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Gooden v. Muse

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

December 17, 2013

WILLIAM W. MUSE, ET AL., Defendant(s)


GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief District Judge.

Aubrey Dion Gooden, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] In his voluminous complaint, Gooden alleges that Virginia Parole Board members have unfairly classified him as ineligible for discretionary parole, prison medical personnel have deprived him of adequate medical care, prison officials have mishandled his grievances and retaliated against him for filing them, an officer purposely tricked him into eating pork in violation of his religious tenets, and various state court personnel have erroneously decided legal issues, all in violation of his constitutional rights.[2] Upon review of the record, the court finds that the complaint must be summarily dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

Standard of Review

The court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the court determines the action or claim is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The court's review under § 1915A(b)(1) for frivolousness allows dismissal of a claim "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or on "factual contentions [that] are clearly baseless." Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989) (applying prior version of § 1915(d), authorizing courts to dismiss frivolous claims filed in forma pauperis).

A plaintiff purporting to state a claim under § 1983 must establish that he has been deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that this deprivation resulted from conduct committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42 (1988). In reviewing Gooden's allegations, the court must assume "all well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegations in the complaint to be true, " but need not assume the veracity of "bare legal conclusions." Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc. , 658 F.3d 388, 391 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiffs allegations do not state an actionable claim unless he "pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662 , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (finding dismissal appropriate where plaintiffs factual allegations do not support "plausible" claim for relief).

Discussion of Claims

Gooden's complaint and supplemental complaint present 20 claims against more than two dozen individuals in various regions of the state. For the sake of clarity and brevity in this opinion, the court will group the claims and the facts offered in support according to subject matter.

A. Parole Issues (Claims 1-5)[3]

According to Gooden, in 1987, he was convicted of an armed robbery in Norfolk and an armed robbery in Portsmouth. For the latter conviction, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison with 7 years suspended. In 1995, Virginia abolished discretionary parole for offenses committed on or after January 1, 1995. See Va. Code Ann. § 53.1-165.1. Parole authorities granted Gooden discretionary parole, and he was released in 1997. In 2000, Gooden shot and killed a "home invader" and, after being questioned by police, absconded to Florida. Authorities later arrested and returned him to Virginia. For absconding from parole on the 1987 Portsmouth sentence, he was sentenced to serve the 7-year sentence that the court had previously suspended. He was also convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years. He is now serving active sentences totaling 27 years.

In March 2010, Gooden received notice that he is no longer eligible for discretionary parole consideration under Virginia Code § 53.1-151(B1), based on an erroneous finding that he had been convicted of a third robbery in October 2000. (ECF No. 1, p. 9) (emphasis added). His parole eligibility date, which had previously been listed as April 2020, suddenly changed to January 2023.

Virginia Code § 53.1-151(B1) establishes a person's ineligibility for parole as follows:

Any person convicted of three separate felony offenses of (i) murder, (ii) rape or (iii) robbery by the presenting of firearms or other deadly weapon, or any combination of the offenses specified in subdivisions (i), (ii) or (iii) when such offenses were not part of a common act, transaction or scheme shall not be eligible for parole.

Gooden is convinced that this statute does not apply to him, because he was not convicted of murder before January 1, 1995, and has never been convicted of a third robbery offense. On May 27, 2011, however, the Parole Board denied Gooden's final appeal, advising him that "review [of] his appeal of parole ineligibility status in accordance with the provisions of Virginia Code Section 53.1-151(B1) [had] determined [Gooden] to be ineligible for discretionary parole consideration."[4] (ECF No. 1, p. 14) Gooden filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Portsmouth Circuit Court seeking a finding that he is eligible for parole, but moved for and was granted a voluntary nonsuit in July of 2012. He then filed his § 1983 complaint here in May of 2013.

In Claims 1 through 5, Gooden sues individual members of the Virginia Parole Board, past and present, for allegedly unfair practices in considering him for parole. He asserts that the Board's May 27, 2011 action, revoking his parole eligibility on his pre-1995 offense, deprived him of due process and violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. As relief on these claims, he seeks injunctive and declaratory relief regarding his eligibility for discretionary parole ...

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