United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS
E. HUDSON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is currently before the Court on several motions filed
by Defendants. Karl A. Tanksley ("Plaintiff), who
proceeds pro se, filed this suit against fifteen
defendants on April 2, 2019 (Compl., ECF No.
On May 15, 2019, Defendants City of Emporia, Emporia Police
Department, and Officer Jerry L. Wright (collectively, the
"Emporia Defendants") filed their Motion to Dismiss
for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 10). Shortly
thereafter, on May 16, 2019, Defendant Magistrate Thweatte G.
Ozlin filed his Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 12). Finally,
Defendants Special Agent Justin Godwin, Donna Lamm, and
Caroline Quinn filed an Omnibus Motion to Dismiss for Failure
to State a Claim on June 4, 2019 (ECF No. 32), and Defendant
Wilson County Jail filed its Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim on June 7, 2019 (ECF No. 36). The Court will
address all of Defendants' Motions in this Memorandum
parties have filed memoranda supporting their respective
positions. (ECF Nos. 11, 13, 33, 37.) 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). This Memorandum
Opinion incorporates the facts set out in the Court's
December 9, 2019 Opinion (ECF No. 56)
lawsuit, Plaintiff brings claims against Defendants for false
arrest, negligence, assault and battery, breach of duty,
conspiracy against rights, perjury, violations of 18 U.S.C.
§ 242, and violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Defendants now seek to dismiss these claims. For the reasons
that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' Motions to
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. Batter, 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, the 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. CarefirstPregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396
(4th Cir. 2003).
Supreme Court of Virginia 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, 111 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 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.'"
BellAtl 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
Court also acknowledges ihdXpro 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, "[p]rinciples 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.
Defendant Magistrate Ozlin is Entitled to Absolute Judicial
Magistrate Ozlin, a state Magistrate for District 6, serves
as a judicial officer in the Commonwealth Virginia. As a
result, he is entitled to immunity for actions taken within
his jurisdiction. See Stump v. Sparkman, 98 S.Ct.
1099, 1105 (1978) (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 80
U.S. 335, 351 (1871)) ("A judge will not be deprived of
immunity because the action he took was in error, was done
maliciously, or was in excess . of his authority; rather, he
will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the
'clear absence of all jurisdiction.'"); see
also Va. Code § 19.2-119 (defining "judicial
officer" to include magistrate); Bellamy v.
Gates, 200 S.E.2d 533, 535 (Va. 1973) ("[J]udicial
officers, acting within their jurisdiction, [are] exempt from
liability in civil actions for their official acts.").
This principle applies where money damages are sought.
Livingston v. Guice, No. 94-1915, 1995 WL 610355, at
*3 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S.
547, 554 (1967)) ("[T]he common law has long recognized
the 'immunity of judges from liability for damages for
acts committed within their judicial
case, Plaintiff brings claims against Defendant Magistrate
Ozlin for false arrest, negligence, and breach of duty. These
claims arise out of Plaintiff s allegations that he was
falsely arrested in Greensville County, Virginia. (Compl.
¶ 19.) It is patently clear that, even if these alleged
actions occurred, Defendant Magistrate Ozlin was acting
within his authority as a Magistrate when he issued the
arrest warrant for Plaintiff. See Va. Code
§§ 19.2-45, 19.2-72. As a result, Defendant
Magistrate Ozlin was acting in his judicial capacity when the
alleged acts giving rise to Plaintiffs claims occurred and
is, thus, entitled to judicial immunity from civil liability
because Plaintiff seeks only monetary relief. Therefore, to
the extent Plaintiffs claims in Counts I, III, and VI are
brought against Defendant Magistrate Ozlin, they will be
Defendant Wilson County Jail is an Improper Party
Wilson County Jail is an improper party in this action, as it
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)(2). The Wilson County Jail
was organized under the laws ...