United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (DEFENDANTS' RENEWED MOTIONS
E. Hudson Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on remand from the United States
Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (ECF No.
59).On September 19, 2018, this Court issued a
Memorandum Opinion, dismissing the entirety of
Plaintiffs'-Kandise Lucas, Maria Crawford, and Toni
Hunter-Davis ("Plaintiffs")-Complaint on various
grounds (ECF No. 48). On April 12, 2019, the Fourth Circuit
vacated and remanded this Court's dismissal of
Plaintiffs' federal civil rights claims as to Defendants
Henrico County Public School Board ("HCPS Board"),
Superintendent Patrick Kinlaw ("Kinlaw"), Principal
Kirk Eggleston ("Eggleston"), Henrico County Police
Department ("HCPD"), Police Chief Humberto
Cardounel ("Cardounel"), and Police Sergeant P.F.
Crook ("Crook"). The Fourth Circuit also vacated and
remanded the dismissal of Plaintiffs' state law claims.
the Fourth Circuit's remand, these Defendants filed their
Renewed Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim on May
20, 2019 (ECF No. 61). Plaintiffs filed their Response on
June 7, 2019 (ECF No. 69). The Court will dispense with oral
argument because the facts and legal contentions have been
adequately presented to the Court. See E.D. Va.
Local Civ. R. 7(J).
11, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a seven-count Complaint with this
Court against nine Defendants, alleging various violations of
federal and state law. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) This
Court dismissed the entirety of Plaintiffs' Complaint by
Memorandum Opinion. (ECF No. 48.) On Plaintiffs' appeal,
the Fourth Circuit affirmed the majority of this Court's
ruling dismissing all of Plaintiffs' claims. However, the
Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded Plaintiffs' federal
civil rights claims as to Defendants HCPS Board, Kinlaw,
Eggleston, HCPD, Cardounel, and Crook, under Plaintiffs'
First Second Cause of Action ("Count
II"). This Court had dismissed those claims on
the grounds that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under
the Rooker-Feldman  doctrine, or in the alternative,
that it was required to abstain under the Younger
doctrine. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, and remanded the
federal civil rights claims to this Court for a determination
that was consistent with the Fourth Circuit's opinion.
However, the Fourth Circuit upheld the dismissal of the
federal civil rights claims as to Defendants Shannon Taylor
("Taylor"), Tania Kregar ("Kregar"), and
Judge L. Neil Steverson ("Steverson"), as those
claims are barred by prosecutorial and judicial immunity.
Finally, because this Court dismissed the state law claims by
declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction in the
absence of any remaining federal cause of action, the Fourth
Circuit remanded those claims as well.
this Court will review Plaintiffs' Complaint, along with
the accompanying Renewed Motions to Dismiss,  as to only the
federal civil rights claims alleged in Count II-specifically
42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986-and as alleged
against only Defendants HCPS Board, Kinlaw, Eggleston, HCPD,
Cardounel, and Crook, and the state law claims alleged in the
Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Causes of Action ("Counts
reasons stated, the Court will grant Defendants' Renewed
Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 61) as to the remaining claims in
Count If under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and will decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction as to Counts IV-VI.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Complaint will be dismissed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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) (citation
omitted). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
"require only 4a 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)
(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).
A complaint need not assert "detailed factual
allegations," but must contain "more than labels
and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action." Id. at 555
(citations omitted). Thus, the "[f]actual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level" to one that is "plausible on its
face," rather than merely "conceivable."
Id. at 555, 570.
a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives
a motion to dismiss." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (citing.Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556). In considering such a motion, a plaintiffs well-pleaded
allegations are taken as true, and the complaint is viewed in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. T.G. Slater
& Son, Inc. v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan
LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citation
omitted). Legal conclusions enjoy no such deference.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Court also acknowledges that pro se
complaints are afforded a liberal construction. Laber v.
Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 413 n.3 (4th Cir. 2006). The
Court, however, need not attempt "to discern the
unexpressed intent of the plaintiff." Id. Nor
does the requirement of liberal construction excuse a clear
failure in the pleading to allege a federally cognizable
claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901
F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990). As the Fourth Circuit
articulated in Beaudett v. City of Hampton,
"[principles requiring generous construction of pro
se complaints are not... without limits." 775 F.2d
1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). "Though [pro se]
litigants cannot, of course, be expected to frame legal
issues with the clarity and precision ideally evident in the
work of those trained in law, neither can district courts be
required to conjure up and decide issues never fairly
presented to them." Id. at 1276.
motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint,
courts may consider documents that are either
"explicitly incorporated into the complaint by
reference" or "those attached to the complaint as
exhibits." Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd,
822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016). "[I]n the event of
conflict between the bare allegations of the complaint and
any exhibit attached ..., the exhibit prevails."
Id. at 166 (quoting Fayetteville Inv'rs v.
Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir.
1991). This is based on "the presumption that the
plaintiff, by basing his claim on the attached document, has
adopted as true the contents of that document."
Id. at 167. However, "before treating the
contents of an attached or incorporated document as true, the
district court should consider the nature of the document and
why the plaintiff attached it," and it should consider
whether plaintiff relied on the attachment for its
truthfulness. See Id. at 167-69; see also
Wallace v. Baylouny, No. 1:16-cv-0047, 2016 WL 3059996,
at *4 (E.D. Va. May 31, 2016).
Defendant HCPD is an Improper Party
HCPD is an improper party in this action, as HCPD is not an
entity capable of being sued. State law determines whether a
governmental body has the capacity to be sued in federal
court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b). "In Virginia, departments of
municipal governments are not capable of being sued in their
own names." Allmond v. Sec. 8 Dep't of
Hous., No. 03-894-A, 2003 WL 23784041, at *2 (E.D. Va.
Sept. 25, 2003). Notably, several courts in this Circuit have
dismissed claims against police departments in Virginia,
holding that they lack the capacity to be sued. See,
e.g., Harrison v. Prince William Cty. Police Dept, 640
F.Supp.2d 688, 711 (E.D. Va. 2009); Muniz v. Fairfax Cty.
Police Dept, No. 1:05CV466, 2005 WL 1838326, at *2 (E.D.
Va. Aug. 2, 2005); Estate of Harris v. Arlington
Cty., No 99-cv-1144, 2000 WL 34477900, at *3 (E.D. Va.
Jan. 14, 2000) (granting summary judgment in favor of the
Arlington County Police Department as to plaintiffs
§§ 1981, 1983, and 1985 claims based on its finding
"that the police department is not an entity capable of
being sued"); Hearn v. Hudson, 549 F.Supp. 949,
952 n.1 (W.D. Va. 1982) ("It appears that nothing in
Virginia law recognizes municipal police departments as
entities separate from their respective municipalities. Nor
does anything in Virginia law support a direct action against
a police department as an entity separate from the
Court similarly finds that the claims against HCPD must be
dismissed because HCPD does not exist as a separate legal
entity from Henrico County and is not capable of being sued.
Plaintiffs attempted to bring suit against Henrico County,
instead of HCPD, such attempt would be futile under
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658
(1978). In Monell, the Supreme Court
held that vicarious liability, under a theory of respondeat
superior, is not available for claims brought under §
1983. 436 U.S. at 691. Because it appears that Plaintiffs are
only bringing suit against HCPD due to alleged actions of its
officers-that is, a vicarious liability claim-any suit
against Henrico County for such alleged actions would be
foreclosed under Monell. See Id. at 691, 694
("[A] local government may not be sued under § 1983
for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or
the claims against Defendant HCPD will be dismissed.
Claims Against Defendant HCPS Board Fail Under
have failed to sufficiently allege facts in their Complaint
that Defendant HCPS Board implemented and executed an
unlawful policy or custom that was responsible for
Plaintiffs' alleged deprivation of constitutional rights.
Monell, the Supreme Court held that municipalities
and local government units, like school boards, can be sued
directly under § 1983, where "the action that is
alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a
policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision
officially adopted and promulgated by that body's
officers." Id. at 690. That is, "[u]nder
Monell, a municipality's liability arises only
where the constitutionally offensive actions of employees are
taken in furtherance of some municipal policy or custom.
Thus, [plaintiffs are] obliged to identify a municipal policy
or custom that caused their injury." Walker v.
