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Fauconier v. Clarke

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

March 20, 2018

Douglas Fauconier, Plaintiff,
Harold W. Clarke, et al., Defendants.


          T. S. Ellis, III United States District Judge.

         Douglas Fauconier, a Virginia inmate acting pro se, has filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his rights under both the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") were violated when he was removed from his position as a houseman at Powhatan Correctional Center ("PCC"). The matter is now before the Court on defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, to which plaintiff has filed a Motion in Opposition. Also pending are two motions by plaintiff pertaining to the filing fees for this action and an earlier appeal. For the reasons which follow, defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted, plaintiffs Motion in Opposition will be denied, and plaintiff will remain obligated to pay the applicable filing fees.

         I. Facts

         "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus. 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). So construed, the facts giving rise to the plaintiffs claims are as follow:

         Plaintiff Douglas Fauconier is an inmate committed to the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"). Compl. ¶ 1. Defendant Harold W. Clarke is the Director of VDOC. Compl. ¶8. Defendant Jeffery N. Dillman is the former warden of Powhatan Correctional Center ("PCC"), a VDOC facility that is now closed. Compl. ¶ 10. Defendant Luke Isaiah Black was the Institutional Programs Manager at PCC during the time period relevant to this action, and "oversaw the functioning of all programs at the prison." Compl. ¶ 12. Defendant Lakenesha Spencer was a counselor at PCC who was "responsible for determining whether a prisoner [met] eligibility requirements for available prison employment." Compl. ¶ 14.

         In 2010, plaintiff was confined at PCC. Prior to that time, and during his incarceration at PCC, he was employed in various institutional positions. Compl. ¶¶ 16-18. On October 14, 2010, plaintiff was transferred to the Medical College of Virginia ("MCV") for a "very brief period. Compl. ¶¶ 19-20. When he returned to PCC and to his original housing unit plaintiff reapplied for the houseman position he had held prior to his hospitalization, and he was not rehired. Compl. ¶ 24. Plaintiffs medical condition was given as the reason for the denial of institutional employment, and at the time he filed the complaint he had remained unable to obtain such employment since 2010. Compl. ¶ 24 & Ex. 2 at pp. 2-3, 6. Other inmates with prior periods of hospitalization for unspecified conditions have been able to maintain such employment. Compl. ¶ 27.

         On October 30, 2013, plaintiff submitted an informal complaint regarding his inability to obtain institutional employment. Compl. ¶ 31. Defendant Black responded that plaintiff was ineligible for employment because he had been assigned medical classification code "D." Compl. ¶ 32 & Ex. 1 at p. 2. On November 11, 2013, plaintiff submitted a regular grievance as to the same issue, and defendant Dillman responded that plaintiff had been assigned medical code "D" was therefore was "ineligible to work at this time." Compl. ¶¶ 33-34 & Ex. 1 at p. 4, Ex. 2 at p. 4.

         Pursuant to VDOC Operating Procedure 720.2, "Medical Screening, Classification and Levels of Care, " each inmate receives a "medical activity classification" that is "assigned by the physician according to the "Medical & Location Codes" set out in VDOC's Nursing Guidelines. Those guidelines state that a medical code of "D" means that the offender has been deemed medically ineligible to obtain institutional employment, and that he further is restricted to "[n]o sports activity except walking."[1] Def. Mem., Ex. 1-2.

         Plaintiff was transferred to Augusta Correctional Center on October 22, 2014. Compl. ¶ 1, n.l. He filed this action on December 3, 2014.[2] Compl. at p. 5.

         II. Claims

         As construed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, plaintiff alleges the following claims:

1. He suffered disability discrimination in violation of Title II of the ADA.
2. His right to equal protection was violated, for which relief is warranted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983.[3]

         III. Standard of Review

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss those allegations which fail "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When determining whether a motion to dismiss should be granted, the alleged facts are presumed true and the complaint should be dismissed only when "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding. 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, "a complaint 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. ___, ___,, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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. However, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to meet this standard, id., and a plaintiffs "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Twomblv. 550 U.S. at 55.

         IV. Analysis

         A. The claims are time-barred

         Defendants make several meritorious arguments in favor of dismissal of the complaint in this action. As a threshold and dispositive matter, they point out correctly that both of plaintiff s claims are time-barred.[4]

         1. ADA Claim

         "Title II of the ADA does not contain a statute of limitations." A Society Without a Name, for People without a Home. Millennium Future-Present v. Va.. 655 F.3d 342, 347 (4th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, federal courts "borrow the state statute of limitations that applies to the most analogous state-law claim." Id. Applicable precedent in this circuit teaches that "the one-year limitations period in the Virginia Disabilities Act applies to ADA claims brought in Virginia." Id. at 348. Causes of action accrue under federal law when the plaintiff "possesses sufficient facts about the harm done to him that reasonable inquiry will reveal his cause of action." Nasim v. Warden. Md, House of Corr.. 64 F.3d 951, 955 (4th Cir. 1995). Consistent with that general principle, an ADA claim accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of his injury. A Society Without a Name. 655 F.3d at 347-48.

         Based upon the allegations in the complaint, it cannot be gainsaid that plaintiff was aware that he was being denied institutional employment because of his medical classification code by 2010. Plaintiff alleges that his "very brief hospitalization at MCV commenced on October 14, 2010, and when he was returned to PCC he was not re-hired as a houseman because of his medical condition. Compl. ¶¶ 19-20, 24. Even more telling, he submitted an informal and then a formal complaint regarding his inability to obtain institutional employment specifically referencing the ADA in October and November, 2013. Compl. ¶¶ 31, 33. The denials of both complaints were expressly based on plaintiffs assignment of medical classification code "D." Compl. ¶¶ 32, 34. & Ex. 1 at p. 2. Nonetheless, plaintiff did not file this action until December 3, 2014, over a year after he knew or had reason to ...

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