United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Marquise Leon Nelson, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones United States District Judge
Leon Nelson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that state court employees interfered with his ability to
file court papers in forma pauperis - without payment of
fees. Upon review of Nelson’s complaint, I conclude
that the action must be summarily dismissed as frivolous.
is incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison (“Red
Onion”). He allegedly filed a “Petition for
Judgment” and an application to proceed in forma
pauperis in the Wise County Circuit Court on September 9,
2014. On November 29, 2014, the circuit court denied in forma
pauperis, based on a financial document obtained from the
trust officer at Red Onion, and dismissed Nelson’s
petition. Nelson asserts that the financial document is
also alleges that on July 16, 2015, he mailed the circuit
court a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus and an
application to proceed in forma pauperis. The circuit court
mailed Nelson a copy of its request for Red Onion officials
to provide Nelson’s financial information, but they
allegedly did not comply. Nelson then filed a petition,
asking circuit court officials to order Red Onion officials
to provide a photocopy of Nelson’s financial records
for in forma pauperis purposes.
Nelson received no circuit court response to this petition,
Nelson filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Frustrated when no response issued immediately, Nelson filed
a “Notice of Affidavit by Special Visitation; Prior
Notice of Violation of Petitioner’s Right to Determine
his Indigency, ” stating that the lack of response
indicated the state courts’ agreement with his
accompanying statement of fact. The Supreme Court allegedly
did not respond to Nelson’s filings.
then filed this lawsuit under § 1983. He sues the
“State” of Virginia, the Red Onion warden, the
Wise County clerk and judge, the Clerk of the Supreme Court
of Virginia, and two other individuals, who are apparently
state officials that handled his paperwork at some point. As
relief in this § 1983 action, Nelson seeks a criminal
investigation and criminal charges against anyone related to
the allegedly fraudulent financial information and an order
establishing that Nelson qualifies to proceed in forma
pauperis and is, therefore, entitled to compensation.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court cannot identify any cognizable claims or the complaint
is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a), (b)(1). A frivolous claim is one “based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory” or one
“whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)
(interpreting the term “frivolous” as similarly
used in the former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)).
1983 permits an aggrieved party to file a civil action
against a person for actions taken under color of state law
that violated his constitutional rights. Cooper v.
Sheehan, 735 F.3d 153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013). As a
preliminary matter, Nelson cannot bring a § 1983 suit
against the State of Virginia, because a state is not a
person under § 1983. See, e.g., Will v. Michigan
Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989)
(“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their
official capacities are ‘persons’ under §
1983.”). Accordingly, I will summarily dismiss
Nelson’s claims against this defendant as frivolous. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
I find no legal basis for Nelson’s request that the
court order a criminal investigation and charges against
individual state officials. Simply put, a private citizen,
like Nelson, has no constitutional right to, or, in fact, any
judicially cognizable interest in, the prosecution or
non-prosecution of another person. Linda R.S. v. Richard
D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973); Leeke v.
Timmerman, 454 U.S. 83, 86-87 (1981). Therefore, I must
dismiss Nelson’s case to the extent that it seeks an
order directing officials to bring a criminal investigation
or charges against anyone.
I am satisfied that Nelson’s allegations do not give
rise to any § 1983 claim against any of the state court
officials. In essence, Nelson disagrees with the state
courts’ rulings or their failure to rule in the manner
and on the timetable that he prefers. Thus, I conclude that
his claims on these matters are merely an attempt to appeal
these state court actions to this federal district court.
This court has no jurisdiction to review on direct appeal or
overturn the judgments of state courts, however. See,
e.g., Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 731 (4th Cir.
1997). Jurisdiction for appellate review of state court
judgments “lies exclusively with superior state courts
and, ultimately, with the United States Supreme Court.”
Id.; 28 U.S.C. § 1257.
also well established that federal courts have no general
mandamus power to compel action by state officials. See
Davis v. Lansing, 851 F.2d 72, 74 (2d Cir. 1988);
Gurley v. Superior Court of Mecklenburg Cty., 411
F.2d 586, 587 (4th Cir. 1969). Thus, I have no jurisdiction
to direct state court officials to act on ...