Gray v. Sarles et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Plaintiff 2/9/17 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 2/9/2017. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Civil Action No. DKC 14-2939
UNIDENTIFIED METRO TRANSIT
POLICE OFFICERS 1, 2, 3
Presently pending and ready for resolution is a motion to
dismiss filed by Defendants Ronald A. Pavlik, Jr., Kevin P.
Gaddis, Adam Fields, Emily Woodward Deutsch, and A. Thompson
(collectively, the “Defendants”).
(ECF No. 33).
have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being
Local Rule 105.6.
For the following reasons,
the motion to dismiss will be granted.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”).
Department (“Transit Police”).
Defendant Pavlik is the Chief of
the Transit Police, and Defendant Gaddis is the Deputy Chief.
(ECF No. 25, at 1).
Defendant Thompson is a police officer for
Unless otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are set
forth in the second amended complaint (ECF No. 25) and construed
in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.
the Transit Police.
Defendants Deutsch and Fields are
an attorney and a paralegal, respectively, in WMATA’s Office of
(ECF No. 36, at 5).2
Plaintiff alleges that, on two separate occasions, he was
unlawfully pulled over by Transit Police officers and issued
(ECF No. 25, at 2).
First, Plaintiff was
stopped by three Transit Police officers, including Defendant
Thompson, on July 22, 2011 (the “2011 Stop”).
he was stopped by several unidentified officers on July 30, 2013
(the “2013 Stop”).
Plaintiff contends that the Transit
Police officers who pulled him over were acting outside the
geographic and legal scope of their authority.
(Id. at 3-4).
On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit in this court
against the General Manager of WMATA, Richard Sarles, and three
unnamed officers from the 2013 Stop, alleging violations of 18
U.S.C. § 241, 18 U.S.C. § 242, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, and 42 U.S.C.
(ECF No. 1, at 1).3
Plaintiff alleged that the 2013
Stop occurred outside Transit Police jurisdiction and that the
citations he was issued during the stop were false charges.
Although Defendant Fields’ job title is not identified in
the second amended complaint, it is undisputed.
Plaintiff cites to 18 U.S.C. § 14141, which does not
exist. Construing his pro se complaint liberally, his claim is
interpreted as being brought under 42 U.S.C. § 14141.
(Id. at 3).
Plaintiff appears to have contested the citations,
Maryland for Prince George’s County showing that the citations
(ECF No. 1-1, at 1).4
Although he made no
allegations related to the 2011 Stop in his initial complaint,
he also attached a similar trial summary issued by the same
court for the 2011 Stop.
(Id. at 2).
On November 3, Defendant
Sarles filed a motion to dismiss the case against him.
The court found that Defendant Sarles had been sued in his
official capacity and that, in that capacity, he was immune from
suits for torts committed by Transit Police officers performing
(ECF No. 9, at 4).
had failed to name or serve any of the other defendants, the
court also ordered Plaintiff to show cause why the case against
the three unnamed officers should not also be dismissed.
identifying the unnamed officers (ECF No. 11), and the court
granted him sixty days to identify the defendants by name, amend
his complaint, and provide addresses for the service of process
on these officers.
(ECF No. 12, at 3).
Over the next several
A court may, without converting a motion to dismiss into a
motion for summary judgment, properly “consider documents
attached to the complaint.”
Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem’l Hosp.,
572 F.3d 176, 180 (4 Cir. 2009); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).
months, Plaintiff filed multiple motions for discovery, which
were denied because there were no defendants in the case to
extension of time, which the court granted.
14; 16; 18; 20; 21).
(See ECF Nos. 13;
Plaintiff eventually filed an amended
complaint naming Defendants Pavlik, Gaddis, and Fields, but the
court ordered that no summons should be issued on the amended
(ECF No. 21, at 2).
Because there were no factual
allegations pertaining to these three defendants in the body of
Defendants in their official capacities and that the amended
complaint against Mr. Sarles.”
Plaintiff was granted
another extension of time to identify defendants, describe what
each allegedly did wrong, and file a second amended complaint.
records related to the 2013 Stop from WMATA under the Freedom of
Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552.
