Jean-Baptiste v. Montgomery County Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paul W. Grimm on 11/28/2017. (c/m 11/28/17 jnls, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
OF CORRECTIONS and
STATE'S ATTORNEY'S OFFICE OF
Civil Action No. PWG-17-3009
Plaintiff Henri Jean-Baptiste
filed suit on October 17, 2017, invoking this Court's
diversity jurisdiction for a personal injury claim against Montgomery County Department of
Corrections and the State's Attorney's Office of Maryland.
ECF No. 1.1 Plaintiff, who is self-
represented, also filed a Motion to Proceed in Fonna Pauperis, which shall be granted.
reasons set forth below, the complaint must be dismissed.
Plaintiff alleges that on January 27, 2012, his ex-wife's employer "instructed" her "to
obtain a temporary Protective Order against plaintiff," and later that day, his ex-wife and her coworker "to obtain the Protective Order . . . alleged that the Plaintiff was violent with severe
bipolar disorder who had stopped taken [sic] his medications, followed [his ex-wife] to work and
threaten[ed] to kill her." CompI. 4, ECF No. 1. He claims that unspecified Montgomery County
officials acted on the accusations against him and issued a protective order. Id. at 4-5.
Plaintiff claims that his ex-wife alleged that he violated the protective order on February
16 and 23, 2012.
Id. at 5. He claims that "[o]n March 19, 2012, Defendants ...
J Although Jean-Baptiste
lists Defendants as "Montgomery County Department of Corrections, State's Attorney's
Office of Maryland et, al [sic]," he does not list any other defendants on his Civil Cover Sheet, ECF NO.1-I, and he
only includes proposed summonses for these named Defendants, ECF No. 1-2.
investigate before . . . initiation of a criminal complaint without proper basis against Plaintiff."
ld. Plaintiff was arrested and spent 34 days incarcerated in Montgomery County, Maryland pretrial. ld. He alleges that, when he went to court on April 27, 2012, he also faced a charge for
calling his ex-wife's boss but, because the boss did not come to court to testify, that charge was
dismissed. ld. at 5-6. As for his violation of the protective order, he claims that he "was forced
to accept a plea deal 'guilty'
in exchange for PBJ upon demonstrate[d]
completing Eighteen Months Supervised Probation."
failed to grant probation before judgment
ld. at 3. According to Plaintiff, the court
upon his completion of supervised
probation on October 27, 2013, instead "[n]egligently delay[ing] the PBJ until April 27, 2015."
ld. He further alleges that after his release he petitioned the state court for an order requiring his
mental status to be evaluated and the court issued an order requiring her to be
involuntarily committed to a state mental health facility for that purpose.
!d. at 7. Plaintiff
claims negligence, negligent entrustment, false imprisonment, and malicious use of process. ld.
Plaintiff filed this complaint in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
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.
and (ii). This Court is mindful, however, of its obligation to liberally construe
self-represented litigant's pleadings, such as Jean-Baptiste's
complaint. See Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating such a complaint, the factual allegations are assumed to be
true. ld. at 93 (citing Bell Atl. 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 that 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.
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, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989).
There are several deficiencies present in Jean-Baptiste's
First, the claims
time-barred because they stem from the protective order issued on January 27, 2012;
the March 2012 issuance of an arrest warrant; Plaintiffs
subsequent arrest; his April 27, 2012
criminal trial, at which he "was forced to accept a plea deal 'guilty' in exchange for PBJ upon
demonstrate [d] compliance after completing Eighteen Months Supervised Probation"; and the
court's failure to grant probation before judgment immediately upon Plaintiff s completion of
supervised probation on October 27, 2013, instead "[n]egligently delay[ing] the PBJ until April
Compl. 3-6. Plaintiff filed suit on October 17,2017, more than four years after the
last negligent act on October 27,2013.
Maryland's statute oflimitations
for the causes of action
listed is three years from the date of occurrence. See Md. Code Ann., Cts & Jud. Proc.
However, even if there were a date less than three years prior to the initiation of this lawsuit that
could be viewed as the operative date of accrual, the complaint fails to state a claim against the
The complaint contains no direct allegations against the Montgomery County Department
As such, it violates Rule 8's requirement that a pleading contain "a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed. R. Civ. P.
Fed. R. Civ. P.
Additionally, "each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct."
8(d)(I). And, it is well-settled that complaint allegations must "give the defendant fair notice of
what the plaintiffs
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema NA.,
534 U.S. 506, 512, (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Here the claims against the
Department of Corrections remain a mystery even after a thorough reading of the complaint.
As for the State's Attorney's
Office of Maryland, he claims that its "[f]ailure to
investigate or refusal to properly or be impartial [sic] resulted in criminal charges and total
[sic] and due process." CompI. 7. Jean-Baptiste also appears to hold
this Defendant responsible for the delayed issuance of probation before judgment.
But, the State's Attorney's
See id. at 3.
Office "is not an entity capable of being sued." See Owens v.
Baltimore City State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379,393 (4th Cir. 2014). In Owens, the Fourth
Circuit noted that Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(b) "provide[s] that the law of the state in which the district
court sits determines an entity's capacity to be sued" and "[i]n Boyer v. State, [594 A.2d 121,
128 n.9 (Md. 1991)] Maryland's
court made clear that, absent a statutory
constitutional provision creating a government agency, an 'office'
unique legal identity, and thus, it cannot be sued under Maryland law."
Maryland statutory or constitutional provision creating the State's Attorney's
("The 'State's Attorney'
There is no
for each county and Baltimore City is a constitutional
Maryland law creates no 'State's Attorney's Office. "').
And, even if Plaintiff amended the complaint to name individual employees of the State's
Office, those Defendants would be entitled to avail themselves of a defense of
Maryland's State's Attorneys are quasi-judicial officers who enjoy absolute
See Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 422-23 (1976).
Absolute immunity is
designed to protect judicial process, thus the inquiry is whether a prosecutor's actions are closely
associated with judicial process.
424 U.S. at 423-23).
See Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 479 (1991) (citing Imbler,
The decision as to "whether and when to prosecute" is "quasi-judicial,"
therefore, the State's Attorneys involved in Plaintiff's case enjoy absolute immunity. See Lyles v.
Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 377 (4th Cir. 1996).
In light of the deficiencies noted, the complaint is dismissed by separate Order which
Pau W. Grimm
United States District Judge
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