Jenkins and other officers “entered Mr. Oakley’s apartment without a search warrant,” a
practice known within the BPD as a “sneak and peek.” Id. ¶ 88. Later that day, Jenkins and
Detective Daniel Hersl, an officer who later worked under Jenkins in the GTTF, “apprehended Mr.
Oakley.” Id. ¶ 89.
At a hearing in 2009, Jenkins “took the stand and lied when he stated that” another officer
had told Jenkins “that he saw Mr. Oakley exit an apartment building holding a brown paper bag
and get into a black SUV.” Id. ¶ 90. Due to Jenkins’s misconduct, the government “later agreed
to Mr. Oakley’s release from federal prison . . . .” Id. ¶ 91.
In an incident in November 2010, Jenkins and Gladstone, while working in the VCID,
“arrested Jamal Walker during a car stop and then went to Mr. Walker’s home, where they tried to
break in.” Id. ¶ 92. But, Jovonne Walker, Mr. Walker’s wife, “set off a silent burglary alarm
during the break-in attempt, which brought police to the home.” Id. According to plaintiffs,
“Jenkins and Gladstone sent the police away so that they could conduct a search of the home
themselves.” Id. However, “once the inconsistencies in Jenkins’ account came to light,” the
government dropped the case against Mr. Walker. Id.
Plaintiffs also assert that in May 2011, Jenkins “stole at least $1,800 from an individual’s
car after an attempted traffic stop and later authored a false incident report to conceal his illegal
conduct.” Id. ¶ 93.
In a 2014 case involving Jenkins and Gladstone, Assistant City State’s Attorney Molly
Webb notified defense counsel that video camera footage taken of a search of a vehicle
“contradicted the sworn statement of probable cause submitted by the officers.” Id. ¶ 167. In
response to the video footage, “Webb dismissed the case and reported the inconsistency” to the
IAD. Id. ¶ 168. After Webb reported the incident, “Jenkins threatened ASA Webb that she should
‘stop talking about him.’” Id. ¶ 169.
However, “no investigation was conducted and no
disciplinary actions were taken against” Jenkins and Gladstone. Id. ¶ 170.
Although the BPD knew that “Officer Jenkins engaged in repeated acts of misconduct,” id.
¶ 183, plaintiffs assert that “the BPD did not punish Officer Jenkins . . . .” Id. Instead, it “rewarded
him by promoting him to lead” two of the plainclothes units. Id.
In a BPD newsletter of an unspecified date, Lieutenant O’Ree purportedly wrote of Jenkins,
id. ¶ 189: “‘I am extremely proud to showcase the work of Sergeant Wayne Jenkins and [his team]
. . . Their relentless pursuit to make our streets safer by removing guns and arresting the right
people for the right reasons has made our City safer. I couldn’t be more proud of the strong work
of this team.’” O’Ree added: “‘This team of dedicated detectives has a work ethic that is beyond
2. Willard, Knoerlein, and Fries
Plaintiffs allege that Willard, Knoerlin, and Fries, who “held supervisory roles within the
plainclothes units” in which Jenkins, Gladstone, and Guinn worked, were deliberately indifferent
to the conduct of Jenkins, Gladstone, Guinn, and Rayam. Id. ¶¶ 102, 103, 123. According to
plaintiffs, these supervisors took no steps “to report or remedy illegal conduct that each of them
knew or should have known was occurring in the plainclothes units under their supervision,” id. ¶
124, and they “failed to adequately train, investigate, supervise, or discipline” the officers. Id. ¶
From 2004 to 2016, Fries supervised Jenkins as a part of the SET. Id. ¶ 105. Fries was
Jenkins’s supervisor in 2004, “when IAD sustained a finding against Officer Jenkins for a
vehicular accident it deemed ‘preventable.’” Id. ¶ 106. Fries was also Jenkins’s supervisor in
2005, when Jenkins struck O’Conner in the face. Id. ¶ 107. Although Fries “had actual or
constructive knowledge of Officer Jenkins’ use of excessive force” against O’Conner, Fries did
not take any “remedial or disciplinary action against Officer Jenkins.” Id. Indeed, in June 2006,
Fries “selected Officer Jenkins to join VCID,” despite his “knowledge” of Jenkins’s “prior
misconduct.” Id. ¶ 109.
Fries also served as “Gladstone’s direct supervisor in VCID,” beginning in 2008. Id. ¶ 110.
Fries was Gladstone’s supervisor when Gladstone, together with Jenkins, “arrested Mickey Oakley
in 2008 and Jamal Walker in 2010.” Id. ¶ 111.
Beginning in 2006, Knoerlin “supervised Officer Jenkins in VCID.” Id. ¶ 112. Plaintiffs
claim that Knoerlin “had actual or constructive knowledge of Officer Jenkins’ history of
misconduct prior to joining VCID, including “the 2004 sustained IAD finding and the 2005
incident involving Timothy O’Conner.” Id. ¶ 113.
Knoerlin also supervised Officer Gladstone in VCID beginning in 2008. Id. ¶ 114.
Plaintiffs maintain that Knoerlin “had actual or constructive knowledge of Officer Gladstone’s
history of misconduct prior to joining VCID, including but not limited to an earlier sustained IAD
finding and his practice of allowing individuals to keep drugs in exchange for information.” Id.
¶ 115. Further, plaintiffs claim that Knoerlin “directly supervised” Jenkins and Gladstone in VCID
“when they committed numerous acts of misconduct, including in connection with their arrests”
of Oakley and Walker. Id. ¶ 116.
Willard also supervised Jenkins in VCID. Id. ¶ 117. According to plaintiffs, Willard “had
actual or constructive knowledge of Officer Jenkins’ history of misconduct prior to joining VCID,
including but not limited to the 2004 sustained IAD finding and the 2005 incident involving”
O’Conner. Id. ¶ 118.
In sum, plaintiffs allege that Willard, Knoerlein, and Fries “condon[ed] numerous instances
of misconduct” and “actively encouraged plainclothes officers under their supervision, including
Officers Jenkins and Gladstone, to violate the constitutional rights of Baltimore residents.” Id.
¶ 130. Further, plaintiffs contend that the supervising officers “encouraged and incentivized the
officers under their supervision to get as many guns off the street by whatever means necessary,
legal or otherwise.” Id. They add, id. ¶ 186, that the BPD “promoted” plainclothes officers “in
large part based on their arrest statistics, without regard for the methods the plainclothes officers
used to recover those guns and make those arrests.” At a BPD ceremony in September 2011, the
Department awarded three of seven “Bronze Medals” to Jenkins, Gladstone, and Knoerlein. Id. ¶
Palmere “oversaw many of the BPD’s plainclothes units throughout his tenure as a senior
officer within the BPD[.]” Id. ¶ 134. According to plaintiffs, as a senior command-level officer,
Palmere “had actual or constructive knowledge of the Officer Defendants’ misconduct” but “did
nothing to stop their practices.” Id. ¶ 134; see also id. ¶¶ 140, 145.
In the mid-2000s as Commander of the Central District, “Palmere began supervising”
plainclothes officers. Id. ¶ 136. In 2005 “Palmere served on the trial board for Officer Thomas E.
Wilson, who had entered and searched a home without a warrant, later obtained a warrant, and
then falsified police reports to state that he had received the warrant prior to the home
invasion . . . .” Id. ¶ 137. Although “IAD recommended that Officer Wilson be fired,” Palmere
“voted for a reduced sentence[.]” Id.
From 2008 to 2010, as head of the VCID, “Palmere supervised plainclothes officers during
a time of increased citizen complaints and widespread abuses.” Id. ¶ 138. Plaintiffs allege that
Palmere “supervised the VCIS officer who assaulted Jerriel Lyles, resulting in a $200,000 payout
to Mr. Lyles.” Id. Palmere also “had direct oversight responsibility for the three VCIS officers
who were charged with kidnapping two Baltimore city teenagers and leaving one in Howard
County in 2010[.]” Id. According to plaintiffs, Palmere also “assisted and coached” Rayam “in
the cover-up of the fatal shooting of Mr. Cannady.” Id. ¶ 139.
Plaintiffs assert, id. ¶ 144: “Palmere was a longstanding friend of and very close to Sergeant
Thomas Allers, GTTF’s officer-in-charge from July 2013 to June 2016.”
supervisory responsibility” for Allers. On December 4, 2017, Allers pleaded guilty to “RICO
conspiracy charges” and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Id; see also United States v. Allers,
Case No. CCB-17-452, ECF 19.
In addition, plaintiffs assert that the “continued inaction of Mr. Palmere, over a substantial
period of time, in the face of widespread and longstanding abuses committed by plainclothes
officers under his supervision, including the Officer Defendants, demonstrates his deliberate
indifference to that pattern of misconduct, including the misconduct” against Burley and
Matthews. Id. ¶ 146. Further, plaintiffs allege that the charges against the GTTF officers
“precipitated” the “abrupt retirement” of Palmere. Id. ¶ 53.
The Prosecution Of Plaintiffs
On April 28, 2010, Burley and Matthews “were planning to attend a sentencing hearing”
in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for an individual who was “recently convicted of
murdering” Burley’s cousin. Id. ¶ 212. While plaintiffs were sitting in Burley’s vehicle, Jenkins
and Guinn, “in an unmarked BPD vehicle, suddenly pulled in front of” Burley’s vehicle. Id. ¶ 216.
Officer Sean Suiter, in a second unmarked vehicle, “quickly pulled behind” Burley’s vehicle,
bumping it so that plaintiffs were “boxed-in and prevented from leaving the area.” Id. ¶ 217.
Jenkins, Guinn, and Suiter, who were members of the VCID, “jumped out” of their
vehicles, in “plainclothes” and with “masks,” and with their “guns drawn.” Id. ¶ 218. The officers
did not display identification. Id.¶ 219. Nor did they orally identify themselves as police officers.”
Id. According to plaintiffs, there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify the
seizure. Id. ¶ 216.
“[F]earing that they were about to be robbed or kidnapped by armed gunmen,” Burley
“maneuvered his car” and sought to flee in his vehicle, with Matthews in the passenger seat. Id.
¶ 221. Jenkins, Guinn, and Suiter “returned to their unmarked BPD vehicles, and a high-speed
chase ensued.” Id. ¶ 222. At no point did the officers “turn on police sirens or lights to indicate
that they were, in fact, police officers.” Id. During the course of the chase, Burley sped through
an intersection and struck a vehicle driven by Elbert Davis. Id. ¶ 223. Tragically, Mr. Davis died
from injuries suffered in the collision. Id.
Following the collision, Burley and Matthews “fled on foot in an attempt to evade the
Officers[.]” Id. ¶ 224. After they were apprehended, id., the officers searched Burley’s vehicle
but “did not find any drugs or weapons.” Id. ¶ 225. Jenkins instructed Guinn “to call another
officer and ask him to bring the ‘stuff’ or ‘shit,’” a reference “to a stash of illegal drugs to plant on
innocent victims,” id. ¶ 226, so as to justify the illegal conduct of the police officers. Id. ¶ 227. In
addition to Jenkins, Guinn, and Suiter, Officers Gladstone and Willard “were also present on the
scene.” Id. ¶ 228.
According to plaintiffs, the officers “planted approximately 32 grams of heroin on the floor
of” Burley’s vehicle. Id. ¶ 228. Thereafter, Suiter “was instructed to search the car.” Id. ¶ 229.
During the search of Burley’s vehicle, Suiter “signaled that he found something.” Id. ¶ 230. The
officers then arrested Burley and Matthews. Id. ¶ 231.
Later that day, Jenkins “authored a fabricated statement of probable cause . . . .” Id. ¶ 234.
He claimed that “‘32 individually wrapped pieces of plastic containing a tan powder substance
each weighing approximately one gram (all of which was suspected high purity heroin)’ was
recovered from Mr. Burley’s car.” Id. Although Jenkins “knew that he had planted” the heroin,
he “signed the statement affirmatively declaring that his statements were true under the penalties
of perjury.” Id. ¶ 235.
On February 10, 2011, Burley and Matthews were indicted in federal court in Case RDB11-074, and charged with the following federal offenses: (1) conspiracy to possess with intent to
distribute heroin and (2) possession with intent to distribute heroin. Id. ¶ 238. In addition, Burley
was charged in State court with “vehicular manslaughter.” Id. ¶ 239.
Mindful of the harsh sentences meted out in federal court, the use of statewide juries, and
the difficulty in establishing police misconduct, id. ¶¶ 240-243, plaintiffs determined that they had
“no real choice to make.” Id. ¶ 241. Accordingly, on June 10, 2011, Burley and Matthews agreed
to plead guilty to “possession with intent to distribute heroin.” Id. ¶ 243; see Case RDB-11-074,
ECF 54, ECF 55. And, Burley “agreed to plead guilty to the vehicular manslaughter charge in
August 2011.” ECF 23, ¶ 243. Matthews was sentenced to a period of 46 months’ incarceration.
Id. ¶ 245. Burley was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 15 years for the federal drug offense,
concurrent with a 10-year sentence imposed by the State for vehicular manslaughter. Id. ¶ 244.
On September 9, 2013, after Matthews served over two-and-a-half years in federal custody,
he “began a three-year supervised release term.” Id. ¶ 246. Burley “served six-and-a-half years
in state prison” before he was “transferred to federal custody on February 3, 2017.” Id. ¶ 247. He
was “released later that year,” after he was exonerated. Id.
As part of a federal investigation into the GTTF, discussed infra, “prosecutors interviewed
Mr. Burley about his arrest.” ECF 23, ¶ 250. At that point, Burley and Matthews “learn[ed] who
had planted the heroin” in Burley’s vehicle on April 28, 2010. Id. ¶ 251. Plaintiffs ascertained
that “the purpose of the warrantless search and seizure” committed by the GTTF officers was “to
rob [plaintiffs] of any drugs or money they may have possessed[.]” Id. ¶ 232. Moreover, plaintiffs
aver that the officers “possessed the planted heroin because they had stolen it from other victims[.]”
Id. ¶ 233. But, plaintiffs maintain that it was not until Burley’s interview with federal prosecutors
that they “had confirmation that the statement of probable cause prepared by” the officers “had
been falsified.” Id. ¶ 252.
Initially, in light of what transpired with the GTTF, the government moved to reduce
Burley’s sentence to time served. Id. ¶ 253. Judge Bennett granted that motion after a hearing on
August 31, 2017. Id. ¶ 254. Upon further investigation, however, the government “moved to
vacate” the convictions of both Burley and Matthews. Id. ¶ 257; see also Burley, RDB-11-74,
ECF 115. Following a hearing on December 18, 2017, Judge Bennett granted the government’s
motion, vacating plaintiffs’ federal drug convictions. ECF 23, ¶ 258; see also Burley, RDB-1174, ECF 118.
