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Carr v. Virginia Department of Veterans Services

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Virginia.

April 7, 2014

ROBERT E. CARR, Plaintiff,
v.
VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS SERVICES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Virginia Department of Veterans Services' ("DVS") MOTION TO DISMISS (Docket No. 14). For the reasons set forth below, the MOTION TO DISMISS (Docket No. 14) will be granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Robert E. Carr is a disabled veteran who is a permanent resident at the long-term care facility maintained by DVS, namely the Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center ("the Facility"). Id . Carr has been living at the Facility since August of 2011.

According to Carr, the Facility unlawfully withheld his mail from him on three occasions: on or about August 7, 2012; on or about September 4, 2012; and between January 1, 2013 and March 20, 2013. Carr argues that this conduct violates 18 U.S.C. § 1701, a federal criminal statute prohibiting the willful and knowing obstruction of the delivery of the United States mail. 18 U.S.C. § 1701. In a letter attached to his Complaint, Carr demands redress for these alleged violations in the form of "reasonable, fair, adequate, and just penalties with Fees, Court Cost, Transportation Cost, and Damages" and "[f]ree, secure access and unlimited Internet service" at the facility.

DVS seeks dismissal of the Complaint because: (1) Carr failed to include a statement illustrating the grounds for this Court's jurisdiction; (2) Carr failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted as required by Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6); (3) to the extent that Carr's claim is construed as a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, DVS is immune under the Eleventh Amendment; and (4) to the extent that Carr's claim is construed as a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, DVS is not a "person" subject to such a claim.

ANALYSIS

I. No Statement For Grounds Of Jurisdiction: Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)

It is true that Carr has not included an explicit statement of jurisdiction in his Complaint, and that this omission violates Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1), which requires that a complaint must include a "short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction." However, given a reasonable construction, the Complaint seeks redress for violation of federal law by an entity acting under the color of state law. Thus, it is preferable to interpret the Complaint as if it purports to assert federal jurisdiction.

II. Failure To State A Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted: Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

DVS says that Carr has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, and seeks dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In order to withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), it is necessary that a complaint allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "[T]he court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and the allegations of the complaint must be taken as true." Smithfield Foods, Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Int'l Union , 633 F.Supp.2d 214, 222 (E.D. Va. 2008)

The Complaint here is akin to that in Jones v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27956, *4-6 (E.D. Va. Oct. 27, 2004) wherein Jones alleged various violations of federal criminal law as the basis of his civil complaint against the defendant. In applying the Rule 12(b)(6) standards in Jones, the Court held that "none of the statutes listed provide [sic] a private cause of action or civil penalties. And, as Jones correctly explained, absent clear indication from Congress, courts should not infer a civil cause of action from a criminal statute." Id . (citing California v. Sierra Club , 451 U.S. 287, 297 (1981)). Moreover, "[c]riminal statutes, which express prohibitions rather than personal entitlements and specify a particular remedy other than civil litigation, are accordingly poor candidates for the imputation of private rights of action.'" Jones, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27956, at *4-6 (quoting Doe v. Broderick , 225 F.3d 440, 448 (4th Cir. 2000)). ("Because these are criminal statutes containing prohibitions and particularized remedies, there is no basis to infer a private cause of action. Accordingly, Plaintiff's causes of action based upon these criminal statutes should be dismissed.") Id.

The same analysis obtains here. Carr has alleged, as the crux of his complaint, a violation of the federal criminal code prohibiting obstruction of the mail. The criminal statutes relied on by Carr do not afford a private right of action. Brett v. Brett, 503 F.Appx. 130, 132 (3rd Cir. 2012) (pertaining to 18 U.S.C. § 1702); Hill v. Sands , 403 F.Supp. 1368, 1371 (N.D. Ill. 1975) (pertaining to 18 U.S.C. § 1703). Even if everything in Carr's Complaint is true, the statute affords Carr no relief. ...


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