Prince George's Cty., 575 F.3d 426, 431 (4th Cir.
2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
Furthermore, the plaintiff "must demonstrate a direct
causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation
of federal rights." Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs v.
Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997).
case, it appears that Plaintiffs have made only a single
allegation against Defendant HCPS Board in Count II. (Compl.
¶ 107 ("Plaintiffs allege that Police Chief
Cardounel and Sergeant Crooks failed to prevent defendant
HCPS from obtaining an unenforceable and unlawful summons
knowing that no violation had occurred in violation of the
parties [sic] Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under
the United States Constitution.").) Viewing the
Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs,
Plaintiffs have failed to identify a School Board policy,
custom, or practice that caused their injuries. See
Walker, 575 F.3d at 431. As such, Plaintiffs have failed
to plead a viable claim under Monell against
Defendant HCPS Board.
it seems that Plaintiffs have named Defendant HCPS Board as a
defendant in their Complaint in order to hold the School
Board liable for the alleged misconduct of Defendants Kinlaw
and Eggleston. However, as the Court previously
addressed above, vicarious liability is not available for
§ 1983 claims. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691.
such, the claims against Defendant HCPS Board will be
Plaintiffs Fail to State a § 1983 Claim
have failed to state a claim against Defendants for civil
conspiracy under § 1983. Notably, it is unclear from
Plaintiffs Complaint-which governs this Court's
analysis-which counts are alleged violations of § 1983,
and which ones are instead alleged violations of § 1985.
However, because Plaintiffs have named both §§ 1983
and 1985 in Count II, the Court will address both statutes.
state a claim for conspiracy under § 1983, a plaintiff
"must present evidence that [(1)] the [defendants] acted
jointly in concert and [(2)] that some overt act was done
[(3)] in furtherance of the conspiracy [(4)] which resulted
in [plaintiffs'] deprivation of a constitutional
right" Hinkle v. City of Clarksburg, 81 F.3d
416, 421 (4th Cir. 1996) (citing Hafner v. Brown,
983 F.2d 570, 577 (4th Cir. 1992)). "While [plaintiffs]
need not produce direct evidence of a meeting of the minds,
[they] must come forward with specific circumstantial
evidence that each member of the alleged conspiracy shared
the same conspiratorial objective." Id.
Plaintiffs' evidence must "reasonably lead to the
inference that [defendants] positively or tacitly came to a
mutual understanding to try to accomplish a common and
unlawful plan." Id; see also Ruttenberg v.
Jones, 283 Fed.Appx. 121, 132 (4th Cir. 2007)
(unpublished) ("[Plaintiffs] were required to allege
'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face'.... [which] requires a
'plausible suggestion of conspiracy."' (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 566, 570)); Brown v.
Angelone, 938 F.Supp. 340, 346 (E.D. Va. 1996)
("The plaintiff must allege facts which show that the
defendants shared a 'unity of purpose or common design*
to injure the plaintiff.... The mere fact that each of [the]
actors played a part in the events is not sufficient to show
such a unity of purpose." (quoting Am. Tobacco Co.
v. United States, 328 U.S. 781, 810 (1946))). Plaintiffs
"have a weighty burden to establish a civil rights
conspiracy." Hinkle, 81 F.3d at 421; see
also Simmons v. Poe, 47 F.3d 1370, 1377 (4th Cir. 1995)
("[C]ourts have  required that plaintiffs alleging
unlawful intent in conspiracy claims under § 1985(3) or
1983 plead specific facts in a nonconclusory fashion to
survive a motion to dismiss." (quoting Gooden v.
Howard Cty., 954 F.2d 960, 969-70 (4th Cir. 1992)
(alterations in original))).
evidently, Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently allege
facts of any deprivation of a constitutional right.
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Kinlaw, Eggleston,
Cardounel, and Crook conspired amongst themselves (and with
Defendants Taylor, Kregar, and Steverson) to unlawfully
serve, prosecute, and convict Plaintiffs of trespassing on
school grounds under Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-128, in
violation of Plaintiffs' First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and
Fourteenth Amendments. However, Plaintiffs have failed to
show that Defendants ...