(ECF No. 22).
defendant in this case and that Plaintiff must name WMATA as a
defendant and serve it with process if he sought to allege his
substantive claims against it or to challenge its response to
his records requests.
(ECF No. 24, at 3).
instituted a new civil action against WMATA for their alleged
violations of public records laws.
(See ECF No. 30).
case has been dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative
See Gray v. WMATA, No. DKC-16-1792, 2017 WL 511910,
at *3 (D.Md. Feb. 8, 2017).
On May 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint,
naming Defendants Pavlik, Gaddis, Fields, Deutsch, and Thompson.
(ECF No. 25).
For the first time, he alleged that the 2011 Stop
(Id. at 2).
officers who pulled him over in the 2011 Stop.
second amended complaint failed to identify any of the three
officers involved in the 2013 Stop.
Defendants on June 8 (ECF No. 31, at 2), and Defendants filed
Plaintiff responded, and Defendants replied.
(ECF Nos. 36; 37).
Standard of Review
The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is
to test the sufficiency of the complaint.
Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).
need only satisfy the standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which
requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that
entitlement to relief.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 n.3 (2007).
That showing must consist of more than “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).
At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint
must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266,
268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the
Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir.
1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134
(4th Cir. 1993)).
In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal
Comm’rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989).
couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any
reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst,
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009).
held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
Liberal construction means that the
court will read the pleadings to state a valid claim to the
extent that it is possible to do so from the facts available; it
does not mean that the court should rewrite the complaint to
include claims never presented.
1128, 1132 (10th Cir. 1999).
Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d
That is, even when pro se litigants
are involved, the court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege
facts that support a viable claim.
Weller v. Dep’t of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990); Forquer v. Schlee, No.
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (“[E]ven a pro
se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a plausible
claim for relief.”).
Claims Against Defendants Pavlik, Gaddis, Fields, and
Defendants contend that Defendants Pavlik, Gaddis, Deutsch,
and Fields are immune from suit because they are named in their
allege any specific acts by any of these four Defendants.
the court must assume that he seeks to hold them liable in their
In his opposition, Plaintiff argues that he intended to
hold these Defendants liable under a theory of supervisory
(ECF No. 36, at 2).
“[I]t is axiomatic that the
complaint may not be amended by the briefs in opposition to a
motion to dismiss.”
Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 770
F.Supp. 1053, 1068 (D.Md. 1991) (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v.
Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101 (7th Cir. 1984)); see Zachair Ltd.
dismissing the complaint as to Defendant Sarles, WMATA officials
are immune from suit for law enforcement actions like those
signatories to WMATA and its officials “for any tort occurring
in the performance of a governmental function.”
See Md. Code,
established [that] . . . the operation of a police force is a
governmental function, and that acts or omissions in connection
therewith ordinarily to do not give rise to liability.”
v. WMATA, 667 F.2d 435, 436 (4th Cir. 1981).
Plaintiff’s allegations that the stops and citations in question
were unfounded, traffic stops and citations are a means of law
v. Driggs, 965 F.Supp. 741, 748 n.4 (D.Md. 1997) (stating that
the plaintiff “is bound by the allegations contained in its
complaint and cannot, through the use of motion briefs, amend
the complaint”), aff’d, 141 F.3d 1162 (4th Cir. 1998). Moreover,
the second amended complaint completely lacks any specific facts
supporting a theory of supervisory liability.
liability requires that a 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” and that the supervisor responded
with “deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the
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) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
The allegations in Plaintiff’s
opposition relate solely to knowledge of the allegedly unlawful
stops after the 2013 Stop occurred (see ECF No. 36, at 3, 5, 6),
which categorically cannot demonstrate a causal link.
characterized as police action.”
These Defendants are thus
immune from suit in their official capacities, and the motion to
dismiss the claims against them will be granted.
Plaintiff’s Causes of Action
Plaintiff alleges violations of several statutes for which
no private cause of action exists.
of 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242.
