Mathis v. McDonough, Civil Action No. ELH-13-2597

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
PartiesJERRY J. MATHIS, Plaintiff, v. JOHN P. MCDONOUGH, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. ELH-13-2597
Decision Date19 June 2015

JERRY J. MATHIS, Plaintiff,
JOHN P. MCDONOUGH, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. ELH-13-2597


June 19, 2015


Plaintiff Jerry J. Mathis, who is self-represented, filed suit individually and "as a representative of the Organization, 'Citizens for Change,'" against various Maryland public officials and employees.1 See ECF 1 at 1 ("Complaint"). In his Amended Complaint (ECF 18, "Amended Complaint" or "Am. Complaint"), plaintiff raises claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Maryland State Senator C. Anthony Muse and Prince George's County Deputy Sheriff L. Berryman, in their individual and official capacities. ECF 18 at 1, Am. Complaint. In particular, Mathis alleges "Deprivation of Constitutional Rights Guaranteed by the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution Under Color of State Law." Id. at 3. Plaintiff seeks an award of both compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 8 ¶¶ 1, 2 (Prayer for Relief).

Plaintiff's suit arises from his candidacy for the Prince George's2 County Council during

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the 2010 Democratic primary election. The primary was held on September 14, 2010, but also included a period of early voting that began on September 6, 2010. Id. ¶¶ 7-8, 10. According to Mathis, defendants violated his constitutional rights by interfering with his distribution of his sample ballot ("Sample Ballot") on the first day of early voting. Id. ¶¶ 19, 21.3

Two motions are pending. First, Berryman and Muse have moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF 21), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 21-2, "Memorandum" or "Def. Memo.") (collectively with ECF 21, the "Motion" or "Motion to Dismiss"). Plaintiff opposes the Motion (ECF 25, "Opposition"), and appended five exhibits to the Opposition. See ECF 25-1 through ECF 25-5.4 Defendants have replied (ECF 26, "Reply"). Second, plaintiff has filed a "Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Second Amended Complaint)" (ECF 27,

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"Motion to Amend"), supported by four exhibits.5 See ECF 27-1 and ECF 27-3 through ECF 27-5. The Motion to Amend was filed after the briefing of the Motion to Dismiss. See ECF 21, Motion; ECF 27, Motion to Amend. Defendant opposes the Motion to Amend. ECF 28.

No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will grant in part and deny in part defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF 21), and deny plaintiff's Motion to Amend (ECF 27).

I. Procedural Background

In his initial Complaint, plaintiff sued several defendants in their individual and official capacities: Secretary of State John P. McDonough; Assistant Attorney General Kathleen E. Wherthey; Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler; State Senator Muse; Deputy L. Berryman; Jared DeMarinis, a Director of the Maryland State Board of Elections; and Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Larnzell Martin, Jr. See ECF 1 at 1, Complaint. The original Complaint contained four counts. Count I, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged "Deprivation of Constitutional Rights under Color of State Law," including plaintiff's rights under the First, Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, and cited alleged acts of defendants McDonough, Wherthey, Gansler, Muse, Berryman, and Judge Martin. Id. at 4. Count II, brought pursuant to "42 U.S.C. § 1983-1996," alleged "Civil Conspiracy to Interfere with Constitutional Rights under color of state law in violation of Plaintiff's rights [under the] 1st, 6th and 14th Amendment," and cited acts of defendant Gansler. Id. at 16. Count III, brought

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pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged "Selective Treatment under Color of State Law and Equal Protection of the Law, 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteeing Equal Protection of the Law," and cited acts of defendants DeMarinis and Gansler. Id. at 20. Count IV, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged "Violation of 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteeing DUE PROCESS OF LAW," based upon a "Lack of Jurisdiction to Prosecute - Administrative and Investigative Misconduct," and cited acts of defendant Gansler. Id. at 27. Plaintiff's Sample Ballot, which is central to the parties' dispute, was submitted as an exhibit to the Complaint. ECF 1-4.6 And, the first page of the Sample Ballot is appended to the Opposition. ECF 25-2.

