Thomas v. Sgt. Oliver et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 6/12/2017. (c/m 6/12/2017 aos, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
BALTIMORE CITY WOMEN’S
TIARA THOMAS, and
Civil Action No. DKC-16-3908
Pending in the above-captioned case are a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of Defendant
Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center (ECF No. 10); Plaintiff’s motions to extend response
time (ECF No. 17) and to withdraw civil action without prejudice (ECF No. 18); and defense
counsel’s motions to seal (ECF No. 23) and to withdraw acknowledgment of service (ECF No.
24). Each of the motions filed is addressed herein.
Motion to Dismiss
The Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center (hereinafter “the Detention Center”), is
the correctional facility where the alleged assault by the named Defendants occurred. ECF No. 1
at p. 1. The Detention Center was included in the caption of the complaint, which was filed
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The text of the statute provides that “[e]very person who, under
color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory . . .
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person with the
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (emphasis
Defendant Detention Center argues that it is not a person and therefore cannot be
held liable for the conduct of state officials working there. ECF No. 10.
Plaintiff has not responded to the Defendant Detention Center’s motion to dismiss;
however, review of the complaint reveals that it does not appear to have been her intention to
name the Detention Center as a defendant. Plaintiff’s complaint includes “Responsible Parties”
where she lists Warden Betty Johnson, Facility Administrator Nicole Jackson, Sgt. Oliver,
Officer T. Thomas, and Officer T. Giles as having violated her Eighth Amendment rights. ECF
No. 1 at p. 5. She does not include the Detention Center in that list. Id.
Plaintiff filed this complaint in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), which
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in this court without prepaying the filing fee.
To guard against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute requires dismissal of any claim that
is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). This court is mindful, however, of its obligation to liberally construe
self-represented pleadings. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating such a
complaint, the factual allegations are assumed to be true. Id. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555–56 (2007)). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that
this court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a cognizable
claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Beaudett v. City
of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a district court may not “conjure up
questions never squarely presented.”). In making this determination, “[t]he district court need
not look beyond the complaint’s allegations . . . . It must hold the pro se complaint to less
stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint liberally.”
White v. White, 886 F. 2d 721, 722-723 (4th Cir. 1989).
Liberally construing the instant complaint, it is clear that the Detention Center was not an
intended Defendant. The motion to dismiss (ECF No. 10) filed on behalf of the Detention Center
will therefore be granted and Plaintiff’s motion to extend response time (ECF No. 17) will be
denied as moot.
Service on the Remaining Defendants
Counsel for the Detention Center filed a Notice of Acceptance of Service on behalf of
Defendants Giles, Jackson, Oliver, and Thomas on April 12, 2017 (ECF No. 19) and thereafter
entered her appearance on their behalf (ECF No. 22). Because Defendant Warden Betty Johnson
no longer works at the Detention Center, her home address was filed under seal (ECF No. 20)
and a sealed summons (ECF No. 21) was issued pursuant to this court’s Order of February 21,
2017 (ECF No. 16).
Counsel has now filed a motion to withdraw the acknowledgment of service (ECF No.
24) and has provided Defendant Tia Giles’ home address under seal (ECF No. 23). Counsel
states that the acknowledgment of service was prematurely and improvidently filed as it had not
yet been determined if any of the unserved defendants were entitled to or were seeking
representation by the Attorney General’s office. ECF No. 24. Counsel seeks the following
relief: acceptance of service by the Attorney General on behalf of Sgt. Oliver and Tia Giles be
stricken and withdrawn;1 the appearance of Brian Frosh and Laura Mullally be stricken for
Oliver and Giles; service of process as to Giles be made at her last known home address
provided under seal; and that the Attorney General’s office be given additional time to and
Counsel notes that efforts to determine which “Sgt. Oliver” is intended to be named as a Defendant are
including July 23, 2017, to complete its investigation into whether representation of said
defendants will be requested of its office. Id. at p. 4.
The last paper filed by Plaintiff in this matter was received on February 21, 2017, and
seeks to voluntarily dismiss the complaint without prejudice so that Plaintiff can complete her
research into how best to state the claims asserted. ECF No. 18. Plaintiff indicates in the motion
to withdraw that she is overwhelmed by the number of papers and notices she has received from
counsel and the Clerk of this court. Id. She further indicates that if the motion to extend
response time, filed on the same day, is not granted, she wishes to withdraw the complaint. Id.
As indicated herein, the motion to extend response time will be denied as moot; however,
dismissal of the Detention Center from the case does not affect the claims remaining against the
other named defendants who have yet to be served.
The motion to withdraw acknowledgment of service (ECF No. 24) will be granted with
respect to the request to strike counsel’s appearance. Before further efforts are made to serve
Defendant Giles at the court’s expense, Plaintiff will be required to notify the court whether she
wishes to proceed with service of the complaint or if she wants to voluntarily dismiss it. Plaintiff
is forewarned that failure to provide a response will be construed as her consent to voluntarily
dismiss the Complaint.
A separate Order follows.
June 12, 2017
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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