Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Saunders v. Burns

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

July 26, 2017

MICHAEL J.G. SAUNDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG M. BURNS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M.HANNAH LAUCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Wendy S. Hughes's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim[1] (the "Hughes Motion to Dismiss"), (ECF No. 9), and Defendant Craig M. Burns's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim[2] (the "Burns Motion to Dismiss"), (ECF No. 15), and Plaintiff Michael J.G. Saunders's Motion for Status Conference, (ECF No. 20). Saunders, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has responded to both motions (ECF Nos. 12, 19), and both Defendants have replied, (ECF Nos. 13, 19). No defendant has responded to Saunders's Motion for Status Conference, and the time to do so has expired. 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. Accordingly, the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Hughes Motion to Dismiss and the Burns Motion to Dismiss and deny as moot Saunders's Motion for a Status Conference. The Court will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice.

         I. Standard of Review

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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) (citing 5 A 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, 980 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).

         The 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 Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (omission 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 assert facts that rise above speculation and conceivability to those that "show" a claim that is "plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "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." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Therefore, 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) (citations omitted).

         B. Obligation to Construe Pro se Pleadings Liberally

         District courts have a duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally. Bracey v. Buchanan, 55 F.Supp.2d 416, 421 (E.D. Va. 1999). A pro se plaintiff must nevertheless allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action. Id. (citation omitted). The Court cannot act as a. pro se litigant's "advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that the [litigant] failed to clearly raise on the face of [the] complaint." Newkirk v. Circuit Court of the City of Hampton, No. 3:14cv372, 2014 WL 4072212, at *1 (E.D. Va. Aug. 14, 2014).

         II, Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Factual Background

         1. Saunders's Underlying Convictions

         On September 2, 2008, the Circuit Court of the County of Chesterfield, Virginia (the "Chesterfield Circuit Court") convicted Saunders following a guilty plea to two counts of "consensual sodomy with juveniles" under § 18.2-361 (A).[3] Saunders v. Commonwealth, 753 S.E.2d 602, 605 (Va. Ct. App. 2014). On each count, the Chesterfield Circuit Court sentenced Saunders to five years' incarceration with five years suspended. Id. Saunders was also required to: (1) have no contact with either victim; (2) register in the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry ("SOCRAM"); (3) remain under "supervised probation indefinitely, under the supervision of a Probation Officer, until released by the Court or by the Probation Officer"; and, (4) "pay court costs, ... and any interest that may accrue until the balance is paid in full." (Sept. 2, 2008 Sentencing O. 2, ECF No. 1-7.) Following this judgment, Saunders filed-without success[4]-various direct and collateral attacks on his convictions, including one petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[5]

         On August 4, 2009, the Chesterfield Circuit Court found Saunders guilty of violating the conditions of his probation. See Saunders, 753 S.E.2d at 605. The Chesterfield Circuit Court revoked Saunders's previously-suspended sentences, and re-imposed a total sentence often years' incarceration, with all ten years suspended on the conditions of: (1) good behavior; (2) supervised probation until released by the Court or the Probation Officer; and, (3) the payment of "original court costs, current court costs, ... and any interest that may accrue until the balance is paid in full." (August 4, 2009 Show Cause Revocation O. 1-2.) Four months later, on November 4, 2009, the Chesterfield Circuit Court again found Saunders guilty of violating the conditions of his probation. The court revoked the previously-suspended sentences, re-imposed a total sentence often years' incarceration, and suspended seven years on the conditions of: (1) good behavior; (2) mental health treatment; (3) sex offender treatment; (4) making "no threats to any other person"; (5) supervised probation, commencing upon Saunders's release from incarceration and continuing until released by the Court or the Probation Officer; and, (6) the payment of "original court costs, current court costs, ... and any interest that may accrue until the balance is paid in full." On August 22, 2012, the Chesterfield Circuit Court found Saunders guilty of violating the conditions of his probation a third time, imposing another active three-year period of incarceration with four years' incarceration suspended on the conditions of: (1) good behavior; (2) supervised probation for fifteen years until released by the Court, (3) the payment of "original court costs, current court costs, ... and any interest that may accrue until the balance is paid in full." (August 22, 2012 Show Cause O. 1-2.)

         Saunders appealed the August 22, 2012 probation revocation to the Virginia Court of Appeals. See Saunders, 753 S.E.2d at 605. Among other challenges, Saunders attacked his underlying 2008 convictions based on Lawrence, [6] 539 U.S. 558, and MacDonaldv. Moose, 710 F.3d 154 (4th Cir. 2013) ("MacDonalaVMoose")[7] Saunders, 753 S.E.2d at 606. Saunders argued that the Chesterfield Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction to impose any sentence on his probation violation because his original 2008 convictions flowed from a statute declared unconstitutional by the Fourth Circuit in MacDonald/Moose. Id. at 607. The Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the Chesterfield Circuit Court's decision, finding that the Supreme Court of Virginia's holding in McDonald v. Commonwealth, 645 S.E.2d 918 (Va. 2007), [8] affirming the constitutionality of the anti-sodomy provision as to conduct with minors, bound its decision regarding Saunders's appeal. Id. at 608, 611.

         The Supreme Court of Virginia later reaffirmed this holding in Toghill v. Commonwealth, 768 S.E.2d 674 (Va. 2015). In Toghill, the Supreme Court of Virginia reaffirmed the constitutionality of Section 18.2-361(A) as applied to Toghill because Toghill, like MacDonald, had been convicted based on conduct involving a minor. Toghill, 768 S.E.2d at 679. The Supreme Court of Virginia expressly declined to follow the Fourth Circuit's holding in MacDonald/Moose, noting that it provided only persuasive authority. Id. at 677. The Toghill court noted that the '"normal rule' is that 'partial, rather than facial invalidation [of a statute] is the required course ... [because courts] try not to nullify more of a legislature's work than is necessary.'" Toghill, 768 S.E.2d at 680 (quoting Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, 546 U.S. 320, 329 (2004)). Partial invalidation does less to frustrate the "intent of the elected representatives of the people." Id. The Virginia Supreme Court noted with approval some aspects of the dissenting opinion in MacDonald/Moose. See Toghill, 768 S.E.2d at 679 n.4 (citing MacDonald/Moose, 710 F.3d at 169 (Diaz, J., dissenting)); see also Id. at 683-84 (Mims, J. concurring) (citing MacDonald/Moose, 710 F.3d at 167 (Diaz, J., dissenting)).

         2. The Allegations in Saunders's Complaint

         The Complaint before the Court challenges the garnishment of Saunders's wages to pay outstanding court costs and fees. Saunders alleges that on or about May 19, 2016, he received a "Notice of Lien and Demand for Payment of Court Liabilities, Under Section 58.1-1804 of the Code of Virginia, " (the "Notice and Demand"). (Compl. 4, ECF No. 3.) The Notice and Demand required Saunders's employer to withhold money from Saunders's check "for Payment of court liabilities." (Not. and Demand 1, ECF No. 1-3.) In all, Saunders owed $616.62 to "Goochland Combined Court" for case number 075GT1300283700, and $10, 237.09 to "Chesterfield ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.