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Darcus v. Middle River Regional Jail

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

January 2, 2015

ANTHONY DION DARCUS, Plaintiff,
v.
MIDDLE RIVER REGIONAL JAIL, ET AL., Defendants.

Anthony Dion Darcus, Pro Se Plaintiff.

OPINION

JAMES P. JONES, District Judge.

Plaintiff Anthony Dion Darcus, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that jail officials placed him "in the hole" without notice and interviewed him about potential criminal violations without Miranda warnings. Upon review of the allegations, I find that the lawsuit must be summarily dismissed without prejudice.

Darcus was detained in the general population of the Middle River Regional Jail, pending a trial scheduled for August 13, 2014. He alleges that on August 6, 2014, officers escorted him to a segregation cell, stating that he was under investigation by Captain Mowbray. On August 8, officers served him with a warrant for violating a protective order. Darcus states that "Ms. Christina Davis who[m] I have charges pending against called to the jail (for the second time) and told officers whatever she told them to lock me up." (V.S. 3, EFT No. 2.)

On August 12, 2014, the day before trial, Darcus told Mowbray during a recorded interview that the protective order was issued after Ms. Davis, out of jealousy, lied to jail officials about Darcus. Mowbray then stopped the interview and asked Darcus who his attorney was. Mowbray asked "about [Darcus] writing Ms. Davis, and said depending on how court went would determine when, or if [he] was released from the hole and possibl[y] charged with felonies for the letters." ( Id. 4.) Darcus asserts that he "was coerced and intimidated into taking that plea" because he "was scared and ready to get out of the hole."[1] ( Id. ) In this § 1983 action, Darcus sues the jail and Mowbray, seeking monetary damages, expungement of the charges to which he pleaded, and release from confinement.

The court must 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 upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). To state a claim under § 1983, the plaintiff must allege facts showing that a person acting under color of state law undertook conduct that violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Cooper v. Sheehan, 735 F.3d 153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013).

As an initial matter, Darcus cannot prevail in any § 1983 claim against the jail itself. A jail is not a "person" subject to suit under § 1983. Preval v. Reno, No. 99-6950, 2000 WL 20591, at *1 (4th Cir. Jan. 13, 2000) (unpublished); McCoy v. Chesapeake Corr. Ctr., 788 F.Supp. 890, 893-94 (E.D. Va. 1992) (finding that city is not a person for purposes of § 1983).

While a jail official like Captain Mowbray is a state actor subject to suit under § 1983, Darcus fails to allege facts stating any actionable claim against this defendant. Darcus apparently complains that Mowbray's actions - placing him in segregation and interviewing him about his interactions with Ms. Davis - somehow caused Darcus to be wrongfully convicted pursuant to a coerced guilty plea. Claims of this nature, challenging the fact of the plaintiff's confinement, are not actionable under § 1983 unless the judgment imposing the term of confinement has been overturned or set aside. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994).

[I]n order to recover damages for... harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, ... or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.... A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated.

Id. (footnote omitted).

If Darcus could prove, as he alleges, that Mowbray's actions caused him to be wrongfully convicted, such findings would necessarily imply that the state court's judgment under which he is now incarcerated was in error. Because Darcus offers no evidence that this judgment has been overturned or expunged, any cause of action for damages which he may have against anyone for wrongful actions that contributed to the procurement of that judgment has not yet accrued. Id. Therefore, Darcus' §1983 claims against Mowbray for contributing to his allegedly unlawful confinement are not yet actionable under § 1983.[2]

For the stated reasons, I will dismiss the entire Complaint without prejudice under § 1915A(b)(1).

A separate Final Order will be entered herewith.


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