By Order dated September 11, 2013 (ECF 2), Judge Alexander Williams, to whom this case was initially assigned, dismissed Judge Martin as a defendant, sua sponte, on the ground that Judge Martin was entitled to judicial immunity, ECF 2 at 1-2, in connection with "actions taken in his capacity as a state court judge." Id. at 1 n.1 (citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978)). In a Memorandum Opinion (ECF 16) and Order (ECF 17) dated August 7, 2014, I dismissed all counts against all defendants with prejudice, except for Count I as to Deputy Berryman and Senator Muse, which was dismissed without prejudice. ECF 16 at 59-60, Memorandum Opinion; ECF 17, Order. As to the two remaining defendants, I granted plaintiff leave to amend Count I. ECF 17 ¶ 3, Order. Plaintiff timely filed his Amended Complaint. ECF 18, Am. Complaint.

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II. Factual Background 7

As noted, in 2010, Mathis sought the Democratic nomination for a seat on the Prince George's County Council. ECF 18 ¶¶ 7, 9, Am. Complaint. Muse also ran for reelection in 2010. Id. ¶ 5. Although Mathis describes himself as "one of the top candidates" for the office he sought, he was defeated in the Democratic primary election by Obie Patterson. Id. ¶ 9. Mathis characterizes Patterson as "[t]he preferred candidate of the Democratic machine and Senator C. Anthony Muse . . . ." Id.

During the primary campaign, Mathis, in his capacity "as a representative of the community group, Citizens for Change, participated in the production and distribution" of a Sample Ballot. Id. ¶ 7. The Sample Ballot purports to be the "Official Democratic Ballot" for the "26th District [of] Prince Georges County," with a photograph of then Governor Martin O'Malley and then Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, among others. ECF 1-4 at 1, Sample Ballot. It contains the names of various candidates, with certain boxes checked. Id. at 3-4. For example, for the office of State Senator, both Albert Chatmon and C. Anthony Muse are listed. Id. at 3. But, there is an "X" in the checkbox for Chatmon. Seven candidates are listed for Councilman in District 8, and plaintiff's name is the only one with a check mark. Id.

On the back page, the Sample Ballot states, in small type: "By Authority, Citizens for Change, Charles Summers, Treasurer." Id. at 1. On the same page, the document also contains the following address:

Democrats 2010

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26th District
1300 Mercantile Lane
Largo, MD 20774

Mathis asserts that the Sample Ballot "presented a direct challenge to Defendant Muse's slate of candidates . . . ." ECF 18 ¶ 17, Am. Complaint. As to the purpose behind the Sample Ballot, plaintiff explains, id. ¶ 7:

Plaintiff has been an outspoken critic of slate and sample ballot tactics used by the Democratic political machine as a tool to mislead voters and ensure their odds of winning elections. Plaintiff's production of the sample ballot with alternative candidates for office was purposely designed to change the dynamics of how the Democratic machine intentionally misled voters for the machine's preferred candidates.

Plaintiff's allegations focus on an incident concerning the distribution of his Sample Ballot that occurred on September 6, 2010, at the Oxon Hill Library, a public library in Prince George's County, on the first day of early voting for the primary election. Id. ¶¶ 12, 18. One news article characterized the events in question as a "heated confrontation" involving several candidates and their supporters. ECF 1-5 at 2, "Muse investigates 'fake' campaign ballots," Gazette (Sept. 22, 2010).8

As to defendants' particular role in these events, plaintiff alleges that Senator Muse "objected to Plaintiff's sample ballot . . . ." ECF 18 ¶ 11, Am. Complaint. Further, he avers that Senator Muse "falsely stated that only he as the Senator was authorized to produce and distribute a sample ballot." Id. Plaintiff contends that, in an effort to prevent Mathis from distributing the Sample Ballots, Senator Muse, "under color of law, summoned the Prince George's County

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Police Department and the Sheriff's Department and under his direction [Senator Muse] ordered the Sheriff deputies led by Deputy Berryman to intimidate Plaintiff and his supporters by confiscating Plaintiff's political literature." Id. ¶ 13 (alteration in Am. Complaint). According to plaintiff, Senator Muse also directed Deputy Berryman and the other deputies to "intimidate Plaintiff's supporters under threat of arrest to cease and desist distribution of Plaintiff's sample ballot." Id. ¶ 14.

In plaintiff's view, Senator Muses's orders "resulted in Deputy Berryman and other Sheriff's deputies confiscating Plaintiff's political literature [on September 6, 2010,] and intimidating him . . . ." Id. ¶ 15. In particular, plaintiff alleges that Deputy Berryman "detained...

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