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Sampson v. Highland County Va Board of Supervisors

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

April 13, 2017

ROBERT E. SAMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HIGHLAND COUNTY VA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge

         Robert E. Sampson, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is currently before the court on the defendants' motions to dismiss and plaintiffs motions for appointment of counsel and for a jury trial. For the reasons stated, the Mayor of the City of Monterey and the Highland County Board of Supervisors' motions will be granted, Sheriff T.J. Duffs motion will be denied, the plaintiffs motion to appoint counsel will be denied, and the plaintiffs motion for a jury trial will be taken under advisement.

         Background

         Plaintiff, Robert E. Sampson ("Sampson"), was arrested on March 17, 2015. On August 27, 2015, he filed a complaint against TJ. Duff, the Highland County Sheriff ("Sheriff Duff), the Mayor of the City of Monterey (the "Mayor"), and the Highland County Board of Supervisors (the "Board of Supervisors"). In his original complaint, plaintiff alleged that he was falsely arrested in violation of his constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. He further submitted a letter stating that he did not have sufficient funds to prepay the filing fee. The court construed the letter as an application to proceed in forma pauperis and granted the application. The court also dismissed the action as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).

         Thereafter, Sampson appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit remanded with instructions to allow Sampson to file an amended complaint, which Sampson did on July 27, 2016. In his original complaint, Sampson alleged that Sheriff Duff arrested him on a charge of felon in possession of a weapon after Sampson reported a crime to the Sheriff. Sampson asserted that Sheriff Duff had never seen Sampson with a firearm and had no complaining witness. Sampson further pled that he, an African-American, was treated differently than Caucasian felons.

         In his amended complaint, Sampson makes no allegations against the Mayor and he does not reassert that he was treated differently on the basis of his race. However, he pleads the following facts: (1) that no witnesses brought forth the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm against him; (2) that no one ever saw Sampson with a firearm; (3) that Sheriff Duff falsely swore that he removed firearms from Sampson's person; (4) that Sampson never handled firearms; (5) that Sampson's fingerprints were not found on any of the guns at trial; (6) that he was found not guilty by a jury; (7) that Sheriff Duff "has Dated this before"; and (8) that the Board of Supervisors hired Sheriff Duff, a man with no experience as a public police officer. Both Sampson's original and amended complaints seek $1, 000, 000 in damages.

         Each of the defendants have submitted a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court notified plaintiff of defendants' motions to dismiss as required by Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975). The plaintiff responded in opposition and asked the court for a trial by jury and appointment of counsel. The defendants' time to respond to plaintiffs motions has passed. The motions are ripe for review.

         Standard of Review

         "The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of the complaint." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). When reviewing a claim under this rule, the court must accept all of the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id. at 244. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "In other words, the factual allegations (taken as true) must 'permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'" A Soc'y Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678).

         When a document is filed pro se, it must be "liberally construed." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Accordingly, "a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Id. Mindful of this principle, the court will consider both the plaintiffs original and amended complaints in addition to his response to the defendants' motions in determining whether the plaintiffs allegations are sufficient. See Davis v. Bacigalupi 711 F.Supp.2d 609, 615 (E.D. Va. 2010).

         Discussion

         I. The Mayor and Highland County Board of Supervisors' Motions to Dismiss

         Both Sampson's original and amended complaints are devoid of a single fact implicating the Mayor. Instead, the "Mayor of Monterey" is simply named in the original complaint. The Board of Supervisors is similarly implicated, but the amended complaint does assert the additional fact that the Board of Supervisors hired Sheriff Duff, an individual with no law enforcement experience.

         While the court must liberally construe the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff, this requirement need not extend to outright advocacy. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir, 1978). The court is not required to construct plaintiffs legal arguments for him, nor is it required to divine the point Sampson seeks to make. See Lee v. Johnson, 793 F.Supp.2d 798, 801 (W.D. Va. 2011). Because not a single fact ...


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