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Trotman v. C.S.H.

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

February 2, 2018

C.S.H., et al., Defendants.



         David Michael Trotman, Jr., a former Virginia inmate, [1] has submitted this ambiguous civil action. The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and Trotman's compliance with the Court's November 27 and December 8, 2017 Memorandum Orders. Specifically, by Memorandum Order entered November 27, 2017, the Court directed Trotman to submit a particularized complaint. (ECF No. 5.) The Court noted that Trotman's submissions failed to provide each named defendant "with fair notice of the facts and legal basis upon which his or her liability rests." (Id. at 1-2 (citation omitted).) The Court also warned Trotman that if he failed to submit an appropriate particularized complaint that comported with the joinder requirements as set forth in the Memorandum Order, the Court would drop all defendants not properly joined with the first named defendant. (Id. at 3-4.)

         By Memorandum Order entered on December 8, 2017, the Court directed Trotman, within fourteen (14) days of the date of entry thereof, to inform the Court of whether he was incarcerated when he first submitted his Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis to the Eastern District of Virginia in October 2017. (ECF No. 6, at 2.) The Court warned Trotman that a failure to respond would result in dismissal of the action without prejudice. (Id.)

         On December 11, 2017, the Court received Trotman's Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 7.) On December 18, 2017, the United States Postal Service returned the Court's December 8, 2017 Memorandum Order marked with what appears to read, "DISCHARGED RETURN TO SENDER." (ECF No. 9, at 1.) On December 21, 2017, the Court received from Trotman a notice of change of address, and the Clerk mailed a second copy of the December 8, 2017 Memorandum Order to Trotman. (ECF No. 10.) More than fourteen (14) days have elapsed since the Clerk mailed a second copy of the December 8, 2017 Memorandum Order to Trotman and Trotman has not responded. Trotman failed to comply with the directives of the Court, and for this reason alone, this action can be dismissed.

         Nevertheless, because Trotman filed a Particularized Complaint and because the Court received the information about the dates of Trotman's confinement from the Office of the Sheriff of the County of Suffolk, New York (see ECF No, 8), the Court will turn to a preliminary review of the Particularized Complaint. As explained below, the Particularized Complaint is untimely and legally frivolous.[2]


         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action 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). 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 (E.D. Va. 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).

         "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 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 plaintiff's 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).

         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 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, therefore, 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).


         Trotman's Particularized Complaint names twenty-one individuals as defendants. Trotman's Particularized Complaint reads more like a timeline of alleged wrongdoings than a complaint that raises claims for relief. On the first two pages, Trotman lists five Virginia state statutes that he ''request[s] this Court grant motion for civil action." (Part. Compl. 1.) Trotman fails to identify what cause of action those statutes provide him or how those statutes were violated. Instead, on the following pages, he places the corresponding numbers assigned to the five Virginia statutes next to each set of allegations. Only one of the Virginia Code sections that he lists is a civil statute: Virginia Code section 57-1, the "Act for religious freedom recited."[3]

         The Court identifies the following claims from his Particularized Complaint:[4]

Claim One: In May of 2013, Trotman informed Defendant Albright that the use of synthetic substances such as thorazine was against his spiritual beliefs. (Part. Compl. 3.)
Claim Two: In September of 2013, Defendant Lofton-Beach administered dementia medicine to Trotman, forced him to take pills, and "called a [n] emergency squad to inject [Trotman] with needles." (Id.)
Claim Three: In September of 2013, Defendant Wilkerson reported that Trotman attempted to attack her when "her safety ...

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