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McRavion v. Cline

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

August 13, 2019

TIFFANY GENTRY CLINE, et al., Defendants.



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 23), filed by Defendants Tiffany Gentry Cline and Dennis Harris, and on a separate Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendant Micah J. Sanderson (Doc. 28).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Joshua Glenn McRavion is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Maury Correctional Institution in Hookerton, North Carolina. Plaintiff is serving a 19- to 49-month sentence after being convicted on April 2, 2019, of Malicious Conduct/Prisoner and Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Lincoln County, North Carolina.[1] Plaintiff filed this action on March 16, 2018, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On August 23, 2018, following a frivolity review, this Court allowed Plaintiff to proceed on his claims. (Doc. 11). Plaintiff amended his Complaint on October 9, 2018. (Doc. 21). Plaintiff has named as Defendants (1) Tiffany Cline, a detective with the Lincolnton Police Department, (2) Dennis Harris, a Sergeant with the Lincolnton Police Department, and (3) Micah J. Sanderson, an Assistant District Attorney for Lincoln County. (Id. at 2-3). Plaintiff identifies the following as the claims he brings in this action: “14th Amendment Equal Protection of Laws; Fourth Amendment Rights against Unlawful Searches and Seizures; Obstruction of Justice (G.S. 14-225); N.C. Law of the Land Clause; 6th Amendment Speedy Trial; 8th Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Malicious Prosecution, Wrongful Imprisonment, Miranda Rights Violations.” (Id. at 3).

         Plaintiff's allegations do not clearly articulate the grounds for these purported claims. Furthermore, it is not exactly clear which of these claims apply to each particular Defendant. Plaintiff appears to allege that, on May 12, 2015, a parole or probation officer searched his home without a search warrant, which led to the revocation of his parole status, as well as charges for drug possession. (Id. at 4). Plaintiff alleges he informed Cline he was shot and robbed on May 10, 2015, and Cline did not properly investigate Plaintiff's report. (Id.). He further alleges Cline took him to the Magistrate's office and had him charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury with intent to kill, and possession of firearm by a felon. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, Cline supported this charge with an eyewitness statement signed by a witness under a fictitious name. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that Cline was grossly negligent by not properly confirming the witness's identity, and that this conduct by Cline constituted “obstruction of justice.” (Id.). Plaintiff also appears to allege that Harris also obstructed justice by not intervening during this process. (Id.). In addition, as to Harris, Plaintiff also alleges that Harris took him into custody and questioned him about the shooting without first reading him his Miranda rights. (Id. at 5).

         As to Assistant District Attorney Sanderson, Plaintiff alleges that Sanderson has held Plaintiff since May 12, 2015, on the two charges pending against him, while knowing that Defendants Cline and Harris violated Plaintiff's rights. (Id.). Plaintiff asserts that he filed a claim for a speedy trial after he had been in custody for eighteen (18) and twenty-seven (27) months, but that he was not granted a speedy trial. (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Sanderson violated his Eighth Amendment rights by colluding with the other Defendants regarding his confession statement and that Defendant Sanderson “manipulated” the trial calendar so that Plaintiff's attorney would not be properly prepared for the trial. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sanderson refused to dismiss the two charges against him. (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Sanderson abused his authority given to him pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-61, relating to managing the trial docket and duties of a prosecutor, and § 15A-931, relating to voluntary dismissals of charges, as he held the plaintiff's case in limbo for thirty-three months before another unnamed ADA dismissed them. (Id. at 5-6).

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Sanderson charged him with being a habitual felon in retaliation for invoking his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and that Defendant Sanderson violated Plaintiff's procedural due process rights by holding Plaintiff with no bond reduction hearing and by placing Plaintiff's case as number twelve of thirteen on the trial docket. (Id.). Finally, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Sanderson showed direct and serious neglect for his rights in that Defendant Sanderson held him on charges that were later dismissed, but that he tried Plaintiff on another charge while he was in custody awaiting trial on the May 12, 2015, charges. (Id.). Based on Plaintiff's statement of facts, it appears that he brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Sanderson, in his official and individual capacity, for alleged violations of his right to a speedy trial pursuant to the Sixth Amendment, his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to the Eighth Amendment, and his right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, and he asserts claims for malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment. (Id. at 5-6). For relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief “from harassment of Lincolnton City Police for bringing this suit” and “in the form of making sure that Defendant Sanderson applies the rules or Speedy Trial and [other North Carolina statutory rules].” (Id. at 7).

         On October 24, 2018, Defendants Cline and Harris filed their pending motion to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 23). On October 30, 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. 27). Then, on October 30, 2018, Defendant Sanderson filed his own motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and for lack of jurisdiction, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 28). This Court entered another Roseboro notice on November 5, 2018. (Doc. 30). Plaintiff filed responses to the motions to dismiss and Defendants Cline and Harris filed a Reply. (Docs. 33, 35, 36, 40). Thus, this matter is ripe for disposition.


         Federal 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. at 679.

         Under Rule 12(b)(1), a party may seek dismissal based on the court's “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Subject-matter jurisdiction is a threshold issue that relates to the court's power to hear a case and must be decided before a determination on the merits of the case. Constantine v. Rectors & Visitors of George Mason Univ., 411 F.3d 474, 479-80 (4th Cir. 2005). A motion under Rule 12(b)(1) raises the question “whether [the plaintiff] has a right to be in the district court at all and whether the court has the power to hear and dispose of [the] claim.” Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood, Inc., 669 F.3d 448, 452 (4th Cir. 2012). The burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction rests with the plaintiff. McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Ind., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, a court should grant the motion “only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).


         A. Plaintiff's Claims for Declaratory or Injunctive Relief

         In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief in the form of freedom “from harassment of Lincolnton City Police for bringing this suit” and “in the form of making sure that Defendant Sanderson applies the rules or Speedy Trial and [other North Carolina statutory rules].” (Id. at 7). The Court finds that, because Plaintiff has been transferred away from the Lincoln County Jail, Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief is moot and will be dismissed. See Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820 (4th Cir. 1991) (noting that a prisoner's transfer moots a Section 1983 request for declaratory and injunctive relief when the conditions of which the prisoner claims are unlikely to recur).

         B. Plaintiff's ...

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