Moreover, in a joint motion, the State and Burley “moved to withdraw his guilty plea
relating to the vehicular manslaughter conviction[.]” Id. ¶ 259. On April 9, 2018, the Circuit
Court for Baltimore City granted that motion. Id.
C. The GTTF
As noted, the GTTF was created by the BPD in 2007. ECF 23, ¶ 56. Plaintiffs allege that
the GTTF engaged in “unconstitutional conduct,” which was “permitted and condoned” by the
BPD. Id. ¶ 203.
On February 23, 2017, a federal grand jury indicted seven members of the GTTF: Jenkins,
along with detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayan, Marcus
Taylor, and Maurice Ward. See United States v. Momodu Gondo, et al., CCB-17-106, ECF 1
(Indictment); see ECF 137 (Superseding Indictment). They were charged with RICO conspiracy
and numerous RICO offenses. ECF 23, ¶ 158. Another GTTF officer, Thomas Allers, was
separately charged with RICO offenses in Case CCB-17-452. And, on November 30, 3017, in
Case CCB-17-0638, a grand jury returned a separate indictment against Jenkins in connection with
his execution of the false statement of probable cause that led to plaintiffs’ federal prosecution.
Id. ¶ 255. In particular, Jenkins was charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 242 and 1519.8
The investigation of rogue BPD officers is ongoing. An article in the September 11, 2019,
edition of the BALTIMORE SUN reports that former BPD Detective Carmine Vignola was recently
charged in federal court in connection with his conduct as a member of the GTTF.
According to the SAC, the RICO indictment revealed that the GTTF officers engaged, inter
alia, in the following acts, ECF 23, ¶ 160:
Conducting traffic stops of vehicles and stealing money, property, and
narcotics from the vehicle occupants; and
Preparing false and fraudulent official incident and arrest reports, reports of
property seized from arrestees, and charging documents to conceal the fact
that the defendants stole money, property, and narcotics from individuals.
All but two defendants entered pleas of guilty in the Rico case, CCB-17-106. See id., ECF
156, 157, 195, 215, 257. Rayam pleaded guilty on October 10, 2017. Id. ¶ 161. See also CCB17-106, ECF 196 (Rayam Plea Agreement). In Rayam’s plea agreement, he admitted, inter alia,
ECF 23, ¶ 161, that he
[r]obbed civilians he detained and in some cases arrested and stole money and drugs
from them. RAYAM did this beginning in at least 2009 or 2010 when he joined
the GTTF. At times, RAYAM shared the proceeds with co-defendants Momodu
GONDO (“GONDO”), Wayne Jenkins (“JENKINS”), Daniel Hersl (“HERSL”),
Marcus Taylor (“TAYLOR”), Sergeant A and others, and on other occasions, he
kept all the proceeds for himself . . . . RAYAM also sold, through associates of his,
drugs that JENKINS gave him and split the proceeds of those sales. JENKINS
obtained the drugs by robbing detainees and arrestees.
On January 5, 2018, Jenkins pleaded guilty “to racketeering conspiracy, racketeering, two
counts of Hobbs Act Robbery, falsification of records in a federal investigation, and four counts
of deprivation of rights under color of law.” ECF 23, ¶ 99; see also CCB-17-106, ECF 254
(Jenkins Plea Agreement); CCB-17-0638, ECF 5 (Jenkins Plea Agreement).
acknowledged, inter alia, that he and other members of the BPD “authored false incident and arrest
reports, engaged in warrantless stops and seizures without probable cause, made false arrests,
created false charging documents, and planted drugs on defendants.” ECF 23, ¶ 99. Also, Jenkins
“expressly admitted that heroin had been planted” in Burley’s vehicle on April 28, 2010. Id. ¶ 100.
Specifically, Jenkins admitted, id.:
“[B]etween in or about April 28, 2010 and November 30, 2017, he knowingly
concealed, covered up and falsified and made false entries in an official
Statement of Probable Cause . . . reflecting his actions, and actions of his fellow
Baltimore Police Department officers, in relation to the seizure of heroin from
an automobile operated by U.B. [Mr. Burley] and in which B.M. [Mr.
Matthews] was a passenger on April 28, 2010, with the intent to impede,
obstruct and influence the investigation and proper administration” of that
“[W]hile acting under color of law, he willfully deprived” Mr. Burley and Mr.
Matthews “of the right, secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, to be free from the deprivation of liberty without due process
of law, which includes the right to be free from incarceration due to the
fabrication of evidence by a law enforcement officer.
He submitted a false Statement of Probable Cause in which he claimed that
drugs had been recovered from Mr. Burley’s car, even though he knew that the
drugs had been planted.
He failed to correct his false statement during the entire length of Mr. Burley’s
and Mr. Matthews’ incarceration.
“[W]hile acting under color of law,” he willfully deprived Mr. Burley and Mr.
Matthews of the constitutional right to “be free from incarceration due to a law
enforcement officer’s willful failure to disclose exculpatory evidence to a
He “willfully violated his ongoing obligation to disclose to a prosecutor the fact
that he had lied in a Statement of Probable Cause that he knew would be relied
upon, and that was in fact relied upon” to detain Mr. Burley and Mr. Matthews.
Hersl and Taylor proceeded to trial before Judge Blake beginning in January 2018. See
CCB-17-106, ECF 310– ECF 334. The jury found both defendants guilty of RICO conspiracy and
RICO offenses. Id., ECF 343.
According to plaintiffs, at the RICO trial, Gondo testified for the government and stated,
ECF 23, ¶ 96:
Defendant Wayne Jenkins was very reckless, you know. I mean, he was just out of
control, putting citizens at risk, you know, driving on the side of the street, going
in people bumpers. I just never saw anything like this . . . . This dude is out of
control. . . . It was crazy. Yeah. His -- his tactics in law enforcement, you know, he
was -- you know what I mean? He was -- it was crazy. It was bad. It was bad.
Hendrix also testified at the RICO trial. He described Jenkins as “a ‘golden boy’ and
‘prince’ within the BPD who was ‘untouchable’ because he was looked after by higher-ups within
the department.” Id. ¶ 98.
In May 2017, then BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis “announced that he was effectively
ending plainclothes policing in Baltimore, explaining that plainclothes officers were the subject of
a disproportionate number of complaints and had adopted a ‘cutting-corners mindset.’” Id. ¶ 173.
Commissioner Davis also noted “that requiring officers to wear police uniforms would create a
level of accountability that had been previously absent.” Id. However, in 2018, former BPD
Commissioner Darryl De Sousa “revived the plainclothes units.” Id. ¶ 174.
D. Pattern and Practice; Customs and Policies
At length, plaintiffs have set forth detailed allegations concerning “rampant misconduct”
by officers of the BPD. ECF 23, ¶ 56. And, they claim that BPD’s supervisors knew of and
“condoned” the “pattern or practice” of misconduct. ECF 23, ¶¶ 33-34, 182.
According to plaintiffs, the “unconstitutional conduct at issue in this case” constituted a
“‘custom or usage’ or pattern or practice of the BPD.” Id. ¶ 190. They describe the conduct to
include “illegally stopping, detaining, searching, and seizing persons; permitting the use of
fabricated evidence to support unconstitutional stops and seizures; and suppressing exculpatory
and/or impeachment evidence.” Id.; see also id. ¶¶ 69, 70.
Plaintiffs allege that for many years the BPD has “deployed elite units comprised of
plainclothes officers,” including “flex squads,” Special Enforcement Teams (‘SETs’)”, and the
VCID. Id. ¶ 36. The units were given “wide latitude to investigate and arrest persons suspected
of dealing drugs and/or gun violations[.]” Id. Further, plaintiffs allege that plainclothes officers
were “known for driving unmarked vehicles towards groups of people, jumping out of their
vehicles, and conducting aggressive searches of anyone in the vicinity.” Id. ¶ 38.
According to plaintiffs, “the BPD’s plainclothes officers and units have been a frequent
and recurrent source of unconstitutional conduct” since at least the early 2000s. Id. ¶¶ 39, 181.
Moreover, plaintiffs claim that the Department was “on notice, from at least 2003, of the potential
for abuse associated with officers who had wide latitude to police in a manner similar to that of
the flex squad officers.” Id. ¶ 50. They add that, since at least the early 2000s, “the BPD had
repeated notice” that “its plainclothes officers engaged in a widespread pattern of flagrant
unconstitutional violations” through, inter alia, “convictions of its police officers, complaints and
suits lodged against their police officers, public reporting, failed polygraph tests, and notifications
from state prosecutors[.]” Id. ¶ 209.
Plaintiffs assert that although the BPD knew of “the recurrent misconduct by its
plainclothes officers,” the Department “failed to establish reasonable and necessary systems to
train, supervise, investigate, and hold accountable” those officers. Id. ¶ 171; see id., ¶ 195.
Further, BPD supervisors knew “that plainclothes units were the source of a disproportionate share
of complaints against the BPD for many years[.]” Id. ¶ 182. Yet, according to plaintiffs, the “BPD
continued to permit plainclothes officers to roam the streets with high levels of discretion and little
supervision” and “did not institute any meaningful oversight” of the plainclothes units, including
flex squads, SETs, and the VCID. Id.
Plaintiffs support their allegations with several concrete instances of police misconduct.
They also identify numerous individuals exonerated after wrongful conviction. Id. ¶ 70.
For example, plaintiffs note that on January 16, 2003, former Judge Andre M. Davis, then
on the United States District Court, “rebuked several BPD officers for their conduct in arresting a
defendant named Mason A. Weaver.” Id. ¶ 40.9 At the close of a two-day hearing, the court
granted the defendant’s motion to suppress “due to the unconstitutional conduct of the BPD
officers.” Id. ¶ 41. According to the SAC, Judge Davis stated, inter alia, id.:
“That the police affidavit used to secure the search warrant contained
“‘These officers had no justification to seize Mr. Weaver . . . handcuff him
and transport him back to – I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that
yesterday – transport him back from the shopping center to the apartments
and, using the key they had seized from him, go into his apartment.’”
“‘Where are they learning this stuff? . . . Clearly, this was a roll of the
constitutional dice on the part of these officers.’”
“‘I am here to protect everybody’s constitutional rights. Everybody’s. And
I don’t understand why the police don’t understand that.’”
“‘They [the officers] are not making cases. They’re not building
investigations. And I say that with all respect to Detective [Keith]
Gladstone [seated in court]. They are just making arrests. They are just
In 2004, “a BPD officer working as part of a flex squad was accused of dropping a teenage
boy in rival gang territory in Southwest Baltimore, where he was assaulted.” Id. ¶ 45. On another
occasion, in 2005, “two officers, William King and Antonio Murray, were charged and later
received 100-year federal sentences for robbing drug dealers, drug trafficking, and gun violations,
after terrorizing Baltimore citizens as plainclothes officers for over a decade.” Id. ¶ 46.
In October and December of 2005, Officer Jemini Jones, “a member of the Southwest
District’s flex squad,” was “accused of raping a woman while on duty on two separate occasions.”
Id. ¶ 47. In investigating the December 2005 incident, “‘Baltimore drug detectives found that flex
squad officers had been stealing drugs and cell phones from people they had arrested, planting
Judge Davis was subsequently elevated to the Fourth Circuit. He has since left the federal
bench to become the Baltimore City Solicitor.
evidence and making false arrests.’” Id. ¶ 48. As a result, the BPD “disbanded the Southwest
District’s flex squad” and “announced it would conduct an internal affairs investigation into ‘every
officer in those units.’” Id. ¶ 49.
In January 2006, the Baltimore Sun published an article, titled “Questions Raised for Years
About City ‘Flex Squad.’” Id. ¶¶ 42, 43. The article explained that the BPD “employed ‘flex
squads’ in all its districts” and, “unlike normal officers, officers with the flex squads had enhanced
freedom ‘to chase down suspected criminals in neighborhoods dominated by drug dealing and
violence.’” Id. ¶ 43. The article stated, inter alia: “Defense attorneys, prosecutors and community
members say they have heard for years about allegations of misconduct that included planted drugs
and troublesome practices about how suspects were treated and charged.” Id. It also noted: “In a
warrant police used to search the flex squad office last month, investigators noted that previous
allegations against [certain officers] ‘have been made as to the planting of controlled dangerous
substances on citizens in an effort to knowingly make false arrests.’” Id (alteration in original).
The Associated Press published an article in September 2006, titled “Baltimore police unit
reassigned amid scandal.” Id.¶ 55. It noted, inter alia, that following a BPD investigation of the
SET, “‘[d]ozens of criminal cases have been thrown out because of misconduct allegations against
[the] specialized unit, allegations that have led the department to reassign all seven of the unit’s
members to desk jobs.’” Id. (alteration in original).
When the VCID was formed in July 2007, id. ¶ 56, the BPD “transferred many of the same
officers who had been part” of the “beleaguered,” flex squads and SETs to the VCID. Id. Like
the flex squads and SETs, the VCID “operated with little supervision” and “engaged in widespread
abuses.” Id. ¶ 57.
In March 2009, “video evidence confirmed that BPD Officer Michael W. Woodlon, a
VCID member, had lied on charging documents to justify a drug arrest for three defendants.” Id.
¶ 59. Woodlon then joined the Baltimore County Police Department in 2012, but allegedly
“resigned” in August 2018 when “his ties” to the GTTF officers “came to light.” Id.
Also in March 2009, BPD Officer Jemell Rayam, who later worked under Jenkins in the
GTTF, “fatally shot Shawn Cannady while serving in the VCID. Id. ¶ 60. According to plaintiffs,
“it was Officer Rayam’s third shooting in a span of 20 months.” Id. The City subsequently “settled
a lawsuit brought by Mr. Cannady’s family for $100,000.” Id.
In another incident in June 2009, “Officer Rayam, while driving an unmarked vehicle with
two other plainclothes officers, pulled over a driver for allegedly not wearing a seatbelt.” Id. ¶ 61.
During the stop, the officers “put the driver in flex cuffs and stole the $11,000 they found in the
car.” Id. Yet, “[a]round this time,” Officer Rayam “was awarded the Citation of Valor & Silver
Star for his work” in VCID. Id. ¶ 62.
