United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
ERIC B. SAUB, Plaintiff,
GEORGETTE PHILLIPS, et al., Defendants.
A. Gibney, Jr. Virginia I United States District Judge
Saub, a Virginia pretrial detainee proceeding pro se
and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. §
1983 action. The action proceeds on Saub's Amended
Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 20.) The matter is before
the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2) and 1915A.
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
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).
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 5A
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).
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 Atl. 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 Atl
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).
SUMMARY OF PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS
currently detained pending his trial in the Circuit Court for
the Isle of Wight County, Virginia ("Circuit
Court") for first degree murder, use of a firearm to
commit murder, and being a felon in possession of a
firearm. Saub's trial for the foregoing charges
is currently set to begin on July 24, 2017. In a lengthy and
rambling Amended Particularized Complaint, Saub alleges that
the named Defendants committed various errors related to his
criminal investigation and proceedings. (Am. Part. Compl.
4-32.) Saub raises 41 "counts" for
relief, all of which are extremely repetitive. Given the
repetitive nature of Saub's claims, and for the goal of
orderly disposition, the Court groups them together either by
type of claim or by the Defendants named in the claim.
demands all legal costs, compensatory and punitive damages
from each Defendant, injunctive relief, declaratory relief,
payment for the value of all of his seized property, payment
of all costs related to his "unlawful detention, "
and release from custody. (Id. at 33-40.) As
explained below, Saub's Amended Particularized Complaint
will be DISMISSED.
Saub's Conspiracy Claims
first series of claims, Saub alleges that several Defendants
conspired against him to charge him with committing first
degree murder despite his professed innocence.
establish a civil conspiracy under § 1983, Saub must
allege facts indicating that the Defendants "acted
jointly in concert and that some overt act was done in
furtherance of the conspiracy which resulted in [the]
deprivation of a constitutional right." Hinkle v.
City of Clarksburg, W.Va., 81 F.3d 416, 421 (4th Cir.
1996) (citing Hafner v. Brown, 983 F.2d 570, 577
(4th Cir. 1992)). To this end, Saub must allege facts that
plausibly suggest "an agreement or a 'meeting of the
minds' by defendants to violate the claimant's
constitutional rights." Simmons v. Foe, 47 F.3d
1370, 1377 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Caldeira v. Cty. of
Kauai, 866 F.2d 1175, 1181 (9th Cir. 1989)). "Where
the complaint makes only conclusory allegations of a
conspiracy under § 1983 and fails to demonstrate any
agreement or meeting of the minds among the defendants, the
court may properly dismiss the complaint." Brown v.
Angelone, 938 F.Supp. 340, 346 (W.D. Va. 1996)
Saub merely alleges that Defendants Coughlin, Phillips,
Edwards, Potter, Everett, Nurney, and Van Wassen
conspired together to fabricate a deceptive and fraudulent
case against plaintiff for the murder of his closest friend
based on imagination, argument, and the manipulation of
innocent evidence of a close platonic friendship without any
evidence plaintiff possessed a firearm, used a firearm or
murdered his closest friend, Jean Marie.
Part. Compl. 14.) Saub also alleges that Defendants Phillips,
Edwards, Potter, Coughlin, and Everett conspired together and
did in fact and intentionally conceal and withhold the
absolutely exculpatory evidence that the homicide plaintiff
is wrongfully charged with committing on Wednesday 4-15-15
did in fact occur two days later on the morning of 4-17-15 as
medically determined by the stage of rigor mortis.
18.) Saub vaguely mentions that Stokes was involved in this
conspiracy as well. (Id. at 32.) Nowhere in his
Amended Particularized Complaint does Saub provide any facts
that plausibly suggest that these Defendants "formed any
type of agreement or acted in concert to injure him."
Brown, 938 F.Supp. at 346. "The mere fact that
each of these actors played a part in the events is not
sufficient to show such a unity of purpose."
Id. For this reason, Saub's conspiracy claims
will be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
next series of claims, Saub seeks monetary damages, as well
as declaratory and injunctive relief, from Defendants
Phillips and Edwards, prosecutors for the Isle of Wight
County. Prosecutorial immunity, however, bars Saub's
claims for monetary damages against them. See Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976). Prosecutorial
immunity extends to actions taken while performing "the
traditional functions of an advocate, " Kalina v.
Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 131 (1997) (citations omitted),
as well as functions that are "intimately associated
with the judicial phase of the criminal process."
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430. To ascertain whether a
specific action falls within the ambit of protected conduct,
courts employ a functional approach, distinguishing acts of
advocacy from administrative duties and investigative tasks
unrelated "to an advocate's preparation for the
initiation of a prosecution or for judicial
proceedings." Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S.
259, 273 (1993) (citation omitted); Carter v. Burch,
34 F.3d 257, 261-63 (4th Cir. 1994). Absolute immunity
protects those "acts undertaken by a prosecutor in
preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for
trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an
advocate for the State." Buckley, 509 U.S. at
Amended Particularized Complaint, Saub faults Phillips and
Edwards for working with officers of the Orange County,
Florida Sheriffs Office to effect a search and seizure of
Saub's office in Orlando, Florida. (Am. Part. Compl. 13.)
He also asserts that they ordered Saub's financial
records from various institutions. (Id.) Saub
further alleges that Phillips and Edwards conducted a
preliminary hearing at which they "abandoned their duty
to seek justice continuing a deliberate conspiracy calculated
to wrongfully and illegally imprison, maliciously prosecute
and attempt to wrongfully convict plaintiff. . . ."
(Id. at 16.) According to Saub, Phillips and Edwards
presented false testimony during this hearing. (Id.
at 17.) Saub fails to allege, however, that Phillips and
Edwards's actions in his pending criminal proceedings
were actions taken outside of their roles as advocates for
the Commonwealth. See Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430
(holding that prosecutorial immunity extends to
prosecutor's actions "in initiating a prosecution
and in presenting the State's case"). Therefore,
Saub's claims for damages against Defendants Phillips and
Edwards will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
given the frivolous nature of Saub's claims, Saub states
no basis for injunctive relief against Defendants Phillips
and Edwards. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Accordingly, Saub's claims for injunctive relief against