Wilson v. Baltimore City States Attorney's Office et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Theodore D. Chuang on 5/16/2017. (kns, Deputy Clerk)(c/m 5/16/17)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Prisoner Identification No. 3514268,
Civil Action No. TDC-16-1269
BALTIMORE CITY STATE'S
KEVIN WILSON and
INTERNAL AFFAIRS FOR BALTIMORE
Christopher Wilson ("Plaintiff'),
currently confined at Stevens Correctional Center in
Welch, West Virginia, filed this action pro se against the Baltimore City State's Attorney's
Office, former Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wilson ("AS A Wilson"), and the Internal
Affairs Division of the Baltimore City Police Department ("BCPD").
Plaintiff s claims arise
from his alleged cooperation pursuant to a plea agreement and his subsequent arrest and
imprisonment for violating the terms of his probation.
Pending before the Court are a Motion to
Dismiss, filed by the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office and ASA Wilson, and a Motion to
Dismiss or, Alternatively, Motion for Summary Judgment, filed by BCPD. For the reasons set
forth below, the Motions are granted.
In late 2009, Plaintiff entered into a "contract," or a plea agreement, with the Baltimore
City State's Attorney Office relating to criminal charges for which he was arrested.
ECF No. 1. As part of the plea agreement, Plaintiff was to assist the State's Attorney's Office to
"catch a dirty cop," but he would "not be asked to do anything ...
that would put me in knowing
danger." Id He was deemed to have fulfilled his part of the agreement, but the allegedly corrupt
police officer was not arrested.
Plaintiff was then sentenced in the Circuit Court for Baltimore
City, Maryland to five years of probation with a IS-year suspended sentence.
Within one week of the sentencing, Plaintiff was arrested for a violation of probation.
According to Plaintiff, ASA Wilson "had changed his mind" about Plaintiff s fulfillment of the
plea agreement and thus had Plaintiff arrested under false pretenses in order to "force" his .
Compi. 3; Suppi. Compi. 1, ECF No.5.
Plaintiff expressed concern that
the additional cooperation requested to facilitate the arrest of the "dirty cop" would expose his
identity, and that "the people I had snitched on would know it was me who was snitching and
they would kill me." Compi. 3. Unmoved, ASA Wilson told Plaintiff to cooperate fully or "go
to prison." Id
Plaintiff cooperated as requested, leading to the arrest of the "dirty cop." Id; see Suppi.
Compi. 1-2. About two weeks later, Plaintiff was shot four times by two unnamed parties who
told him to "stop snitching" and threatened to harm his family. Compi. 3-4. Plaintiff gave the
names and addresses ofthe shooters to ASA Wilson, the Internal Affairs Division of BCPD, and
Drug Enforcement Administration investigators.
ASA Wilson, however, declined to arrest the
shooters and told him to "leave it alone" and keep his "mouth shut," or he would be put in jail.
!d. at 4; Suppi. Compi. 2-3.
In his Complaint
who was incarcerated
Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland at the time he filed this action, seeks relief for
wrongful endangerment, wrongful imprisonment, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
alleges that he is in prison on the probation violation, the shooters are free, and he suffered
mental distress due to his fear that his children would be harmed.
Plaintiff initially sought $1
million in damages. In his Supplement to the Complaint, he now seeks $3 million in damages.
Defendants seek dismissal of the Complaint or summary judgment
in their favor on
several grounds, including that: (1) the Complaint does not sufficiently allege facts that establish
subject matter jurisdiction; (2) the Baltimore City State's Attorney Office is not a legal entity
that can be sued; (3) ASA Wilson is entitled to prosecutorial immunity; (4) Defendants are
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and state sovereign immunity; (5) Plaintiffs
are barred by the statute of limitations; and (6) the Complaint fails to state a plausible claim for
It is the plaintiffs
burden to show that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Evans v. B.F.
Perkins Co., Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(I) allows a defendant to move for dismissal when it believes that the
plaintiff has failed to make that showing. When a defendant asserts that the plaintiff has failed to
allege facts sufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, the allegations in the complaint are
assumed to be true under the same standard as in a Rule 12(b)( 6) motion, and "the motion must
be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction."
United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). When a defendant asserts that facts outside of
the complaint deprive the court of jurisdiction, the Court "may consider evidence outside the
pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment."
Velasco v. Gov't of
Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th' Cir. 2004); Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. The court should grant a
Rule 12(b)(1) motion based on a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction "only if the
facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a
matter of law." Evans, 166 F.3d at 647 (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v.
United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)).
To defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough
facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is
plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although courts should construe pleadings
litigants liberally, Erickson
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal
conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court must
examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and
construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. ofComm'rs
Albright v. Oliver,
of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
The Court must first determine whether it has jurisdiction
courts are courts oflimited jurisdiction."
U.S. 375, 377 (1994).
over this action.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511
Consequently, this Court may exercise subject matter jurisdiction only
over "civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States," 28
U.S.C. ~ 1331 (2012), or civil actions wherein there is diversity of citizenship between the
parties and the amount in controversy requirement is met, 28 U.S.C. ~ 1332.
There is no
presumption that jurisdiction is vested in a federal court. Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, 191
F.3d 394,399 (4th Cir. 1999). The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction rests on the
party invoking the jurisdiction of the court. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982).
