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Simpson v. Bishop

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

July 16, 2019



          John A. Gibney Jr. United States District Judge

         James Henry Simpson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] By Memorandum Order entered on September 11, 2018, the Court directed Plaintiff to file a Particularized Complaint. (ECFNo. 12.) Plaintiff filed a Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 14.) The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. For the reasons set forth below, the action will be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim and because it is legally frivolous and malicious.


         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 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 plaintiffs 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.'" BellAtl 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, therefore, 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); lodice 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, 175 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).


         Simpson was arrested on November 29, 2016, and a jury sitting in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond convicted him of possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime on September 29, 2017.[2] (Part. Compl. 1, 24-26.)[3] In a lengthy and rambling Particularized Complaint, Simpson alleges that Defendants Magistrate Mortrsha Bishop, Officer Michael Poerstel, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Brook Pettit, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Joshua Boyles, Judge Beverly Snukals, Judge Herbert C. Gill, Judge Thomas B. Hoover, Judge Walter Stout, Judge Clarence N. Jenkins, Chief Justice Donald Lemons, Public Defender Abigail Paules, and Court Appointed Attorney Melvin Todds, Jr. (collectively "Defendants") committed various errors related to his criminal investigation and criminal proceedings. (See Id. at 1-53.)

         Simpson contends that as a result of Defendants' allegedly unconstitutional actions, he "was wrongfully convicted in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond, VA and sentenced to 15 years of unlawful imprisonment." (Id. at 52.) As his only relief, Simpson demands "declaratory relief," and requests that the Court "officially and formally declare that all of the named Defendants of this civil action violated [his] civil rights and that [he] was wrongfully convicted ... and [that he is] currently being unlawfully imprisoned." (Id.)


         As noted above, by Memorandum Order entered on September 11, 2018, the Court directed Simpson to file a Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 12.) Prior to the entry of the Court's September 11, 2018 Memorandum Order, Simpson filed a Motion to File a Particularized Complaint and/or Motion to Appoint Counsel. Because the Court provided Simpson with an opportunity to file a Particularized Complaint, and Simpson did in fact file a Particularized Complaint, Simpson's Motion to File a Particularized Complaint (ECF No. 11) will be DENIED AS MOOT.

         Simpson also moves the Court for the appointment of counsel. (Id.) Counsel need not be appointed in § 1983 cases unless the case presents complex issues or exceptional circumstances. See Fowler v. Lee, 18 Fed.Appx. 164, 166 (4th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). This action presents no complex issues or exceptional circumstances. Additionally, Simpson's pleadings demonstrate that he is competent to represent himself in the action. Accordingly, Simpson's Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 11) will be DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         After filing his Particularized Complaint, Simpson filed a lengthy and rambling "Motion to Add Defendant." (ECF No. 22.) In this motion, Simpson requests that the Court "permit [him] to add the unknown Judge, who entered the 1-3-19 per curiam order, in the Court of Appeals of Virginia (Record No. 0353-18-2) as a Defendant to this civil action." (Id. at 46.)

         As set forth below, judges are absolutely immune from suits under § 1983 for acts committed within their judicial discretion. Stump v. Sparkman,435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). Further, although there are two exceptions to judicial immunity, Mireles v. Waco,502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991), neither exception applies to Simpson's claims against the unknown Judge. (See generally ECF No. 22.) Therefore, ...

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