In addition, Fabien Laronde, a VCID officer, “was the subject of numerous complaints”
throughout his tenure with the BPD. Id. ¶ 63. Laronde was accused, inter alia, of “planting
evidence and using excessive force in 2006 as well as of conducting an illegal strip search of a
man in a shopping center parking lot in 2009.” Id.
Further, the BPD “suspended” a VCID officer in 2010 “for pocketing money that had been
planted on an undercover officer.” Id. ¶ 64. Also in 2010, the BPD “disbanded a six-member
plainclothes unit in the Northwest District after discovering a supervisor and one of the officers
had been using a stolen license plate on an unmarked car.” Id. ¶ 51. And, in 2011, Baltimore City
“paid a $100,000 settlement after VCIS members used excessive force against a 65-year-old
church deacon who was rolling a tobacco cigarette outside his own home.” Id. ¶ 65.
Due to the “widespread” misconduct associated with the VCID, “the FBI initiated an
investigation” in 2013. Id. ¶ 66. The FBI “determined that multiple unit members had falsified
reports to further their cases.” Id. As a result of the investigation, several officers were suspended
and another officer “received six months of home detention.” Id. In addition, a VCID officer
pleaded guilty “to federal gun and drug charges and was sentenced to eight years.” Id. On a
wiretapped call, the officer had “discussed planting a gun in an unlicensed cab and then pulling
over and arresting the cab driver on a gun violation.” Id.
In December 2012, the BPD “‘rebranded’” the VCID as the “‘Special Enforcement
Section’ (‘SES’),” retaining many of the VCID officers. Id. ¶ 67. The BPD “selected” Jenkins
“as an officer-in-charge of a plainclothes SES unit in October 2013,” and he “continued to operate
with . . . little supervision.” Id. ¶ 68.
The Baltimore Sun published an article in September 2014, titled “Undue Force.” Id. ¶ 58.
The article noted, inter alia, that in 2009, “a plainclothes VCIS member beat up a Baltimore
citizen, Jerriel Lyles, in an East Baltimore carryout restaurant,” and “Mr. Lyles subsequently
settled his excessive force case with the City for $200,000.” Id. It stated, id.: “‘Officers in [the
VCID] were accused by prosecutors of lying on a search warrant and working to protect a drug
dealer in order to make arrests.’”
Additionally, plaintiffs assert that prior to April 2010, the BPD “did not track” complaints
against its officers, id. ¶ 195, and IAD detectives “lacked key training on how to investigate
officers suspected of misconduct.” Id. ¶ 197; see also id. ¶ 205. Plaintiffs maintain that the BPD’s
disciplinary system, including the IAD, was “deficient” in the following ways, id. ¶ 196:
discouraged individuals from filing complaints;
tolerated excessive and chronic delays in resolving disciplinary complaints;
supervisors misclassified serious complaints as minor ones so that they
could be resolved at the command level without IAD involvement;
supervisors summarily closed complaints without investigation;
failed to investigate complaints in a timely manner;
failed to consider evidence that contradicted explanations provided by
officers accused of misconduct;
failed to probe beyond reports the accused officer already provided;
provided officers with a detailed notice of the alleged misconduct at the
outset of an investigation, compromising the investigation and creating the
possibility that the complaining party could be targeted for retaliation or
used a trial board system beset by delays and deficiencies;
failed to effectively discipline substantial numbers of officers who were
found to have engaged in misconduct;
supervisors failed to identify deficiencies or questionable findings in
did not take steps to ensure that investigators did not have conflicts of
interest visa-vis the officers they were investigating.
E. The BPD Consent Decree
Following the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie
Rawlings-Blake “asked the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division [(‘DOJ’)],
to conduct a pattern-or-practice investigation of BPD’s policies.” Id. ¶ 175. DOJ issued an
“investigative report” on August 10, 2016 (“DOJ Report”). Id. ¶ 176. According to the SAC, the
DOJ report included the following findings, id.:
The Civil Rights Division “reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of
documents, including all relevant policies and training manuals used by the
[BPD] since 2010; BPD’s database of internal affairs files; a random sample
of about 800 case files on non-deadly force incidents; files on all deadly
force incidents since 2010” and other data;
The BPD engaged in a “pattern or practice” of conduct that violates the
United States Constitution and federal law, including stops, searches and
arrests without the reasonable suspicion or probable cause required under
the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution;
The foregoing pattern or practice is rooted in BPD’s deficient supervision
and oversight of officer activity and resulted in part from BPD’s zero
tolerance enforcement strategy, dating back to the early 2000s;
The BPD failed to take action against officers with a long history of
misconduct that is well known to the department. For example, one officer
currently employed by the BPD had received approximately 125 complaints
from complainants within the department and from the community since
2010, and many of these complaints allege serious misconduct. However,
the DOJ found that the BPD had sustained only one complaint against the
officer for minor misconduct;
In June 2006, the ACLU of Maryland sued the BPD regarding its illegal
arrests of thousands of Baltimore residents. In 2010, that case settled with
BPD agreeing to change its policies and procedures and submit to an
independent auditor to evaluate its progress toward adopting stop and arrest
practices consistent with the United States Constitution[.]
Further, the DOJ Report “highlighted the illegal conduct” of plainclothes units, noting that
a “‘disproportionate share of complaints’ identified plainclothes officers as ‘particularly
aggressive and unrestrained in their practice of stopping individuals without cause and performing
public, humiliating searches.’” Id. ¶ 177.
On January 12, 2017, the government filed suit in this District against the BPD. According
to the SAC, the complaint alleged, id. ¶ 178:
In the late 1990s, BPD adopted zero tolerance policing strategies that
prioritized officers making large numbers of stops, searches, and arrests for
misdemeanor offenses without ensuring robust oversight to hold officers
accountable for misconduct and protect the constitutional rights of
Baltimore City residents;
Based on data from 2010 – 2015, BPD engaged in a pattern or practice of
conduct that violated the United States Constitution and federal laws. Those
violations included unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests that run
afoul of the rights guaranteed to Baltimore’s citizens by the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and
BPD’s violations of the Constitution and federal law are driven by BPD’s
systemic deficiencies in policies, training, supervision, and accountability
structures. BPD has been aware of these structural challenges for many
years but has not taken adequate steps to comply with the Constitution or
Additional facts are included, infra.
As noted, defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
A defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6). In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs.
Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir.
2010), aff’d sub nom. McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro,
178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant
that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law “to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading
requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the
rule is to provide the defendants with “fair notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for entitlement
to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
To survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil
actions’ . . . .” (citation omitted)); see also Paradise Wire & Cable Defined Benefit Pension Fund
Plan v. Weil, 918 F.3d 312, 317 (4th Cir. 2019); Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir.
2017). But, a plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule
8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules “do not countenance
dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.”
Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S. 10, 135 S. Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).
Nevertheless, mere “‘naked assertions’ of wrongdoing” are generally insufficient to state
a claim for relief. Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).
The rule demands more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
Painter’s Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint provides
no more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action,” it is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “[A]n unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation” does not state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Rather,
to satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the complaint must set forth “enough factual
matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action, “even if . . . [the] actual proof of
those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556 (internal quotation marks omitted).
In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “must accept as true all of the factual
allegations contained in the complaint” and must “draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts]
in favor of the plaintiff.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440
(4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park Ltd. P’ship, 903 F.3d
415, 423 (4th Cir. 2018); Semenova v. Md. Transit Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017);
Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015); Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650
F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But, a court is not required to accept
legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). “A
court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the
factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether
those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy
sought. A Soc’y Without a Name v. Comm’w of Va., 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011), cert.
denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).
Courts generally do not “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or
the applicability of defenses” through a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
Edwards, 178 F.3d at 243
(quotation marks and citation omitted). But, “in the relatively rare circumstances where facts
sufficient to rule on an affirmative defense are alleged in the complaint, the defense may be reached
by a motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6).” Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464
(4th Cir. 2007) (en banc); accord Pressley v. Tupperware Long Term Disability Plan, 533 F.3d
334, 336 (4th Cir. 2009); see also U.S. ex rel. Oberg v. Penn. Higher Educ. Assistance Agency,
745 F.3d 131, 148 (4th Cir. 2014). However, because Rule 12(b)(6) “is intended [only] to test the
legal adequacy of the complaint,” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. Forst, 4 F.3d
244, 250 (4th Cir. 1993), “[t]his principle only applies . . . if all facts necessary to the affirmative
defense ‘clearly appear[ ] on the face of the complaint.’” Goodman, 494 F.3d at 464 (quoting
Forst, 4 F.3d at 250) (emphasis added in Goodman).
Of relevance here, “a court may properly take judicial notice of ‘matters of public record’
and other information that, under Federal Rule of Evidence 201, constitute ‘adjudicative facts.’”
Goldfarb v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015); see also Tellabs,
Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); Katyle v. Penn Nat’l Gaming, Inc.,
637 F.3d 462, 466 (4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 825 (2011); Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem.
Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). However, the adjudicative facts may not be subject to
reasonable dispute, in that they are “(1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the
trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy
cannot reasonably be questioned.” And, courts may take judicial notice of publicly available
records, without converting a motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment. See, e.g., Zak
v. Chelsea Therapeutics Int’l, Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 607 (4th Cir. 2015) (“Courts are permitted to
consider facts and documents subject to judicial notice without converting the motion to dismiss
into one for summary judgment.”). A court may also take judicial notice of its own records.
Anderson v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 918 F.2d 1139, 1141 n.1 (4th Cir. 1990).
Section 1983 Generally
Plaintiffs lodge several claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It provides that a plaintiff
may file suit against any person who, acting under color of state law, “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” of the
United States. See, e.g., Filarsky v. Delia, 566 U.S. 377 (2012); see also Owens v. Balt. City
State’s Attorney’s Office, 767 F.3d 379 (4th Cir. 2014), cert. denied sub nom. Balt. City Police
Dep’t v. Owens, 135 S. Ct. 1893 (2015). However, § 1983 “‘is not itself a source of substantive
rights,’ but provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.’” Albright v.
Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979)); see
Safar v. Tingle, 859 F.3d 241, 245 (4th Cir. 2017).
In other words, § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the
color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526
U.S. 687, 707 (1999). “The first step in any such claim is to pinpoint the specific right that has
been infringed.” Safar, 859 F.3d at 245.
To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) that a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was
committed by a “person acting under the color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988); see Crosby v. City of Gastonia, 635 F.3d 634, 639 (4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S.
823 (2011); Wahi v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 615 (4th Cir. 2009); Jenkins
v. Medford, 119 F.3d 1156, 1159-60 (4th Cir. 1997). The phrase “under color of state law” is an
element that “is synonymous with the more familiar state-action requirement—and the analysis
for each is identical.” Philips v. Pitt Cty. Memorial Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009)
(citing Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 929 (1982)). A person acts under color of state
law “only when exercising power ‘possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because
the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.’” Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312,
317-18 (1981) (quoting United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 326 (1941)); see also Philips, 572
F.3d at 181 (“[P]rivate activity will generally not be deemed state action unless the state has so
dominated such activity as to convert it to state action: Mere approval of or acquiescence in the
initiatives of a private party is insufficient.” (Citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).
Section 1983 also requires a showing of personal fault based upon a defendant’s personal
conduct. See Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (stating that for an individual
defendant to be held liable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must affirmatively show that
the official acted personally to deprive the plaintiff of his rights). In other words, there is no
respondeat superior liability under § 1983. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (“Because
vicarious liability is inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Governmentofficial defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”);
see also Wilcox v. Brown, 877 F.3d 161, 170 (4th Cir. 2017); Love-Lane v. Martin, 355 F.3d 766,
782 (4th Cir. 2004); Trulock v. Freeh, 275 F.3d 391, 402 (4th Cir. 2001).
Liability of supervisory officials under § 1983 “is premised on ‘a recognition that
supervisory indifference or tacit authorization of subordinates’ misconduct may be a causative
factor in the constitutional injuries they inflict on those committed to their care.’” Baynard v.
Malone, 268 F.3d 228, 235 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Slakan v. Porter, 737 F.2d 368, 372 (4th Cir.
1984)). With respect to a supervisory liability claim in a § 1983 action, a plaintiff must allege:
(1) That the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate
was engaged in conduct that posed a pervasive and unreasonable risk of
constitutional injury to . . . the plaintiff; (2) that the supervisor’s response to that
knowledge was so inadequate as to show deliberate indifference to or tacit
authorization of the alleged offensive practices; and (3) that there was an
affirmative causal link between the supervisor’s inaction and the particular
constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff.
Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 813
(1994); see also Wilcox, 877 F.3d at 170.
Section 1985 Generally
In Count IV, plaintiffs also rely on 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Section 1985 pertains to conspiracy
to violate constitutional rights, and is designed to protect citizens in the following instances:10
(1) Preventing officer from performing duties
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire to prevent, by force,
intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or
place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof;
or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave any State,
district, or place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to
injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties
of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his
property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his
(2) Obstructing justice; intimidating party, witness, or juror
Plaintiffs do not specify the particular provision of § 1985 on which they rely. It
would seem, however, that they rely on § 1985(3).
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire to deter, by force,
intimidation, or threat, any party or witness in any court of the United States from
attending such court, or from testifying to any matter pending therein, freely, fully,
and truthfully, or to injure such party or witness in his person or property on account
of his having so attended or testified, or to influence the verdict, presentment, or
indictment of any grand or petit juror in any such court, or to injure such juror in
his person or property on account of any verdict, presentment, or indictment
lawfully assented to by him, or of his being or having been such juror; or if two or
more persons conspire for the purpose of impeding, hindering, obstructing, or
defeating, in any manner, the due course of justice in any State or Territory, with
intent to deny to any citizen the equal protection of the laws, or to injure him or his
property for lawfully enforcing, or attempting to enforce, the right of any person,
or class of persons, to the equal protection of the laws;
(3) Depriving persons of rights or privileges
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire or go in disguise on the
highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving, either directly
or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or
of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; or for the purpose of preventing
or hindering the constituted authorities of any State or Territory from giving or
securing to all persons within such State or Territory the equal protection of the
laws; or if two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat,
any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in
a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person
as an elector for President or Vice President, or as a Member of Congress of the
United States; or to injure any citizen in person or property on account of such
support or advocacy; in any case of conspiracy set forth in this section, if one or
more persons engaged therein do, or cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the
object of such conspiracy, whereby another is injured in his person or property, or
deprived of having and exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the United
States, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of
damages occasioned by such injury or deprivation, against any one or more of the
Plaintiffs have also lodged a Monell claim under § 1983. See Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs.
of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). The Supreme Court determined in Monell that a
municipality is subject to suit under § 1983 based on the unconstitutional actions of individual
defendants, but only where those defendants were executing an official policy or custom of the
local government, resulting in a violation of the plaintiff’s rights. Id. at 690-91. As the Monell
Court said, “when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers
or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury
the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.” Id. at 694; see also Love-Lane, 355 F.3d
But, liability attaches “only where the municipality itself causes the constitutional
violation at issue.” City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989) (emphasis in original);
accord Holloman v. Markowski, 661 Fed. App’x 797, 799 (4th Cir. 2016) (per curiam), cert.
denied, 137 S. Ct. 1342 (2017).
In Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011), the Supreme Court explained, id. at 1359
(emphasis in Connick):
A municipality or other local government may be liable under [§ 1983] if the
governmental body itself “subjects” a person to a deprivation of rights or “causes”
a person “to be subjected” to such deprivation. See Monell v. New York City Dep’t
of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978). But, under § 1983, local governments
are responsible only for “their own illegal acts.” Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S.
469, 479 (1986) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 665-683). They are not vicariously
liable under § 1983 for their employees’ actions. See id., at 691; Canton, 489 U.S.
at 392; Board of Comm’rs of Bryan Cty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403  (1997)
Thus, a viable § 1983 Monell claim consists of two components: (1) the municipality had
an unconstitutional policy or custom; and (2) the unconstitutional policy or custom caused a
violation of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. See, e.g., Bd. of Comm’rs of Bryan Cty., v. Brown,
520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Kirby v. City of Elizabeth City, 388 F.3d 440, 451 (4th Cir. 2004), cert.
denied, 547 U.S. 1187 (2006); Lytle v. Doyle, 326 F.3d 463, 471 (4th Cir. 2003).
To impose liability on a municipality, a plaintiff must “adequately plead and prove the
existence of an official policy or custom that is fairly attributable to the municipality and that
proximately caused the deprivation” of constitutional rights. Jordan by Jordan v. Jackson, 15 F.3d
333, 338 (4th Cir. 1994). “Locating a ‘policy’ ensures that a municipality is held liable only for
those deprivations resulting from the decisions of its duly constituted legislative body or of those
officials whose acts may fairly be said to be those of the municipality.” Bd. of Comm’rs of Bryan
Cty., 520 U.S. at 403-04.
A plaintiff may demonstrate the existence of an official policy in three ways: (1) a written
ordinance or regulation; (2) certain affirmative decisions of policymaking officials; or (3) in certain
omissions made by policymaking officials that “manifest deliberate indifference to the rights of
citizens.” Carter v. Morris, 164 F.3d 215, 218 (4th Cir. 1999).
However, a municipality cannot be held liable in a § 1983 action under a theory of
respondeat superior. Monell, 436 U.S. at 693-94. Rather, “[l]iability arises only where the
constitutionally offensive acts of city employees are taken in furtherance of some municipal
‘policy or custom.’” Milligan v. City of Newport News, 743 F.2d 227, 229 (4th Cir. 1984) (citing
Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). In other words, a municipality is liable when a “policy or custom” is
“fairly attributable to the municipality as its ‘own,’ and is . . . the ‘moving force’ behind the
particular constitutional violation.” Spell v. McDaniel, 824 F.2d 1380, 1387 (4th Cir. 1987)
(internal citations omitted); see Moore v. Howard County Police Dep’t, No. CCB-10-1430, 2010
WL 4722043 at *2 (D. Md. Nov. 15, 2010).
“An official policy often refers to ‘formal rules or understandings . . . that are intended to,
and do, establish fixed plans of action to be followed under similar circumstances consistently and
over time,’ and must be contrasted with ‘episodic exercises of discretion in the operational details
of government.’” Semple v. City of Moundsville, 195 F.3d 708, 712 (4th Cir. 1999) (alteration in
Semple; citations omitted). But, “the governmental unit may create an official policy by making a
single decision regarding a course of action in response to particular circumstances.” Id.
Of relevance here, “[o]utside of such formal decisionmaking channels, a municipal custom
may arise if a practice is so ‘persistent and widespread’ and ‘so permanent and well settled as to
constitute a “custom or usage” with the force of law.’” Carter, 164 F.3d at 218 (quoting Monell,
436 U.S. at 691); see Simms ex rel. Simms v. Hardesty, 303 F. Supp. 2d 656, 670 (D. Md. 2003).
A custom “may be attributed to a municipality when the duration and frequency of the practices
warrants a finding of either actual or constructive knowledge by the municipal governing body
that the practices have become customary among its employees.” Spell, 824 F.2d at 1387; see
Holloman, 661 Fed. App’x at 799. In addition, “a policy or custom may possibly be inferred from
continued inaction in the face of a known history of widespread constitutional deprivations on the
part of city employees, or, under quite narrow circumstances, from the manifest propensity of a
general, known course of employee conduct to cause constitutional deprivations to an identifiable
group of persons having a special relationship to the state.” Milligan, 743 F.2d at 229 (internal
In Owens v. Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, 767 F.3d at 402, the Fourth Circuit
reiterated that, to establish a Monell claim, the plaintiff “must point to a ‘persistent and widespread
practice of municipal officials,’ the ‘duration and frequency’ of which indicate that policymakers
(1) had actual or constructive knowledge of the conduct, and (2) failed to correct it due to their
‘deliberate indifference.’” (quoting Spell, 824 F.2d at 1386-91) (alteration in Owens). Therefore,
“Section 1983 plaintiffs seeking to impose liability on a municipality must ... adequately plead and
prove the existence of an official policy or custom that is fairly attributable to the municipality and
that proximately caused the deprivation of their rights.” Jordan by Jordan v. Jackson, 15 F.3d 333,
338 (4th Cir. 1994).
A policy or custom that gives rise to § 1983 liability will not, however, “be inferred merely
from municipal inaction in the face of isolated constitutional deprivations by municipal
employees.” Milligan, 743 F.2d at 230. Only when a municipality’s conduct demonstrates a
“deliberate indifference” to the rights of its inhabitants can the conduct be properly thought of as
a “policy or custom” actionable under § 1983. Jones v. Wellham, 104 F.3d 620, 626 (4th Cir.
1997) (citing Canton, 489 U.S. at 389).
Under the condonation theory of liability, “a city violates § 1983 if municipal policymakers
fail ‘to put a stop to or correct a widespread pattern of unconstitutional conduct.’” Owens, 767
F.3d at 402 (quoting Spell, 824 F.2d at 1389). In such a case, however, a plaintiff must show “a
‘persistent and widespread practice of municipal officials,’ the ‘duration and frequency’ of which
indicate that policymakers (1) had actual or constructive knowledge of the conduct, and (2) failed
to correct it due to their ‘deliberate indifference.’” Owens, 767 F.3d at 402 (quoting Spell, 824
F.2d at 1386-1391). Both “knowledge and indifference can be inferred from the ‘extent’ of
employees’ misconduct.” Owens, 767 F.3d at 402-03 (quoting Spell, 824 F.2d at 1391). But, only
“‘widespread or flagrant’” misconduct is sufficient. Owens, 767 F.3d at 403 (quoting Spell, 824
F.2d at 1387). In contrast, “[s]poradic or isolated” misconduct is not. Owens, 767 F.3d at 403.
Statute of Limitations
With the exception of the claims for malicious prosecution in Counts II and VII, defendants
move to dismiss plaintiffs’ federal and State claims as time-barred. ECF 29-2 at 6; ECF 33-1, ¶¶
5-6. The parties agree that plaintiffs’ claims are subject to a three-year limitations period.
However, they dispute the date on which the various claims accrued.
It is clear from the face of the Second Amended Complaint that “the stop, detention, search,
and arrest of Plaintiffs occurred on April 28, 2010.” ECF 29-2 at 6. Yet, “Plaintiffs did not file
suit until June 13, 2018, over seven years after these events occurred.” Id. And, as to Willard,
Knoerlein, and Fries, plaintiffs “did not file suit until December 21, 2018.” ECF 33-1, ¶ 4. Thus,
defendants maintain that plaintiffs’ claims “are clearly time-barred.” ECF 29-2 at 6.
Plaintiffs counter that their federal claims are timely because “they did not accrue until
Plaintiffs’ criminal proceedings fully resolved when their convictions were vacated in December
2017.” ECF 35 at 13. As to the State law claims, plaintiffs argue that defendants “provide no
analysis and thus have waived any argument as to timeliness.” Id.
Section 1983 Claims (Counts I – VI)
Section 1983 does not contain a statute of limitations. Thus, to determine whether a § 1983
claim was timely filed, courts look to the statute of limitations from the most analogous state-law
cause of action. Owens, 767 F.3d at 388; see also 42 U.S.C. § 1988(a) (“[I]n all cases where [the
laws of the United States] are not adapted to the object, or are deficient in the provisions necessary
to furnish suitable remedies ... the common law, as modified and changed by the constitution and
statutes of the State wherein the court having jurisdiction of such civil . . . cause is held, so far as
the same is not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, shall be extended
to and govern the said courts in the trial and disposition of the cause[.]”).
A suit filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 constitutes a personal injury action. Owens v.
Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-50 (1989). Under Maryland law, “[a] civil action shall be filed within
three years from the date it accrues unless another provision of the Code provides” otherwise. Md.
Code (2013 Repl. Vol., 2018 Supp.), § 5–101 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article
“Limitations statutes . . . are designed to (1) provide adequate time for diligent plaintiffs to
file suit, (2) grant repose to defendants when plaintiffs have tarried for an unreasonable period of
time, and (3) serve society by promoting judicial economy.” Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Benjamin,
394 Md. 59, 85, 904 A.2d 511, 526 (2006); Pierce v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp., 296 Md. 656,
665, 464 A.2d 1020, 1026 (1983). In Maryland, “[a]s a general rule, the party raising a statute of
limitations defense has the burden of proving that the cause of action accrued prior to the statutory
time limit for filing the suit.” Newell v. Richards, 323 Md. 717, 725, 594 A.2d 1152, 1156 (1991).
Although the Maryland statute of limitations applies, the matter of when a cause of action
has accrued under § 1983 is a federal question. Nassim v. Md. House of Correction, 64 F.3d 951,
955 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc) (citing Cox v. Stanton, 529 F.2d 47, 50 (4th Cir. 1975)); see also
McDonough v. Smith, ___ U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 2149, 2155 (2019). “An accrual analysis begins
with identifying ‘the specific constitutional right’ alleged to have been infringed.” McDonough,
139 S. Ct. at 2155 (quoting Manuel v. Joliet, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 911, 920 (2017)).
The date of accrual occurs “when the plaintiff possesses sufficient facts about the harm
done to him that reasonable inquiry will reveal his cause of action.” Nassim, 64 F.3d at 955 (citing
United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 111, 122-24 (1979)). However, “the answer is not always so
simple.” McDonough, 139 S. Ct. at 2155. “Where, for example, a particular claim may not
realistically be brought while a violation is ongoing, such a claim may accrue at a later date.” Id.
Maryland law is largely consistent with federal law. Therefore, I shall look to both federal
and Maryland cases concerning accrual.
As noted, under Maryland law, “[a] civil action shall be filed within three years from the
date it accrues unless another provision of the Code provides” otherwise. C.J. § 5-101; see Poole
v. Coakley & Williams Const., Inc., 423 Md. 91, 131, 31 A.3d 212, 236 (2011). Ordinarily, “‘the
question of accrual in § 5-101 is left to judicial determination,’ unless the determination rests on
the resolution of disputed facts regarding discovery of the wrong.” Poole, 423 Md. at 131, 31 A.3d
at 236 (citation omitted); see Bank of New York v. Sheff, 382 Md. 235, 244. 854 A.2d 1269, 1275
(2004) (stating that summary judgment may be appropriate if there is no dispute of material fact
as to whether plaintiff was on inquiry notice more than three years before suit was file); Frederick
Road Ltd. P’ship v. Brown & Sturm, 360 Md. 76, 95, 756 A.2d 963, 973 (2000) (explaining that
the determination of accrual “may be based solely on law, solely on fact, or on a combination of
law and fact, and is reached after careful consideration of the purpose of the statute and the facts
to which it is applied”).
Nevertheless, “[r]ecognizing the unfairness inherent in charging a plaintiff with slumbering
on his rights where it was not reasonably possible to have obtained notice of the nature and cause
of an injury,” the so-called discovery rule is used to determine the date of accrual. See Sheff, 382
Md. at 244, 854 A.2d at 1275; Frederick Road Ltd. P’ship, 360 Md. at 95, 756 A.2d at 973. “The
discovery rule acts to balance principles of fairness and judicial economy in those situations in
which a diligent plaintiff may be unaware of an injury or harm during the statutory period.” Dual
Inc. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 383 Md. 151, 167, 857 A.2d 1095, 1104 (2004).
Under the discovery rule, “a plaintiff’s cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knows or
reasonably should have known of the wrong.” Brown v. Neuberger, Quinn, Gielen, Rubin &
Gibber, P.A., 731 F. Supp. 2d 443, 449 (D. Md. 2010) (citing Lumsden v. Design Tech Builders,
Inc., 358 Md. 435, 749 A.2d 796, 801 (2000)), aff’d, 495 F. App’x 350 (4th Cir. 2012). Accrual
cannot occur until the plaintiff has (or should have) “possession of the critical facts that he has
been hurt and who has inflicted the injury.” United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 111, 122 (1979)
(discussing discovery rule in the context of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which requires notice to
the government “within two years after such claim accrues”); see also Gould v. U.S. Dep’t of
Health & Human Servs., 905 F.2d 738, 742 (4th Cir. 1990) (enbanc) (“The clear import of Kubrick
is that a claim accrues . . . when the plaintiff knows or, in the exercise of due diligence, should
have known both the existence and the cause of his injury.”); Gilbert v. United States, 720 F.2d
372, 374 (4th Cir. 1983). Notably, “[t]his standard . . . does not require actual knowledge on the
part of the plaintiff, but may be satisfied if the plaintiff is on ‘inquiry notice.’” Dual Inc., 383 Md.
at 167-68, 857 A.2d at 1104 (citing Am. Gen. Assurance Co. v. Pappano, 374 Md. 339, 351, 822
A.2d 1212, 1219 (2003); Doe v. Archdiocese of Wash., 114 Md. App. 169, 188-89, 689 A.2d 634,
A plaintiff is on inquiry notice when the plaintiff “possesses ‘facts sufficient to cause a
reasonable person to investigate further, and ... a diligent investigation would have revealed that
the plaintiffs were victims of ... the alleged tort.’” Dual Inc., 383 Md. at 168, 857 A.2d at 1104
(quoting Pennwalt Corp. v. Nasios, 314 Md. 433, 448–49, 550 A.2d 1155, 1159 (1988))
(alterations in original).
