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Jarvis v. City of Alexandria

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

June 12, 2017

DEREK N. JARVIS, Plaintiff,
CITY OF ALEXANDRIA, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for Failure to State a Claim. [Dkt. 8.] This motion includes a request for a pre-filing injunction. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court will also schedule a hearing on Defendants' request for an injunction.

         I. Background

         This case is brought by pro se Plaintiff Derek N. Jarvis (“Plaintiff” or “Jarvis”) against the Alexandria Mayor's Office, City Council, and City Manager[1] (collectively, the “Defendants”) for alleged violations of his constitutional rights, negligence, and fraud. Compl. at 1-3. The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and, for the purposes of this motion, are presumed true.

         On an unspecified date, Plaintiff visited an unspecified Shell gas station located in the Old Town neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia. Compl. at 1. While paying for gas, Plaintiff alleges that a Middle Eastern employee at the station referred to him with a racial slur and yelled at him in front of other patrons. Id. Plaintiff asserts that he attempted to contact the station's manager and owner after the incident, but neither individual ever responded. Id. at 6.

         On or about August 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights (“OHR”) in Alexandria, alleging racial discrimination by the Shell gas station employee. Compl. at 6. Plaintiff claims that OHR's investigation of his complaint lasted approximately two weeks. Id. After failing to properly investigate his claim, Plaintiff further alleges that the director of OHR, Jean Kelleher, then informed him that the incident at the gas station did not amount to racial discrimination. Id. As a result, she dismissed his complaint. Id. Following dismissal, Plaintiff proceeded to contact the City Manager, the Mayor's Office, and the City Attorney for assistance, but found their help unavailing. Id.

         Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit on March 30, 2017. [Dkt. 1.] On May 4, 2017, Defendants filed their motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. [Dkt. 8.] Plaintiff filed his response in opposition on May 18, 2017, [Dkt. 12], to which Defendants replied on May 22, 2017, [Dkt. 13]. On May 26, 2017, Plaintiff requested leave to file a surreply [Dkt. 14], to which Defendants objected [Dkt. 15.] Having waived oral argument, Defendants' motion is now ripe for disposition.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 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) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court has stated that in order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a [c]omplaint 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)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted). While legal conclusions can provide the framework for a complaint, all claims must be supported by factual allegations. Id. Based upon these allegations, the court must determine whether the plaintiff's pleadings plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief. Id. Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not sufficient, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, nor are “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments, ” E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). The plaintiff, however, does not have to show a likelihood of success; rather, the complaint must merely allege-directly or indirectly-each element of a “viable legal theory.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-63.

         At the motion to dismiss stage, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Generally, a district court does not consider extrinsic materials when evaluating a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). It may, however, consider “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); see also Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d 523, 526 n.1 (4th Cir. 2006). In addition, the court may consider documents attached to a defendant's motion to dismiss if those documents are central to the plaintiff's claim or are “sufficiently referred to in the complaint, ” so long as the plaintiff does not challenge their authenticity. Witthohn v. Fed. Ins. Co., 164 F. App'x 395, 396-97 (4th Cir. 2006).

         The Court construes the pro se Complaint in this case more liberally than those drafted by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Further, the Court is aware that “[h]owever inartfully pleaded by a pro se plaintiff, allegations are sufficient to call for an opportunity to offer supporting evidence unless it is beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling him to relief.” Thompson v. Echols, No. 99-6304, 1999 WL 717280, at *1 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972)). Nevertheless, while pro se litigants cannot “be expected to frame legal issues with the clarity and precision ideally evident in the work of those trained in law, neither can district courts be required to conjure up and decide issues never fairly presented to them.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1276 (4th Cir. 1985). Thus, even in cases involving pro se litigants, the Court “cannot be expected to construct full blown claims from sentence fragments.” Id. at 1278. Further, the Court may not construct a plaintiff's legal arguments for him or her. See, e.g., Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993).

         B. Request for ...

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