Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chapman v. Bacon

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

February 10, 2017

LOUIS ROY CHAPMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
G. BACON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. Hannah Lauck United States Disinct Judge.

         Louis Ray Chapman, 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 for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 80) filed by Defendants G. Bacon, C. Townes, Green, J. Cooper, R.C. Stith, and C. Jones (collectively, "the LVCC Defendants"), [2] the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 82) filed by Defendant D.A. Slaw, [3] the Court's authority to review complaints by individuals proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and the Court's Memorandum Order of December 1, 2015, directing Chapman to show cause as to why Defendant Ponton[4] should not be dismissed without prejudice for failure to serve him in a timely manner. For the reasons that follow, the Court will DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE all claims against Defendant Ponton pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court will GRANT the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 80) filed by the LVCC Defendants with respect to Chapman's claims against Defendants Cooper, Stith, and Jones, but will DENY the Motion with respect to Chapman's claims against Defendants Bacon, Townes, and Green. With respect to Defendant Slaw, the Court will GRANT the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 82). The Court will also DISMISS Chapman's claim against Defendants Jane Doe and John Doe.

         I. Procedural History

         By Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on March 17, 2016, the Court granted the Motions to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendants Slaw and Woodson and the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chapman v. Bacon, No. 3:14CV641, 2016 WL 1071014, at *7 (E.D. Va. Mar. 17, 2016). Specifically, the Court dismissed Claim 7(a) (Chapman's Fourteenth Amendment[5] due process claim against Slaw) without prejudice, [6] dismissed Claim 7(b) (Chapman's Eighth Amendment[7] claim against Slaw) with prejudice, and dismissed Claim 8 against Woodson with prejudice. Id Following the entry of the March 16, 2016 Memorandum Opinion and Order, Chapman filed a Second Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 79), wherein he sought to correct some of the deficiencies noted in the March 16, 2016 Memorandum Opinion and Order. As discussed below, Chapman has sufficiently stated a claim for relief against Defendants Bacon, Townes, and Green, but has failed to do so with respect to his claims against Defendants Cooper, Stith, Jones, Slaw, Jane Doe, and John Doe.

         II. Failure to Serve Ponton

         Under the version of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)[8] in effect at the time Chapman filed his action, Chapman had one hundred and twenty (120) days from March 20, 2015 to serve the Defendants. On July 23, 2015, Chapman moved for an extension of time to serve the unserved Defendants. (ECF No. 39.) By Memorandum Order entered on August 17, 2015, the Court directed the Marshal to serve the remainder of the unserved Defendants except for Defendant Ponton. (ECF No. 40.) With respect to Defendant Ponton, Chapman suggested that "Sergeant Ponton is in Federal Custody believed to be in the Petersburg Federal Facility awaiting trial." (ECF No. 34, at 2.) By Memorandum Order entered on August 17, 2015, the Court denied Chapman's request to have Defendant Ponton served at the Federal Correctional Complex in Petersburg, Virginia, because that facility does not house pretrial detainees. The Court stated that it "is willing to assist Chapman in serving Sergeant Ponton, provided Chapman can provide more concrete information about Ponton's location." (ECF No. 40, at 3.) Chapman did not provide any further information about Defendant Ponton's location. Accordingly, by Memorandum Order entered on December 1, 2015, the Court directed Chapman "to show good cause why all claims against Ponton should not be dismissed." (ECF No. 59, at 2.) Additionally, the Court denied without prejudice Chapman's motion for an extension of time to serve the Defendants. (Id.)

         Chapman has not responded to the Court's December 1, 2015 Memorandum Order. Chapman has therefore failed to state good cause for his failure to serve Defendant Ponton in a timely manner. Accordingly, all claims against Defendant Ponton will be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         III. Preliminary Review and Standard for Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         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 KC. 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 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 BellAtl. 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 or her 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).

