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Allen v. Owen

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

July 31, 2014

DERRICK WADDELL ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
JULIA K. OWEN, EDWIN F. LONG, III, ERIC WASHBURN, JASON SCOTT EISNER, JENNIFER L. ALLMOND, and JUDGE STACEY MOREAU, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JACKSON L. KISER, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' respective motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The matter has been briefed by the parties, and I heard oral arguments on the motions on July 21, 2014. For the reasons stated in open court and set forth more fully herein, Defendants Judge Stacey Moreau and Eric Washburn are protected by absolute immunity, and relevant Supreme Court precedent bars Plaintiff's claims against all other defendants. See Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed.[1]

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[2]

Plaintiff Derrick Waddell Allen ("Plaintiff") had previously been convicted in Virginia state court and, in August of 2012, was on probation. On August 4, 2012, Defendant Probation Officer Julia K. Owen ("Owen") "prepared and filed a Major Violation Order alleging two confirmations of a probation violation." (Compl. pg. 6 [ECF No. 3].) Owen alleged that Plaintiff had twice tested positive for cocaine during random urine screens for drugs. Plaintiff was tried for his Probation Violation in the Circuit Court of the City of Danville on October 31, 2012, with Defendant Judge Stacey Moreau ("Judge Moreau") presiding. (See id. at 14.)

According to Plaintiff, Defendant Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Eric Washburn ("Washburn")[3] prosecuted the alleged violation in state court. Plaintiff was represented by Defendant Jason Scott Eisner ("Eisner") of the Danville Public Defender's Office. At the hearing, Owen "was asked to take the witness stand, in which, Public Defender Jason Scott Eisner asked Probation Officer Julia K. Owen; Did you submit any evidence?' Probation Officer Julia K. Owen replied No.'" (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff asserts that, according to Owen's sworn testimony, there was "no evidence" to "substantiate its claim prepared by Probation Officer Julia K. Owen...." (Id.)

Plaintiff also asserts that, during the hearing, he "asked the Judge twice for evidence, the prosecutor said twice we don't need any evidence.['] The public defender ask[ed] for evidence, in [ sic ] which the prosecutor again say [ sic ] we don't need any evidence.[']" (Id. at 4 ΒΆ 6.) According to Plaintiff, he later received transcripts that had these "key statements omitted." (Id.) Defendant Jennifer Allmond ("Allmond") was the court reporter tasked with transcribing the proceedings, and Plaintiff accuses her of "purg[ing]... important key messages" from the transcript of his October 31 hearing. (Id. at 27-28.) Plaintiff claims that Allmond improperly omitted Washburn stating-five separate times-that he did not need evidence to convict Plaintiff of the probation violation. (See id.)

Although the nature of Defendant Probation Officer Edwin Long's ("Long") involvement is unclear, Plaintiff asserts that Long "had violated him without cause" prior to his encounter with Owen in February 2012. (See id. at 10.) He later states that, in August of 2012, Long directed that Plaintiff be arrested following a urine test. (Id.) Plaintiff states:

On August 14, 2012; while at the probation office at Deer Run Road in Danville, Virginia where I reported for urine testing by color-code blue; after speaking with assigned Probation Officer Julia K. Owen who never said any thing to me about any violation of probation; Probation Officer Edwin F. Long III approached me and told me that a police officer (who was just entering the building) wanted to talk to me. When I approached the police officer I was detained (held against my will); arrested (abducted); and transported to Danville City Jail (kidnapped); placed in a holding cell (false arrest); and wrongfully and unlawfully imprisoned.

(Id. at 13.) Plaintiff does not indicate whether his urine screen was positive that day, but he does assert that the two positive urine screens which formed the basis of the violation in question could not have happened because "these so-called confirmations are three (3) months apart: note that Virginia probation has a zero tolerance policy, therefore those two confirmations are against policy those confirmations never occurred." (Id.) Plaintiff contends that this "whole matter [is] a premeditated conspiracy between probation officer Julia K. Owen and Edwin F. Long III." (Id. at 12.)

After his conviction, Plaintiff asserts that he received a copy of the lab report of his urine sample from his public defender, Defendant Eisner. According to Plaintiff, that report mentions the "unacceptability of the urine sample and the undetermined measures of why, " and Plaintiff claims the lab report indicated that the sample was unacceptable because of a "specimen leak." (Id. at 13, 17.) Plaintiff did not include a copy of the lab report with his Complaint.

Plaintiff appealed his state court conviction to the Court of Appeals of Virginia.[4] On September 25, 2013, the Court of Appeals denied Plaintiff's appeal. (See id. at pg. 3 Ex. C [ECF No. 19].)

On May 15, 2014, Defendants Owen, Long, Eisner, and Judge Moreau filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Joint Mot. to Dismiss, May 15, 2014 [ECF No. 7].) Defendant Allmond filed a similar motion three days later. (Allmond Mot. to Dismiss, May 18, 2014 [ECF No. 8].) Defendant Washburn filed his Motion to Dismiss on June 4, 2014. (Washburn Mot. to Dismiss, June 4, 2014 [ECF No. 18].) Plaintiff was issued notices in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison , 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), and he responded in a timely manner. (See Pl.'s Resp. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, May 22, 2014 [ECF No. 9]; Pl.'s Resp. in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, June 6, 2014 [ECF No. 23].) The parties argued the motions and their respective positions on July 21, 2014. The matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

As an initial matter, pro se complaints are held to "less stringent standards than the formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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. In determining facial plausibility, I must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Id . The Complaint must contain "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...." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the Complaint must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [the] claim." Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & ...


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