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Bullock v. Cuffley

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

June 25, 2018

CHARLIE BULLOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID CUFFLEY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (DISMISSING 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ACTION)

          HENRY E. HUDSON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Charlie Bullock, 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); see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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 plaintiffs 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, 1 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.'" BellAtl. 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); 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).

         II. BULLOCK'S COMPLAINT

         This matter proceeds on Bullock's Particularized Complaint ("Complaint," ECF No. 15.)[2] As background, in January 2017, Bullock was convicted in the Richmond City Circuit Court of being a felon in possession of a firearm, use of a firearm second offense, and malicious wounding. Commonwealth v. Bullock, Nos. CR15F03934-00, CR15F04982-00, CR15F04983-00 (Va. Cir. Ct. Jan. 6, 2017).[3] In his Complaint, Bullock alleges that the named Defendants[4] discriminated against him and violated his various constitutional rights during his criminal proceedings. (Compl. 10-13). Among other claims, Bullock alleges violations of the Fifth[5] and Sixth[6] Amendments. (Id. at 13.) Bullock requests that the Court grant him "relief of $75, 000, 000 on [his] class action claims," and "$40, 000, 000 on [his] individual claims." (Id.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         In order to state a viable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under color of state law deprived him or her of a constitutional right or of a right conferred by a law of the United States. See Dowe v. Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, 145 F.3d 653, 658 (4th Cir. 1998) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983). It is both unnecessary and inappropriate to engage in an extended discussion of Bullock's theories for relief. See Cochran v. Morris, 73 F.3d 1310, 1315 (4th Cir. 1996) (emphasizing that "abbreviated treatment" is consistent with Congress's vision for the disposition of frivolous or "insubstantial claims" (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989))). Ultimately, Bullock's Complaint will be dismissed for failing to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and as legally frivolous.

         A. Judicial Immunity

         Judges are absolutely immune from suit under § 1983 for acts committed within their judicial discretion. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). "Absolute judicial immunity exists 'because it is recognized that judicial officers in whom discretion is entrusted must be able to exercise discretion vigorously and effectively, without apprehension that they will be subjected to burdensome and vexatious litigation.'" Lesane v. Spencer, No. 3;O9CVOI2, 2009 WL 4730716, at *2 (E.D. Va. Dec. 3, 2009) (citations omitted) (quoting McCray v. Maryland, 456 F.2d 1, 3 (4th Cir. 1972), overruled on other grounds, Pink v. Lester, 52 F.3d 73, 77 (4th Cir. 1995)). A judge is entitled to immunity even if "the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority" Stump, 435 U.S. at 356. Only two exceptions to absolute judicial immunity exist: (1) nonjudicial actions; and (2) those actions "though judicial in nature, taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction." Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991) (citation omitted). Neither exception applies in this case.

         Bullock contends that Judge Jeter-Taylor and Judge Roberts violated his due process rights. (Compl. 2, 5.) Specifically, Bullock contends that Judge Roberts held a preliminary hearing without Bullock being present and that he "was convicted in [Judge Jeter-Taylor's] courtroom and the victim ... didn't testify ... which is a violation of [his] due process rights." (Id. at 2, 5.) Bullock alleges that as a result, he was "wrongfully convicted by Judge Taylor." (Id. at 3.) Bullock fails to allege that Judge Jeter-Taylor and Judge Robert's conduct falls under either exception to judicial immunity. Bullock does not allege that their conduct amounted to a non-judicial action or that any of these Defendants acted in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Because Judge Jeter-Taylor and Judge Roberts are entitled to judicial immunity, Bullock's claims against them will be dismissed.

         B. ...


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