         IV. Summary of Claims and Pertinent Allegations

         Chapman's Second Amended Complaint spans thirty-eight pages and lists nine separate claims for relief.[9] The Court recites here those allegations pertinent to the claims against Defendants Bacon, Townes, Green, Cooper, Stith, Slaw, and Jones, as well as those against Defendants Jane Doe and John Doe.[10] Chapman makes the following claims against these Defendants:

Claim 1 Defendant G. Bacon violated Chapman's rights under the Eighth Amendment by threatening "to lock Chapman in punitive segregation if he told anyone that inmate Marcus Gunn assaulted him. This chilling on Chapman led to a vicious assault by Gunn causing Chapman physical injury." (Second Am. Compl. 2.)[11]
Claim 2 Defendant C. Townes violated Chapman's rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to protect Chapman from Gunn's assault. (Id.)
Claim 4 Defendant Green violated Chapman's rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to protect Chapman from Gunn's assault "after she was notified by Sergeant G. Bacon that Chapman was in imminent danger from his cell partner Marcus Gunn." (Id.)
Claim 5 Defendant Cooper violated Chapman's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by agreeing with others "to approve the overt act of Cooper writing a false charge of fighting with anyone and false imprisonment of Chapman." (Id.)
Claim 6 Defendant Stith violated Chapman's rights under the Fifth, [12] Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by "sign[ing] off on a false charge written by Officer J. Cooper for fighting with anyone and falsely imprisoned Chapman." (Id.)
Claim 7(a) By falsely keeping Chapman in punitive segregation, Defendant Slaw violated Chapman's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at 3.)
Claim 8 Defendant C. Jones violated Chapman's rights under the First Amendment[13] and the Fourteenth Amendment by failing "to process valid complaints, " by failing "to give tracking numbers, " and by "responding] to grievance[s] concerning her (Jones)" in violation of institutional procedures. (Id.)
Claim 9 Defendants Jane Doe and John Doe "intentionally li[ed], mis[led], and [gave] false information concerning the assault on Chapman to the Commonwealth's Attorney of Brunswick County, Virginia, Lezlie Green." ad.)

         A. Background

         On December 10, 2013, while housed in LVCC, Chapman was struck by his cellmate, Marcus Gunn. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 3.) On "December 18, 2013, Gunn put his arm and hand on Chapman's chest to keep [Chapman] from leaving his cell." (Id. ¶ 4.) Chapman did not report either of the above incidents to prison officials. (Id. ¶ 5.)

         On January 30, 2014, in response to Chapman's request that Gunn turn down his CD player, Gunn kicked Chapman in the face and then began punching Chapman. (Id. ¶ 2.) "Chapman did NOT fight Gunn." (Id.) "Chapman was bleeding into his left eye, down his face onto his shirt and undershirt, from the cut put there by Gunn with his boot." (Id.) Chapman contends that, "Marcus Gunn, a known racist, should have never been put in the same cell as Chapman, an elderly white man." (Id. ¶ 54.)

         B. Allegations Pertaining to Defendant Bacon

         On January 30, 2014, Chapman wrote an emergency grievance regarding the assault by Gunn that occurred earlier that day. (Compl. Ex. B, at 1; ECF No. 1-2; see also Second Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) Defendant Bacon responded: "Your situation was notif[ied] by [Unit Manager], St. Ponton and counsel[or] Newcomb, I Sgt. Bacon advised Lt. Green of the situation that was going on between you and it was advised to you that if you or your roommate start anything both will be lock[ed] up." (Compl. Ex. B, at 1; see also Second Am. Compl. ¶ 11.)

         Chapman states that he did not report the two prior assaults by Gunn that occurred in December 2013 because Defendant Bacon's "threat[, made on January 30, 2014, ] of going to punitive segregation had a chilling effect on Chapman reporting." (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 12.) Despite Chapman's failure to report the prior assaults, Chapman alleges that Defendant Bacon knew that Gunn had assaulted Chapman twice in December of 2013.[14] (Id.) Chapman reported the January 30, 2014 assault by Gunn "because [Chapman] was kicked and beaten bloody." (Id. ¶19.)

         C. Allegations Pertaining to Defendant Townes

         Prior to the January 30, 2014 assault, Defendant Townes told Chapman, "I know you are in hell" and asked Chapman to find someone who would be willing to trade with Gunn to be Chapman's cellmate. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) On January 13, 2014, Chapman sent a request to Defendant Townes, "telling her he found a place to move to get away from Marcus Gunn." (Id. ¶ 38.) Chapman requested to move to cell 112 in pod 31. (Id.) However, "Townes waited so long the cell was filled." (Id. (citing Ex. D).)[15]

         On January 14, 2014, Defendant Townes told Chapman that "she would talk to Ms. Fant 50 building unit manager." (Id. ¶ 40.) Defendant Townes never talked to Ms. Fant, even though Ms. Fant had approved Chapman for the Honor Pod. (Id.) On January 15, 2014, Chapman sent a second request to Defendant Townes, stating: "'Please talk to Ms. Fant. Please move me to 52, Honor Pod or move Marcus Gunn out of the cell we are not compatible."' (Id. ¶ 41 (citing Ex. F).)