First, he claims violations
(ECF No. 25, at 2).
purview in this civil matter to provide relief under criminal
Grant v. Prince George’s Cty., No. DKC-15-2433, 2016
WL 3541239, at *5 (D.Md. June 29, 2016); see also Agnew v. City
of Compton, 239 F.2d 226, 230 (9th Cir. 1956); Watson v. Devlin,
167 F.Supp. 638, 640 (E.D.Mich. 1958).6
Second, Plaintiff cites
“engaging in a pattern or practice . . . that deprives persons
of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the
expressly granted to the Attorney General of the United States,
In his opposition to Defendants’ motion, Plaintiff also
references other violations of criminal law, including perjury
and obstruction of justice. (ECF No. 36, at 10). To the degree
that the facts in the second amended complaint properly allege
these violations, they, too, are beyond the court’s purview
see § 14141(b), and it does not provide a private right of
Johnson v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, No. PJM-14-4008, 2016
WL 4593467, at *7 (D.Md. Sept. 2, 2016); Metcalf v. Call, No.
2:14-cv-00010-MR-DLH, 2014 WL 12497025, at *3 (W.D.N.C. Mar. 31,
Plaintiff’s complaint also appears to allege violations of
42 U.S.C. § 1983 by way of malicious prosecution, false arrest,
and fabrication of evidence.
(ECF No. 25, at 2).
seems to be arguing that the citations issued to him at the
traffic stops constituted fabricated evidence against him.
unless a plaintiff pleads “adequate facts to establish that [a]
Ojanit, 759 F.3d 343, 354 (4th Cir. 2014).
Although he argues
incarceration” (ECF No. 25, at 4), he states that all charges
against him were dropped in a decision by Judge Powell of the
District Court of Maryland (id. at 3).
Because Plaintiff does
not allege that a loss of liberty resulted from these citations,
his fabrication of evidence claim will be dismissed.
Under § 1983, Plaintiff’s allegations of false arrest and
without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
essentially claims alleging a seizure of the person in violation
of the Fourth Amendment.”); Lambert v. Williams, 223 F.3d 257,
261-62 (4th Cir. 2000) (“[T]here is no such thing as a ‘§ 1983
prosecution claim . . . is simply a claim founded on a Fourth
Amendment seizure that incorporates elements of the analogous
common law tort of malicious prosecution.”); Gregg v. Richmond,
No. DKC-2001-1212, 2004 WL 257080, at *2 (D.Md. Feb. 11, 2004)
Fourth Amendment violation claim, arising out of his alleged
false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.”).
Construing the second amended complaint liberally, Plaintiff may
have pleaded cognizable injuries under § 1983 based on malicious
prosecution and false arrest by Defendant Thompson.
Section 1983 Claims Against Defendant Thompson
Thompson are time-barred.
(ECF No. 33, at 8-9).
The statute of
limitations is an affirmative defense that a party typically
must raise in a pleading under Rule 8(c) and is not usually an
Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 520, 525 (D.Md. 2002); Gray v. Metts, 203
F.Supp.2d 426, 428 (D.Md. 2002).
Dismissal is proper, however,
“when the face of the complaint clearly reveals the existence of
a meritorious affirmative defense.”
Brooks v. City of Winston–
Salem, 85 F.3d 178, 181 (4th Cir. 1996); see 5B Charles A. Wright
& Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357, at 714
(3d ed. 2004) (“A complaint showing that the governing statute
of limitations has run on the Plaintiff’s claim for relief is
appears on the face of the pleading and provides a basis for a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).”).
When enacting 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Congress determined that
gaps in federal civil rights acts should be filled by state law,
as long as that law is not inconsistent with federal law.
federal statute of limitations governs, federal courts routinely
measure the timeliness of federal civil rights suits by state
See id. at 49; Chardon v. Fumero Soto, 462 U.S. 650, 655–
56 (1983); Johnson v. Ry. Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454,
limitations for civil actions is most applicable to Plaintiff’s
See Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5–101.
Federal law, however, governs the question of when a cause
of action accrues under § 1983.
384, 387 (2007).
See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S.
Under the general rubric, the running of the
statute of limitations begins when a plaintiff knows or has
reason to know of his injury.
A claim of unlawful seizure
accrues on the date of the alleged incident.
See Gray v. State
of Maryland, 228 F.Supp.2d 628, 635 (D.Md. 2002).
