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McClain v. Muse

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

July 1, 2014

DENNIS MCCLAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM MUSE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

Dennis McClain, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. Jurisdiction is appropriate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b) and 1343.

I. Preliminary Review

Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner if the Court determines the action (1) "is frivolous" or (2) "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The first standard includes claims based upon "an indisputably meritless legal theory, '" or claims where the "factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Clay v. Yates , 809 F.Supp. 417, 427 (E.D. Va. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). The second standard is the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin , 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari , 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin , 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[ ] only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (second alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id . (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id. (citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id . "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. , 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, therefore, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. , 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp. , 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States , 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke , 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it does not act as the inmate's advocate, sua sponte developing statutory and constitutional claims the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll , 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton , 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

II. Summary of Allegations

McClain, a Virginia inmate eligible for discretionary parole, brings this action against William Muse, Chairman of the Virginia Parole Board ("VPB"), other members of the VPB, [2] and Trudy Harris, an investigator with the VPB (collectively "Defendants").[3] (Compl. 1-2.)[4] McClain raises the following grounds for relief:

Claim One "Defendants abused their discretionary powers by denying Plaintiff['s] appeal without considering the evidence in his appeal." (Id. at 5.)
Claim Two "Defendants abused their discretionary power since the only ground for denial of parole release is based on a factor that will never change...." (Id.)
Claim Three Defendants have denied Plaintiff "parole relief thirteen (13) times in violation of his substantial and procedural due process rights[5] under the same factors (serious nature of offense)." (Id.)
Claim Four "Defendants have applied Va[.] Code § 53.1-155 retroactively toward Plaintiff abolishing his parole eligibility altogether." (Id.)

III. Analysis

In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under color of state law deprived him or her of a constitutional right or of a right conferred by a law of the United States. See Dowe v. Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley , 145 F.3d 653, 658 (4th Cir. 1998) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Here, the only ...


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