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Muhjadin v. Newby

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

October 3, 2016

NEWBY, et al., Defendants.


          John A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Abdul Wali Salam Muhjadin, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The action proceeds on Muhjadin's Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 14.) The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. As explained below, Muhjadin's claims lack merit and will be dismissed.


         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 5 A 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 At I. 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 All. 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 his Particularized Complaint, Muhjadin raises several claims concerning his medical treatment, the loss of his property, and the responses he received to informal complaints and grievances that he submitted regarding his property. Prior to August 13, 2014, Muhjadin was admitted to the Southside Regional Medical Center ("SRMC") and was diagnosed with a grand mal seizure, black eye, multiple concussions, and an equilibrium problem. (Part. Compl. ¶ 1.) Staff at SRMC also found that Muhjadin "was over medicated on [his] medication that was supposed to stop [his] seizures but was instead causing them to happen more frequently." (Id.)

         After he was released from SRMC, Muhjadin was placed in the medical infirmary at Sussex II State Prison ("SUSP"). (Id. ¶ 2.) While he was there, Defendant Newby, a lieutenant who was the acting watch commander for B-Break night shift, ordered that Muhjadin's property be packed and brought to Muhjadin. (Id.) On August 13, 2014, Defendant Williams, a lieutenant who was acting assistant watch commander and supervisor of the infirmary for IB-Break night shift, woke Muhjadin and informed him that his property would be packed so that another inmate could be moved into Muhjadin's cell. (Id. ¶ 3.) When Muhjadin sat up to protest, Williams "pushed [him] back down into a laying position." (Id.)

         Subsequently, Newby ordered Defendants Seabuagh and Chandler, both correctional officers, to report to Defendant Depriest, a sergeant, so that Muhjadin's property could be packed. (Id. ¶ 4.) Seabuagh and Chandler packed Muhjadin's property. (Id. ¶ 5.) According to Muhjadin, Depriest did not ensure that his property was packed according to Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") policies. (Id. ¶ 4.) Chandler delivered the property to Muhjadin's bedside in the infirmary. (Id. ¶ 5.) However, Defendant Pelham, a correctional officer for the infirmary, would not accept the property because there was no inventory sheet. (Id.) Chandler told Pelham that Muhjadin said '"he was good'" and left the property at Muhjadin's bedside. (Id.) Subsequently, Defendant Helyer, a correctional officer in the infirmary, moved Muhjadin's "property from his bedside but never ever did inventory it." (Id. ¶ 13.) According to Muhjadin, Defendants Clarke, the Director of the VDOC, Vargo, the Warden of SUSP, and Jones, the Chief of Security for SUSP, failed to train all of these officers with respect to the proper way to handle inmate property. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10.)

         On September 2, 2014, Muhjadin submitted an informal complaint regarding his missing property. (ECF No. 14-1, at 5.) Defendant Byrd, the day shift supervisor for personal property and the infirmary, responded, stating "Property is not responsible for your property. You are responsible for your property." (Id.; see also Part. Compl. ¶ 14.) Muhjadin then submitted a grievance, which Defendant James, the Institutional Ombudsman, rejected as untimely. (ECF No. 14-1, at 1-4; see also Part. Compl. ¶ 6.) Defendant Woodson, the Regional Ombudsman for the Eastern Region, denied Muhjadin's appeal. (Part. Compl. ¶ 7.)

         The Court construes Muhjadin's Particularized Complaint to raise the following claims for relief:

Claim One: All Defendants violated Muhjadin's rights under the Eighth Amendment[2]by failing to recognize that medical staff were over-medicating Muhjadin with his anti-seizure medication. (Part. Compl. ¶ 1.)
Claim Two: Defendant Williams violated Muhjadin's rights under the Eighth Amendment by utilizing excessive force when he pushed Muhjadin back into a "laying position" on his infirmary bed. (Id. ¶ 3.)
Claim Three: Defendants Newby, Williams, Depriest, Chandler, Seabuagh, Pelham, and Helyer violated Muhjadin's rights under the Fourth Amendment[3] by entering his cell to pack his property. (Id. ¶¶ 2-5, 11-13.)
Claim Four: Defendants Newby, Williams, Depriest, Chandler, Seabuagh, Pelham, and Helyer violated VDOC operating procedures, as well as Muhjadin's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, [4] by failing to ensure that his property was properly packed and stored, and for causing his property to be misplaced. (Id.)
Claim Five: Defendants Byrd, James, and Woodson violated Muhjadin's rights under the Fourth and Ninth[5] Amendments by the way they answered his ...

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