Inquiry notice must be actual notice, either express or implied.
Poffenberger v. Risser, 290 Md. 631, 637, 431 A.2d 677, 681 (1981). But, “[c]onstructive notice
or knowledge will not suffice for inquiry notice.” Benjamin, 394 Md. at 89, 904 A.2d at 529; see
Poffenberger, 290 Md. at 637, 431 A.2d at 681.
Here, plaintiffs assert three underlying § 1983 claims: (1) a claim of fabrication of
evidence, in violation of due process (Count I); (2) a due process claim based on the failure to
disclose exculpatory material, in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) (Count I);
and (3) a claim of malicious prosecution (Count II).11
Defendants argue that Count I is properly characterized as a “pure” fabrication of
evidence claim, not a Brady violation. ECF 40 at 4. They contend that plaintiff’s Brady claim
fails as a matter of law because no evidence was withheld from plaintiffs. Id. at 2 (quoting
Defendants acknowledge that a malicious prosecution claim accrues upon termination of
prosecution favorable to a plaintiff. ECF 40 at 2; see also Owens, 767 F.3d at 390 (“Under the
common law, the limitations period for a plaintiff’s malicious prosecution claim commences when
the proceedings brought against him are resolved in his favor.”).
In this case, plaintiffs’
convictions were vacated in December 2017. Thus, their malicious prosecution claim (Count II)
was timely filed.
As to plaintiffs’ due process/fabricated evidence claim, defendants contend that the claim
accrued on April 28, 2010, when plaintiffs were unlawfully stopped, detained, and arrested. Id.
They argue that on that date, “Plaintiffs had more than enough factual knowledge of their claims
and injuries to bring this action within the applicable three year period of limitations. They knew
that they did not possess the drugs, they knew that at least one of the officers had planted the drugs,
and they knew that the case against them was fabricated.” Id. at 4. Thus, they insist that “plaintiffs
possessed all of the necessary information” to file suit and “simply failed to do so.” Id.
Plaintiffs maintain that a fabrication of evidence claim is most analogous to the common
law tort of malicious prosecution. ECF 35 at 16. Therefore, they argue that the three-year
limitations period did not begin to run until their convictions were vacated in December 2017. Id.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision in McDonough, 139 S. Ct. at 2155, is instructive.12
There, a grand jury indicted McDonough on numerous counts under New York law. Id. at 2154.
Washington v. Wilmore, 407 F.3d 274, 282 (4th Cir. 2005) (“The alleged ‘fabricated evidence’
here is Wilmore’s false claim that Washington possessed nonpublic knowledge about the
crime. . . . What Washington challenges here is not the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence,
but rather the creation of false evidence.”); see also Gauger v. Hendle, 349 F.3d 354, 360 (7th Cir.
2003) (holding that false police report did not violate Brady because “[t]he problem was not that
evidence useful to [the defendant] was being concealed; the problem was that the detectives were
giving false evidence”). I address this argument, infra.
McDonough was issued on June 20, 2019, after the parties briefed the pending motions.
The case against McDonough proceeded to trial but ended in a mistrial. Id. The state retried
McDonough, and the second trial ended on December 21, 2012, with an acquittal on all charges.
Id. Nearly three years later, McDonough filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that Smith,
who was the prosecutor, and other defendants violated his due process rights by fabricating
evidence and using it against him before the grand jury and at both trials. Id. Based on this
timeline, “McDonough’s claim was timely only if the limitations period began running at
The district court dismissed McDonough’s fabricated evidence claim as untimely.
McDonough v. Smith, 15-cv-01505-MAD-DJS, 2016 WL 5717263, at *12 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 30,
2016). The Second Circuit affirmed, finding that the limitations period began to run “when
(1) McDonough learned that the evidence was false and was used against him during the criminal
proceedings; and (2) he suffered a loss of liberty as a result of that evidence.” McDonough v.
Smith, 898 F.3d 259, 265 (2d Cir. 2018). In accordance with this standard, the court reasoned that
McDonough’s fabricated evidence claim accrued when he “was arrested and stood trial.”
McDonough, 139 S. Ct. at 2154.
The Supreme Court reversed. It concluded that the statute of limitations for McDonough’s
fabricated evidence claim began to run once “the criminal proceedings against him terminated in
his favor,” i.e., “when he was acquitted at the end of his second trial.” Id. at 2161.
The ruling of the Supreme Court was consistent with decisions of several circuits,
concluding that a fabricated evidence claim begins to run when the criminal proceedings resolve
in the defendant’s favor. See Floyd v. Attorney Gen., 722 F. App'x 112, 114 (3d Cir. 2018); Mills
v. Barnard, 869 F.3d 473, 484 (6th Cir. 2017); Bradford v. Scherschligt, 803 F.3d 382, 387-389
(9th Cir. 2015); Mondragon v. Thompson, 519 F.3d 1078, 1083 (10th Cir. 2008); Castellano v.
Fragozo, 352 F.3d 939, 959-60 (5th Cir. 2003) (en banc).13
In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in McDonough, I conclude that the limitations period
as to plaintiffs’ fabricated evidence claim began to run when the criminal proceedings against them
terminated in their favor, that is, when their convictions were vacated in December 2017.
Therefore, plaintiffs’ due process/fabricated evidence claim in Count I was timely filed.
Plaintiffs argue that their remaining § 1983 claims (Count III through Count VI) are also
timely because they derive from their underlying claims in Counts I and II. See, e.g., McCarty v.
Gilchrist, 646 F.3d 1281, 1289 (10th Cir. 2011) (applying the same accrual date of plaintiff’s
underlying malicious prosecution claim as to plaintiff’s failure-to-train and failure-to-supervise
claims); Hoskins v. Knox Cty., 17084-DLB-HAI, 2018 WL 1352163, at *16 (E.D. Ky. Mar. 15,
2018) (finding that “logic and common sense command that both the supervisor-liability claim and
the underlying § 1983 claim upon which it is based accrued at the same time.”); Alvarado v. Hudak,
14-cv-9641, 2015 WL 9489912, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 30, 2015) (applying accrual date of
underlying claims for unlawful search and seizure to supervisory liability claim); Ellis v. Lewis,
5:12-CT-3122-FL (E.D.N.C. Sept. 3, 2014) (finding that plaintiff’s supervisory liability claim
began to accrue on the same date as plaintiff’s underlying Eighth Amendment claim).
At this juncture, I am unable to determine whether these claims were all timely filed. Rule
12(b)(6) “is intended [only] to test the legal adequacy of the complaint.” Forst, 4 F.3d at 250. To
resolve a limitations issue at the motion to dismiss stage, “all facts necessary to the affirmative
defense [must] ‘clearly appear[ ] on the face of the complaint.’” Goodman, 494 F.3d at 464
As plaintiffs put it, the Second Circuit’s decision in McDonough is an outlier. ECF 35
at 17 n.3.
(quoting Forst, 4 F.3d at 250) (emphasis added in Goodman). On the basis of the SAC, I cannot
say whether plaintiffs were on inquiry notice on the date of the illegal stop.
State Law Claims (Counts VII – XIII)
In a single sentence in their initial submissions, defendants contend that plaintiffs’ State
law claims, with the exception of Count VII for malicious prosecution, are time-barred under the
three-year limitations period. ECF 29-2 at 2; ECF 33-1, ¶ 6. Defendants do not expand upon this
contention in their replies. See ECF 40; ECF 42.
In opposition, plaintiffs argue that “[s]uch conclusory assertions cannot sustain
Defendants’ burden of proving an affirmative defense at this stage.” ECF 35 at 23 (citing
Goodman, 494 F.3d at 464). Accordingly, they urge the court to find that defendants have waived
this contention. ECF 35 at 23 (citing Kinder v. White, 609 F. App’x 126, 132 (4th Cir. 2015)
(noting that “fleeting mention of [an argument] in a single sentence . . . is not an argument—it’s
an observation” and finding such arguments waived)).
I decline to find that defendants waived the limitations defense. But, I do find that
defendants’ argument as to the expiration of limitations with respect to plaintiffs’ State claims is
insufficient at this juncture to establish the bar of limitations. See, e.g., Kinder, 609 F. App’x at
132 (observing that “[i]t is not the practice of this court to consider an argument that has not been
developed in the body of a party’s brief . . . .”); Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 653 n.7
(4th Cir. 2006) (finding a single “conclusory remark in brief” insufficient to constitute an
argument); Reynolds v. Wagner, 128 F.3d 166, 178 (3d Cir. 1997) (“[A]n argument consisting of
no more than a conclusory assertion . . . will be deemed waived.”).
Count VII alleges Monell liability against BPD. BPD contends that it is not subject to
Monell liability, and that sovereign immunity bars plaintiffs’ indemnification claims in Counts XII
and XIII. ECF 40 at 9-12.14
Plaintiffs counter that, to the extent BPD asserts the defense of sovereign immunity, it is
entitled to sovereign immunity only as to State law claims, but not as to the § 1983 claims. ECF
46 at 6-8. I agree.
Sovereign Immunity Generally
The Eleventh Amendment provides: “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.”
Under the Eleventh Amendment, states generally enjoy immunity from suits brought in
federal court by their own citizens. See Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 3 (1890); see also Bd. of
Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001) (“The ultimate guarantee of the
Eleventh Amendment is that nonconsenting states may not be sued by private individuals in federal
In its Motion, BPD asserted only that it “is protected by sovereign immunity as to the
state law claims[.]” ECF 29-2 at 2. In its reply, BPD argued that it is not subject to Monell liability.
ECF 40 at 9. Plaintiffs contend that the Court “should not consider the BPD’s newly raised
argument.” ECF 46 at 2 (citing United States v. Al-Hamdi, 356 F.3d 564, 571 n.8 (4th Cir. 2004)
(“It is well settled rule that contentions not raised in the argument section of the opening brief are
As noted, by marginal Order of June 3, 2019 (ECF 45), the Court granted plaintiffs’ motion
for leave to file a surreply concerning whether the BPD is subject to Monell liability. Therefore,
the Court will address the issue, as it has been fully briefed by the parties.
court.”). Therefore, absent consent or a valid congressional abrogation of sovereign immunity, the
Eleventh Amendment bars a private individual from bringing suit against a state in federal court
to recover damages, unless there is an exception to sovereign immunity. See Coleman v. Court of
Appeals of Md., 556 U.S. 30, 35 (2012) (“A foundational premise of the federal system is that
States, as sovereigns, are immune from suits for damages, save as they elect to waive that
defense.”); Va. Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247 (2011); see also Seminole
Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54-55 (1996) (“For over a century we have reaffirmed that
federal jurisdiction over suits against unconsenting States was not contemplated by the
Constitution when establishing the judicial power of the United States.”) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974).15
The Eleventh Amendment did not create sovereign immunity, however.
preserved the sovereign immunity that the states enjoyed prior to the formation of the
Union. See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 724 (1999); see also Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277,
284 (2011). State sovereign immunity “accord[s] states the dignity that is consistent with their
status as sovereign entities[.]” Fed. Mar. Comm’n v. S.C. State Ports Auth., 535 U.S. 743, 760
The Fourth Circuit recently reiterated that the defense of sovereign immunity is a
jurisdictional bar, stating that “‘sovereign immunity deprives federal courts of jurisdiction to hear
claims, and a court finding that a party is entitled to sovereign immunity must dismiss the action
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.’” Cunningham v. Gen. Dynamics Info. Tech., Inc., 888 F.3d
640, 649 (4th Cir. 2018) (quoting Ackerson v. Bean Dredging LLC, 589 F.3d 196, 207 (5th Cir.
State sovereign immunity “is an immunity from private suit; it does not . . . bar federal
enforcement actions.” Passaro v. Va., ___ F.3d ___, 2019 WL 3849555, at *3 (4th Cir. Aug. 16,
2019) (citing Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 71 n.14 (1996)).
2009)). Moreover, a defendant “bears the burden of demonstrating” sovereign immunity, because
it is “akin to an affirmative defense.” Hutto v. S.C. Ret. Sys., 773 F.3d 536, 543 (4th Cir. 2014).
Of relevance here, state sovereign immunity not only bars suit against a state; it also bars
suit against an instrumentality of a state, sometimes referred to as an “arm of the state,” which
includes state agencies. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101-02
(1984) (“It is clear, of course, that in the absence of consent a suit in which the State or one of its
agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh
Amendment.”); see also Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997); Pense v.
Maryland Dep’t of Pub. Safety & Corr. Servs., 926 F.3d 97, 100 (4th Cir. 2019) McCray v. Md.
Dep’t of Transp., Md. Transit Admin., 741 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2014); Bland v. Roberts, 730
F.3d 368, 389 (4th Cir. 2013); Constantine v. Rectors and Visitors of George Mason Univ., 411
F.3d 474, 479 (4th Cir. 2005). The question here, addressed infra, is whether BPD is an arm of
the State of Maryland for purposes of State sovereign immunity.
The Fourth Circuit has noted three exceptions to the Eleventh Amendment’s prohibition of
suits against a state or an arm of the state. In Lee-Thomas v. Prince George’s County Public
Schools, 666 F.3d 244 (4th Cir. 2012), the Court said, id. at 249 (internal quotations omitted):
First, Congress may abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity
when it both unequivocally intends to do so and acts pursuant to a valid grant of
constitutional authority. Bd. of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356,
363 (2001) . . . . Second, the Eleventh Amendment permits suits for prospective
injunctive relief against state officials acting in violation of federal law. Frew ex
rel. Frew v. Hawkins, 540 U.S. 431, 437 (2004) . . . . Third, a State remains free to
waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in a federal court. Lapides v.
Bd. of Regents of Univ. Sys. of Ga., 535 U.S. 613, 618 (2002).
Notably, sovereign immunity has not been congressionally abrogated for claims under
§ 1983. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979). In Quern, 440 U.S. at 345, the Supreme Court
concluded that suits by individuals against a state for money damages under § 1983 are barred by
the Eleventh Amendment. Id. (“[Section] 1983 does not explicitly and by clear language indicate
on its face an intent to sweep away the immunity of the States[.]”).
A state may waive its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity and permit suit in federal
court. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. Sys. of Ga., 535 U.S. 613, 618 (2002); see Pense,
926 F.3d at 101; Lee-Thomas, 666 F.3d at 249. But, the test to determine whether a state has
waived its immunity from suit in federal court is a “stringent” one. Atascadero State Hosp. v.
Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 240 (1985), superseded on other grounds, as recognized in Lane v. Pena,
518 U.S. 187, 198 (1996); see Pense, 939 F.3d at 101. Under Atascadero, 473 U.S. at 254, a court
may find that a state has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity “only where stated by the
most express language or by such overwhelming implication from the text as will leave no room
omitted); accord Pense, 926 F.3d at 101; Lee-Thomas, 666 F.3d at 250-51.
And, under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), sovereign immunity does not extend to
a request for prospective injunctive relief to correct an ongoing violation of law. However, to
avoid an Eleventh Amendment bar to suit on this basis, the complaint must be lodged against a
state official, and it must “alleg[e] an ongoing violation of federal law and see[k] relief properly
characterized as prospective.” Verizon Md., Inc. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n of Md., 535 U.S. 635, 645
“Of course a state official in his or her official capacity, when sued for injunctive relief,
would be a person under § 1983 because ‘official-capacity actions for prospective relief are not
treated as actions against the State.’” Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 n.10
(1989) (quoting Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167, n. 14 (1985)); see also Idaho v. Coeur
d’Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 269 (1997) (recognizing exception to Eleventh Amendment
immunity for certain suits seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against state officers in their
individual capacities); Bland, 730 F.3d at 390 (“Because reinstatement is a form of prospective
relief, the refusal to provide that relief when it is requested can constitute an ongoing violation of
federal law such that the Ex parte Young exception applies.”).
With respect to plaintiffs’ Monell claim (Count VI), the BPD argues that it is not subject
to suit because it is a State agency. ECF 40 at 9. And, as to plaintiffs’ indemnification claims,
Counts XII and Count XIII, the BPD contends that it “has sovereign immunity as to all state law
claims, and therefore, the Court has no choice but to dismiss them. There are no exceptions.” ECF
40 at 11-12 (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiffs acknowledge that the BPD is entitled to sovereign immunity as to State law
claims. But, they maintain that immunity does not extend to the federal claims lodged pursuant to
§ 1983. ECF 46 at 6-8.
As indicated, State agencies enjoy immunity from suit brought in federal court. See Hans,
134 U.S. at 3; see also Garrett, 531 U.S. at 363; Bd. of Educ. of Prince George’s Cty. v. Town of
Riverdale, 320 Md. 384, 389, 578 A.2d 207, 210 (1990). However, sovereign immunity “does not
immunize political subdivisions of the state, such as municipalities and counties, even though such
entities might exercise a ‘slice of state power.’” Ram Ditta v. Md. Nat. Capital Park & Planning
Comm’n, 822 F.2d 456, 457 (4th Cir. 1987) (quoting Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional
Planning Agency, 440 U.S. 391, 401 (1979)). On the other hand, sovereign immunity applies
when “‘the governmental entity is so connected to the State that the legal action against the entity
would . . . amount to the indignity of subjecting a State to the coercive process of judicial tribunals
at the instance of private parties.’” Lane v. Anderson, 660 F. App’x 185, 195-96 (4th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Cash v. Granville Cty. Bd. of Educ., 242 F.3d 219, 224 (4th Cir. 2001)) (internal
The question here is whether BPD is a State agency or a local one for purposes of § 1983.
To determine whether an entity is sufficiently connected to a state for purposes of immunity, the
Fourth Circuit has articulated a nonexclusive list of four factors to be considered: (1) whether the
state will pay a judgment against the defendant entity; (2) “‘whether the entity exercises a
significant degree of autonomy from the state,’” (3) “‘whether [the entity] is involved with local
versus statewide concerns,’” and (4) “‘how [the entity] is treated as a matter of state law.’” Lane,
660 F. App’x at 195 (alterations in original) (some alterations omitted) (quoting Ram Ditta, 822
F.2d at 457-58).
As indicated, BPD argues that it is not subject to liability with respect to plaintiffs’ Monell
and indemnification claims. To support its position, BPD relies on two recent decisions issued by
this court. See Whetstone v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., ELH-18-738, 2019 WL 1200555, at
*12 (D. Md. Mar. 13, 2019); McDougald v. Spinnato, ELH-17-2898, 2019 WL 1226344, at *11
(D. Md. Mar. 15, 2019).
The plaintiff in Whetstone filed a civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several
defendants, including BPD. 2019 WL 1200555, at *1. In particular, she asserted a Monell claim
against BPD. Id. BPD moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim. Id. at
*11. This court observed that the BPD is a State agency and thus immune to Monell actions. Id.
at *12. Specifically, the court said: “In the first instance, the claim against the BPD is not viable
under Monell, as the BPD has been a State agency, not a local agency, since 1867.”
However, this statement was dicta; it was not outcome determinative. As the court
explained, the plaintiff failed to plead sufficient allegations to support Monell liability against the
BPD, as she did “not identify any specific ordinances or regulations” that constituted an
unconstitutional policy. Id. at *11.
In Spinnato, 2019 WL 1200555, the plaintiff lodged several claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against many defendants, including former BPD Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, individually
and in his official capacity. Id. at *1. Batts moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims, including a Monell
claim asserted against him in his official capacity, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a
claim. Id. at *2. As Batts was sued in his official capacity, the court regarded plaintiff’s Monell
claim as a suit against the BPD. Id. at *8. It said, id. at *12:
Under Maryland law, the BPD has been a State agency, not a local agency, since
1867. See Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. Clark, 404 Md. 12, 23, 944 A.2d
1122, 1128 (2008); Clea v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 312 Md. 662, 669-70,
541 A.2d 1303, 1306-07 (1988). If the BPD is an arm of the State, it is not a
municipality subject to suit under Monell. . . . Therefore, there is no basis for a
Monell claim based on actions of the BPD.
However, as in Whetstone, the above statement was merely dicta; it was not dispositive of
the motion. The court concluded that the plaintiff’s factual allegations were insufficient to support
a Monell claim. Id. at *12.
In Jones v. Chapman, ELH-14-2627, 2015 WL 4509871, at *10 (D. Md. July 24, 2015), a
§ 1983 death case involving various members of the BPD, the court said that sovereign immunity
protects the BPD against State law claims but not against § 1983 claims. The court explained that
“‘the BPD is too interconnected with the government of the City so as to constitute a State agency’”
and thus the BPD is subject to suit under § 1983. Id. at *10 (quoting Chin v. City of Balt., 241 F.
Supp. 2d 546, 548 (D. Md. 2003)); see also Blades v. Woods, 107 Md. App. 178, 182, 667 A.2d
917, 919 (1995).
The case of Chin v. City of Baltimore, 241 F. Supp. 2d 546 (D. Md. 2003), cited by the
court in Chapman, is informative. The case arose from an encounter between plaintiff Michael
Chin and BPD police officers. Id. at 547. Several BPD police officers, led by Officer Wilhelm,
entered a store owned by Chin, with their weapons drawn. Id. The officers searched the premises
without a warrant and “displayed no indicia that they were affiliated with law enforcement.” Id.
They subsequently assaulted Chin and “then handcuffed him for an extended period of time.” Id.
The search did not produce any contraband and, as a result of the search, the store sustained
significant property damage. Id. Thereafter, Chin filed suit against Officer Wilhelm, the BPD,
and the City of Baltimore, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for federal civil rights violations and for
State common law and constitutional torts. Id.
Judge Blake considered, inter alia, “whether the Baltimore Police Department is a state
agency for Eleventh Amendment purposes” and therefore entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Id. at 548. In connection with the plaintiffs’ § 1983 claims, Judge Blake determined
that the BPD is “too interconnected with the government of the City” so as to constitute a State
agency. Id. Therefore, she concluded that it is a “person” subject to suit under § 1983. Id.
But, the ruling in Chin that Eleventh Amendment immunity did not shield the BPD from
§ 1983 liability had no bearing on plaintiff’s State law claims. Significantly, the Chin Court
explained, id. at 548-49:
However, with respect to the state law causes of action, the result is
different. State sovereign immunity “protects the State not only from damage
actions for ordinary torts but also from such actions for State constitutional torts.”
Cherkes, 780 A.2d at 424.[ ] The Baltimore Police Department enjoys sovereign
immunity from actions for damages based on state common law torts or state
constitutional torts. See id. at 422; 436.[ ] The claims against the Baltimore Police
Department based on state law will, therefore, be dismissed on sovereign immunity
In sum, as to the claims under Maryland law, the Chin Court considered the BPD an arm
of the State. Therefore, based on State sovereign immunity, it dismissed the State law claims
To my knowledge, the Fourth Circuit has not directly addressed this issue. In Wiley v.
Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 48 F.3d 773 (4th Cir. 1996), the Court assumed that in a
§ 1983 action, the BPD “may be held accountable . . . .” Id. at 776. However, numerous decisions
in this District have said that the BPD is not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity in regard
to a claim under § 1983. See, e.g., Lucero v. Early, GLR-13-1036, 2018 WL 4333745, at *6-9 (D.
Md. Sept. 11, 2018); Fish v. Mayor and City Council of Balt., CCB-17-1438, 2018 WL 348111,
at *3 (D. Md. Jan. 10, 2018); Rockwell v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., RDB-13-3049, 2014 WL
949859, at *11 (D. Md. Mar. 11, 2014); Humbert v. O’Malley, WDQ-11-0440, 2011 WL 6019689
(D. Md. Nov. 29, 2011); Munyiri v. Haduch, 585 F. Supp. 2d 670, 676 (D. Md. 2008); Chin, 241
F. Supp. 2d 546; Alderman v. Balt. City Police Dep’t, 952 F. Supp. 256 (1997).
Accordingly, plaintiffs’ § 1983 claims may proceed against BPD. At this juncture,
however, the issue of BPD’s duty to indemnify is premature. See Home Exterminating Co., Inc.
v. Zurich-Am. Ins. Grp., 921 F. Supp. 318, 324 n.7 (D. Md. 1996) (finding that the “question of
indemnification . . . would be premature” at the motion to dismiss stage).
Failure to State a Claim
Brady Claim (Count I)
As indicated, in Count I plaintiffs assert two due process claims against Jenkins, Gladstone,
Guinn, and Willard: (1) fabrication of evidence and (2) failure to disclosure exculpatory evidence,
as required by Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs’
Brady claim for failure to state a claim. ECF 29-2 at 10.
The SAC alleges that Jenkins, Gladstone, Guinn, and Willard deliberately failed to disclose
to prosecutors that they planted heroin in Burley’s vehicle and falsified reports in connection with
the arrest of Burley and Matthews on April 28, 2010. ECF 23, ¶ 268. Plaintiffs assert that this
failure “directly and proximately resulted in the unjust and wrongful incarceration” of Burley and
Matthews, “thereby denying them their constitutional rights to a fair trial, in violation of the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Id. ¶ 271.
Defendants contend that “the relevant theory in the instant case is purely one of fabrication
of evidence[.]” ECF 40 at 2 (emphasis in original). They argue that the Court “should not permit
Plaintiffs to recast their fabrication of evidence claim as a Brady claim.” ECF 29-2 at 13. Further,
they argue that “Brady does not apply because Plaintiffs possessed the exculpatory evidence.” Id.
at 10. In this regard, they observe that plaintiffs knew at the time of their arrest that the officers
had planted heroin in Burley’s vehicle and fabricated the probable cause statement. Id. at 7. In
addition, defendants assert that “Brady principles do not apply in the context of guilty pleas.” Id.
at 11. Rather, it is a “trial right.” Id. at 12 (citing United States v. Moussaoui, 591 F.3d 263, 285
(4th Cir. 2010) (“The Brady right . . . is a trial right.”)).
Plaintiffs counter that “they did not know who planted the heroin and thus did not possess
the exculpatory evidence,” an allegation which “must be accepted as true at this stage of the
proceedings.” ECF 35 at 27. Plaintiffs also argue that defendants’ “sweeping contention that
Brady does not apply before trial conflicts with Fourth Circuit precedent and would eviscerate a
fundamental due process protection for criminal defendants.” Id. at 28.
In Brady, 373 U.S. at 87, the Supreme Court expressly held that “suppression by the
prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the
evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of
the prosecution.” See also United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 106-07 (1976); Gilliam v. Sealey,
932 F.3d 216, 238 (4th Cir. 2019); United States v. Young, 916 F.3d 368, 382 n.9 (4th Cir. Feb.
21, 2019); United States v. Horton, 693 F.3d 463, 470 (4th Cir. 2012). A Brady violation occurs
when a defendant can show that the evidence at issue (1) was favorable to the defendant, (2)
material to the defense, and (3) the prosecution had the evidence but failed to disclose it. Moore v.
Illinois, 408 U.S. 786, 794-95 (1972); Young, 916 F.3d at 383; United States v. Sarihifard, 155
F.3d 301, 309 (4th Cir. 1998).
Evidence is “material” when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been
disclosed, the result of the proceedings would have been different. See Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S.
419, 433-34 (1995); United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682 (1985); United States v. Parker,
790 F.3d 550, 558 (4th Cir. 2015); United States v. Bartko, 728 F.3d 327, 340 (4th Cir. 2013);
United States v. Kelly, 35 F.3d 929, 936 (4th Cir. 1994). But, a Brady violation does not occur
when the alleged exculpatory material is available to the accused from “a source where a
reasonable defendant would have looked.” United States v. Wilson, 901 F.2d 378, 380-81 (4th
Cir. 1990). Moreover, mere speculation as to the materials is not enough. United States v. Caro,
597 F.3d 608, 619 (4th Cir. 2010).
Notably, the “‘reasonable probability’ standard does not require a showing that a jury more
likely than not would have returned a different verdict. Rather, the ‘reasonable probability’
standard is satisfied if ‘the likelihood of a different result is great enough to undermine confidence
in the outcome of the trial, or the suppression ‘cast[s] serious doubt on the proceedings’ integrity.’”
Gilliam, 932 F.3d at 238 (quoting Owens, supra, 67 F.3d at 398) (internal citation omitted;
alteration in Gilliam).
The Fourth Circuit recently explained: “Unlike prosecutors . . . police officers commit a
constitutional violation only when they suppress exculpatory evidence in bad faith.” Gilliam, 932
F.3d at 238; see Owens, 767 F.3d at 396 & n.6, 401. And, “to prove a due process violation,
[plaintiffs] must prove both but-for causation and proximate causation -- in other words, that the
alleged wrongful act(s) caused [their] loss of liberty and the loss of liberty was a reasonably
foreseeable result of the act.” Gilliam, 932 F.3d at 238; see Massey v. Ojaniit, 759 F.3d 343, 35456 (4th Cir. 2014); Evans v. Chalmers, 703 F.3d 636, 647-48 (4th Cir. 2012).
