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Ford v. Brown

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

April 4, 2019

WILLIE THOMAS FORD, Plaintiff,
v.
TAMMY BROWN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT E. PAYNE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Willie Thomas Ford, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The action proceeds on the PARTICULARIZED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 16) and Ford's Motion To Show Cause Good Time Days Credited Is In Compliance With 42 U.S.C. § 1983, When Damage Claims Are Before The Court ("Response to Show Cause Order, '' ECF No. 21) . 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 plaintiff's 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, 7 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.'" Bell Atl. 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 does not act as the inmate's advocate, sua sponte developing statutory and constitutional claims 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. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         By Memorandum Order entered on December 6, 2018, the Court directed Ford to file a particularized complaint. The Court noted that the

eighty-eight-page Complaint contains, for example, pages of impossible to follow calculations, conspiracy theories, and rambling and nonsensical allegations stemming from his criminal proceedings, his incarceration, the calculation of his sentence, and various cases he has brought while incarcerated. Plaintiff names institution staff, "Court of Legal," attorneys and various judges who have handled his prior cases.

         (ECF No. 14, at 2-3.) Ford submitted a Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 16.) Upon the Court's review of the Particularized Complaint, it appeared that Ford attacked both the duration of his sentence and sought damages. Ford failed to demonstrate why he may bring such action pursuant to § 1983.

         Accordingly, by Memorandum Order entered on March 4, 2019, the Court directed Ford, within fourteen days of the date of entry thereof, to show good cause why he should be permitted to proceed with the current action under § 1983. (ECF No. 19, at 1-2.) Ford submitted his Response to Show Cause Order. (ECF No. 21.) However, this submission is again a rambling narrative that alleges a conspiracy and criminal activity such as mail fraud and racketeering with regard to his good conduct credit calculation and legal update sheets. As discussed below, to the extent that Ford challenges the calculation of his sentence and good conduct credit earning level, such a claim must be brought pursuant to a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Ford's request for damages and the remaining allegations of criminal activity by the Defendants are not cognizable in § 1983.

         III. SENTENCE CHALLENGE MUST BE BROUGHT IN HABEAS

         ''[T] he settled rules [provide] that habeas corpus relief is appropriate . . . when a prisoner attacks the fact or duration of confinement, see Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973); whereas, challenges to the conditions of confinement that would not result in a definite reduction in the length of confinement are properly brought" by some other procedural vehicle, including a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint. Olajide v. B.I.C.E., 402 F.Supp.2d 688, 695 (E.D. Va. 2005) (emphasis omitted) (internal parallel citations omitted) (citing Strader v. Troyƒ 571 F.2d 1263, 1269 (4th Cir. 1978)). Thus, any challenge to the duration of his sentence must be brought pursuant to a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. However, a plaintiff may not seek monetary damages under § 2254, nor are monetary damages appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where the plaintiff is attacking the duration of his sentence. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) (``[A] state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred ... no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings)-if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration." (emphasis added)).

         In the Response to Show Cause Order, Ford seemingly alleges that he should be allowed to challenge the improper calculation of his sentence, his good conduct credit earning level, and his projected release date, by way of § 1983 because he seeks monetary damages. However, Ford's claims for monetary damages are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), because he seeks damages related to the length of his sentence and he has not demonstrated that his conviction or sentence has been invalidated. In Heck, the Supreme Court emphasized that civil tort actions are ...


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