United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
Hammer commenced this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1983 and 12132, et seq., and is
proceeding as a pauper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
Hammer names Dr. Mary Clarke Smith, Facility Director of
Western State Hospital, as the sole defendant. Smith filed a
motion to dismiss, and Hammer responded, making this matter
ripe for disposition. After reviewing Hammer's submissions,
the court grants the motion to dismiss and grants Hammer the
opportunity to amend.
presents three claims related to the conditions he
experienced at Western State Hospital. First, Hammer
claims that Smith violated his First Amendment right to the
free exercise of religion by denying him "the right to
enter into holy matrimony." Next, Hammer alleges that
Smith violated his First Amendment to have meaningful access
to courts by not providing law books or internet access.
Lastly, Hammer alleges that Smith discriminated against him
in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
("ADA") by denying him internet access.
argues that the amended complaint fails to state a plausible
claim for relief. To survive a motion to dismiss under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter which, if accepted as true,
"state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). The court must "accept the well-pled
allegations of the complaint as true" and "construe
the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v.
United States. 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). The
same is not true for legal conclusions. "Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."
Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678; see also Wag More Dogs.
LLC v. Cozart. 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012). A
plaintiff proceeding pro se is held to "less
stringent standards" than counseled plaintiffs, and the
court must construe her claims liberally. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The court need not
ignore a clear failure to allege facts that set forth a
cognizable claim, however. See Weller v. Dep't of
Soc. Services for City of Baltimore. 901 F.2d
387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). In light of Hammer's status as
a pro se plaintiff, the court will "consider both the
complaint and the factual allegations in [Hammer's]
response to the motion to dismiss in determining whether his
claims can survive dismissal." Shomo v. Apple.
Inc.. No. 7;l4cv4O, 2015 WL 777620, at *2 (W.D. Va. Feb.
24, 2015); see also Christmas v. The Arc of the Piedmont.
Inc.. No. 3:12cv00008, 2012 WL 2905584, at *2 (W.D. Va.
July 16, 2012).
holy matrimony claim is deficient. Hammer argues that his
First Amendment right to a religious marriage is inviolable
despite his status as a civilly committed patient. Civil
detainees are entitled to more considerate treatment and
conditions of confinement than prisoners. Youngberg v.
Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 322 (1982). Accordingly, civil
detainees "enjoy constitutionally protected interests in
conditions of reasonable care and safety, reasonably
nonrestrictive confinement conditions, and such training as
may be required by these interests." Id. at
when the court determines if the state has satisfied these
obligations, "decisions made by the appropriate
professional are entitled to a presumption of
correctness." Id; see also Patten v. Nichols,
274 F.3d 829, 838 (4th Cir. 2001) (holding
denial-of-medical-care "claim must be measured against
the professional judgment standard articulated by . . .
Youngberg"). Additionally, maintaining facility
security and effectively managing the institution are
legitimate, non-punitive government interests, Jones v.
Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 932 (9th Cir. 2004).
more restrictive prisoner context, the Supreme Court noted
that "[t]he right to marry, like many other rights, is
subject to substantial restrictions as a result of
incarceration." Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78,
95 (1987). But the Supreme Court refused to countenance an
outright ban on marriage "unless the superintendent has
approved the marriage after finding that there are compelling
reasons for doing so." Id. at 96. While the
Supreme Court agreed that prison officials could
"regulate the time and circumstances under which the
marriage ceremony itself takes place, " the Supreme
Court reasoned that the almost-outright ban on prisoner
marriages was "not reasonably related to . . .
penological interests" and, therefore, unconstitutional.
Id. at 96, 99.
merely claims that his constitutional right to marry has been
violated. Hammer does not describe Western State
Hospital's policy on matrimony. The court cannot gauge
the scope of the policy or the validity of the policy from
his pleadings. See, e.g., Overton v.
Bazzetta. 539 U.S. 126, 131 (2003) (discussing a
plaintiffs burden to disprove validity of a regulation
impinging on a constitutional right); Marsh v. Liberty
Behavioral Health Care. Inc., No. 2:06-cv-125, 2008 WL
821623 at *5. (M.D. Fla. Mar. 27, 2008) (noting federal
courts have applied the reasonableness test to analyze
constitutional claims raised by involuntarily and civilly
committed people). Accordingly, the holy matrimony claim is,
dismissed. Hammer may replead his holy matrimony claim to
satisfy pleading requirements.
access-to-courts claim is also deficient. The right of
reasonable access to courts "is-, ancillary to the
underlying claim, without which a plaintiff cannot have
suffered injury by being shut out of court."
Christopher v. Harbury. 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002). As
a result, Hammer's access-to-courts claim must describe
his underlying cause of action, as well as the steps Smith
has taken, or refused to take, to frustrate his ability to
access to legal materials. IcL He has not identified a
nonfrivolous legal claim that Smith's act or omission
prevented him from litigating. See, e.g., West
v. Atkins. 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Hammer has not done
so. Hammer cannot rely on a vague and conclusory allegation
of inconvenience or delay. "The fact that [a plaintiff]
may not be able to litigate in exactly the manner he desires
is not sufficient to demonstrate the actual injury element of
an access to courts claim." Godfrey v. ...