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Chapman v. Bacon

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

March 17, 2016

LOUIS ROY CHAPMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
G. BACON, et al, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

M. HANNAH LAUCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Louis Ray Chapman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The action is proceeding on Chapman's Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 16.) The matter is before the Court on the Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 21, 22) filed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, D.A. Slaw, and R. Woodson, [2] the Court's authority to review complaints by individuals proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and Chapman's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 37). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim with respect to Defendants Slaw and Woodson (ECF No. 22). Regarding the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Court will GRANT the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (ECF No. 21). The Court will DENY Chapman's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 37).

I. Standard for Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

When an individual is proceeding in forma pauperis, this Court must dismiss the action if the Court determines the action (1) "is frivolous" or (2) "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The first standard includes claims based upon "'an indisputably meritless legal theory, '" or claims where the '"factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Clay v. Yates, 809 F.Supp. 417, 427 (E.D. Va. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)), aff'd, No. 93-6534, 1994 WL 520975, at * 1 (4th Cir. Sept. 23, 1994). The second standard is the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

"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 5A 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, 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) (omission 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 assert facts that rise above speculation and conceivability to those that "show" a claim that is "plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); 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." Id. 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, 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) (citations omitted). 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 Claims and Pertinent Allegations

Chapman's Amended Complaint spans twenty-five pages and lists nine separate claims for relief.[3] The Court recites here only those allegations pertinent to the claims against Defendants Slaw and Woodson. Chapman makes the following claims against Defendants Slaw and Woodson:

Claim 7 By falsely keeping Chapman in punitive segregation, Institutional Hearings Officer Slaw violated Chapman's rights under (a) the Fourteenth Amendment[4] and (b) the Eighth Amendment.[5] (Am. Compl. 3.)
Claim 8 C. Jones, the LVCC Facility Ombudsman and R. Woodson, the Regional Ombudsman, violated Chapman's rights under the First Amendment[6] and the Fourteenth Amendment by failing "to process valid complaints, " by failing "to give tracking numbers, " and by "respond[ing] to grievance[s] concerning her (Jones)" in violation of institutional procedures. (Id.)

A. Background

On December 10, 2013, while housed in LVCC, Chapman was struck by his cellmate, Marcus Gunn. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3.) On "December 18, 2013, Gunn put his arm and hand on Chapman's chest to keep [Chapman] from leaving his cell." (Id.4.) Chapman did not report either of the above incidents to prison officials. (Id., ¶ 5.)

On January 30, 2014, in response to Chapman's request that Gunn turn down his CD player, Gunn kicked Chapman in the face and then began punching Chapman. (Id. ¶ 2.) "Chapman did NOT fight Gunn." (Id.) "Chapman was bleeding into his left eye, down his face onto his shirt and undershirt, from the cut put there by Gunn with his boot." (Id.) Chapman contends that, "Marcus Gunn, a known ...


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