United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
RICHARD R. CADMUS, JR., Plaintiff,
FREDERICK COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, et al. . Defendants.
Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge.
se plaintiff Richard Cadmus brings this action alleging civil
rights violations under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985,
and 1988, as well as various torts under Virginia common law.
He names as defendants Leonard Millholland, former Sheriff of
the City of Winchester, Virginia; Robert T. Williamson,
Sheriff of Frederick County, Virginia; The Honorable
Elizabeth Kellas Burton, Judge of the Juvenile and Domestic
Relations ("JDR") Court of the Commonwealth of
Virginia's 26th Judicial District; John and Jane Does 1
through 25, Deputy Sheriffs of Frederick County or the City
of Winchester; and the Frederick County Sheriffs Office
("FCSO"). ECF No. 22. Defendants Millholland,
Williamson, Burton, and the FCSO brought motions to dismiss
Cadmus's Amended Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). ECF Nos. 31, 34, 36. Cadmus
brought a motion for limited discovery pursuant to Rule 26.
ECF No. 50. These motions were referred to United States
Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe for report and recommendation,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).
report and recommendation issued on August 5, 2016, the
magistrate judge recommended granting defendants' motions
to dismiss, and denying Cadmus's motion for limited
discovery. ECF No. 55, at 2. The report found that
Cadmus's claims against FCSO, and all claims against
Millholland and Williamson in their official capacities, were
barred by sovereign immunity. Id. at 10. The report
also found that judicial immunity barred Cadmus's claims
against Judge Burton. Id. at 13. Finally, it found
that, even if Cadmus were able to ascertain the identities of
the unknown Sheriffs deputies, any complaint against them
would be barred by the statute of limitations. Id.
at 20-21. Accordingly, the report recommended denying
Cadmus's discovery request. Id. at 21. Cadmus
filed timely objections to the report and recommendation on
August 19, 2016. ECF No. 56.
reasons set forth below, the court will ADOPT the report and
recommendation to the extent consistent with this opinion
(ECF No. 55), DENY as moot Burton's first motion to
dismiss (ECF No. 34), GRANT Burton's amended
motion to dismiss (ECF No. 36), GRANT FCSO, Millholland, and
Williamson's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 31), and GRANT in
part and DENY in part Cadmus's motion for discovery (ECF
72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party
to "serve and file specific, written objections" to
a magistrate judge's proposed findings and
recommendations within fourteen days of being served with a
copy of the report. See also 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). The Fourth Circuit has held that an objecting
party must do so "with sufficient specificity so as
reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for
the objection." United States v. Midgette. 478
F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007), cert denied. 127
S.Ct. 3032 (2007).
To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring
objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any
issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the
nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate
judge's report. Either the district court would then have
to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed
findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be
required to review issues that the district court never
considered. In either case, judicial resources would be
wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on
help from magistrate judges would be undermined.
Id. The district court must determine de
novo any portion of the magistrate judge's
report and recommendation to which a proper objection has
been made. "The district court may accept, reject, or
modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence;
or return the matter to the magistrate judge with
instructions." Fed. R Civ. P. 72(b)(3); accord
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). "General objections that
merely reiterate arguments presented to the magistrate judge
lack the specificity required under Rule 72, and have the
same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of such
objection." Moon v. BWX Techs., Inc., 742
F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010) (citing Veney v.
Astrue. 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 845 (W.D. Va. 2008)),
aff'd, 498 F.App'x 268 (4th Cir. 2012); see also
Thomas v. Am. 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985) ("[T]he
statute does not require the judge to review an issue de
novo if no objections are filed.").
objections that only repeat arguments raised before the
magistrate judge are considered general objections to the
entirety of the report and recommendation. See
Veney, 539 F.Supp.2d at 845. As the court noted in
Allowing a litigant to obtain de novo review of her
entire case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an
objection "mak[es] the initial reference to the
magistrate useless. The functions of the district court are
effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the
district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of
time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving
them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates
Act. Howard [v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs.], 932 F.2d , 509 [(6th Cir. 1991)].
539 F.Supp.2d at 846. A plaintiff who reiterates his
previously raised arguments will not be given "the
second bite at the apple he seeks." Id.
Instead, his re-filed brief will be treated as a general
objection, which has the same effect as a failure to object.
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) challenges a court's subject matter
jurisdiction. Absent subject matter jurisdiction, a court
must dismiss the action. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co.. a
Div. of Standex Int'l Corp.. 166 F.3d 642, 653 (4th
Cir. 1999). "Although subject matter jurisdiction and
sovereign immunity do not coincide perfectly, there is a
recent trend among the district courts within the Fourth
Circuit to consider sovereign immunity under Rule
12(b)(1)." Trantham v. Henry Cty. Sheriffs
Office. No. 4:10-CV-00058, 2011 WL 863498, at *3 (W.D.
Va. Mar. 10, 2011) (collecting cases), affd. 435
F.App'x 230 (4th Or. 2011); see also Hendy v.
