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Lawrence v. State of Maryland

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

September 26, 2019

DOUGLAS E. LAWRENCE, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND, et. al. Defendants.

          GUYTON, Judge

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REEVES, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Douglas Lawrence, acting pro se, has brought this action against Maryland (“State of Maryland”), Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and Anne Arundel County Office of Child Support Enforcement (“AACOCSE”) for alleged violations as part of an international conspiracy against Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts claims for “lost wages for the retaliation against him, ” “slander and defamation, ” and “conspiracy to retaliate against Plaintiff and deprive him of his Civil and Constitutional rights.” The State of Maryland and the AACOCSE (collectively, “Maryland State Defendants”) move the court to dismiss plaintiff’s complaints against them, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(1) because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims by virtue of the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For the reasons which follow, the Maryland State Defendants’ motion will be granted, and this action will be dismissed.

         I. Factual Background

         The facts, taken from Plaintiff’s complaint are as follows: On June 6, 2005, Roopa Dudley, Plaintiff’s wife at the time, filed a petition in the District Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, alleging that Plaintiff committed domestic violence against Ms. Dudley. On June 13, 2005, the court denied Ms. Dudley’s petition for lack of evidence, and the result of that case was uploaded to the Maryland Judiciary’s online case docket, a website that provides public access to the case files of the Maryland Judiciary. After the court’s denial of Ms. Dudley’s petition, Plaintiff separated from Ms. Dudley and sought a divorce. Plaintiff and Ms. Dudley agreed to a separation agreement and a judgment of absolute divorce was entered on October 13, 2006. As part of the separation agreement, Plaintiff received visitation with their minor child. On June 12, 2008, the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland found Ms. Dudley in contempt of court for interfering with Plaintiff’s visitation. The circuit court ordered Plaintiff to purchase a cell phone for his minor child to facilitate better telephone access and for Ms. Dudley to reimburse Plaintiff for $5, 687.00 in legal fees. Additionally, the circuit court reduced Plaintiff’s child support obligation.

         After serving in the U.S. Army from 1994 to 2008, Plaintiff worked in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 for both NCL Logistics and Host Nation Trucking (“HNT”). During the course of his employment, Plaintiff became concerned that HNT was involved in a “contract mechanism that allowed U.S. taxpayer money to indirectly fund enemies” of the U.S. Plaintiff also became concerned with “a fraudulent AstroTurf Lobby scheme to profit from increasing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.” A journalist, Aram Roston, contacted Plaintiff about his experience in Afghanistan, and Mr. Roston published Plaintiff’s concerns in an article. As a result of this publication, counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives interviewed Plaintiff. And a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Military confirmed “the suspicions and assertions of the Plaintiff.”

         On April 15, 2010, approximately one month after Plaintiff’s interview with counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, the State of Maryland sent a request to Florida, where Plaintiff was temporarily domiciled, to register and enforce the reduced child support order entered on June 12, 2008. Based on information that Plaintiff was a resident of Tennessee and was not behind on child support payments, the State of Florida granted Plaintiff’s motion to vacate registration of the foreign child support order and ordered an arrearage of $2, 401.62 owed to the State of Florida be “zeroed out.”

         On October 29, 2010, AACOCSE notified Plaintiff at his Tennessee address that he owed $2, 401.62 in past due child support. The AACOCSE reported the past due child support to credit agencies and threated action under the State Tax Refund Intercept. Plaintiff responded by providing records of all child support payments made since 2005 and evidence from the State of Florida that the $2, 401.62 was not owed. On December 7, 2010, AACOCSE acknowledged that Plaintiff did not owe any past due child support and removed the negative report from the credit agencies.

         On an unknown date in either 2010 or 2011, the 2005 domestic violence case filed against Plaintiff was incorrectly changed on the Maryland Judiciary’s online case docket to reflect that a final protective order was issued on June 13, 2005, and that the case was closed on November 20, 2007. This change occurred without a hearing and without Plaintiff’s knowledge. Plaintiff discovered the change in June of 2015 when a female acquaintance accused him of abusing his ex- wife.

         Sometime in 2011, Ms. Dudley did not allow Plaintiff visitation with their child. As a result of this refusal, in July 2011, Plaintiff filed a petition in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County for contempt and requested joint or primary custody. In April 2012, the circuit court denied Plaintiff’s joint custody request. The circuit court also tripled Plaintiff’s child support obligation, ordered Plaintiff to pay for his child’s summer camps, and ordered him to provide health insurance for his child, a cell phone for his child as well as transportation for all visits. The circuit court also granted a judgment for past due child support in the exact amount Ms. Dudley was ordered to pay in the contempt proceeding in 2008. Plaintiff alleges that the circuit court was prejudiced by the errant entry of the sustained final protective order against him.

