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Batra v. Smith

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

August 9, 2016

KARAN BATRA, Plaintiff,
EDWARD L. SMITH, et al, Defendants.


          James R. Spencer Judge

         Karan Batra, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by Correctional Officer Edward L. Smith and Sergeant S.T. Hite and the Court's authority to review complaints filed by prisoners.[2] Batra has responded. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 48) will be GRANTED and the action will be DISMISSED.


         "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) (citation omitted). 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 Ail. 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, 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) (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 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 Pertinent Facts

         On July 4, 2013, Correctional Officer Smith submitted a Disciplinary Offense Report ("DOR"), wherein he charged Batra with escape. In the DOR, Smith stated that:

On June 19, 2013, 1, Officer E. Smith, was working an outside work crew (Crew #9) at the Shenandoah Valley Airport. At approx. 8:40am we started cleaning the private terminal. Offender K. Batra ... was assigned to clean the men's bathroom. ... Batra ... was last accounted for at 9:15am. The crew finished with the private terminal at approx. 9:30 AM, so I gathered my crew together in order to move on to the next building as a group. At this time, ... Batra .. . could not be accounted for. I asked the crew if they knew where he was. They suggested he may be in the bathroom. I checked the bathroom however, he was not there. I immediately notified the Airport Police and we searched the immediate area At approx. 9:45 am, I then called the shift commander, Sgt. S. Hite, and informed him that Offender K. Batra may have walked- off of my work crew and could not be accounted for At approx.. 2:25 PM, I returned to the [Cold Springs Work Center] with [the remaining] 7 offenders. Due to an ongoing investigation, it was determined that... Batra... did escape from custody while working on an outside work crew......

(Compl. Ex. 1, at 1-2 (capitalization corrected).)[3] On July 8, 2013, Sergeant Hite provided Batra with a copy of the DOR. (Id. at 1.) The DOR also notified Batra that he could call witnesses at the hearing. (Id.)

         On July 16, 2013, R.M. Leaboh conducted a disciplinary hearing on the above offense. ( Id. at 4.) Leaboh found Batra guilty:

[B]ased on [the reporting officer's ("R/O")] summary and oral statement that the accused left the area he was assigned to and when he searched for him he was not located. R/O states that during an investigation it was determined that the accused had escaped and was in the area of Washington D.C. The accused states his father was ill and he went to see him he states he feels that he left the area without permission but did not escape.

(Id.) Batra was penalized with loss of all of his accumulated good time and thirty days disciplinary segregation. (Id.) Batra appealed his conviction and the penalty. (ECF No. 1-3, at 1.) Batra's appeal was rejected. (Id.)

         Batra contends that Defendants denied him due process[4] in conjunction with the above conviction on the following grounds.

         Claim One The DOR "fails to provide a correct summary of how the offender violated this offense" because it fails to state when and how Batra ...

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