Defendants assert that Brady does not apply because plaintiffs were in possession of the
exculpatory evidence. ECF 29-2 at 10. This argument is not persuasive. The SAC alleges that,
at the time of their prosecution, plaintiffs did not know who planted the heroin in Burley’s vehicle.
ECF 23, ¶¶ 268-72.
Defendants also contend that “Brady principles do not apply in the context of guilty pleas.”
ECF 29-2 at 11. They rely on United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622, 625 (2002), and Moussaoui,
591 F.3d at 285-87.
In Ruiz, 536 U.S. at 633, the Supreme Court stated that “the Constitution does not require
the government to disclose material impeachment evidence prior to entering a plea agreement with
a criminal defendant.” The Ruiz Court explained that “impeachment information is special in
relation to the fairness of a trial, not in respect to whether a plea is voluntary . . . .” Id. at 629
(emphasis in original). It reasoned that impeachment information was not “critical information of
which the defendant must always be aware prior to pleading guilty.” Id. at 630.
However, the Supreme Court did not explicitly address whether the withholding of
exculpatory evidence during the pretrial plea-bargaining process violated a defendant’s
constitutional rights. Id. at 630-33. Moreover, there is a well-defined circuit split on the question
of whether the Brady right to exculpatory information extends to the guilty plea context. See
Moussaoui, 591 F.3d at 286 (acknowledging circuit split); see also Alvarez v. City of Brownsville,
904 F.3d 382, 392-93 (5th Cir. 2018) (same).
The Fifth Circuit has consistently ruled that there is no constitutional right to Brady
material prior to a guilty plea. Alvarez, 904 F.3d at 382-94; United States v. Conroy, 567 F.3d
174, 178-79 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Matthew v. Johnson, 201 F.3d 353, 361-62 (5th Cir. 2000)).
And, the First and Second Circuits have expressed doubts about a defendant’s constitutional
entitlement to exculpatory Brady material before entering a guilty plea. United States v. Mathur,
624 F.3d 498, 507 (1st Cir. 2010) (describing the extension of Brady to plea negotiations as “new
ground,” a “novel approach,” and an “unprecedented expansion of Brady.”); Friedman v. Rehal,
618 F.3d 142, 154 (2d Cir. 2010) (observing that “the Supreme Court has consistently treated
exculpatory and impeachment evidence in the same way for the purpose of defining the obligation
of a prosecutor to provide Brady material prior to trial, and the reasoning underlying Ruiz could
support a similar ruling for a prosecutor’s obligations prior to guilty plea”) (internal citations
In contrast, the Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits have recognized a distinction between
impeachment and exculpatory evidence in the guilty plea context, as noted by the Supreme Court
in Ruiz. See Smith v. Baldwin, 510 F.3d 1127, 1148 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc); United States v.
Ohiri, 133 F. App’x 555, 562 (10th Cir. 2005) (unpublished) (distinguishing Ruiz on the basis,
inter alia, that “the evidence withheld by the prosecution . . . is alleged to be exculpatory, and not
just impeachment, evidence”); McCann v. Mangialardi, 337 F.3d 782, 787-88 (7th Cir. 2003)
(suggesting, but not deciding due to lack of evidence, that a “Brady-type disclosure might be
required” where “the government possesses evidence that would exonerate the defendant of any
criminal wrongdoing but fails to disclose such evidence during plea negotiations or before the
entry of the plea”).
The Fourth Circuit has not directly addressed this issue. In Moussaoui, 591 F.3d at 28587, it stated: “The Brady right . . . is a trial right. It requires a prosecutor to disclose evidence
favorable to the defense if the evidence is material to either guilt or punishment . . . . When a
defendant pleads guilty, those concerns are almost completely eliminated because his guilt is
admitted.” After summarizing the circuit split as to whether the Brady right extends to the guilty
plea context, however, the Fourth Circuit did not decide the issue. Id. at 286. And, I need not do
so, because I am not persuaded that the claim is properly cast as a Brady violation.
As indicated, defendants argue that plaintiffs have mischaracterized their fabricated
evidence claim as a Brady violation. In support of their position, defendants rely on Washington
v. Wilmore, 407 F.3d 274, 282 (4th Cir. 2005). In that case, Washington brought a § 1983 action
against Wilmore and other police officers, alleging constitutional violations in connection with his
conviction and death sentence for rape and murder. Id. at 275. Washington contended, inter alia,
that Wilmore fabricated evidence and failed to disclose exculpatory evidence as required under
In particular, Washington claimed that Wilmore falsely stated in a police report that
Washington had volunteered non-public knowledge of the crime, rather than merely responding to
leading questions during an interrogation. Id. at 278. Further, Washington argued that Wilmore
failed to disclose this false statement to prosecutors. Id. at 282. Upon review of the district court’s
summary judgment ruling, the Fourth Circuit identified the right at stake as a fabricated evidence
claim, not a Brady claim. Id. The Washington Court concluded, id.: “What Washington challenges
here is not the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, but rather the creation of false evidence.”
Plaintiffs counter that the Fourth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Fisher, 711 F.3d
460 (4th Cir. 2013), issued three years after Moussaoui, “speaks most directly to the question at
hand.” ECF 35 at 28. But, as defendants point out, Fisher is not instructive on the question of
whether Brady applies in the pretrial plea-bargaining context. ECF 40 at 7. Moreover, in my
view, Fisher is more consistent with the defense position.
In Fisher, 711 F.3d at 466, a law enforcement officer investigating the case lied in a sworn
search warrant affidavit that led to the recovery of inculpatory evidence forming the basis of the
charge to which the defendant, Fisher, pleaded guilty. The officer later entered a plea of guilty to
fraud and theft in connection with his official duties. Id. at 462, 466. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255,
Fisher moved to vacate his guilty plea, asserting that the officer’s pre-plea misconduct rendered
his plea involuntary under Brady, 397 U.S. at 755. Fisher, 711 F.3d at 464.
On these facts, the Fourth Circuit concluded: “Given the totality of the circumstances of
this case—a law enforcement officer intentionally lying in an affidavit that formed the sole basis
for searching the defendant’s home where evidence forming the basis of the charge to which he
pled guilty was found—Defendant’s plea was involuntary and violated his due process rights.” Id.
at 469 (emphasis added). In finding egregious misconduct, the Fisher Court relied on the “highly
uncommon” facts of the case, “in which gross police misconduct [went] to the heart of the
prosecution’s case.” Id. at 466. Further, the Court reasoned that setting aside the plea “supported
. . . the important interest of deterring police misconduct.” Id. at 469. If a defendant cannot
challenge “subsequently discovered police misconduct,” the Court observed, “officers may be
more likely to engage in such conduct.” Id.
The Fisher Court stated that “this case centers not on a Brady v. Maryland failure to
disclose but rather on something categorically different: affirmative misrepresentations.” Fisher,
711 F.3d at 465 n.2. The same may be said here.
In my view, under Washington v. Wilmore and United States v. Fisher, the claim here is
better understood as one of fabrication of evidence. To be sure, the fabricated evidence was not
disclosed until after the guilty pleas, when the police corruption was uncovered. In any event,
whether the claim is labeled as one under “Brady,” or one based on fabrication of evidence, is
largely semantic. In the context of this case, the claims are duplicative, and there can be only one
recovery. It is not helpful to clog and clutter the SAC with repetitive allegations of what would,
either way, amount to a due process violation.
Failure to Intervene Claim (Count III)
Palmere moves to dismiss plaintiffs’ failure to intervene claim in Count III. He argues that
he was not “present when the Defendant Officers planted drugs, falsified reports or otherwise
committed a tort against Plaintiffs.” ECF 29-2 at 15. As such, he lacked specific knowledge of
the wrongs alleged and “did not have the opportunity to prevent” them. ECF 40 at 11.
In the SAC, plaintiffs allege that Palmere “had supervisory responsibility for plainclothes
units, was aware of constitutional violations by officers in those units (including the Officer
Defendants), and failed to take reasonable steps to stop those violations.” ECF 23, ¶ 31. Further,
plaintiffs claim that Palmere, as head of VCID, “was a supervisor responsible for Officers Jenkins,
Guinn, and Gladstone, and had actual or constructive knowledge of their misconduct, including
the misconduct that led to the unlawful incarceration” of Burley and Matthews. Id. ¶ 140.
The Fourth Circuit has recognized a cause of action for failure to intervene, or “bystander
liability,” as “‘premised on a law officer’s duty to uphold the law and protect the public from
illegal acts, regardless of who commits them.’” Stevenson v. City of Seat Pleasant, 743 F.3d 411,
416-17 (4th Cir. 2014) (quoting Randall v. Prince George’s Cty., 302 F.3d 188, 203 (4th Cir.
“[S]uch a duty attaches when an officer observes or has reason to know that a
‘constitutional violation [is being] committed’ by other officers and possesses ‘a realistic
opportunity to intervene to prevent the harm from occurring.’” Randall, 302 F.3d at 203-04
(quoting Anderson v. Branen, 17 F.3d 552, 557 (2d Cir. 1994)). Indeed, “it is well-established that
an omission to act, when coupled with a duty to act, may provide a basis for liability” under §
1983. Randall, 743 F.3d at 203.
The theory of bystander liability “permits relief against an officer who ‘(1) is confronted
with a fellow officer’s illegal act, (2) possesses the power to prevent it, and (3) chooses not to
act.’” Brooks v. Johnson, 924 F.3d 104, 110 (4th Cir. 2019) (quoting Randall, 743 F.3d at 203).
As to the first prong, the Fourth Circuit noted in Randall, 302 F.3d at 203 n.24: “[A] bystanding
officer, by choosing not to intervene, functionally participates in the unconstitutional act of his
fellow officer. If the bystander lacks such specific knowledge, he cannot be a participant in the
unlawful acts, and the imposition of personal liability is impermissible.”
Palmere contends that plaintiffs fail to satisfy the first prong. He maintains that under the
theory of bystander liability, “an officer must be a ‘bystander’ to the wrongs alleged; in other
words, the officer must be an accomplice.” ECF 40 at 11.
Palmere asserts, id.: “There is no
allegation Palmere had specific knowledge that Defendant Officers planted drugs in Burley’s
vehicle or that they authored a false report concerning the incident.” Plaintiffs’ allegation that he
had “actual or constructive knowledge of . . . the misconduct that led to the unlawful incarceration”
of Burley and Matthews is “insufficient and conclusory.” Id. at 11 n.8. According to defendant,
plaintiffs “must allege actual knowledge of the specific tort, not ‘actual or constructive knowledge’
of general misconduct that may have led to the violations of constitutional rights.” Id.
Defendants’ arguments are sound. Plaintiffs’ allegations fail to show that Palmere was
present at the relevant time and had “specific knowledge” of his subordinates’ unlawful acts in this
matter. Plaintiffs’ failure to intervene claim, as asserted against Palmere, is more appropriately
analyzed under a theory of supervisory liability. As discussed below, “supervisory liability arises
from the obligation of a supervisory law officer to insure that his subordinates act within the law.”
Randall, 302 F.3d at 203. The Fourth Circuit in Randall, 302 F.3d at 203, distinguished the two
The concepts of bystander and supervisory liability are each premised on
omissions, but there are significant differences between them. . . . [A]lthough the
separate concepts of bystander and supervisory liability arise from a failure to act
in the presence of duty, they are based on differing duties and obligations, and our
analysis of them is separate and distinct.
Accordingly, plaintiffs’ failure to intervene claim against Palmere (Count III) is subject to
Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard were sued in Count IV under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983
and 1985 for “Conspiracy to Deprive Constitutional Rights.” ECF 23, ¶¶ 284-90. Plaintiffs do
not specify a particular provision in § 1985 on which they rely. But, it would appear that ¶ 1985(3)
is the only portion of the statute that would possibly have any relevance. Curiously, no defendant
moved to dismiss the claim under § 1985.
The viability of a conspiracy claim under § 1983 has not been raised or briefed, and
therefore I will not address it. But, it is patently clear that plaintiffs have not stated a claim under
Under § 1985(3), quoted earlier, a litigant must allege that the defendant was motivated by
a “class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus.” See Simmons v. Poe, 47 F.3d 1370, 1376-77
(4th Cir. 1995). There are no such allegations in the SAC. Accordingly, because the SAC does
not state a § 1985 claim, and in the interest of managing this case, I will dismiss all § 1985 claims.
Supervisory Liability (Count V)
Count V asserts a claim for supervisory liability against Willard, Knoerlein, Fries, and
Defendants argue that plaintiffs “fail to state a claim because there is no allegation” that
defendants were “personally involved in the deprivation of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.” ECF
29-2 at 15. They contend that under § 1983, “individuals are not vicariously liable and cannot be
sued under a theory of respondeat superior.” Id. (citing Love-Lane, 335 F.3d at 782). Therefore,
defendants maintain that “there is no basis for direct liability” against them. ECF 29-2 at 15.
Plaintiffs counter that defendants “misunderstand” supervisory liability. ECF 35 at 25.
They agree that “supervisors may not be held liable under a theory of respondeat superior.” Id. at
26. But, they contend that Count V is asserted “under the distinct theory of supervisory liability
as recognized by the Fourth Circuit.” Id. (citing Slakan v. Porter, 737 F.2d 368, 372 (4th Cir.
1984) (“Liability in [the] context [of supervisory liability] is not premised on respondeat superior,
. . . but on a recognition that supervisory indifference or tacit authorization of subordinates’
misconduct may be a causative factor in the constitutional injuries they inflict on those committed
to their care.”)).
Indeed, a public official or agent “may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct
of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see Monell,
436 U.S. at 691; Love-Lane, 355 F.3d at 782 (finding no respondeat superior liability under
§ 1983); Trulock, 275 F.3d at 402 (finding no respondeat superior liability in a Bivens suit).
“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676.
