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Moyler v. Kiser

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

January 13, 2020

THOMAS MOYLER, JR., Plaintiff,
WARDEN KISER, et al., Defendants.


          Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge

         Thomas Moyler, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was subjected to excessive force, denied adequate medical treatment, denied due process regarding grievances and emails containing photographs, and denied a varied diet during Ramadan. All defendants, except Officer Williams and Investigator Fannin, filed a motion to dismiss and the motion is ripe for disposition.[1] After reviewing the pleadings, the court will grant defendants' motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the only remaining claims are Moyler's excessive force claim against defendant Williams, and his email due process claim against defendant Fannin.


         On February 9, 2019, while housed at Red Onion State Prison, Moyler was involved in a fight with another inmate. Moyler states that when the fight began, there were no floor officers present and the booth officers were not paying attention. After they “noticed the fight, ” officers yelled for Moyler and the other inmate to stop fighting and to get down on the floor. Moyler states that he was “dazed and confused, ” and did not hear the officers yelling. Defendant Officer Williams subsequently fired “shots” from the control booth and struck Moyler eleven times on his back, arm, head, and face. After the altercation stopped, defendant Sgt. Massingill escorted Moyler to the medical department and asked Moyler questions about who started the altercation. Moyler complains that he received inadequate medical treatment for his wounds which have left him “disfigured . . . for life.”[2]

         Moyler filed an informal complaint concerning Officer Williams' use of force against him and Sgt. Massingill responded to it, stating that Officer Williams had aimed for Moyler's lower extremities, but “unfortunately” shot Moyler in the face. Moyler contends that defendant Unit Manager Duncan moved Moyler to the A-Building after the fight because he intended to make it more difficult for Moyler to file grievances. He further alleges that defendant Grievance Coordinator Messer “stole” documentation attached to his grievances and refused to process the grievances. Moyler wrote letters to defendants Welch, Robinson, Shear, and Kiser, complaining about Messer's refusal to process the grievances.

         Moyler also alleges that people have sent him emails which include digital photographs, and that defendant Investigator Fannin has “censored” and/or “confiscated” at least 200 of these emails without any notification to Moyler that the email had been censored or confiscated, or why it had been censored or confiscated. Moyler complains that he is unable to appeal Investigator Fannin's decision to censor or confiscate the emails and that the electronic postage fees are not refunded when the email is not delivered to him.[3]

         Finally, Moyler alleges that his religious rights were violated when he received “the exact [same] meal every night and morning” during Ramadan, and that defendant Food Services Manager Scarberry refused to the change the menu.


         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint to determine whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim; “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). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Legal conclusions in the guise of factual allegations, however, are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

         Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and quotations omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” id., with all the allegations in the complaint taken as true and all reasonable inferences drawn in the plaintiff's favor, Chao v. Rivendell Woods, Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2005). Rule 12(b)(6) does “not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Consequently, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A claim is plausible if the complaint contains “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” and if there is “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678.

         In order to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious claim, federal courts have an obligation to construe pro se pleadings liberally. See, e.g., Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982). Moreover, “[l]iberal construction of the pleadings is particularly appropriate where . . . there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights issues.” Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009). 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). “A pro se plaintiff still must allege facts that state a cause of action.” Bracey v. Buchanan, 55 F.Supp.2d 416, 421 (E.D. Va. 1999).


         Moyler named Harold Clarke, Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections, as a defendant to this action but does not allege any facts against him. To state a cause of action under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he has been deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that this deprivation resulted from conduct committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988). Inasmuch as ...

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