United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
DAVID B. BRIGGMAN, Plaintiff,
ELIZABETH KELLAS BURTON, Chief Judge, 26th Judicial District, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, in her official capacity, et al., Defendants.
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge
B. Briggman, proceeding pro se, filed this action against
Elizabeth Kellas Burton, Kevin C. Black, and Hugh David
O'Donnell in their official capacities as Judges of the
Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts ("JDR
Courts") of the Commonwealth of Virginia's 26th
Judicial District, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and Virginia law. By order entered November 3, 2015, all
dispositive motions in the case were referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B). The defendants subsequently moved to
dismiss the plaintiffs amended complaint. The magistrate
judge has since issued a report and recommendation, in which
he recommends that the court (1) deny without prejudice the
defendants' motion; (2) abstain from moving forward with
Briggman's claims; and (3) stay the case until all
potentially dispositive issues of state law have been
resolved by the coixts of the Commonwealth of Virginia. For
the following reasons, the court declines to adopt the
magistrate judge's report and recommendation. The court
will dismiss Briggman's claims for relief under §
1983 and decline to exercise jurisdiction over his claims
under state law.
following factual allegations, taken from Briggman's
amended complaint and his brief in opposition to the
defendants' motion to dismiss, are accepted as true for
purposes of the defendants' motion. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (emphasizing that "a
judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations
contained in the complaint" when ruling on a motion to
dismiss); Davis v. Bacigalupi 711 F.Supp.2d 609, 615
(E.D. Va. 2010) ("In testing the sufficiency of the pro
se Plaintiffs Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court will
also consider the allegations made in the Plaintiffs
memorandum filed in opposition to the Defendants' motion
to dismiss . . ..") (citing cases).
a resident of Rockingham County, alleges that the defendants
have improperly barred him from entering the JDR Courts'
courtrooms in Harrisonburg, Virginia to observe certain
proceedings conducted in cases in which he was not a party.
Briggman specifically complains of being excluded from
proceedings in child support enforcement actions brought by
the: Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement against
other individuals. On October 16, 2015 and October 26, 2015,
respectively, Briggman was denied access to a "bond
hearing" and a' contempt review proceeding" in
an enforcement action brought against Scott Alan Gill. Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 17, 19. On October 19, 2015, Briggman was
denied access to a "sentence review hearing" in an
enforcement action brought against Richard Stoneberger.
Id. at ¶ 18. Briggman alleges that no written
findings were made as to why he was not allowed to observe
also alleges that, on one occasion in November of 2015, he
was told that a courtroom in Harrisonburg was closed during
the JDR Courts' "adult criminal docket."
Id. at ¶ 20. On another day, however, Briggman
"was allowed access to [a] criminal hearing"
conducted in Harrisonburg. Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n to
Judges' M. to Dismiss 6.
commenced the instant action on November 3, 2015. He then
filed an amended complaint on November 23, 2015. In Count One
of the amended complaint, Briggnun claims that the judges
violated his rights under the First Amendment to the United
States Constitution by refusing to allow him to observe child
support enforcement and criminal proceedings conducted in the
JDR Courts' courtrooms in Harrisonburg. In Count Two of
the amended complaint, Briggman claims that the judges
violated his rights under Article I, Section 8 of the
Constitution of Virginia by denying access to court
proceedings. In his brief in opposition to the judges'
motion, Briggman also claims that the judges violated
Virginia Code § 16.1-302(c), which governs the closure
of courtrooms in JDR courts, and provides that "[i]f the
proceedings are closed, the court shall state in writing its
reasons . .. ." Va. Code §
addition to seeking injunctive relief, Briggman requests that
the court issue the following "declaration":
a. Defendants have violated the First Amendment rights of
plaintiff to attend hearings in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham
County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court courtrooms;
b. Defendants have failed to make any findings justifying the
closure of tie Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Juvenile and
Domestic Relations Court courtrooms;
c. The denial of constitutional access to hearings in tie
Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Juvenile and Domestic
Relations Court courtrooms has caused plaintiff to suffer
irreparable harm; and d. To comply with [federal
constitutional] mandates, defendants must allow members of
the public to attend hearings in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham
Juvenile and Domestic Relations courtrooms.
Am. Compl. at 11-12.
judges have moved to dismiss Briggman's amended complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of
the plaintiffs complaint, which must contain "a short
and plain statement of the claur showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); see also
Presley v City of Charlottesville. 464 F.3d 480, 483
(4th Cir. 2006). When deciding a motion to dismiss under this
rule, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations and draw all reasonable factual inferences in the
plaintiffs favor. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94; see
also Vitol, S.A. v. Primerose Shipping Co.. 708 F.3d
527, 539 (4th Cir. 2013). "While a complaint attacked by
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed
factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted). To ...