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Bradley v. Snidow

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

April 24, 2019

TERRY C. BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
L.L. SNIDOW, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Terry C. Bradley, proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing a form complaint for violation of civil rights against seven individual defendants. The plaintiff has not paid the filing fee but will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis for purposes of initial review of her complaint. For the following reasons, the court concludes that the case must be dismissed for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3).

         Background

         The following facts are taken from the complaint, the exhibits attached thereto, and public records of state court proceedings related to the case. See Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 166 (4th Cir. 2016) (noting that the court may consider exhibits to a complaint in assessing its sufficiency); Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem. Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (observing that courts may take judicial notice of matters of public record when reviewing a complaint).

         In 2001, Bradley worked in the bookstore at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University ("Virginia Tech"). On October 22, 2001, the director of the bookstore contacted the Virginia Tech Police Department and reported that Bradley had admitted to taking money from the store by crediting merchandise returns to her personal check card. Sergeant L.L. Snidow responded to the call. After meeting with bookstore employees and reviewing evidence of the fraudulent transactions, Snidow "allegedly" obtained an arrest warrant charging Bradley with embezzlement, in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-111. Comp. 7, Dkt. No. 2; see also Virginia Tech Police Department Confidential Supplement, Dkt. No. 2-1 at 9. Officer F.M. Miano executed the "alleged" arrest warrant at a magistrate's office on October 26, 2001, Compl. 7. Bradley was released on an unsecured bond.

         Curtis Schwab, an Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in Montgomery County, prosecuted the case against Bradley. On January 23, 2002, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Bradley with embezzlement. Bradley entered a plea of guilty on March 8, 2002. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ray Grubbs subsequently imposed a three-year suspended sentence, five years of probation, 100 hours of community service, restitution totaling $4, 304.78, and a fine and fees totaling $855.00. Bradley signed a form acknowledging her conditions of probation on March 18, 2002. At the time of her guilty plea and sentencing, Bradley was represented by Frederick Kellerman.

         Approximately fifteen years later, Bradley applied for a job with a public school system in North Carolina. A background check revealed that Bradley had a prior felony conviction for embezzlement. As a result of the conviction, the school system declined to hire Bradley.

         Bradley then requested copies of the records from her criminal case in Montgomery County. In December of 2017, Bradley filed a petition requesting expungement of the records related to the embezzlement charge. See Va. Code 19.2-392.2 (providing for potential expungement if a person is "acquitted" of a charge "or the charge is otherwise dismissed"). Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Jensen filed an objection to the petition. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert M. D. Turk denied the petition on April 5, 2018. A subsequent petition for appeal was denied by the Supreme Court of Virginia on February 4, 2019.

         On April 19, 2019, Bradley filed the instant action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Snidow, Miano, Schwab, Judge Grubbs, Kellerman, Jensen, and Judge Turk. In her form complaint, Bradley alleges that the warrant for her arrest was invalid and that certain defendants improperly relied upon an unsigned copy of a plea agreement between Bradley and the Commonwealth's Attorney of Montgomery County. Bradley claims that "all of the defendants listed within took actions under color of law, resulting in the violation of the plaintiffs constitutional rights and deprivation of equal protection, whether acting in concert or independently." Compl. 9. More specifically, Bradley indicates that she is asserting claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and denial of equal protection. Id. at 3. She seeks to recover monetary damages in the amount of $61, 000, 000, and "requests an order granting expungement" of the records related to her felony conviction. Id. at 10.

         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 plaintiffs. Philips, 572 F.3d at 180. To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007).

         Additionally, pursuant to Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court "must dismiss" an action "[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). "[Q]uestions of subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised at any point during the proceedings and may (or, more precisely, must) be raised sua sponte by the court." Brickwood Contractors. Inc. v. Datanet Eng'g. Inc., 369 F.3d 385. 390 (4th Cir. 2004).

         Discussion

         As indicated above, Bradley filed a form complaint designated for pro se plaintiffs who wish to pursue a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, causes the deprivation of another person's rights under the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the following reasons, the court concludes that ...


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