United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
RICHARD L. VOORHEES, District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Motions to Dismiss by Defendants Denise Lockett (Doc. 14), Kelsey Graff, Celia Pistolis, and Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc. ("LANC") (Doc. 6), Dana Crawford and Wanda Smith (Doc. 2), and Judges Theodore McEntire, William A. Leavell, III, Robert Alexander Banne Lyrely, Robert G. Horne, and District Attorney Gerald W. Wilson, and Assistant District Attorney Meredith R. Roberts. (Doc. 10.)
Pro Se Plaintiff Jason Wesley Hoyle filed his Complaint against Defendants on February 22, 2012. (Doc. 1). Jason Hoyle's ("Hoyle") claims are made under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and arise out of and are connected to proceedings leading to an ex parte protective order being entered against him on February 9, 2010. (Doc. 1 at 1.) The opposing party in the state action was Evelyn R. Newberry (Newberry"). (Doc. 1 at 18.)
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
All Defendants have moved to dismiss Hoyle's claims under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. "A 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. Carolina v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 550 (2007)). The facial plausibility standard requires "the plaintiff to articulate facts, when accepted as true, that show' that the plaintiff has stated a claim entitling him to relief." Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.) "To emphasize the Federal Rules' requirements for stating claims that are warranted and therefore form a plausible basis for relief, the Supreme Court has held that a complaint must contain more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id.
Where the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, as Hoyle is here, courts will construe the pleadings liberally in order to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious claim. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (citing Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.1978)). However, this principle is not without limits, and the proper role of the district court is that of a legitimate advisor, and not as an advocate for the plaintiff. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985)(citing Gordon, 574 F.2d at 1151).
a. CLAIMS AGAINST LANC, LOCKETT, GRAFF, and PISTOLIS
Hoyle's claims under Section 1983 against LANC, and Denise Lockett ("Lockett"), Kelsey Graff ("Graff"), and Celia Pistolis ("Pistolis"), as employees of LANC will be dismissed.
A claim under Section 1983 requires the plaintiff to show that he has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution, by a person who was acting under color of state law. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49, 119 S.Ct. 977, 985 (1999). The requirement that a defendant act under color of state law is equivalent to the Fourteenth Amendment's state-action requirement. United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787, 794 n. 7 (1996); Watts-Means v. Prince George's Family Crisis Ctr., 7 F.3d 40, 43 n. 5 (4th Cir. 1993).
Under Color of State Law Requirement
Acts by private entities, like LANC and its employees, are considered state action only if there is a "such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action' that seemingly private behavior may fairly be treated as that of the State itself.'" Brentwood Acad. V. Tenn. Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2000) (citation omitted). This is possible in four instances: 1) where the action is coerced by the state; 2) when the state delegates to the private actor a responsibility that it has a Constitutional duty to perform; 3) when the state delegates to the private actor a traditionally and exclusively public function; or 4) when the state assists a private actor in enforcing the private actor's rights. Watts-Means v. Prince George's Family Crisis Ctr., 7 F.3d 40, 43 (4th Cir. 1993).
Hoyle alleges that LANC acted under color of state law because LANC is a legal services program that receives state funding. In Barbero v. Catawba Valley Legal Services, the Court held that "the fact that federal and state funds are provided to [Catawba Legal Services, Inc.] is not sufficient" to show state action. Barbero v. Catawba Valley Legal Servs., Inc., CIV. 4:94CV115, 1995 WL 757738 (W.D. N.C. Sept. 21, 1995). This holding is consistent with those of the Second Circuit in a suit against LANC's sister organization, Legal Aid of New York. Graseck v. Mauceri, 582 F.2d 203, 209-12 (2nd Cir. 1978); see also Lefcourt v. Legal Aid Society, 445 F.2d 1150, 1155-56 (2nd Cir. 1971) (similar holding in suit against Legal Aid Society of New York). Hoyle has presented no other facts ...