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Motley v. Commonwealth

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

March 24, 2017

VICTOR MOTLEY, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, et al, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. Hannah Lauck United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on two motions: (1) the "Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint" (the "Motion to Dismiss"), [1] filed by Defendants the Commonwealth of Virginia (the "Commonwealth" or "Virginia"), the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services ("DMAS"), and Valerie Harrison (collectively, the "Defendants"), (ECF No. 2);[2] and, (2) Motley's "Motion to Compel Answers to Plaintiffs First Discovery Request and Motion to Enlarge Record" (the "Motion to Compel and Enlarge"), (ECF No. 6).

         Motley has responded to the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 4), and the Defendants have replied, (ECF No. 5). The Defendants have responded to the Motion to Compel and Enlarge, (ECF No. 8), and Motley has replied, (ECF No. 11). Accordingly, the matters are ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss and will deny as moot the Motion to Compel and Enlarge.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Procedural Background

         Motley filed his Motion for Judgment (the "Complaint") in the State Court, alleging two counts against the Defendants: (1) age and race discrimination[3] (collectively, "Count I");[4] and, (2) negligence ("Count II"). (Compl., ECF No. 1-1.) The Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441[5] and 1446.[6] The Defendants assert federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331[7] as their basis for removal.

         Prior to removal, the parties filed various pleadings in the State Court. Motley filed his "Request for Production of Documents, " (ECF No. 1-3), his "Notice of Objection to Defendants Resisting or Obstructing of Legal Process, " (ECF No. 1-3), and his "Motion for Leave to Amend Motion for Judgment" (the "Motion for Leave to Amend"), (ECF No. 1-4).[8] The Defendants filed a Demurrer, seeking to demur the Complaint for failure to state a claim, (ECF No. 1-5), and a Motion to Dismiss/Special Plea of Sovereignty, seeking to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that sovereign immunity bars it, (ECF No. 1-6).

         Following removal, the Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)[9] and 12(b)(6), [10] incorporating the arguments submitted to the State Court. (ECF No. 3.) Motley responded to the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 4), and the Defendants replied, (ECF No. 5). Motley then filed the Motion to Compel and Enlarge. (ECF No. 6.) The Defendants responded to the Motion to Compel and Enlarge, (ECF No. 8), and Motley replied, (ECF No. 11).

         B. Summary of Allegations in the Complaint[11]

         Motley brings this action against the Defendants, seeking only monetary damages for race and age discrimination, and for negligence. Motley applied for a position as a Hearing Officer with DMAS on or about August 7, 2013. On October 15, 2013, Motley learned that DMAS did not select him for an interview. On January 27, 2014, Motley filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"), alleging race and age discrimination pursuant to Title VII and the ADEA. Motley's EEOC Charge of Discrimination contained two paragraphs, which stated the following:

1. On August 7, 2013, I applied for the position of Hearing Officer with the above named employer. On or about October 15, 2013, 1 became aware that I was not chosen for an interview and subsequently not hired for the position.
2. I believe I was discriminated against because of my race, Black, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and because of my age, 60, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended.

(EEOC Charge of Discrimination, ECF No. 3-1.) On August 14, 2015, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue.

         Federal district courts have a duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally. Bracey v. Buchanan, 55 F.Supp.2d 416, 421 (E.D. Va. 1999). That said, apro se plaintiff must nevertheless allege sufficient facts to state a cause of action. Id. (citing Sado v. LelandMem 7 Hosp., 933 F.Supp. 490, 493 (D. Md. 1996)). The Court cannot act as a pro se litigant's "advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims" that the litigant failed to raise on the face of the complaint. Newkirk v. Circuit Court of Hampton, No. 3:14cv372, 2014 WL 4072212, at *1 (E.D. Va. Aug. 14, 2014).

         II. Analysis: The Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         The Defendants seek to dismiss, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, particular counts against specific defendants. With respect to Count LA, Motley's ADEA claim, the Defendants argue the following: (1) the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution[12] bars Motley's claim against all defendants; and, (2) Motley's claim against Harrison in her official capacity fails because it is duplicative. On Count LB, Motley's Title VII claim, the Defendants contend that Motley's claim against Harrison in her official capacity fails because it is duplicative. On Count I.C, Motley's § 1983 claim, the Defendants assert that it cannot survive because Motley fails to raise it against any defendant in his or her individual capacity. The Defendants also posit that Motley cannot advance an age discrimination claim under § 1983. Regarding Count II, Motley's negligence claim, the Defendants contend that they have sovereign immunity against Motley's negligence claim. The Defendants also argue that Motley failed to comply with the Virginia Tort Claims Act's (the "VTCA") notice requirements, Va. Code § 8.01-195.1 et seq., and that Virginia's statute of limitations bars any claims brought pursuant to §1983 or the VTCA.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss the following claims for lack of jurisdiction: Counts I.C and II against all Defendants; and, Counts LA and LB against only Harrison.

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Standard

         In a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) challenging the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction, the burden rests with the plaintiff, as the party asserting jurisdiction, to prove that federal jurisdiction is proper. See Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n v. Va. Int'l Terminals, Inc., 914 F.Supp. 1335, 1338 (E.D. Va. 1996) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) can attack subject-matter jurisdiction in two ways. First, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion may attack the complaint on its face, asserting that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which subject-matter jurisdiction can lie. See Int'l Longshoremen 'sAss'n, 914 F.Supp. at 1338; see also Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219. In such a challenge, a court assumes the truth of the facts alleged by plaintiff, thereby functionally affording the plaintiff the same procedural protection he or she would receive under Rule 12(b)(6) consideration. See Int'l Longshoremen's Ass 'n, 914 F.Supp. at 1338; see also Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219.

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion may also challenge the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction in fact, apart from the pleadings. See Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991); Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n, 914 F.Supp. at 1338; see also Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219. In such a case, because a party challenges the court's '"very power to hear the case, '" the trial court is free to weigh evidence to determine the existence of jurisdiction. Int'l Longshoremen's Ass 'n, 914 F.Supp. at 1338 (quoting Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & LoanAss'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)). No presumptive truthfulness attaches to the plaintiffs allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims. See id; see also Adams, 697F.2datl219.

         If the facts necessary to determine jurisdiction are intertwined with the facts central to the merits of the dispute, the proper course of action is for the court to find that jurisdiction exists and then to resolve the factual dispute on the merits unless the claim is made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction, or is determined to be wholly insubstantial and frivolous. Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682-83 (1946); United States v. North Carolina, 180 F.3d 574, 580 (4th Cir. 1999); Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219.

         B. The Eleventh Amendment Does Not Bar Count LA

         Although they seek dismissal based on Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Defendants voluntarily removed this case to this Court. Thus, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar Motley's Count LA, which alleges a violation of the ADEA.

         The Eleventh Amendment bars claims against state actors unless Congress has "abrogate[d] the [s]tates' Eleventh Amendment immunity ... by stating unequivocally its desire to do so and only pursuant to a valid exercise of constitutional authority." Constantine v. Rectors & Visitors of George Mason Univ.,411 F.3d 474, 484 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 55 (1996)). As the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has explained, 'the Supreme Court [of the United ...


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