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Melvin v. U.S.A. Today

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

January 20, 2015

PAMELA MELVIN, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S.A. TODAY, et al., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, Senior District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on: (1) Newspaper Defendants' 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss For Failure to State a Claim filed by USA Today, The Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, Newark Star-Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer and Dallas Morning News, Inc. ("the newspaper defendants"), ECF No. 6; (2) Defendant Sun-Times Media, LLC's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), [1] ECF No. 15, and Defendant Sun-Times Media, LLC's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), ECF No. 17, filed by Sun-Times Media, LLC, d/b/a Chicago Sun-Times[2] ("Sun-Times"); and (3) Defendant Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC's Motion to Dismiss Complaint filed by The Boston Globe ("the Globe"), ECF No. 28. Because it is related to the instant matter, the Court will also address Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Amendment of the Complaint ("Motion to Amend") filed by Plaintiff Pamela Melvin ("Melvin"). ECF No. 34. Sun-Times as well as the newspaper defendants together with the Globe[3] oppose Melvin's Motion to Amend. ECF Nos. 35, 36.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 19, 2014, Melvin filed a 173-page, 600-paragraph Complaint against eleven newspapers across the country alleging violations of her constitutional and civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the First Amendment. See Complaint ("Compl."). She also alleged violations under various articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Compl. ¶ 333. On September 3, 2014, six of the eleven defendants, the newspaper defendants, moved to dismiss Melvin's Complaint. On September 8, 2014, Sun-Times separately moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF Nos. 15, 17. On September 16, 2014, the Globe moved to dismiss the Complaint. ECF No. 28.

On October 21, 2014, after this Court granted Melvin an extension of time, see ECF No. 33, to respond to the aforementioned motions to dismiss, Melvin filed a two-page Motion to Amend, in which she seeks "to amend only the federal statute upon which [Melvin's] action was filed." Pl.'s Mot. to Amend at 1. Specifically, she stated as follows:

moves to amend the statute 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (a) by replacing it with the "Civil Rights Act of 1964." Plaintiff replaces statute 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (a) with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on all pages after page 159 and in the First Claim for Relief of the Complaint.

Id. at 1-2. In her Motion to Amend, Melvin "respectfully moves the Court to file a partial Amendment to the Complaint as a matter of course under Rule 15[(a)](1)(B)." Id. at 1. Thus, she argued that she had a right to amend her Complaint as of the date that she filed her Motion to Amend. On October 31, 2014, the newspaper defendants, with the Globe joining, filed an opposition to Melvin's Motion to Amend, requesting that this Court deny Melvin's Motion to Amend because the amendment would be futile. See Newspaper Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Amendment of the Complaint ("Newspaper Defs.' Opp'n") at 2. Likewise, Sun-Times filed its opposition to the Motion to Amend on November 4, 2014, agreeing with the newspaper defendants' argument that the amendment would be futile and requesting that this Court deny the Motion to Amend and enter an Order dismissing with prejudice all of Melvin's claims against Sun-Times. Defendant Sun-Times Media, LLC's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Amendment of the Complaint ("Sun-Times' Opp'n") at 1, 3-4.

Because this matter is before the Court on the a multitude of motions to dismiss filed by the Globe, Sun-Times, and the newspaper defendants, the following facts are drawn from Melvin's Complaint and are construed in the light most favorable to her. Melvin alleges violations of her constitutional and civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the First Amendment, and various articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[4]. In general, Melvin has been mistreated[5] by a variety of individuals and entities, including the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs ("VA"), various judges, and other government officials. See generally Compl. ¶¶ 1-575. Her life is "in grave danger" as a result of criminal and racially discriminatory conduct on the part of the VA and the failure of any United States court of official to protect her. See e.g., id. ¶¶1-3. As a result, she is in "dire need of medical treatment" because she has "suffered devastating harm" from being deprived of treatment. Id. ¶13. Additionally, Melvin states, without much explanation, that attorneys for the VA have created a "one-way Internet system" at her apartment, through which they control her computers and printers. Id. ¶ 3 n.1. As a consequence, Melvin blames the government-since they control her computer and printer-for any errors in her Complaint and adds that she "is safe nowhere as there is no injury, harm, atrocity or act of terrorism that the VA attorneys and others cannot inflict upon her." Id.

Melvin's claims are predicated on the eleven defendants' failure to report Melvin's administrative proceedings and civil actions against the federal government. Id. ¶¶ 18-19, 576, 591-92, 594-95, 597, 600. More specifically, the eleven defendants have published articles about other high-profile "civil cases that were filed by white citizens against the Federal Government, its agencies and its officials, "[6] id. ¶ 576, but they have not reported on Melvin's civil actions because she is African-American, id. ¶¶ 588-594. According to Melvin, "[b]y publishing the court cases filed by white citizens against the federal government and refusing and failing to publish the court cases filed by the Black Plaintiff against the federal government, [the Globe, Sun-Times, and the newspaper defendants] intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff because of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a)." Id. ¶¶ 597, 594-600.

The Complaint seeks a mandatory injunction against all defendants to "publish [] the court cases that Plaintiff filed in the federal courts against the federal government, its officials, and its agencies, as the... [defendants] published the court cases that white citizens filed." Id. at 172-73. The Complaint also seeks damages in excess of $150, 000 against The Washington Post and U.S.A. Today but not against the other newspaper defendants, the Globe, or Sun-Times.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Amending a Complaint

Rule 15(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to amend its complaint as a matter of course within twenty-one (21) days of serving the complaint, or within 21 days after service of a motion to dismiss. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). In all other cases, a party may amend its complaint "only with the other party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Federal Rules instruct courts to "freely give leave when justice so requires." Id. However, "[a] district court may deny a motion to amend when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, the moving party has acted in bad faith, or the amendment would be futile." Equal Rights Ctr. V. Niles Bolton Assocs., 602 F, 3d 597, 603 (4th Cir. 2010).

B. Motion to Dismiss

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011). But "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). On a motion to dismiss, the court's task is limited to determining whether the complaint states "plausible claims for relief." Id. at 679. A complaint must sufficiently contain factual allegations in addition to legal conclusions. Although Rule 8(a)(2) requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "Facts pled that are merely consistent with' liability are not sufficient." A Soc'y Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Melvin's Complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Indeed, "Pro se complaints are to be read liberally, but § 1951(d) does not demand that we conclude [plaintiff] had alleged that he was appealing a criminal conviction returned on the planet Saturn, ' before such a ...


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