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Wimer v. Whitlock

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

January 17, 2019

SUSAN WHITLOCK, et al., Defendants.



         Charles Wimer, proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing a form complaint and a motion for injunctive relief against the General District Court of Culpeper County, the Circuit Court of Culpeper County, the Court of Appeals of Virginia, and three individual defendants, Susan Whitlock, Dale Durrer, and Cynthia McCoy. The plaintiff has not paid the filing fee but will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis for purposes of initial review of his complaint. For the following reasons, the court concludes that the case must be dismissed for failure to state a claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).


         The following facts are taken from the complaint, the accompanying motion for injunctive relief, and public records of state court proceedings related to the case. See Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem. Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (noting that courts "may properly take judicial notice of matters of public record" when reviewing a complaint).

         According to the written submissions, Wimer has a learning disability that affects his ability to read and write. In December of 2016, Wimer was cited in Culpeper County for failing to have his vehicle inspected and for driving without a seatbelt. He received two summonses to appear in General District Court on the alleged traffic violations. Wimer immediately went to the courthouse and requested accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Wimer alleges that former General District Court Judge Dale Durrer denied his request based on "outdated" ADA policies and standards. Mot. for Inj. Relief 1, Dkt. No. 2-1. Wimer was ultimately convicted of both traffic offenses.

         Wimer appealed to the Circuit Court of Culpeper County, where he appeared before Judge Susan Whitlock. Wimer claims that Judge Whitlock responded in a defensive and aggressive manner when he inquired about accommodations under the ADA, and that she "refuse[d] to comply" with the statute. IcL at 2. Wimer proceeded to trial in April of 2018, at which time he was found guilty of both traffic offenses.

         When Wimer returned to the Circuit Court to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, an employee named Tom Buckley assisted him in completing the necessary forms. Wimer then spoke to an individual with the last name of Shelton at the Court of Appeals. Shelton suggested that Wimer contact Renee Fleming Mills, who serves as the ADA "coordinator" for the state judicial system, hi However, Wimer declined to do so since that was "not [Wimer's] job." Id. Records from the Court of Appeals of Virginia indicate that Wimer's appeal was dismissed on October 11, 2018.

         On January 7, 2019, Wimer filed the instant action against Judge Whitlock; Judge Durrer; Cynthia McCoy, the Clerk of the Court of Appeals; and all three state courts. In his form complaint, Wimer indicates that the action is brought under the ADA. Wimer directs the court to "see [the] attached" document in response to being asked to state what relief he is seeking. Compl. 5, Dkt. No. 2. In the attached "motion for injunctive relief," Wimer indicates that Tom Buckley can confirm that the Circuit Court does not have a policy regarding reading and writing accommodations, and that it has failed to comply with the ADA. Mot. for Inj. Relief 3.

         Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), which governs in forma pauperis proceedings, the court has a mandatory duty to screen initial filings. Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 656-57 (4th Cir. 2006). The court must dismiss a case "at any time" if the court determines that the complaint "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         The standards for reviewing a complaint for dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) are the same as those which apply when a defendant moves for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). De'Lonta v. Angelone. 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003). Thus, in reviewing a complaint under this statute, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Philips, 572 F.3d at 180. To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for 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)).


         Liberally construed, Wimer's complaint seeks injunctive relief under Title II of the ADA, which provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity." [*] 42 U.S.C. § 12132. For the following reasons, the court concludes that the complaint fails to state a plausible claim for injunctive relief against the named defendants.

         First, even assuming that Wimer was subjected to unlawful discrimination, he has not alleged sufficient facts to establish that he has standing to seek injunctive relief under the ADA. Because injunctions regulate future conduct, a party has standing to sue for injunctive relief only when there is a "real or immediate threat" that the party will suffer an injury in the future. City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 111 (1983). Such an injury must be "imminent." Gratz v. Bollinger,539 U.S. 244, 284 (2003) ("To seek forward-looking, injunctive relief, petitioners must show that they face an imminent threat of future injury."); Q'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974) ("Past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief... if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects."). "Although imminence is concededly a somewhat elastic concept, it cannot be stretched beyond its purpose, which is to ensure that the alleged injury is ...

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