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Reid v. Gaston County

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

September 17, 2019

GASTON COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. See (Doc. No. 6).


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

         Plaintiff names as Defendants: Gaston County Judicial Circuit 27A, and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. Construing the Complaint liberally and accepting the allegations as true, Plaintiff was accused of an offense on June 13, 1986 and a rape kit was conducted on the victim. The kit was turned over to the Captain of the Identification Bureau where it was destroyed before the case was tried. The kit would have “proved Plaintiff's guilt or innocence” and its destruction deprived Plaintiff of due process. (Doc. No. 1 at 3-4). The victim testified at trial that Plaintiff was the perpetrator, which resulted in his conviction of offenses that he did not commit and for which he received consecutive life sentences. The four one-count indictments addressed offenses that occurred at the same time and should have been considered a single offense. Plaintiff's consecutive sentences are malicious. Plaintiff's criminal defense lawyer was ineffective for failing to preserve this and other issues for appellate review. Plaintiff filed a post-conviction motion in which he raised these errors but relief was denied and Plaintiff is being falsely imprisoned.

         Plaintiff seeks $10, 000, 000 in compensatory and punitive damages for “loss of life, ” mental suffering, indignity, emotional distress, and injunctive relief. (Doc. No. 1 at 5).


         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.


         (1) Individuals Not Named as Defendants

          The body of the Complaint contains allegations against individuals who are not named as defendants in the caption as required by Rule 10(a). This failure renders Plaintiff's allegations against them nullities. See, e.g., Londeree v. Crutchfield Corp., 68 F.Supp.2d 718 (W.D. Va. Sept. 29, 1999) (granting motion to dismiss for individuals who were not named as defendants in the compliant but who were served). The allegations directed at individuals not named as Defendants are therefore dismissed without prejudice.

         (2) Gaston 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 ...

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