Bello. 555 F.App'x 224, 227 (4th Cir. 2014)
(affirming use of Rule 12(b)(1) to dismiss claims on
sovereign immunity grounds). When a defendant raises
substantive challenges to a court's jurisdiction under
Rule 12(b)(1), the court need not accept the complaint's
allegations as true and may consider facts outside the
complaint to determine if it can properly exercise subject
matter jurisdiction. Kerns v. United States. 585
F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). At all times, "[t]he
plaintiff has the burden of proving that subject matter
jurisdiction exists." Evans. 166 F.2d at 647.
contrast, to survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint need only contain
sufficient factual matter which, if accepted as true,
"state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Ad. Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). A complaint is "facially
plausible" when the facts alleged "allow[ ] the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. This
"standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,
' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. When
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must "accept
the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true" and
"construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived
therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff."
Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir.
the court must accept as true all well-pled factual
allegations, the same is not true for legal conclusions.
"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also
Wag More Dogs. LLC v. Cozart. 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th
Cir. 2012) ("Although we are constrained to take the
facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need
not accept legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments."
(internal quotation marks omitted)). To be sure, a plaintiff
proceeding pro se is held to "less stringent
standards" than counseled plaintiffs, and the court must
construe his claims liberally. Erickson v. Pardus.
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, the court need not ignore a
clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable
claim. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for
Baltimore. 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Or. 1990). Nor is a
court required to recognize "obscure or extravagant
claims defying the most concerted efforts to unravel
them." Beaudett v. City of Hampton. 775 F.2d
1274, 1277 (4th Or. 1985), cert, denied. 475 U.S.
raises twenty-one objections to the findings of the report
and recommendation. Some of these objections reiterate
arguments previously made to the magistrate judge; others
take exception to what Cadmus perceives as negative
implications that could be drawn from the wording used in the
report. E.g., ECF No. 56, at 2 ("Cadmus objects
to the court implicitly eluding [sic] to his actions being
unreasonable . . . ."). These objections fail
to identify specific errors in the report and
recommendation, and are properly construed as general
objections that do not warrant de novo review.
See Veney, 539 F.Supp.2d at 844-46. Cadmus also
concedes some points: he abandons all claims against
Millholland, Williamson, Burton, and the unidentified
deputies in their official capacities,  Id. at
7-8, and abandons all discovery requests related to sovereign
immunity, Id. at 17. Furthermore, although he does
not explicitly abandon his claims against the FCSO, he
declines to object-generally or specifically-to the
report's findings that these claims should be dismissed
with prejudice as barred by sovereign immunity. See ECF No.
56. What remains, after removing the foregoing from
consideration, are objections to the following three findings
in the report: that Judge Burton is judicially immune from
suit; that Cadmus's claims against Millholland and
Williamson in their individual capacities should be dismissed
for failure to state a claim; and that discovery related to
the identities of the Sheriffs deputies should be denied.
Each category of objection will be addressed in turn below.
Cadmus's Claims against Judge Burton
report and recommendation, the magistrate judge recommended
dismissing all claims against Judge Burton as barred by
judicial immunity. ECF No. 55, at 11. Cadmus's alleged
causes of action against Judge Burton-unreasonable search and
seizure; conspiracy to violate Cadmus's civil rights;
retaliation and conspiracy to retaliate; abuse of process;
malicious prosecution and false arrest; and intentional
infliction of emotional distress-all arise from Cadmus's
appearance in Judge Burton's courtroom on August 26,
2013. See ECF No. 22, ¶¶ 99-123, 130-155.
Specifically, Cadmus alleges that Judge Burton reprimanded
him for rudeness, ordered him detained, and seized his iPad,
before ultimately returning it and releasing him from
custody. Id. The report concluded that Judge
Burton's actions were all judicial acts well within her
inherent jurisdiction to "maintain order in her
courtroom, " and that absolute judicial immunity
shielded Judge Burton from Cadmus's claims for monetary
relief. ECF No. 55, at 11-12.
disagrees. With regard to jurisdiction, he maintains that
because Judge Burton's actions toward Cadmus took place
after the protective orders against him had been lifted, they
were taken without jurisdiction. ECF No. 56, at 8. Cadmus
also notes that Judge Burton presides over a Juvenile and
Domestic Relations Court-a court he argues is without
jurisdiction to respond to Cadmus's actions on August 26,
which "pertained to behavior of an individual over the
age of 17 and not domestically related." Id.
Further, Cadmus argues that because Judge Burton initially
reprimanded him for rudeness that took place outside the
courtroom,  this reprimand cannot have been within her
jurisdiction. Id. at 10.
also objects that Judge Burton's actions that day should
not be considered "judicial acts." He argues that
Judge Burton's actions were criminal in nature, and made
in bad faith to deprive him of his right to record court
proceedings, which puts them outside the scope of judicial
immunity. ECF No. 56, at 7, 11.
court is compelled to reject Cadmus's arguments. Under
both federal and state law, judicial officers enjoy absolute
immunity from suits for monetary damages that arise out of
acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction. King
v. Myers, 973 F.2d 354, 356 (4th Cir. 1992) (describing
judicial immunity under federal law); Battle v.
Whitehurst, 831 F.Supp. 522, 529 n.7 (E.D. Va. 1993)
(noting that "[t]he standards for judicial immunity