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Clem v. Jenkins

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

January 11, 2019

STEVEN E. CLEM, Plaintiff,
SCOTT H. JENKINS, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Culpeper County, Virginia, et al, Defendant.


          Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge

         In the instant action, which was removed from the Circuit Court of Culpeper County, Steven Clem asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Virginia law against Scott Jenkins, Mason Mays, Brent Coffey, Charles Burgoon, James Fox, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and four unknown defendants.[1] The case is presently before the court on motions to dismiss filed by Jenkins, Mays, Coffey, Fox, and the Commonwealth.[2] For the reasons that follow, the plaintiffs claims under § 1983 will be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims at this time, dismiss those claims without prejudice, and permit the plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

         Factual Background

         The following factual allegations, taken from the plaintiffs complaint, are accepted as true for purposes of the pending motions. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ("[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.").

         Clem is employed by the Sheriff of Spottsylvania County. On June 23, 2016, he and Timothy Chilton, a police officer for the Town of Culpeper, visited two vineyards with their respective girlfriends. Over the course of the afternoon, Clem "consumed two small glasses of wine." Compl. ¶ 13, Dkt. No. 1-1.

         The group left the vineyards in separate vehicles driven by Clem and Chilton. At approximately 5:43 p.m., while driving westbound on Virginia Route 3 in Culpeper County, Chilton pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, and Clem followed behind him. Chilton's girlfriend got into the back of Clem's vehicle, so that Chilton could drive straight to work. "Soon thereafter, Clem drove his car onto the roadway in front of [a] sheriffs car driven by [Charles] Burgoon." Id. ¶ 16.

         Clem alleges that Burgoon, who was then employed as a Culpeper County Sheriffs deputy, mistakenly believed that Clem had driven off the roadway when, in fact, he had reentered the traffic lane from a parked position. Perceiving Clem's driving to be erratic, Burgoon initiated a traffic stop. Clem pulled over immediately in a nearby parking lot.

         Upon approaching Clem's vehicle, Burgoon "detected an odor of alcohol in [the] vehicle," and indicated that he "suspected that Clem was driving while under the influence of alcohol." Id. ¶ 18. During his interactions with Clem, Burgoon discovered that Chilton's girlfriend was in the vehicle. Burgoon then called for assistance from the Virginia State Police, purportedly because he was aware of the "political rivalry" between Chilton and Scott Jenkins, the Sheriff of Culpeper County. Id. ¶ 20. While Burgoon was waiting for assistance, James Fox and four other unknown deputies appeared on the scene. Id. ¶ 21.

         Mason Mays, a Virginia State Police trooper, subsequently arrived at approximately 5:55 p.m. and "conferred with Burgoon." Id. ¶ 24. Unlike Burgoon, Mays "claimed to detect a strong odor of alcohol [emitting] from Clem's person," rather than the vehicle itself. Id. ¶ 27. Mays directed Clem to "blow into a portable breath test machine." Id. ¶ 28. Prior to doing so, "Mays did not read the implied consent law" to the plaintiff. Id. Clem, who was using smokeless tobacco at the time, "asked Mays to wait ten minutes to allow the residual mouth alcohol to dissipate, but Mays refused." Id. After the portable breath test "purportedly registered a breath alcohol content of 0.111 percent," Mays placed Clem under arrest for driving under the influence. Id. ¶¶ 29, 33.

         Mays then transported Clem to the Culpeper Police Department for the performance of an "evidentiary breath test." Id. ¶ 37. Clem alleges that his smokeless tobacco rendered the results of the portable breath test invalid, and that he "repeatedly stated his desire to take the [evidentiary] breath test in order to prove that he was sober." Id. ¶¶ 36, 39. Mays began administering the evidentiary breath test at approximately 7:25 p.m. Although Clem was "cooperative," Mays "abruptly aborted the breath test before completing it" and advised dispatch that he was going to transport Clem to the hospital for a blood test. Id. ¶¶ 40, 43.

         While en route to the hospital, "Mays received a telephone call and then abruptly changed course and drove to the magistrate's office instead of the hospital." Id. ¶ 47. Burgoon was waiting at the magistrate's office when Mays arrived with Clem. "Mays and Burgoon sought and obtained a misdemeanor DUI warrant against Clem." Id. ¶ 49. Mays also "sought and obtained a civil refusal summons against Clem on the basis of the false claim that Clem had given an insufficient breath sample" during the administration of the evidentiary breath test. Id. ¶ 50. Both the DUI charge and the civil refusal summons were ultimately dismissed on October 4, 2016. Id. ¶ 53.

         Procedural History

         On June 4, 2018, Clem filed the instant action in state court against Jenkins, Mays, Burgoon, Coffey, Fox, Culpeper County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and four unknown defendants. The complaint includes the following claims: false arrest (Count One); battery (Count Two); false imprisonment (Count Three); civil conspiracy (Count Four); violation of Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count Five); malicious prosecution (Count Six); and gross negligence (Count Eight).[3]

         On June 27, 2018, the state court granted Culpeper County's demurrer. The action was then removed to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Jenkins, Mays, Coffey, Fox, and the Commonwealth of Virginia have since moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). In his written response to the defendants' motions, Clem acknowledged that the complaint presently contains insufficient factual allegations to state a claim against Fox, Coffey, or the Commonwealth, and he requested that the claims against these defendants be dismissed without prejudice. Clem likewise acknowledged that his current ...

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