United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
SIDNEY B. HARR, Plaintiff,
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, MAGISTRATE JUDGE, TREVOR P. SHARP, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE. THOMAS D. SCHROEDE.R, RICHARD H. BRODHEAD, DAVID F. LEVI, and DUKE, UNIVERSITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
JOE L. WEBSTER, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the court on various motions: (1) Defendants Richard Brodhead, David F. Levi and Duke University's ("Duke Defendants") motion to dismiss (Docket Entry 8) and motion for Rule 11 sanctions (Docket Entry 29); (2) Defendant State of North Carolina's motion to dismiss (Docket Entry 17); (3) Defendant U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder's ("Judge Schroeder") motion to dismiss (Docket Entry 23); and (4) Plaintiff's motion to compel (Docket Entry 37). A hearing was held on these motions on April 23, 2014. Subsequent to the hearing, Plaintiff filed a "motion to drop" Judge Schroeder as a defendant in this action. (Docket Entry 41.) For the reasons that follow, the court will recommend that the motions to dismiss of all Defendants be granted, that Plaintiff's motion to compel be denied as moot, and that Duke Defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions be granted as set forth below. Additionally, it is recommended that Plaintiff's motion to dismiss Judge Schroeder be denied as moot.
Plaintiff filed an action against the Duke Defendants on April 4, 2011, asserting claims for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated when he was asked to leave an event held at Duke Law School on account of his political speech. See Harr v. Broadhead et al., 1:11CV263-TDS-JEP (M.D. N.C. ) ( Harr I.). By order dated March 5, 2012, Judge Schroeder granted the Duke Defendants' motion to dismiss Harr I under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. ( Harr I, Docket Entry 20.) Plaintiff appealed this order to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed in a per curiam opinion. ( Hair I, Docket Entry 27.) The Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari. ( See Complaint, ¶¶ 252-254, Docket Entry 1.)
Plaintiff filed the present action on August 15, 2013. In this action, in addition to the Duke Defendants, Plaintiff named the State of North Carolina and Judge Schroeder as Defendants. Plaintiff claims that his rights to free speech and expression were violated by Defendants; that he has been discriminated against on the basis of his secular thoughts, beliefs, and opinions; and that Defendants violated his rights to due process and equal protection.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1))
Subject matter jurisdiction is both a Constitutional and statutory requirement which restricts federal judicial power to a limited set of cases and controversies. Thus, "no action of the parties can confer subject matter jurisdiction upon a federal court." Ins. Corp. of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982). A motion to dismiss challenging a plaintiff's standing concerns "the factual basis for subject matter jurisdiction, [thus] the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff." Richmond, Fredricksburg & Potomoc RR. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). When a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction, "the district court is to regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Id. The district court should grant the Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss "only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Id .; see also Evans v. B.F. Perkins, Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).
Article III of the United States Constitution limits the federal courts to adjudicating actual "cases" and "controversies." U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2. This cap on judicial power reflects the view that courts should decide "concrete legal issues, presented in actual cases, not abstractions." United Public Workers of Am. (C.I.O) v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75, 89 (1947), overruled on other grounds by Adler v. Bd. of Educ:, 342 U.S. 485 (1952). The doctrine of standing gives effect to this requirement by ensuring that a plaintiff has a sufficient personal stake in a dispute, i.e. , a personal injury, rendering judicial resolution appropriate. Hein v. Freedom from Religion Found., Inc, 551 U.S. 587, 598 (2007). In order to establish standing to sue, the plaintiff must demonstrate three basic elements: (1) the plaintiff must have suffered an "injury in fact, " (2) the injury must be "fairly traceable" to the defendant's challenged conduct, and (3) it must be likely that the plaintiffs injury would be redressed by the requested relief. Id .; see also Doe v. Virginia Dept. of State Police, 713 F.3d 745, 753 (4th Cir. 2013). When assessing standing before a federal court, "[t]he party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992).