         On January 21, 2014, "[a]fter several weeks of looking, S. Brown, [an] inmate Chapman knew from ACC arrived and was in 33 pod. He would trade with Gunn. Chapman told Townes [that] Brown would trade but Townes said wait and move to 52 the Honor Pod." (Id. ¶ 43.)

         On January 22, 2014, Chapman sent another request to Defendant Townes, stating:

"Per our conversation of January 21, 2014, 8:30 am, you were to place me on the move list to building 52, Honor Pod. You wrote a yellow stick-it note with instructions for Ms. Myers, counselor, you kept the approved request from Ms. Fant U/M 50 building and along with a 50 building bed log. All three (3) you said you would put on Myers' desk. Myers was not here. There are only two (2) spaces available. Please place me on the move sheet if you haven't. You told me 'I know you are in hell.' This move needs to take place thanks."

(Id. ¶ 44; Compl. Ex. H, at 1, ECF No. 1-8.) Defendant Townes replied that Chapman had been placed on the waiting list. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 44.) Chapman alleges that Defendant Bacon "admitted she notified Townes of the situation" between Gunn and Chapman on January 30, 2014. (M¶46.)

         D. Allegations Pertaining to Defendant Green

         On January 30, 2014, Defendant Bacon admitted in her response to Chapman's emergency grievance that she had advised Defendant Green of the situation between Gunn and Chapman. (Id. ¶ 70 (citing Ex. B.).) "After Lt. Green learned of the danger Chapman faced, she failed to move him or Marcus Gunn." (Id. ¶ 71.) According to Chapman, Defendant Green "did not adequately supervise Sgt. Bacon who violated Chapman's rights." (Id.)

         E. Allegations Pertaining to Defendant Cooper and Stith

         On January 31, 2014, Defendants Cooper and Stith "agreed between themselves to commit the overt act of J. Cooper writing a false charge and falsely imprisoning Chapman in punitive segregation, an atypical environment, for twenty-three (23) days." (Id. ¶ 89 (citing Ex. J); see also Id. ¶ 78.) In the charge, Defendant Cooper stated: '"I was called to 41 pod for assistance with offenders having an altercation. Offender Chapman admitted to being in a physical altercation with offender Marcus Gunn 1141054. Therefore a charge was written.'" (Id. ¶ 80 (quoting Ex. J).) Officials dismissed the charge on February 7, 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 79, 90 (citing Ex. I).)

         F. Allegations Pertaining to Defendant Slaw

         Following the January 30, 2014 attack, Chapman received an institutional charge of "Fighting with Anyone." (Id. ¶ 21.) Gunn pled guilty to assaulting Chapman and spent fifteen (15) days in segregation. (Id. ¶ 159.) Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") officials placed Chapman in segregation on January 30, 2014. (Id. ¶ 140.) Although officials dismissed Chapman's fighting charge on February 7, 2014, they did not release him from segregation until February 23, 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 142, 144-45.)[16] Chapman contends that while in segregation, he was subjected to more restrictive conditions than in general population. (See Id. ¶ 116.)

         Even though the fighting charge was dismissed, Chapman contends that Defendant Slaw denied him due process because: "Slaw did not afford Chapman the right to an attorney.... Slaw denied all Chapman's witnesses.... Slaw denied the medical records and pictures taken of Chapman's bloody face, chest, neck, and right thumb.... [and] Slaw [refused to consider Chapman's] eight (8) [institutional] requests to be moved from Marcus Gunn...." (Id. ¶ 200.)

         G. Allegations Pertaining to Defendant Jones

         On February 19, 2014, Chapman filed an informal complaint against Defendant Jones, the facility Ombudsman, wherein he complained about her conduct in processing his grievance. (Id. ¶ 220; see Compl., Ex. K.) On February 24, 2014, Chapman filed a regular grievance, reiterating his complaint against Defendant Jones in processing his grievance. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 221; see Compl., Ex. L.) According to Chapman, VDOC Operating Procedure 866.1(IV)(G)(3) prohibits individuals who are the subject of the grievance from responding to the grievance. (See Second Am. Compl. ΒΆ 222.) ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.