         In 2011 and 2012, Plaintiff took leave from work to enforce the circuit court orders. When his employer questioned his need for leave, he referred them to the Maryland Judiciary’s online case docket without knowing that the errant entry had been made. Plaintiff alleges that his supervisors were also prejudiced against him by the 2005 protective order incorrectly listed on the Maryland Judiciary’s online case docket. Plaintiff believes that this error caused his employer to assign him extra work. Plaintiff categorized this error as “defamation by the State of Maryland, or collusion, or combination thereof, with the State of Maryland and the entities in Washington, District of Columbia and/or the state of Virginia.” Plaintiff alleges that his employer threatened to terminate Plaintiff’s employment after a dispute about overtime hours and due to his whistleblowing activity and the false claim that he abused Ms. Dudley.

         In 2013, Plaintiff was fired and, subsequently, was unable to pay his child support. Additionally, during this time, his home in Georgia was foreclosed and his credit history was damaged. In November 2013, Plaintiff gained employment with the Department of Defense. In June 2015, Plaintiff informed Ms. Dudley that his pay would increase with a new employer. Around this time, Ms. Dudley initiated an action against Plaintiff claiming that Plaintiff was behind on his child support payments. Based on false testimony by Ms. Dudley, AACOCSE sent a false affidavit with their request to the State of Georgia to enforce the child support order. After Plaintiff challenged the affidavit, the State of Maryland withdrew their request for enforcement. In June 2016, Plaintiff sought to have charges filed against Ms. Dudley for filing a false affidavit, but the Maryland District Commissioner and the State’s Attorney’s Office refused to charge her.

         In June 2015, Plaintiff submitted a written petition to the Maryland District Court Clerk requesting that the State of Maryland make the change to the Maryland Judiciary’s online case docket to reflect that a final protective order was not issued. The clerk denied the request and instructed Plaintiff to file a petition for expungement. Plaintiff did not allege in the complaint that he filed a petition for expungement.

         Plaintiff has filed the instant Complaint alleging that the Maryland State Defendants, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, as well as various “persons known and unknown” in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. engaged in a conspiracy to harm Plaintiff due to his disclosure of matters he discovered while working in Afghanistan for a private contractor. Plaintiff seeks $852, 722 from the State of Maryland for lost wages “for the retaliation against him” and $2, 000, 000 for per se damagers for slander and defamation, conspiracy to retaliate against Plaintiff and deprive him of his rights.

         Plaintiff also seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, Plaintiff seeks reversal of the order by the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County for Plaintiff to provide all transportation for visitations. He also has requested “a public apology from the State of Maryland, via Twitter by the Governor and the State of Maryland, and publicly in every Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Tennessee newspaper, delineating all illegal action taken against Plaintiff.” Plaintiff seeks “a halt to all collection activities for his debts, incurred as a result of the actions of Defendants and co-conspirators until this action is complete and resolved according to the final adjudication of this trial.” Second, Plaintiff seeks an injunction “to allow him to register his vehicle, a 2007 Toyota Tundra, in the state of Tennessee” because he is “unable to complete the payment to the state of Georgia for their Ad valorem tax.”

         Maryland State Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint on the grounds that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction by virtue of the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In response, Plaintiff asks the court to strike the motion to dismiss on the grounds that Maryland State Defendants are not immune under the Eleventh Amendment for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Anne Arundel County, Maryland, also filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. And in his response to a show cause order from his failure to response to Anne Arundel County’s motion, Plaintiff agreed with the arguments provided by Anne Arundel County and requested that this Court dismiss his claims against them. In that same response to the show cause order, Plaintiff requested that this Court sustain his motion in opposition against the Maryland State Defendants’ motion to dismiss.

         In June of 2018, the Maryland State Defendants and Ms. Dudley enforced a child support order from the State of Maryland in the Circuit Court for Blount County, Tennessee. Plaintiff accepts registration of the child support order but contests the amount of child support owed. Plaintiff brings this claim to address these and related issues pertaining to Maryland State Defendants and Ms. Dudley.

         II. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a complaint may be dismissed for “lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” The party asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Moir v. Greater Cleveland Reg’l Transit Auth., 895 F.2d 266, 269 (6th Cir. 1990). Rule 12(b)(1) motions to dismiss based upon subject matter jurisdiction consists of two types. Facial attacks to subject matter jurisdiction merely question the sufficiency of the pleadings, and courts should apply the Rule 12(b)(6) standard in considering them. Wayside Church v. Van Buren Cty., 847 F.3d 812, 816 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Ohio Nat’l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320 325 (6th Cir. 1990)). In such a case, courts should accept the allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). Factual attacks, the second type of challenge to the court’s subject matter jurisdiction, do not question the sufficiency of the pleading’s allegations, but rather contest the factual predicate for subject matter jurisdiction. Id. In such a case, no presumptive truthfulness applies to the factual allegations, and the court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case. Id.

         III. ...


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