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Whitt v. Yancey

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

May 29, 2015



M. HANNAH LAUCK, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Wendy Hobbs, Tammy Brown, and Lisa Hernandez's ("Moving Defendants" or "Wardens") Motion to Dismiss the matter against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[1] (ECF No. 16.) The Moving Defendants seek to dismiss the only count in the complaint alleged against them, Count One. Because only some of the defendants bring the motion to dismiss, the Court will refer to it as "the Wardens' Motion."

Plaintiff Nellie Sue Whitt was an inmate at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women ("VCCW"). In Count One, Whitt sues Wendy Hobbs, Tammy Brown and Lisa Hernandez, all of whom, over time, have acted as warden of VCCW. Although Whitt has been released, her claims all stem from events during her incarceration. Whitt sues each of the Moving Defendants in their individual and official capacities.

Count One also alleges claims against defendant Levi Yancey, a "Correctional Administrator" or "Unit Counselor" at VCCW.[2] Whitt claims that Yancey engaged in ongoing acts of sexual misconduct against her. Yancey, appearing pro se, does not join the Wardens' Motion and instead filed an answer. (ECF No. 15.) Whitt sues Yancey in his individual and official capacities.

Whitt filed a response to the Wardens' Motion, and the Wardens replied. (ECF Nos. 21, 22.) The matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before the Court adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331[3] and 1343.[4]

For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss as to Defendant Hobbs and deny the Motion to Dismiss as to Brown and Hernandez.

I. Standard of Review

"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) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). 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, 1 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952.

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) (omission in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, 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); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). A plaintiff must assert not just speculative or conceivable facts, but facts that state a plausible claim on the face of a complaint. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, 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)).

II. Procedural and Factual Background

A. Summary of Allegations in Whitt's Complaint[5]

In Count One of the Complaint, Whitt alleges, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [6] that all Defendants violated her rights under the Eighth[7] and Fourteenth[8] Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, § 9 of the Constitution of Virginia.[9]

At all times relevant to this action, Whitt was an inmate in the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections, held at either Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women ("FCCW") or the VCCW. From "the first time material hereto" until "approximately late 2011, " Defendant Hobbs worked as the Warden of VCCW. (Compl. ¶ 6.) From late 2011 until "the end of all times material hereto, " Defendant Brown served as the Warden of VCCW. ( Id. ¶ 7.) During "all times material hereto, " Defendant Hernandez performed as the Assistant Warden of VCCW. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Hernandez is now Warden. Whitt sues the Moving Defendants in their individual and official capacities.

In February 1994, the Bedford County Circuit Court sentenced Whitt to forty years' incarceration upon her conviction for first-degree murder. The Commonwealth of Virginia first assigned her to VCCW in Goochland, Virginia. In April 1998, she was transferred to FCCW, and in November 2006, she was transferred back to VCCW. Whitt remained at VCCW until approximately July 2013, at which time she ...

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