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Moss v. Lynchburg Police Department

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

January 13, 2014

KEITH EDWARD MOSS, Plaintiff,
v.
LYNCHBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MICHAEL F. URBANSKI, District Judge.

Keith Edward Moss, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, instituted a civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming the Lynchburg Police Department ("Police Department") and the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center ("Jail") as defendants. Plaintiff alleges that members of the Police Department have harassed Plaintiff for several years with assaults, threats, fictitious charges, illegal searches and seizures, and slander. Plaintiff further alleges that Jail staff unlawfully incarcerated him, assaulted him three times, denied him telephone privileges and legal paperwork, and withheld money from his inmate trust account. None of these allegations state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice.

The court must dismiss any action or claim filed by an inmate if the court determines that the action or claim is frivolous or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A(b)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). A complaint needs "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" and sufficient "[f]actual allegations... to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). A plaintiff's basis for relief "requires more than labels and conclusions...." Id . Therefore, a plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [the] claim."[1] Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co. , 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003).

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The Jail is not a "person" for purposes of § 1983. See McCoy v. Chesapeake Corr. Ctr. , 788 F.Supp. 890, 894 (E.D. Va. 1992) (reasoning that a jail is not an appropriate defendant to a § 1983 action). Although the Police Department can be a proper defendant via municipal liability, municipal liability cannot exist without an underlying constitutional violation. Monell v. Department of Social Services , 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978); see City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle , 471 U.S. 808, 823 (1985) (describing the types of policies and customs that may be challenged via municipal liability). Plaintiff's allegations about various violations of federal rights by unidentified staff are based on mere labels and conclusions, which are insufficient to state an actionable claim. Furthermore, Plaintiff does not describe the Police Department as the "moving force" behind the alleged violations. See, e.g., Polk County v. Dodson , 454 U.S. 312, a claim 326 (1981). Accordingly, the court dismisses the Complaint without prejudice for failing to state upon which relief may be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).


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