A claim for
false arrest accrues on the date of initial appearance before a
See Wallace, 549 U.S. at 387.
based on malicious prosecution, the limitations period starts to
Montgomery Cty., No. DKC-13-3477, 2014 WL 4231164, at *3 (D.Md.
Aug. 26, 2014) (citing Brooks, 85 F.3d at 181-83).
occurred on July 22, 2011.
(ECF No. 25, at 1).
possible date that his claims could have accrued is the date of
the termination of his prosecution, which was October 27, 2011.
(ECF No. 1-1, at 2).
Plaintiff thus had until, at the latest,
Plaintiff filed his initial complaint in this court on September
17, 2014 (ECF No. 1).
As discussed above, however, although
Plaintiff attached a record from the hearing for the 2011 Stop
to the initial complaint, he did not allege any claim related to
that stop or name Defendant Thompson as a defendant until he
filed the second amended complaint on May 9, 2016.
An amended pleading may relate back to the date of the
original pleading if “the amendment asserts a claim or defense
that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set
out – or attempted to be set out - in the original pleading.”
Because the 2011 Stop was an entirely
distinct occurrence from the 2013 Stop and Plaintiff made no
factual allegations related to it in his original complaint,
relation back is not appropriate here.7
statute of limitations should be applied here because “[m]ost
statutes of limitations will run only while the alleged criminal
remains visible and in the state where the crime occurred.”
(ECF No. 36, at 9).
As noted above, rules governing criminal
proceedings do not apply in this civil case.
In civil cases,
Airlines, Inc., 282 F.3d 296, 301 (4th Cir. 2002).
concealed the cause of action from him.
His claim is therefore
Even if attaching the court record to his original
complaint were construed as alleging a claim based on the 2011
Stop, Rule 15(c)(1)(C) bars relation back for amendments to the
named parties against whom a claim is asserted unless that party
“knew or should have known that the action would be brought
against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party’s
Nothing in the
original or first amended complaint indicated that Plaintiff
intended to bring suit against anyone involved in the 2011 Stop,
and Plaintiff has not made any allegations that suggest
Defendant Thompson knew or should have known that an action
would be brought against him.
barred as to the 2011 Stop under the statute of limitations.
Because Plaintiff’s asserted claims against Defendant Thompson
come exclusively from the 2011 Stop, all claims against him will
Unidentified Transit Police Officers 1, 2, and 3
named in the original complaint will be dismissed from the case.
“On motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just
terms, add or drop a party.”
pleading that has been amended under Rule 15(a) supersedes the
pleading it modifies . . . .
function in the case.”
Once an amended pleading is
Wright & Miller, supra, § 1476; see also
Wall v. Fruehauf Trailer Servs., Inc., 123 F.App’x 572, 576 n.4
(4th Cir. 2005) (“When the Second Amended Complaint was filed, it
had the effect of superseding the earlier complaint . . . which
no longer performs any function in the case.”); Young v. City of
Mount Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2001) (“As a general
rule, an amended pleading ordinarily supersedes the original and
renders it of no legal effect.”).
Although each of Plaintiff’s
removed them as named defendants in both his first and second
(ECF Nos. 17; 25).
It is thus no longer
clear that Plaintiff seeks to hold these officers individually
responsible for the stop.
Throughout this case, Plaintiff has
sought both money damages and an injunction preventing all WMATA
officers from issuing citations outside of their jurisdiction, a
policymakers, rather than the specific officers who pulled him
(See ECF Nos. 1; 17; 25).
Despite the court’s dismissal
officers, Plaintiff has instead continued to add Defendants who
work in executive and administrative positions at WMATA.
court has repeatedly explained the deficiencies related to the
unnamed officers, ordered Plaintiff to identify and serve these
defendants, and granted him extensions of time in which to do
(See ECF Nos. 9; 12; 16; 21; 24).
Even in light of
officers and his omission of them from his amended complaints
make dismissing them appropriate here.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss filed by
Defendants Ronald A. Pavlik, Jr., Kevin P. Gaddis, Adam Fields,
Emily Woodward Deutsch, and A. Thompson will be granted.
separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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