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Hassan v. Newhart

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

January 9, 2015

MATIN AQUIL HASSAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN NEWHART, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, Senior District Judge.

Matin Aquil Hassan, a former Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] Hassan contends that Defendants Sheriff John Newhart and Lieutenant Vernon L. White ("Defendants") violated his First[2] and Fourteenth[3] Amendment rights during his incarceration in the Chesapeake City Jail. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss for Insufficient Service of Process (ECF No. 22) and, in the alternative, a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 23). For the reasons stated below, the Court will GRANT the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 23) and will DENY AS MOOT the Motion to Dismiss for Insufficient Service of Process (ECF No. 22).

I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

"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) (citation omitted). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs 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

The allegations in Hassan's Complaint are as follows:[4]

I being a believing Muslim for the past 24 years was denied my First and Fourteenth Amendment rights at the Chesapeake City Jail in Chesapeake, VA. My rights were violated due to the fact the Sheriff of Chesapeake City Jail, Mr. John Newhart, and his subordinate, Lt. Vernon L. White, did not provide me access nor adequate means to attend the Friday (Jumah) service that believing Muslims are commanded by GOD to attend on Fridays.
It is and was an emotional, stressful time period for me being that for the past 24 years I attended Friday service every Friday. During my incarceration at the jail from Aug. 15 - Sep. 21, 2012, I was under duress emotionally, and spiritually. Their excuse was I could have a sponsor come in to have to service, but that would not have done any good because the service has to be held in a congregational setting, and in Islam, a congregation consists of 3 people or more, one person to give the sermon and the other two to sit as the congregation. I was the only believing Muslim in the 4B block I was in, nobody else was making the five obligatory prayers daily as I am and was.... Due to the fact that the Friday service was not adequately provided for me by the Sheriff of Chesapeake City Jail and Lt. Vernon L. White, I was emotionally distressed.... That experience is having long term effects on me....

(Compl. 4-5.)

Hassan demands $1, 000, 000.00 and injunctive relief in the form of "having the Friday service implemented." ( Id. at 6.) As explained below, Hassan fails to state a claim against the Defendants.

III. Analysis

In order to state a viable 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). Furthermore, "[b]ecause vicarious liability is inapplicable to... § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must [allege] that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009); Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (noting that the doctrine of respondeat superior is inapplicable to § 1983 actions).

Hassan fails to state a claim against Defendants. Hassan fails to allege any facts suggesting that either Defendant Newhart or Defendant White had any direct involvement or personal responsibility in the deprivation of his constitutional ...


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