United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. WHITNEY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion to
Dismiss, (Doc. No. 25), by Defendants David Street, Dexter
Gibbs, and Mike Slagle.
Plaintiff James Buchnowski is a state prisoner currently
incarcerated at Avery/Mitchell Correctional Institution in
Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Plaintiff is serving a 70-93
month sentence, after being convicted of second-degree rape
in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in 2008. Plaintiff
filed this action on October 10, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his rights
under the Eighth Amendment and his Due Process and Equal
Protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. No.
1). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that, under the North
Carolina Department of Public Safety's Division of Adult
Corrections and Juvenile Justice (“DAC”) policy
governing the promotion of felons, he is eligible for minimum
custody because he has less than sixty months left to serve
on his sentence, but that Defendants have refused to promote
him. (Doc. No. 26-2: Ex. A, DAC Policy, Ch. C, § .0500,
0503(a) & (b)(1), Promotion of Felons, Iss. Nov. 16,
2011). Plaintiff claims that Defendants' wrongful denial
of promotion to minimum custody violates his Due Process and
Equal Protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and
his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment. For relief, Plaintiff seeks the following: (1) a
declaration that Defendants' conduct has violated his
constitutional rights; (2) an injunction promoting him to
minimum custody; (3) compensatory damages (based on the wages
he claims has lost by virtue of his wrongful ineligibility
for work release); and (4) punitive damages.
December 4, 2017, following a frivolity review, this Court
allowed Plaintiff to proceed on his claims. (Doc. No. 11). On
March 12, 2018, Defendants filed the pending motion to
dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 25). On March 13, 2018, this Court
entered an order in accordance with Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising
Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response to the
motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 27). Plaintiff filed a response
to the motion to dismiss on May 3, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 32, 33).
Thus, this matter is ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a motion may
be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
tests the sufficiency of the complaint without resolving
contests of fact or the merits of a claim. Republican
Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir.
1992), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 828 (1993). Thus, the
Rule 12(b)(6) inquiry is limited to determining if the
allegations constitute “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief”
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). To
survive a defendant's motion to dismiss, factual
allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to
“raise a right to relief above a speculative
level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). Thus, a complaint will survive if it
contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). For the purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) analysis, 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 alleged.” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Court must draw all
reasonable factual inferences in favor of the Plaintiff.
Priority Auto Grp., Inc. v. Ford Motor Credit Co.,
757 F.3d 137, 139 (4th Cir. 2014). In a Rule 12(b)(6)
analysis, the Court must separate facts from legal
conclusions, as mere conclusions are not entitled to a
presumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Importantly, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of
a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.” Id. However, well-pleaded
factual allegations are entitled to a presumption of truth,
and the court should determine whether the allegations
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id.
Plaintiff's Claims to Declaratory or Injunctive
III, section 2 of the Constitution requires that “an
actual controversy . . . be extant at all stages of review,
not merely at the time the complaint is filed.”
Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401 (1975). An
actual, ongoing controversy is required because the federal
courts are without authority “‘to give opinions
upon moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare
principles or rules of law which cannot affect the matter in
issue in the case before it.'” Church of
Scientology of Calif. v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12
(1992) (quoting Mills v. Green, 159 U.S. 651, 653
a litigant must have a redressable stake in the outcome of
the litigation at all times, Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992), mootness is a
threshold issue determinative of federal jurisdiction.
North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971).
Since Plaintiff filed this suit, DAC has promoted him to
minimum custody. See (Doc. No. 26-3, Ex. B, DAC,
Public Offender Information - James Buchnowski, as visited
Mar. 8, 2018, p. 1, (denoting minimum custody)). Because an
actual, ongoing controversy over Plaintiff's promotion to
minimum custody no longer exists, Plaintiff's claims for
declaratory or injunctive relief are moot and will be
Plaintiff's Claims Alleging that Defendants Violated
alleges in much of the Complaint that Defendants have shirked
their responsibilities as defined in DAC policies.
“Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action
against any person who, acting under color of state law,
deprives another of his federal rights.” Conn v.
Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999). See also Scott v.
Edinburg, 346 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2003) (observing
that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 protects plaintiffs from
constitutional violations, not violations of state statutes
or administrative regulations). Accordingly, the existence of
prison policy designed to regulate the conduct of prison
employees does not entitle an inmate to sue to enforce the
regulations or for damages as a result of their breach.
Indeed, “[a] violation of internal prison policy no
more establishes liability under 42 U.S.C § 1983 than
compliance with a prison policy would preclude a finding of
liability.” Manley v. Daniels, No.
3:11-cv-320, 2012 WL 5411861, at *4 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 2, 2012)
(unpublished). In sum, to the extent that any of
Plaintiff's claims are premised on Defendant's
violations of prison policies, they will be dismissed.
Plaintiff's Claims Against Supervisory ...