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Anbessa v. Riddick

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

May 2, 2016

C. S. RIDDICK, et al., Defendants.



Tekur Dalga Anbessa, a Virginia prisoner proceeding pro se, submitted this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] The Court has granted Anbessa's Motion to Amend, and the action proceeds on his Amended Complaint ("Complaint, " ECF No. 11-1.) The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.


Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner 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); see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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)). 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) (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, 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 will not act as the inmate's advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that 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).


In a lengthy and rambling Complaint, Anbessa raises several Fourteenth Amendment due process challenges[2] to his institutional conviction. Anbessa explains that on July 12, 2014, Anbessa "was masturbating off of Ofc Riddick inside [his] cell while the pod was gone to outside recreation." (Compl. ¶ 10.) Anbessa admits that he had engaged in such behavior "for 6-7 months prior." (Id.) However, on July 12, 2014, Officer Riddick "wrote [him] a 137A charge for 'lewd or obscene acts' directed toward or in the presence of another." (Id.) On July 22, 2014, Institutional Hearing Officer ("IHO") Mabrey found Anbessa guilty of the lesser included offense of indecent exposure, and imposed a fine of $12.00. (Id. ¶ 13.) Anbessa complains that Defendants[3] violated his due process rights during the institutional hearing leading to a loss of certain privileges.

In the second portion of his Complaint, Anbessa complains about his incarceration in a male-only prison environment. For example, Anbessa asserts that Defendants have "subjected] [him] to a level of living treatment and condition that deprives [him] of [his] right to have sex and reproduction with a woman." (Id. ¶ 32.) Anbessa also contends that the male-only prison environment fosters homosexual behavior and lifestyles. (Id. ¶¶ 33-35.)

The Court here generously construes Anbessa to raise the following claims for relief:

Claim One: Defendants violated Anbessa's due process rights by:
(a) suspending his telephone and visitation privileges; and,
(b) increasing his security classification.
Claim Two: Defendants violated Anbessa's due process rights by failing to afford him adequate process in the institutional hearing before taking away his ...

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