Urbanewitz v. Cecil Coll.

Decision Date01 March 2022
Docket NumberCivil Action RDB-21-2175
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland


Plaintiff Karl Urbanewitz (Plaintiff or “Urbanewitz”), proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action against Defendant Cecil College (the College), alleging violations of his rights to due process and equal protection under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Articles 17 and 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Urbanewitz originally filed suit against the College in the Circuit Court for Cecil County, Maryland. See Case No. C-07-CV-21-000195. Cecil College removed this case to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Presently pending before this Court is the College's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (ECF No. 10.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary.[1] See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md 2021). For the reasons that follow, the College's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10) is GRANTED and this case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court “accept[s] as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black &amp Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). On January 24, 2008, Plaintiff Karl Urbanewitz was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree sexual offense following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Maryland. (Maryland Judiciary Case Search Report, Case No. 17-K-07-006653, ECF No. 10-4.)[2] He is registered with the state of Maryland as a Tier III sex offender. (Sex Offender Registry Data, ECF N0. 10-3.) As of November 2019 Urbanewitz was enrolled in a dance class at Cecil College. (Compl., ECF No. 1-4 at 3.)[3] On November 1, 2019, Cheryl Davis-Robinson, Cecil College's Director of Student Life, wrote to Urbanewitz informing him that the College had discovered that he was Tier III Registered Sex Offender and requesting that he provide the information required by the College's Convicted Felons and Registered Sex Offenders Policy.[4] (ECF No. 1-4 at 3; Email Correspondence, ECF No. 1-5.) The College gave him the option to present this information either in person before the Enrollment Review Board or by writing. (ECF No. 1-5.) Urbanewitz responded to the letter by forwarding the probation order from his criminal case. (ECF No. 1-4 at 3; ECF No. 1-5.) On November 22, 2019, the College informed Urbanewitz that it had concluded that his presence on campus represented a threat to minor students. (ECF No. 1-4 at 3-4; ECF No. 1-5.) Urbanewitz was banned from all Cecil College activities and events and his dance class registration was cancelled. (ECF No. 1-5.) The College informed him of his right to appeal the decision within 14 days. (Id.)

On June 16, 2021, Urbanewitz wrote to the College asking that his privileges to enroll in classes and participate in activities be reinstated. (ECF No. 1-4 at 4.) The College responded by forwarding the Enrollment Review Board decision of November 22, 2019. (Id.) On July 16, 2021, Urbanewitz filed suit in the Circuit Court for Cecil County, Maryland. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1-1.) On August 25, 2021, Cecil College removed this case to this Court. (Id.)


This Court is mindful of its obligation to liberally construe the pleadings of pro se litigants. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (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, Weller v. Department of Social Services, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). In making this determination, this Court “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).

Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). A complaint need not include “detailed factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint must, however, set forth “enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action, “even if . . . [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal quotations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see A Soc'y Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011).

While ruling on motion to dismiss, a court's evaluation is generally limited to allegations contained in the complaint. Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 166-67 (4th Cir. 2016). However, courts may also consider documents explicitly incorporated into the complaint by reference. Id. at 166 (citing Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322, 127 S.Ct. 2499, 168 L.Ed.2d 179 (2007)). In addition, a court may “consider a document submitted by the movant that was not attached to or expressly incorporated in a complaint, so long as the document was integral to the complaint and there is no dispute about the document's authenticity.” Id. (citing Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Nav. Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007)). A document is “integral” when “its ‘very existence, and not the mere information it contains, gives rise to the legal rights asserted.' Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal Sparrows Point, LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 611 (D. Md. 2011) (citation omitted) (emphasis omitted). Considering such documents does not convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. Goldfarb v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015). Accordingly, this Court will consider the Appendix to Plaintiff's Complaint, which contains a record of the email correspondence between him and the College regarding the Enrollment Review Board's investigation and decision. (ECF No. 1-5.) This Court will also consider the College's Convicted Felons and Registered Sex Offenders Policy. (ECF No. 10-6.) The policy is integral to Plaintiff's Complaint because it represents the grounds upon which he was banned from the College. Plaintiff has not challenged the authenticity of this document. This Court may also consider facts and documents subject to judicial notice, such as court documents, without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013).

I. Fifth Amendment Claims

Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claims are subject to dismissal. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution applies only to federal actors. Winfield v. Bass, 106 F.3d 525, 530 n.2 (4th Cir. 1997); see also Ambush v. City of Frederick, WDQ-10-1953, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6525, at *7 (D. Md. Jan. 21, 2011). Cecil College, the sole defendant in this case, is a state institution. (ECF No. 10-1 at 11.) Accordingly, Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claims fail.

II. Article 17 Claims

Plaintiff's Article 17 claims are also subject to dismissal. Article 17 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights provides “that retrospective Laws, punishing acts committed before the existence of such Laws, and by them only declared criminal, are oppressive, unjust and incompatible with liberty; wherefore, no ex post facto Law ought to be made; nor any retrospective oath or restriction be imposed, or required.” Md. Const. Decl. Rights, Art. 17. Plaintiff makes no allegations regarding any retroactive law. “Only the retroactive application of laws will implicate Article 17's protections.” Doe v. Dep't of Pub. Safety & Corr. Servs., 430 Md. 535, 559, 62 A.3d 123, 137 (2013). Accordingly, Plaintiff's Article 17 claims fail.

III. Due Process Claims

To the extent Plaintiff raises due process claims under either Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights or the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, such claims are subject to dismissal. Article 24 provides that “no man ought to be taken or imprisoned or disseized of his freehold, liberties or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or, in any...

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