Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Judicial Notice of Internet Evidence Taken on 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss without Converting It into a Summary Judgment Motion — Newspaper Website — Article Stating Date Official (a Defendant) Appointed to Office

Jones v. Chapman, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96964 (D. Md. July 24, 2015):

This case arises from allegations of police brutality in connection with the untimely death of Tyrone A. West, Sr. ("Mr. West" or the "Decedent") on July 18, 2013.1 Tawanda Jones, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Tyrone A. West, Sr. ("West Estate"); Nashay West; Tyrone West, Jr.; and T.W., a minor child, by Mary Agers, as Guardian and next of friend of T.W., plaintiffs, filed suit against various Baltimore City law enforcement officers, alleging, inter alia, the use of excessive force against the Decedent following a traffic stop that was allegedly unlawful. See ECF 2 ("Complaint").

1. The Decedent was 44 years old at the time of his death. Justin Fenton, "Tyrone West files show passenger's account of death in policy custody," THEBALTIMORESUN(Jan. 23, 2014), tyrone-west-jorge-bernardez-ruiz-kitmore-road.

Tawanda Jones is the sister of the Decedent. ECF 2 ¶ 4, Complaint. Nashay West, Tyrone West, Jr., and T.W. are children of the Decedent. Id. ¶¶ 5-7. They sued Baltimore City Police Officers Nicholas David Chapman; Jorge Omar Bernardez-Ruiz; Matthew Rea Cioffi; Eric Maurice Hinton; Alex Ryan Hashagen; Danielle Angela Lewis; Derrick Dewayne Beasley; and Latreese Nicole [*2]  Lee (collectively, "BPD Officer Defendants"). In addition, plaintiffs sued

Anthony W. Batts, who was Commissioner of the BPD from September 2012 to July 2015.4

4. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appointed Commissioner Batts, with the "advice and consent of the Baltimore City Council." ECF 2 ¶ 10, Complaint. Of relevance here, he was appointed in September 2012. Justin Fenton, "Contract approved for new city Police Commissioner Batts," THE BALTIMORESUN(Sept. 12, 2012), But, he was not sworn into office until November 8, 2012. Justin Fenton, "Batts [*3]  formally sworn in as Baltimore police commissioner," THE BALTIMORESUN(Nov. 8, 2012), anthony-w-batts-violent-crime-mayor-stephanie-rawlings-blake.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake fired Batts on July 8, 2015, in the aftermath of the riots that erupted in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, and due to a wave of violence that has plagued the City. See Associated Press, "Baltimore mayor fires police chief in wake of Gray case, spike in violence," WASH. POST(July 8, 2015),; Yvonne Wenger, "Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake fires Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts," THE BALTIMORESUN(Jul. 10, 2015),


II.  Standard of Review

Batts's Motion is predicated on Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."


Ordinarily, in resolving a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court "is not to consider matters outside the pleadings . . . ." Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007); see Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013). If a court considers material outside of the pleadings, "the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56," in which case "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). Under certain limited exceptions, however, a court may consider documents beyond the complaint [*22]  without converting the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. Goldfarb v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, No. 14-1825, 2015 WL 3973598, at *6 (4th Cir. July 1, 2015).

For instance, without converting a motion under Rule 12(d), "a court may properly take judicial notice of 'matters of public record' and other information that, under Federal Rule of Evidence 201, constitute 'adjudicative facts.'"20 Id.; see Fed. R. Evid. 201(b) (stating, that a "court may judicially notice a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it . . . can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned"); see also Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 466 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 132S. Ct. 115 (2011); Philips v. Pitt County Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, "[i]t is not uncommon for courts to take judicial notice of factual information found on the world wide web." O'Toole v. Northrop Grumman Corp., 499 F.3d 1218, 1225 (10th Cir. 2007); cf. Jeandron v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. Sys. of Maryland, 510 F. App'x 223, 227 (4th Cir. 2013) (noting that the court may take judicial notice of information on a website, "so long as the web site's authenticity is not in dispute"). However, "these facts [must be] construed in the light most favorable" to the non-movant. Clatterbuck, 708 F.3d at 557.

20" Adjudicative facts are simply the facts of the particular case." Fed. R. Evid. 201 advisory comm. nn.

In resolving the motion to dismiss, I have taken judicial notice of the fact that Batts was sworn into office on November 8, 2012. Justin Fenton, "Batts formally sworn in as Baltimore police commissioner," [*23]  THEBALTIMORESUN(Nov. 8, 2012), 2012-11-08/news/bs-md-ci-batts-sworn-in-20121108_1_anthony-w-batts-violent-crime-mayor-stephanie-rawlings-blake.

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