United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
REV. DR. GEORGE A. BATES, Plaintiff,
LAUREL GROVE BAPTIST CHURCH, INC., et al., Defendants.
M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff s Motion to Remand
to the Circuit Court in Prince William County for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction and Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
for failure to state a claim.
Court first considers Plaintiff's Motion to Remand.
Plaintiff originally filed this case in Prince William County
Circuit Court on April 26, 2017. Defendants Patricia Barbour
and James E. Scott were served with process on May 3, 2017.
On May 24, 2017, Defendants Barbour and Scott removed this
case to federal court on the basis of federal question
jurisdiction because Plaintiff's claim arises under 42
U.S.C. § 1981 and there is supplemental jurisdiction for
the state law claims. Both Defendant Barbour and Defendant
Scott consented to removal. At the time of removal, Defendant
Laurel Grove Baptist Church had not yet been served with
process. Defendant Laurel Grove Baptist Church was served
with process on May 26, 2017. In his motion to remand,
Plaintiff argues that removal was improper because Defendant
Laurel Grove Baptist Church had not consented to removal.
This argument is without merit because Defendants Barbour and
Scott satisfied the requirement of the law, which is that all
served defendants consent to the removal action. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446 (2011); see also May v. Board of Educ. Of
Prince George's County, 713 F.3d 735, 742 (4th Cir.
2013). Thus, this case was properly removed to federal court
on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.
the Court considers Defendants' motions to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. This case is about a disbarred
attorney's attempt to charge a church for legal services.
The Court takes judicial notice of the fact that Plaintiff
was licensed to practice law in Virginia until 2005 when he
was disbarred after being convicted of a felony. The church,
Defendant Laurel Grove Baptist Church, is a modest sized
African-American congregation in Prince William County
pastored by Defendant James E. Scott. Defendant Patricia
Barbour is a trustee at the church. Plaintiff and Defendant
Barbour have been friends since the 1970s, and Defendant
Barbour would occasionally hire Plaintiff to provide legal
services for the church, but Plaintiff was not employed by
the church. The church employed Michael Hadeed, Jr. as its
April or May of 2016, Defendant Barbour talked with Plaintiff
about some problems the church was having on a building
contract for its new sanctuary. Plaintiff recognized the name
of the architect that the church was using, and he asked
Defendant Barbour about the building contract the church had
signed with the architect. Plaintiff alleges that he then
told Defendant Barbour to send him all of the documentation
associated with signing the building contract. In December
2016, Defendant Barbour sent Plaintiff the requested
documentation. Over the next several months, Plaintiff
discussed the building contract with both Defendants Barbour
and Scott on multiple occasions. Plaintiff then asked the
church to pay for his legal services.
February 2017, Plaintiff sent Defendants a bill for his legal
fees although Plaintiff did not have a written contract with
Defendants. The church refused to pay Plaintiff for his time
consulting on the building contract. In March 2017, Plaintiff
had a heart attack, which he alleges was caused by the stress
of not being paid for his legal services. In April 2017,
Plaintiff sued Defendants, arguing that Defendants
discriminated against him by not paying him because he is
African-American while Defendants did . pay Caucasian or
Caucasian-looking professionals. The Court construes
Plaintiff's pro se Complaint to present three causes of
action: (1) a claim for violating 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (2)
a quantum meruit claim; and (3) a claim for
intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted.
motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint.
See Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d
943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). The complaint must provide a short
and plain statement showing that the pleader has a plausible
claim and is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2);
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). On a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept all
well-pled facts as true and construe those facts in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at 678. The
court does not accept as true any "unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments."
E. Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D. Associates Ltd., 213
F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).
Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981 for racial discrimination in making or enforcing
a contract. To state a claim under § 1981, a plaintiff
must prove the following elements: (1) he belongs to a racial
minority group; (2) defendant intended to discriminate
against plaintiff on the basis of race; and (3) the
discrimination relates to a contractual relationship covered
under § 1981. See Pitts v. U.S. Dep't of Hous.
& Urban Dev., 546 F.App'x 118, 120 (4th Cir.
2013); Hewlett v. Permanent Gen. Assurance Corp.,
No. 3-.15-CV-553-JAG, 2016 WL 3919460, at *2 (E.D. Va. July
20, 2016). A claim under § 1981 must identify an
impaired contractual relationship. Domino's Pizza,
Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 476 (2006).
Plaintiff cannot identify an impaired contractual
relationship because he did not have a contract with
Defendants to provide them legal services. More importantly,
however, Plaintiff is not licensed to provide legal services
because he was disbarred, and for him to provide legal
services is the unauthorized practice of law. Further,
Plaintiff does not plausibly state how a predominantly
African-American church and two African-American individuals
employed by the church intended to discriminate against
Plaintiff on the basis of his race as an African-American.
Lastly, Plaintiff does not present a similarly situated
person outside the protected group who received more
favorable treatment. Plaintiff attempts to compare himself to
Mr. Hadeed, but the comparison fails because Mr. Hadeed is a
licensed attorney unlike Plaintiff. Accordingly, Mr. Hadeed
and Plaintiff are not similarly situated. Thus, Plaintiff
fails to state a claim under § 1981.
Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted for quantum meruit. To recover on a
quantum meruit theory, a plaintiff must prove: (1)
that he conferred a benefit on the defendant; (2) that the
defendant knowingly accepted; and (3) under circumstances
making it inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit
without paying for its value. See Raymond, Colesar,
Glaspy & Huss, P.C. v. Allied Capital Corp., 961
F.2d 489, 491 (4th Cir. 1992).
Plaintiff cannot prove that he provided a benefit to
Defendants under circumstances for which he could expect
payment. Plaintiff was not licensed to provide legal
services, and for him to provide legal services is the
unauthorized practice of law, which is a criminal offense.
See Va. Code § 54.1-3904 ("Any person who
practices law without being authorized or licensed shall be
guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor."). Thus, Plaintiff has
no claim for legal fees under a quantum meruit
Plaintiff fails to state a claim for intentional or negligent
infliction of emotional distress. To recover on an
intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, a
plaintiff must prove with clear and convincing evidence that:
(1) the wrongdoer's conduct was intentional or reckless;
(2) the conduct was outrageous or intolerable; (3) there is a
causal connection between the wrongful conduct and emotional
distress; and (4) the resulting emotional distress is severe.
Russo v. White, 400 S.E.2d 160, 162 (1991). A
defendant may be found liable only if his wrongful conduct is
"beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be
regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized
community." Id. A non-client's refusal to
pay an unlicensed attorney's legal fees does not satisfy
this rigorous standard. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to state a
plausible claim for intentional infliction of emotional
Plaintiff fails to state a claim for negligent infliction of
emotional distress. The standard for negligent infliction of
emotional distress is even more rigorous than the standard
for intentional infliction of emotional distress because the
plaintiff must also prove a physical injury along with severe
emotional distress. See Myseros v. Sissler, 387
S.E.2d 463, 466 (1990). The plaintiff's physical injury
must be the natural result of fright or shock proximately
caused by the defendant's alleged negligence. Delk v.
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., 523 S.E.2d 826, 834
Plaintiff cannot prove that he suffered a physical impact
proximately caused by Defendants' conduct. Plaintiff
argues that he suffered a heart attack, but he does not plead
sufficient facts to prove that his heart attack was a natural
result of fright or shock from Defendants' failure to pay