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Sirleaf v. Mickeljohn

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

May 24, 2019

PRIEST MOMOLU V.S. SIRLEAF, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
BARBARA MICKELJOHN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT E. PAYNE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Priest Momolu V.S. Sirleaf, Jr., 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. 23.) The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. As discussed below, the action will be dismissed as frivolous, malicious, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         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

         A. Preliminary Orders

         From the outset of this action, Sirleaf has obstinately refused to follow the directives of the Court.[2] The initial Complaint filed by Sirleaf was forty-six rambling pages, purportedly brought on behalf of himself, his son, and his wife, stemming from his son's conviction and incarceration in the State of Maryland. In the October 24, 2018 Memorandum Order filing the action for screening, the Court explained the following to Sirleaf:

1. As a preliminary matter, the action proceeds with Plaintiff as the sole Plaintiff in this action. He may not bring an action as a "next friend" for his common law wife or son. "[A] next friend does not himself become a party to the [civil] action in which he participates, but simply pursues the cause on behalf of the detained person, who remains the real party in interest." Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 294 F.3d 598, 603 (4th Cir. 2002) (some internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Whitmore v. Arkansas, 95 U.S. 149');">495 U.S. 149, 163 (1990)) .
To establish "next friend" standing, (1) the "next friend must provide an adequate explanation-such as inaccessibility, mental incompetence, or other disability-why the real party in interest cannot appear on his own behalf to prosecute the action," and (2) the "next friend" must also establish that he is "truly dedicated to the best interests of the person on whose behalf he seeks to litigate" and has "a significant relationship with the real party in interest." Id. at 603 (some internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Whitmore, 495 U.S. at 163-64). "The burden is on the next friend clearly to establish the propriety of his status and thereby justify the jurisdiction of the court." Id. at 603 (some internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Whitmore, 495 U.S. at 163-64).
Plaintiff's current submission fails to demonstrate that he qualifies as a "next friend" for his son or wife. Plaintiff fails to explain why his wife or son could not bring an action on their own behalf. See Aguilar v. Bragg, 463 Fed.Appx. 333, 334 (5th Cir. 2012); Francis v. Warden, FCC Coleman-USP, 246 Fed.Appx. 621, 623 (11th Cir. 2007); Tate v. United States, 72 Fed.Appx. 265, 267 (6th Cir. 2003) . Parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel in all courts of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654. Moreover, to the extent Plaintiff believes he can represent his wife or son in this action, individuals who are not licensed attorneys may not represent third parties because such representation constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia, Pt. 6, § I; see DePonceau v. Pataki, 315 F.Supp.2d 338, 341-42 (W.D.N.Y. 2004); Kone v. Wilson, 630 S.E.2d 744, 745-46 (Va. 2006). Accordingly, Plaintiff is reminded that he is the sole Plaintiff in this action and any claim that Plaintiff purportedly brings on behalf of his wife or son will not be considered.

(ECF No. 10, at 1-2 (alterations in original).) Subsequently, Sirleaf filed several documents entitled, "§ Allegation -- Claim Arising under treaty [28 USCA 1331; Fed R Civ P 8(a)(1)]" that the Court took no action on. (ECF No. 11, 12.) After review of the initial Complaint, by Memorandum Order entered on March 4, 2019, the Court directed Sirleaf to file a particularized complaint within fourteen days of the date of entry thereof. The Court explained the following to Sirleaf:

Upon the Court's initial review of the Complaint, it appears that Plaintiff does not explain how the various defendants have personally been involved in the deprivation of his rights. Rather, the majority of the claims allege violations of his son's rights or simply state that "plaintiffs'" rights were violated. As the Court already explained, any claim brought on behalf of his wife or son will not be considered.
The Complaint in this action also fails to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). That rule provides:
(a) Claim for Relief. A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain:
(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;
(2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and
(3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Plaintiff's rambling submission is neither short nor plain. Rather, it is comprised of a variety of separate documents with rambling allegations that do not appear to provide the basis for the Court's jurisdiction or succinctly present his claims.

         Moreover, in order to state a viable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1 a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of a constitutional right or of a right conferred by a law of the United States. See Dowe v. Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, 145 F.3d 653, 658 (4th Cir. 1998) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Courts must liberally construe pro se civil rights complaints in order to address constitutional deprivations. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Nevertheless, "[p]rinciples requiring generous construction of pro se complaints are not . . . without limits." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Plaintiff's current allegations fail to provide each defendant with fair notice of the facts and legal basis upon which his or her liability rests. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Moreover, Plaintiff is placed on notice that civil tort actions are "not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments." Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486 (1994). Accordingly, Plaintiff is DIRECTED, within fourteen (14) days of the date of entry hereof, to particularize his Complaint in conformance with the following directions and in the order set forth below:

a. At the very top of the particularized pleading, Plaintiff is directed to place the following caption in all capital letters "PARTICULARIZED COMPLAINT FOR CIVIL ACTION NUMBER 3:18CV562."
b. The first paragraph of the particularized pleading must contain a list of defendants. Thereafter, in the body of the particularized complaint, Plaintiff must set forth legibly, in separately numbered paragraphs, a short statement of the facts giving rise to his claims for relief. Thereafter, in separately captioned sections, Plaintiff must clearly identify each civil right violated. Under each section, the Plaintiff must list each defendant purportedly liable under that legal theory and explain why he believes each defendant is liable to him. Such explanation should reference the specific numbered factual paragraphs in the body of the particularized complaint that support that assertion. Plaintiff shall also include a prayer for relief.
c. The particularized pleading will supplant the prior complaints. The particularized pleading must stand or fall of its own accord. Plaintiff may not reference statements in the prior complaints.
FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE FOREGOING DIRECTIONS WILL RESULT IN DISMISSAL OF THE ACTION. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). Moreover, if Plaintiff files a particularized complaint that alleges that "plaintiffs'" rights were violated, or if he again attempts to bring the action on behalf of his son or his common law wife, the Court will dismiss ...

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