Here, Plaintiff has failed to identify any federal constitutional
or statutory right allegedly
violated. Moreover, the parties appear to be either Maryland citizens or are not considered to be
citizens for the purposes of diversity jurisdiction.
See 0 'Neill v. Early, 208 F.2d 286, 289 (4th
Cir. 1953) ("[T]here is no diversity of citizenship in a suit which, although nominally against
state agencies and officers, is in reality a suit against a state."); Mayor & City Council of
Baltimore v. Clark, 944 A.2d 1122, 1131 (Md. 2008) ("[T]he Baltimore City Police Department
is a state agency.").
Thus, even if the Complaint is deemed to have raised colorable state law
claims, the Court may not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them. See 28 U.S.C. ~ 1367.
In the absence of allegations
either federal question jurisdiction
jurisdiction, the Court must dismiss this case under Rule 12(b)(I).
State's Attorney's Office
Even if the Court were to find a basis to exercise jurisdiction over the claims, such as by
construing them as federal claims raised under 42 U.S.C. ~ 1983, the Complaint is subject to
dismissal on other grounds. First, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has
expressly held that the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office is not a legal entity capable of
being sued because "no constitutional or statutory provision establishes a 'Baltimore City State's
Owens v. Bait. City State's Attorney's Office, 767 F.3d 379,393-95
Cir. 2014) (noting that the Baltimore City State's Attorney, a constitutional officer, may be
sued). Even if construed as allegations against the Baltimore City State's Attorney, the claims
would be subject to dismissal based on prosecutorial immunity.
against the Baltimore City State's Attorney's
See infra part IV. The claims
Office are therefore also dismissed on these
The claims against ASA Wilson, which relate to actions taken in his official role as a
prosecutor, are barred by prosecutorial immunity. A prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity
from civil liability for alleged conduct "intimately associated with the judicial phase of the
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976).
For example, "courts
routinely apply the doctrine of absolute immunity" to actions challenging "conduct in connection
with grand jury proceedings, arrest, indictment, and plea bargaining."
Hooper v. Sachs, 618 F.
Supp. 963, 971 (D. Md. 1985); see, e.g., Doe v. Phillips, 81 F.3d 1204, 1210 (2d Cir. 1996)
("[T]he negotiation of a plea bargain is an act within a prosecutor's jurisdiction as a judicial
Here, ASA Wilson's actions relating to the plea agreement fall within the ambit of
To the extent that Plaintiff alleges that ASA Wilson improperly failed to charge
and prosecute the unnamed parties who shot him, those claims relating to a charging decision
would also be subject to dismissal on the basis of prosecutorial
See Smith v.
McCarthy, 349 F. App'x 851, 859 (4th Cir. 2009); Langworthy v. Dean, 37 F. Supp. 2d 417, 421
(D. Md. 1999).
Third, any state or federal claims against the Internal Affairs Division of the BCPD are
against the BCPD alleging
law torts or state.
constitutional torts are barred because the BCPD is a state agency entitled to state sovereign
Chin v. City of Baltimore, 241 F. Supp. 2d 546, 548-59 (D. Md. 2003); Bait. Police
Dep't v. Cherkes, 780 A.2d 410, 434-35 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2001).
Its state sovereign
immunity has been waived only with respect to "statutorily imposed duties to defend and
indemnify" an employee, Cherkes, 780 A.2d at 434, which is not at issue in this case.
Even if construed as alleging federal claims, Plaintiff's
Complaint fares no better.
Although the BCPD is generally deemed a state agency, Clark, 944 A.2d at 1131, some courts
have concluded that it is nevertheless
subject to suit under 42 U.S.c.
1983 as a local
government agency, see, e.g., Chin, 241 F. Supp. 2d at 548-49; Jones v. Chapman, No. ELH-142627,2015
WL 4509871, at *10 (D. Md. July 24,2015).
Without definitively ruling on this
issue, the Fourth Circuit has considered such claims against the BCPD. See, e.g., Smith v. Bait.
City Police Dep't, 840 F.3d 193, 198 (4th Cir. 2016); Owens, 767 F.3d at 403-04.
assuming that the BCPD is subject to suit under
1983, the Complaint does not sufficiently
allege a federal constitutional claim against the BCPD.
In Monell v. Department of Social
Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), the United States Supreme Court held that a
local government may be liable for the unconstitutional conduct of individual defendants only if
the alleged injury was caused by the "execution of a government's policy or custom." Id. at 694.
Even when liberally construed, the Complaint identifies neither individual unconstitutional
conduct nor a policy or custom subject to challenge. Any federal constitutional claim against the
BCPD is therefore subject to dismissal.
Having concluded that Plaintiffs' claims must be dismissed, the Court need not reach
Defendants' remaining asserted bases for dismissal.
Although Plaintiff may have legitimate grievances relating to the events described in the
Complaint, he has identified no cognizable basis for a lawsuit for damages against the named
Defendants. For the foregoing reasons, the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Baltimore City State's
Office and ASA Wilson, and the Motion to Dismiss filed by the BCPD, are both
GRANTED. A separate Order shall issue.
Date: May 16, 2017
THEODORE D. CH
United States District
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