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Aikens v. MecKlenburg County

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

September 16, 2019

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney, Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff has moved to proceeding in forma pauperis. See (Doc. No. 2).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at the Attica Correctional Facility, has filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff names as Defendants: John G. Walker, Dametra Monique Ogletree, Mecklenburg County, and Mecklenburg County Court. Construing the Complaint liberally and accepting the allegations as true, Plaintiff was served on October 15[1] with service in a civil action in Mecklenburg County Court. However, the summons had no address for the court. Next a Complaint form was issued with Dametra Monique Ogletree as the plaintiff and with Plaintiff as the defendant. The document was date-stamped August 1, 2018 in Mecklenburg County but with no court address. Plaintiff next received a Motion for Summary Judgment dated October 12, 2018 with John G. Walker's name and Bar number and his address. All of these documents were mailed by Defendant Walker to Plaintiff. These documents “were used and submitted to the Mecklenburg County Court in civil action <18-CVD-15203> to obtain a decree from a Judge who was never ID - a court who's address was never listed and the area, room or part this civil action was to be heard was also not listed.” (Doc. No. 1 at 4). Plaintiff asks this Court “to properly investigate this complaint with Exhibits and construe the complaint with Exhibits that raises the strongest argument plaintiff <Anthony M. Aikens> is making and to clearly see that [his] federally protected rights were violated and that [he] was discriminated against because of [his] incarceration in N.Y.S Attica C.I. and to see that these actions were intentional with purposeful discrimination.” (Doc. No. 1 at 4).

         Plaintiff claims that the foregoing violated his rights to due process and equal protection. He seeks damages of at least $15 to $20 million from each Defendant, injunctive relief, and such other relief that the Court deems just and equitable.

         Plaintiff has attached to his Complaint several documents including papers from divorce proceedings by Ms. Ogletree-Aikens, with John G. Walker as her attorney, against Plaintiff in the Mecklenburg County General Court of Justice. (Doc. No. 1 at 13-16).


         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds that it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its frivolity review, a court must determine whether the Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim “unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         A pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of the pleadings is particularly appropriate where … there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights issues.”). However, the liberal construction requirement will not permit a district court to ignore a clear failure to allege facts in his complaint which set forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). A pro se complaint must still contain sufficient facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (the Twombly plausibility standard applies to all federal civil complaints including those filed under § 1983). This “plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling him to relief. Id.


         Plaintiff attempts to sue Mecklenburg County, the Mecklenburg County Court, and two private individuals, his ex-wife and her attorney, in relation to divorce proceedings.

         First, he has failed to state a claim against Mecklenburg County. Counties and municipalities are political subdivisions of a state that can qualify as a “person” under Section 1983. See, e.g., Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 485 (1986) When determining whether or not a government official is an agent of the state or of a political subdivision for the purposes of Section 1983, the “inquiry is dependent on an analysis of state law.” McMillian v. Monroe County, 520 U.S. 781, 785 (1997). Alleging that a county or municipal employee committed a constitutional violation is necessary, but not sufficient, to state a claim against a county or municipality. A county or municipality may be found liable under § 1983 only “when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury.” Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). For § 1983 liability to extend to a local government, the policy or custom must be the “moving force” that resulted in the constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. Further, a county “may only be held liable for acts for which the county has final policymaking authority.” Parker v. Bladen County, 583 F.Supp.2d 736, 739 (E.D. N.C. 2008). State law governs whether a county has final policymaking authority on a particular topic. City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 123 (1988); Stockton v. Wake County, 173 F.Supp.3d 292 (E.D. N.C. March 24, 2016).

         Assuming Mecklenburg County is amenable to suit, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for § 1983 relief because he does not allege that any policy or custom violated his constitutional rights. Therefore, the claims ...

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