B. Failure to State a Claim (Rule 12(b)(6))
Defendants also argue that dismissal is appropriate pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(6)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (1999). A complaint that does not "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'" must be dismissed. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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." Id .; see also Simmons & United Mortg. & Loan Invest., 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir. 2011) ("On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.") (emphasis in original) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The "court accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff in weighing the legal sufficiency of the complaint, " but does not consider "legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, ... bare assertions. devoid of factual enhancement[, ]... unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). In other words, the standard requires a plaintiff to articulate facts, that, when accepted as true, demonstrate the plaintiff has stated a claim that makes it plausible he is entitled to relief. Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Igbal, 556 U.S. at 678, and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
A. State Defendant
In support of his claims against the State, Plaintiff alleges that North Carolina's civil and criminal justice system is racist, discriminatory, corrupt and "hijacked." (Compl. ¶ 1, Docket Entry 1.) Plaintiff invokes the court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343, seeking monetary and other requested relief. As to monetary relief, Plaintiff seeks compensation for his "efforts in taking responsibility abdicated by DEFENDANT STATE and overseeing work of a state medical examiner" in addition to other reasonable financial compensation. (Compl. at 59-60.) Plaintiff also asks this court to order the State to conduct an independent investigation into the autopsy report and death of Reginald Daye and for the court to order the North Carolina State Bar to reconsider the disbarment of Mike Nifong, former Durham County District Attorney. ( Id. at 60.)
Plaintiff provides a list of examples to support his allegations that the State's civil and criminal justice system is racist, discriminatory, corrupt, and "hijacked." (Compl. ¶¶ 2-138.) To illustrate his belief that the State's justice system is discriminatory and racist, Plaintiff provides these examples: (1) recent legislation passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, including the "Voting Rights Bill, " is an attempt to suppress voting by people of color; (2) a bill to pardon former Governor William Holden failed while a proclamation to honor former United States Senator Jesse Helms passed; (3) the repeal of the Racial Justice Act; (4) references to individuals Plaintiff believes were wrongfully convicted in State criminal proceedings; and (5) the passage of legislation relating to women's reproductive rights. ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 3-8, 11, 13-27, 29.) To support his contention that the State's justice system is corrupt, Plaintiff alleges that a state medical examiner produced a "false and fraudulent autopsy report to enable a prosecutor to charge an innocent person [Crystal Magnum] with murder." ( Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff then provides exhaustive details of the pending state criminal court proceeding against Ms. Mangum, his beliefs regarding the purportedly fraudulent autopsy report of the victim, Mr. Daye, and actions that Plaintiff has taken on Ms. Mangum's behalf. ( Id. ¶¶ 31-57, 264-79.) To illustrate his belief that the State's justice system has been "hijacked, " Plaintiff recites a list of state and federal officials, members of the media, and organizations who he contacted to speak to about Mr. Daye's autopsy report on behalf of Ms. Mangum, and who did not respond to his requests. ( Id. ¶¶ 58-137.)
In support of his remaining claims against the State, Plaintiff recites personal stories of third-parties and his belief that they were discriminated against during state criminal proceedings. ( Id. ¶¶ 130-146.) Plaintiff also asserts his belief that the State mistreated former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, alleging specifically that he was "miffed by the extremely heavy handed and Draconian abuse and mistreatment of NIFONG by DEFENDANT STATE, " ( id. ¶ 181), that he believes "NIFONG was selectively and unjustly disbarred due to his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case, " ( id. ¶ 182), and "that at the crux of the corruption and hijacking of DEFENDANT STATE'S justice system is the persecution and abuse of NIFONG...." ( Id. ¶ 289.) Plaintiff further alleges, without providing any facts, that the courts have treated him unfairly and are prejudiced against him because he is a supporter of Mr. Nifong. ( Id. ¶ 282.). Lastly, Plaintiff asserts that he filed this action against the State "to further his quest for true and equal justice for himself, MANGUM, ...