The Fourth Circuit has stated: “A supervisor can only be held liable for the failings of a
subordinate under certain narrow circumstances.” Green v. Beck, 539 F. App’x 78, 80 (4th
Cir. 2013). As indicated, to state a claim for supervisory liability under § 1983, plaintiffs must
allege: “(1) that the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was
engaged in conduct that posed ‘a pervasive and unreasonable risk’ of constitutional injury to
citizens like the plaintiff; (2) that the supervisor’s response to the knowledge was so inadequate as
to show ‘deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices,’; and
(3) that there was an ‘affirmative causal link’ between the supervisor’s inaction and the particular
constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff.” Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted); see also Wilkins v. Montgomery, 751 F.3d 214, 226 (4th Cir. 2014). In other
words, the liability of supervisory officials “is premised on ‘a recognition that supervisory
indifference or tacit authorization of subordinates’ misconduct may be a causative factor in the
constitutional injuries they inflict on those committed to their care.” Baynard v. Malone, 268 F.3d
228, 235 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Slakan, 737 F.2d at 372).
With respect to the first element, “[e]stablishing a ‘pervasive’ and ‘unreasonable’ risk of
harm requires evidence that the conduct is widespread, or at least has been used on several different
occasions and that the conduct engaged in by the subordinate poses an unreasonable risk of harm
of constitutional injury.” Shaw, 13 F.3d at 799 (quoting Slakan, 737 F.2d at 373-74); see Wilkins,
751 F.3d at 226. As to the second element, “a plaintiff [o]rdinarily . . . cannot satisfy his burden
of proof by pointing to a single incident or isolated incidents . . . for a supervisor cannot be expected
. . . to guard against the deliberate criminal acts of his properly trained employees when he has no
basis upon which to anticipate the misconduct.” Randall, 302 F.3d at 206 (alteration in Randall
and internal quotations omitted). “Deliberate indifference, however, may be satisfied by showing
[a] supervisor’s continued inaction in the face of documented widespread abuses.” Id. (alteration
in Randall and internal quotations omitted); see Wilkins, 751 F.3d at 226-27. As to the third
element, ‘“proof of causation may be direct . . . where the policy commands the injury of which
the plaintiff complains . . . or may be supplied by the tort principle that holds a person liable for
the natural consequences of his actions.”’ Wilkins, 751 F.3d at 226-227 (quoting Shaw, 13 F.3d
The case of Lee v. Queen Anne's County Office of Sheriff, RDB–13–672, 2014 WL 476233,
at *8 (D. Md. Feb.5, 2014), is informative. In Lee, the plaintiff had allegedly driven through a stop
sign. Id. at *1. He claimed that he was not driving the car nor did he drive through a stop sign.
Nonetheless, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Id. Upon learning about the warrant, Lee
surrendered to law enforcement and was “briefly incarcerated before being released on bond that
same day.” Id. He was convicted of fraud, failure to stop, and driving with a revoked
license. Id. But, an investigation of the events surrounding the stop revealed dashboard camera
video evidence suggesting that the deputy had testified falsely.
Moreover, the prosecutor
purportedly concluded that the camera footage revealed no probable cause for the traffic stop. Id. at
*2. As a result, the “charges” were subsequently nol prossed. Id. at *2.
Lee subsequently filed suit against Queen Anne's County Office of the Sheriff. He alleged
that the deputy's actions were “undertaken with malice and that he has suffered mental anguish,
emotional pain and suffering, and financial loss as a result.” Id. at *2. Further, Lee contended that
the deputy “‘acted with a wanton and reckless disregard for Plaintiff's civil rights by conducting
an illegal traffic stop, causing an improper warrant to issue, [and] harassing Plaintiff and his family
during a two-month period....’” Id. at *17 (quoting the amended complaint). And, pursuant to a
theory of supervisory liability under § 1983, plaintiff sought to hold the sheriff of Queen Anne's
County liable for the deputy's conduct. Id. at *8.
In Lee's amended complaint, he alleged that the sheriff “had constructive knowledge of his
deputies' unconstitutional conduct” based on three incidents of prior conduct, id. at *9 (quoting the
a. On May 12, 2011, Queen Anne's County deputy John Dennis Hofmann pled
guilty to second-degree assault after groping a woman inside his patrol car in
August 2009. Deputy Hofmann is the brother of the Queen Anne's County
Sheriff, Gary Hofmann. Hofmann remains employed by the Queen Anne's
Office of the Sheriff[.]
b. In August 2007, the Queen Anne's County Office of the Sheriff suspended three
deputies for misconduct that occurred during a traffic stop. The misconduct
concerned violations of departmental policies and procedures having to do with
vehicle searches. After the investigation, all three deputies were reinstated even
though two deputies had been found to have violated policies and procedures.
c. On March 17, 2004, Queen Anne's County Deputy Sheriff Mark Barbre shot
and paralyzed Andrew Pope, III during a traffic stop. Deputy Barbre had
signaled for Pope to stop and pull over, but Pope continued to drive his vehicle
until he reached his house, where he exited his vehicle and raised his hands in
surrender. Deputy Barbre shot his firearm at Pope, striking him in the neck,
The plaintiff insisted “that these allegations are sufficient to support his claim that [the
sheriff] had constructive knowledge of his deputies' unconstitutional conduct” and acted with
deliberate indifference. Id. Urging dismissal, the sheriff argued that plaintiff relied too heavily on
conclusory statements and lacked adequate factual detail to state a claim for supervisory
liability. Id. at *8.
In effect, the question before the court was whether the “Amended Complaint contain[ed]
sufficient examples of past occurrences to state a valid claim and avoid dismissal at this early stage
of the litigation.” Id. at *9. The Lee Court found that the allegations “present[ed] a close case,”
but it ruled that plaintiff adequately pleaded a claim for § 1983 supervisory liability. Id.
The court noted that “the specific instances of misconduct adequately supplement that
claim and demonstrate the requisite constructive knowledge and deliberate indifference.” Id. In
particular, it said that “[t]he 2007 event pertaining to the traffic stop clearly raises potential Fourth
Amendment issues” similar to the case at bar. Id. The court also noted that “[t]he 2009 and 2007
incidents, as alleged, also suggest that the Sheriff's Office-and Sheriff Hofmann in particular-have
failed to properly supervise and discipline the deputies because the deputies allegedly remained a
part of the Sheriff's Office despite their misconduct.” Id. The court observed: “Above and beyond
these incidents, [plaintiff's] claims involve repeated instances of harassment spanning a two month
Here, the SAC sets out in abundant detail a protracted history of misconduct by members
of the BPD who were under the supervision of these defendants.
For example, and as already recounted, plaintiffs allege that Fries was Officer Jenkins’s
supervisor in 2005, when “Jenkins struck Timothy O’Conner in the face,” resulting in a settlement
paid by Baltimore City. Id. ¶ 107. Jenkins and another officer claimed that “they had not seen who
had harmed Mr. O’Conner as they were purportedly distracted by another altercation.” Id. ¶ 85.
However, “two witnesses testified that they saw an officer throw Mr. O’Conner to the ground and
hold him down with a nightstick.” Id. ¶ 85. According to the SAC, “Fries had actual or
constructive knowledge of Officer Jenkins’ use of excessive force against Timothy O’Conner,”
but “took no remedial or disciplinary action against Officer Jenkins.” Id. ¶ 108.
The SAC also states that Fries supervised Jenkins “when IAD sustained a finding against
Officer Jenkins for a vehicular accident it deemed ‘preventable.’” Id. ¶ 106. In addition, Fries and
Knoerlein directly supervised Officer Gladstone in VCID when Gladstone and Jenkins arrested
Mickey Oakley in 2008 and Jamal Walker in 2010. Id. ¶¶ 111, 116.
Further, plaintiffs allege that Jenkins and other officers entered Oakley’s apartment without
a search warrant, a practice known as a “sneak and peak.” Id. ¶ 88. That same day, Jenkins and
another GTTF officer “stopped and apprehended” Oakley. Id. ¶ 89. Plaintiffs claim that at a
hearing in 2009, “Officer Jenkins took the stand and lied when he stated a fellow officer . . . had
told him that he saw Mr. Oakley exit an apartment building holding a brown paper bag and get
into a black SUV.” Id. ¶ 90. Due to Jenkins’s misconduct, prosecutors later agreed to release
Oakley from prison. Id. ¶ 91.
The SAC also alleges that in November 2010, Jenkins and Gladstone “arrested Jamal
Walker during a car stop and then went to Mr. Walker’s home, where they tried to break in.” Id.
¶ 92. During the attempted break-in, a silent alarm was set off, which brought additional officers
to the home. Id. But, Jenkins and Gladstone “sent the police away so that they could conduct a
search of the home themselves.” Id. According to the SAC, “[p]rosecutors later dropped the case
against Mr. Walker once the inconsistencies in Jenkins’ account came to light.” Id.
In addition, plaintiffs allege that Willard supervised Jenkins, both prior to and during the
arrest of Burley and Matthews on April 28, 2010. Id. ¶ 117. According to plaintiffs, “Willard had
actual or constructive knowledge of Officer Jenkins’ history of misconduct prior to joining VCID,”
including “the 2004 sustained IAD finding and the 2005 incident involving Timothy O’Conner.”
Id. ¶ 118. Also, “Willard was present at the scene when drugs were planted in Mr. Burley’s car[.]”
Id. ¶ 119.
Willard, Knoerlein, and Fries also held “supervisory roles in VCID . . . when that unit’s
officers were committing widespread abuses, including the repeated illegal conduct of Jemell.
Rayam.” Id. ¶ 123. In March 2009, Rayam “fatally shot Shawn Cannady while working as part
of VCIS.” Id. ¶ 60. It was Rayam’s “third shooting in a span of 20 months.” Id. And, the City
“later settled a lawsuit brought by Mr. Cannady’s family for $100,000.” Id.
With respect to Palmere, the SAC alleges that he “had actual or constructive knowledge of
the misconduct by officers in the plainclothes units” based on several incidents of misconduct. Id.
at 24. Plaintiffs assert that Palmere “supervised the VCIS officer who assaulted Jerriel Lyles,
resulting in a $200,000 payout to Mr. Lyles.” Id. ¶ 139. Also, Palmere “had direct oversight
responsibility for the three VCIS officers who were charged with kidnapping two Baltimore city
teenagers and leaving on in Howard County in 2010[.]” Id. At the GTTF trial, former GTTF
member Momodu Gondo testified that “Palmere assisted and coached” Rayam “in the cover-up of
the fatal shooting of Mr. Cannady.” Id. Further, plaintiffs allege that Palmere “did not take any
steps to report or remedy illegal conduct of the Officer Defendants or other plainclothes officers
that he knew of or should have known of.” Id. ¶ 145.
Taking the foregoing allegations as true, and drawing all inferences in plaintiffs’ favor, as
I must, the SAC amply states a claim of supervisory liability as to Willard, Knoerlein, Fries, and
Malicious Prosecution (Count VII)
In Count VII, plaintiffs lodge a malicious prosecution claim under State law against
Jenkins, Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard. The SAC alleges that the officers accused Burley and
Matthews “of criminal activity knowing those accusations were without probable cause, and they
made statements to prosecutors with the intent of exerting influence and to institute and continue
judicial proceedings.” ECF 23, ¶ 306. Plaintiffs further aver that defendants “fabricated evidence
and withheld exculpatory evidence that would have proven Plaintiffs’ innocence.” Id. ¶ 309.
Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard seek dismissal of the malicious prosecution claim. They
assert that no defendants, except for Jenkins, “are alleged to have made false statements leading to
the prosecution of Plaintiffs[.]” ECF 33-1, ¶ 7.
To state a claim for malicious prosecution under Maryland law, a plaintiff must allege that
the defendant instituted or continued a criminal proceeding; the proceeding was resolved in favor
of the accused; there was no probable cause for the proceeding; and the defendant acted with
malice, or for the primary purpose other than that of bringing an offender to justice. See, e.g.,
Okwa v. Harper, 360 Md. 161, 183, 757 A.2d 118, 130 (2000). Notably, “[w]here a party
instigates, aides or assist [sic] in a criminal prosecution he/she may be liable even where he/she
did not swear out a warrant.” Smithfield Packing Co., Inc. v. Evely, 169 Md. App. 578, 193, 905
A.2d 845, 854 (2006). Conversely, a person is not liable for malicious prosecution “for relying
upon the independent judgment of a prosecutor or attorney where the defendant has made a full
disclosure of all material facts relative to the charges being made.” Id. at 593-94, 905 A.2d at 854.
In Southern Management Corp. v. Taha, 378 Md. 461, 473, 836 A.2d 627, 633 (2003), the
Maryland Court of Appeals said:
A person is responsible for starting a criminal proceeding who . . . directs or
requests a prosecution based on information which the person knows is false or
withholds information which a reasonable person would realize might affect the
decision to prosecute, . . . or gives inaccurate or incomplete information to those
But, “the plaintiff must establish that the defendant committed the tort with some improper
purpose or motive. Mere negligence in instituting unjustified criminal proceedings against the
plaintiff cannot satisfy the ‘malice’ element.” Montgomery Ward v. Wilson, 339 Md. 701, 719,
664 A.2d 916, 925 (1995).
Here, plaintiffs adequately set forth the elements of a malicious prosecution claim.
Defendants do not dispute the first three elements, i.e., a criminal proceeding was instituted against
plaintiffs, their convictions were vacated, and there was no probable cause for the proceeding.
Defendants dispute only the final element, i.e., whether they acted with malice. Defendants argue
that plaintiffs fail to state a claim against them, because only Jenkins is alleged to have fabricated
the probable cause statement.
Defendants’ arguments are unavailing. The SAC alleges that Guinn, Gladstone, and
Willard “planted heroin inside” Burley’s vehicle “from a stash of drugs that the Officers carried
with them for the purpose of framing innocent persons.” ECF 23, ¶ 4. Plaintiffs also state that the
officers “intentionally withheld” their knowledge of the planted drugs from others and used this
information to arrest Burley and Matthews. Id. ¶ 231. Further, federal prosecutors relied on the
planted evidence to bring criminal charges against Burley and Matthews. Id. ¶ 6.
The foregoing allegations more than adequately support plaintiff’s malicious prosecution
claim against Guinn, Gladstone, and Willard. As indicated, “[w]here a party instigates, aides or
assist [sic] in a criminal prosecution he/she may be liable even where he/she did not swear out a
warrant.” Smithfield, 169 Md. App. at 193, 905 A.2d at 854.
Accordingly, plaintiffs state a claim of malicious prosecution in Count VII.
For the reasons stated above, I shall GRANT the BPD Motion (ECF 29) with respect to
plaintiffs’ failure to intervene claim (Count III) asserted against Palmere. I shall otherwise deny
the BPD Motion. I shall also DENY both the Officer Motion (ECF 33) and the Jenkins Motion
An Order follows, consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.
Date: September 12, 2019
Ellen L. Hollander
United States District Judge
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