United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division
Melinda Scott, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones United States District Judge
plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has filed this action alleging
civil rights violations. For the reasons that follow, I will
dismiss the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) because it fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted.
plaintiff, Melinda Scott, filed this action claiming that her
constitutional rights were violated by Virginia court
officials when she was not allowed an appeal because of her
financial inability to give an appeal bond. Scott previously
filed a motion seeking leave to proceed in this case in forma
pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). On the basis
of the information set forth in Scott's affidavit, I
granted that motion. Because Scott filed her Complaint in
forma pauperis, I will address it sua sponte pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). See Cochran v.
Morris, 73 F.3d 1310, 1315 (4th Cir. 1996) (stating that
sua sponte dismissals are “freely permitted”
under § 1915) (citing Denton v. Hernandez, 504
U.S. 25, 32 (1992).
district court shall dismiss a case filed in forma pauperis
at any time if the court determines that the action is
frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B);
see Michau v. Charleston Cty., 434 F.3d 725, 728
(4th Cir. 2006). This statute “is designed largely to
discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private
resources upon, baseless lawsuits that paying litigants
generally do not initiate.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
se complaint must be construed liberally. See Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, even under
this less stringent standard, the pro se complaint is subject
to sua sponte dismissal when it fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Dismissal is proper only when the court
accepts as true the substance of a plaintiff's
to her Complaint, Scott filed a pro se suit against her
landlord for breach of contract in the General District Court
for Buchanan County, Virginia. She was late arriving in court
and missed the scheduled bench trial. In her absence, the
state judge ruled against her and awarded the opposing party
attorneys' fees of $750. Scott's Complaint alleges
that she was improperly denied the ability to appeal this
judgment against her without giving an appeal bond, in
violation of Virginia Code Ann. § 16.1-107 (2017 Supp.).
This state statute provides that no appeal from a general
district court to the local circuit court shall be allowed
unless a bond with sufficient surety is given in the amount
of the judgment. However, the statute also provides that
“[n]o indigent person shall be required to post an
appeal bond.” Id.; see also Va. Code
Ann. § 8.01-676.1(N) (2017 Supp.) (providing that
“[n]o person who is an indigent shall be required to
post security for an appeal bond”).
Complaint, Scott states that when she requested to appeal as
an indigent person, she was told that although she qualified
for a waiver of any appeal fees, she nevertheless had to give
an appeal bond to cover the $750 judgment against her. She
seeks an injunction “against the clerks and Judges of
the Buchanan County General District Court to grant me an
appeal to their Circuit Court without paying an appeal bond
of any kind.” Compl. 6, ECF No. 1.
Scott sues all of the several clerks and judges of the two
courts involved, she fails to identify the actual individuals
who she claims violated her constitutional rights. She
identifies two “clerks” and a “judge”
in her Complaint, but cannot provide the names of those
individuals. I previously directed Scott to file a written
statement setting forth, among other things, the individuals
who told her she was required to give an appeal bond as a
condition of an appeal. Scott filed a written response, but
still failed to identify the officials who told her she must
give an appeal bond. While she gives some excuses why she
doesn't have this information, I find that the names of
public officials with whom she had contact could have been
obtained with further effort on her part. She cannot expect
this court to fill in the essential information for her case.
foregoing reasons, I will dismiss the Complaint for ...