United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION
E. Hudson Senior United States District Judge.
matter is currently before the Court on Defendants'-Mayor
C. Bruce Rose, Chief of Police Thomas Hopkins, Eric S.
Kearney, the City of Wilson, and the Wilson Police
Department-Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 18), filed on
May 21, 2019. Plaintiff Karl A. Tanksley ("Plaintiff),
who proceeds pro se, filed this suit against fifteen
defendants, stating eleven counts, of which nine are relevant
here. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Wilson Defendants now seek to
dismiss each of the nine claims pending against them on
several bases, namely Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6).
parties have filed memoranda supporting their respective
positions. (ECF Nos. 18, 19, 40, 47.) The Court will dispense
with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions
are adequately presented in the materials before it, and oral
argument would not aid in the decisional process.
See E.D. Va. Local Civ. R. 7(J). For the reasons
that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to
April 2013, Wilson County police officers pursued a missing
person's report, filed on April 3, 2013, with the
Northampton County Sheriffs Office. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. 2,
ECF No. 19.) Their investigation led them to the body of Mr.
Kirk Alan Lilly, whose last known address was 1390 Old
Emporia Road, Gaston, North Carolina 27832. (Id. at
3.) This address is Plaintiffs residence. (Compl. ¶ 17;
Defs.' Mem. Supp. 3.) Based upon this information, the
officers applied for and obtained a search warrant for
Plaintiffs home. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. 3.)
April 9, 2013, pursuant to the search warrant, Officer Eric
S. Kearney, Special Agent Justin D. Godwin, and other members
of the Wilson Police Department searched Plaintiffs home.
(Compl. ¶ 17; Defs.' Mem. Supp. 3.) Following this
search, warrants were issued for Plaintiffs arrest, stating
charges for "Murder, Concealment of Death, Robbery with
a Dangerous Weapon, Trafficking in Heroin/Possess,
Trafficking in Heroin/Transport, and Larceny of a Motor
Vehicle." (Defs.' Mem. Supp. 3.) On May 8, 2013,
Plaintiff was arrested on these charges, and on May 9, 2013,
Plaintiff was extradited from Virginia to North Carolina.
(Compl. ¶¶ 20, 24; Defs.' Mem. Supp. 3.)
was subsequently booked and held at the Wilson County Jail in
North Carolina. (Compl. ¶¶ 35, 30.) On February 3,
2015, Plaintiff was released on bail. (Id.
at¶49.) Throughout this process, Plaintiff maintained
his innocence. (Id. at¶23.)
each of the charges brought against Plaintiff was dismissed.
(Defs.' Mem. Supp. 4.) Following their dismissal, this
lawsuit ensued, in which Plaintiff brings claims against the
Wilson Defendants for false imprisonment, false arrest,
negligence, assault and battery, kidnapping, bribery, breach
of duty, conspiracy against rights, and violations of 42
U.S.C. § 1983. The Wilson Defendants now seek to dismiss
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2) challenges the court's exercise of personal
jurisdiction over a defendant. "When a court's
personal jurisdiction is properly challenged . .. the
jurisdictional question thereby raised is one for the judge,
with the burden on the plaintiff ultimately to prove grounds
for jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence."
Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 60 (4th
Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). "If the existence of
jurisdiction turns on disputed factual questions the court
may resolve the challenge on the basis of a separate
evidentiary hearing." Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d
673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989). When, as here, the court is asked
to decide personal jurisdiction without an evidentiary
hearing, it may do so based solely on the motion papers,
supporting legal memoranda, and the relevant allegations of
the complaint. Mylan Labs, 2 F.3d at 60. If the
court proceeds in this fashion, "the plaintiff need
prove only a, prima facie case of personal
jurisdiction," with the court drawing "all
reasonable inferences arising from the proof, and resolv[ing]
all factual disputes, in the plaintiffs favor."
Id. (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiff makes the requisite showing, Defendant then bears
the burden of presenting a "compelling case" that,
for other reasons, the exercise of jurisdiction would be so
unfair as to violate Due Process. Burger King v.
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 477-78 (1985). Thus, "for a
district court to assert personal jurisdiction over a
nonresident defendant, two conditions must be satisfied: (1)
the exercise of jurisdiction must be authorized under the
state's long-arm statute; and (2) the exercise of
jurisdiction must comport with the due process requirements
of the Fourteenth Amendment." Careflrst of Md, Inc.
v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396
(4th Cir. 2003).
Virginia Supreme Court has interpreted Virginia's
long-arm statute, Va. Code § 8.01-328.1(A), to confer
jurisdiction "over nonresidents who engage in some
purposeful activity in Virginia, to the extent permissible
under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution of the
United States." Nan Ya Plastics Corp. U.S.A. v.
DeSantis, 377 S.E.2d 388, 391 (Va. 1989). Thus,
according to the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit, the statutory and constitutional inquiries
merge, and the reviewing court is not required "to go
through the normal two-step formula for determining the
existence of personal jurisdiction." Owens-Illinois,
Inc. v. Rapid Am. Corp. (In re Celotex Corp.), 124 F.3d
619, 627-28 (4th Cir. 1997).
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 '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)
(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. (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. (citations omitted). 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 v. Donald P.
& Patricia A. Brennan LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th
Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). Legal conclusions enjoy no
such deference. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
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
a 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).
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.