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Coleman v. Fountain

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

May 8, 2018

JEROME F. COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANCES M. FOUNTAIN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert E. Payne Senior United States District Judge.

         Jerome F. Coleman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.

         I. Preliminary Review

         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner 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)), aff'd, 36 F.3d 1091 (4th Cir. 1994). 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, 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); lodice 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 or her 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).

         II. Coleman's Complaint

         By Memorandum Order entered on March 12, 2018, the Court advised Coleman that his complaint failed to identify a particular constitutional right that was violated by a nonimmune defendant's conduct. (ECF No. 20, at 2.) The Court then directed Coleman to file a particularized complaint. (Id.) Coleman filed his Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 22.)

         In his Particularized Complaint, Coleman has named Frances M. Fountain, Clerk of the General District Court of Sussex, Virginia, [2] and Doris Worley, Deputy Clerk, as Defendants. (See Part. Compl. 6.)[3] Coleman alleges as follows:

         On November 11, 2014, [Coleman] wrote a letter address[ed] to Mrs, Francis M. Fountain ... to ask two questions:

If [the] Court has jurisdiction to hear a warrant in detinue and,
If bond if required? Also, [Coleman] stated [he had] no job, no money to pay for service of warrant.
On or about December 2014, Mrs. Fountain answered and said, ''Can file, no bond necessary in detinue cases. Must file in forma pauperis." On May 3, 2015, [Coleman] filed a warrant in detinue with 12 months accounting statements as requested by Mrs. Fountain, Clerk of the Court. [Coleman] filed in forma pauperis with statements.
On May 27, 2015, Mrs. Doris Worley, Deputy Clerk, answered [Coleman's] letter and said [Coleman] would have to pay $56.00 for service of warrant, ...

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