United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Jeffrey Patroil Songer, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Jeffrey Patroil Songer, a Virginia inmate
proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Songer alleges that as part of a
conspiracy among public officials in Franklin County,
Virginia, Songer was unlawfully banned from the county as
part of his sentence for a drug trafficking conviction.
Songer has applied to proceed in forma pauperis in this
action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b), and I will
grant that application. Upon review of the complaint, however,
I conclude that the action must be summarily dismissed.
to Songer's allegations and state court records online,
he was convicted in the Franklin County Circuit Court for
manufacturing methamphetamine, third offense. On August 27,
2018, that court sentenced Songer to twenty years in prison,
with sixteen years and one month of that term suspended. The
sentence also includes supervised probation. At sentencing,
Songer was banned from entering Franklin County for the
length of his sentence.
§ 1983 Complaint, Songer sues a Franklin County
prosecutor, several law enforcement officials of the Franklin
County Sheriff's Department, and the superintendant of
the Western Virginia Regional Jail. He alleges that these
officials are corrupt and describes, in conclusory terms,
several past incidents and elections that did not involve
Songer in any way. Ultimately, Songer alleges that all of
these defendants conspired to deprive him of a list of
federal constitutional and statutory rights by banning him
from his home county. As relief, Songer seeks declaratory
relief stating that the ban is unconstitutional, an
injunction directing the defendants to remove the ban, and
unable to grant the relief that Songer seeks. In essence, he
is appealing to this federal trial court, seeking reversal of
a sentencing order issued by the Franklin County Circuit
Court and compensatory damages for a sentence that court
imposed. Lower federal courts, like this one, do not have
jurisdiction to review the judgments of state courts on
appeal. Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 731 (4th Cir.
1997). Jurisdiction for appellate review of state court
judgments lies exclusively with superior state courts and,
ultimately, with the United States Supreme Court.
Plyler, 129 F.3d at 731; 28 U.S.C. § 1257.
Thus, I have no jurisdiction under § 1983 to address
Songer's contention that a condition of release imposed
on him by Franklin County as part of the penalty for his
crime is unconstitutional. His remedy for this alleged wrong
was to pursue direct appeals to the Court of Appeals and the
Supreme Court of Virginia, and then to petition for
certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court.
could possibly raise a claim in this court for relief from
future custody under the allegedly unlawful release
condition, but he may do so only in a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus, not in this § 1983 suit. See, e.g.,
Henderson v. Bryant, 606 Fed.Appx. 301, 303 (7th Cir.
2015) (unpublished) (finding that detainee could challenge
unconstitutional release condition through habeas petition).
I could recharacterize Songer's pro se § 1983 action
as a habeas petition, but I find no indication that Songer
has exhausted available state court remedies as required
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). Until he does so, I could not
grant the relief he seeks. Therefore, I decline to consider
his current submission as a habeas petition.
claims for monetary damages related to his criminal sentence
must be dismissed for another reason. Civil actions for
monetary damages are barred when a “judgment in favor
of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of
his conviction or sentence.” Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). A successful § 1983 action
would imply the invalidity of Songer's criminal sentence.
Accordingly, he is barred from pursuing such an action until
he has otherwise invalidated the release condition through
state proceedings or through a § 2254 petition.
Id. at 489-90.
I must also summarily dismiss Songer's conspiracy
allegations as frivolous. Under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(b), I have authority to “pierce the veil of
the complaint's factual allegations, ” meaning that
I am not bound to “accept without question the truth of
the plaintiff's allegations” as I might be when
considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6). Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992) (applying prior
version of in forma pauperis statute). “While that
authority does not authorize the district court to engage in
factfinding to resolve disputed facts, it does permit the
court to apply common sense, reject the fantastic, and rebut
alleged matters with judicially noticeable facts. Nasim
v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 954 (4th
Cir. 1995) (applying prior version of in forma pauperis
simply provides no factual basis for his claim that officials
jointly contrived to violate his constitutional rights by
having the court include in its sentencing order suspending
of three-quarters of his prison time on the condition that he
stay out of Franklin County. See Davis v. Walmart Stores
East, L.P., 687 Fed.Appx. 307, 311 (4th Cir. 2017)
(unpublished) (holding that “[e]stablishing a civil
conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires a plaintiff
to show that Defendants ‘acted jointly in concert and
that some overt act was done in furtherance of the conspiracy
which resulted in [plaintiff's] deprivation of a
constitutional right'”) (quoting Hinkle v. City
of Clarksburg, 81 F.3d 416, 421 (4th Cir. 1996)). Thus,
I am satisfied that Songer's conspiracy claim falls
squarely within the unsupported and delusional contentions
that I may reject as frivolous under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
stated reasons, I will summarily dismiss this case, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), as frivolous. A
separate Order will be entered herewith.
 I note that a prisoner litigant who is
granted in forma pauperis under § 1915 must still pay
the full filing fee for the case, but may do so through
installment payments from his inmate trust ...