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Dougherty v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

July 17, 2014

ROBERT W. DOUGHERTY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, Defendantt(s)

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief District Judge.

Robert W. Dougherty, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the sheriff of Fairfax County, and various officials of the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center ("FCADC"), Green Rock Correctional Center ("GRCC"), and Coffeewood Correctional Center. He alleges that each of the defendants took or failed to take some action in violation of his constitutional rights. Upon review of the record, the court finds that the action must be summarily dismissed as frivolous.

I. 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). To state a claim in any federal civil action, the plaintiff's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " to one that is "plausible on its face, " rather than merely "conceivable." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

II. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS

As an initial matter, Dougherty's complaint should actually be split in sections and refiled as at least three separate civil actions. The complaint haphazardly joins multiple claims against multiple defendants from three different jail or prison facilities, with no regard for the restrictions of Rules 18 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] Because the court concludes that all of Dougherty's claims in the action must be summarily dismissed under § 1915A(b)(1) as frivolous, however, the court need not address Dougherty's blatant disregard of the joinder rules.

A. Claims against Nonpersons

As an initial matter, Dougherty's claims against the Commonwealth must be dismissed under § 1915A(b)(1), as frivolous. It is well settled that a state cannot be sued under § 1983. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police , 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) ("[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are persons' under § 1983."). Similarly, Dougherty's claims against the "Office of the Sheriff of Fairfax County" must be dismissed, as this defendant is not a "person" subject to suit under § 1983. Id.

The individual officials that Dougherty names as defendants are state actors subject to suit under § 1983. Dougherty's allegations, however, for the reasons explained herein, do not state any plausible constitutional claim against any of them as necessary to hold anyone liable under § 1983. See Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570.

B. Fairfax County Claims

The first section of Dougherty's complaint asserts that in February and March 2011, several officials at FCADC confiscated his contact lenses, failed to arrange for him to see an eye doctor or to get replacement lenses, and failed to compensate him for a lens that was never returned. He also alleges that an FCADC library official interfered with his attempts to make photocopies and review court rules when Dougherty was preparing pleadings for a state court civil action he filed in November 2011 about his problems with his contact lenses.[2]

The claims alleging wrongful deprivation of Dougherty's contact lenses and access to the law library and to photocopies while at FCADC must be summarily dismissed under § 1915A(b)(1) as time barred under the applicable statute of limitations. When it is clear from the face of a § 1983 complaint that the plaintiffs claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the court may summarily dismiss the complaint without prejudice as legally frivolous. Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Correction , 64 F.3d 951, 956 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc).

A § 1983 claim based on events that occurred in Virginia must be brought within two years from the time when the action accrues or it is barred under Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-243(a), Virginia's statute for general, personal injury claims. See Owens v. Okure , 488 U.S. 235, 239-40 (1989). A claim under § 1983 accrues when plaintiff knows enough about the harm done to him to bring his lawsuit. Nasim , 64 F.3d at 955. It is clear from the face of Dougherty's complaint that he knew in 2011 of the harm he is alleging the FCADC defendants inflicted on him, by confiscating his lenses and interfering with his access to courts. Yet, Dougherty did not file this § 1983 action until mid-February 2014, more than two years later. ...


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