Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, No. 12-2173 (4th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants violated his constitutional rights by intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence during his 1988 trial for rape and murder. The district court dismissed the complaint on statute-of-limitations grounds, and, in the alternative, the district court held that the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office enjoyed sovereign immunity, the individual police officers enjoyed qualified immunity, and plaintiff's cause of action against the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The court concluded that plaintiff filed suit within the applicable three year statute of limitations for a personal-injury action under Maryland law and his claims were timely; the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office is not an entity amenable to suit; precedent unmistakably provided that, by 1988, a police officer violates clearly established constitutional law when he suppresses material exculpatory evidence in bad faith; the officers in this case were not entitled to qualified immunity where they were clearly on notice of the impermissibility of their conduct in 1988, the time of the alleged violations; and plaintiff has stated a plausible claim against the BCPD. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court to the extent it dismissed plaintiff's claims against the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office; vacated in all other respects; and remanded for further proceedings.