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McClary v. Shuman

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

December 19, 2019

MARK SHUMAN, et al., Defendants.


          Joe L. Webster United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on several motions by Plaintiff Ronald McClary, Defendant Mark Shuman, and Defendant Sergeant Scott. (Docket Entries 16, 19, 25, 26, 27, 29, 32.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a pro se prisoner of the State of North Carolina and was previously incarcerated at Scotland Correctional Institute (hereinafter “Scotland”). (See Complaint ¶ IV, Docket Entry 2). On November 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant Shuman as well as “Sgt Scott” and “Ms. Jerald.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges Eighth Amendment violations by the Defendants, specifically, that he has not received meals in accordance with the diet prescribed to him by a physician. (Id. ¶ V.) He further alleges that Defendants ignored this when he raised the issue with them, and that his health had deteriorated as a result. (Id.) Accompanying the complaint are documents related to Plaintiff's attempt to remedy his grievance through the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Administrative Remedy Procedure as well as Plaintiff's medical condition. (Id. at 7-13.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. ¶ VI).

         On December 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed another pleading, titled and docketed as an “amended complaint” against Defendants. (Docket Entry 4.) This document does not provide facts underlying the claim, allege injuries sustained by Plaintiff, or state the relief sought (id. ¶¶ IV-VI), but does include additional documents related to Plaintiff's grievance and medical condition (id. at 13-18).

         On December 6, 2018, summons was issued as to all three Defendants. (Docket Entry 5.) While Defendant Shuman received service of process, (Docket Entry 9), the summonses for Defendants Scott and Jerald were returned unexecuted on February 27, 2019 (Docket Entries 13, 14).

         On March 26, 2019, Defendant Shuman filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (Docket Entry 16) along with an accompanying memorandum (Docket Entry 17). On April 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response to Defendant Shuman's motion. (Docket Entry 20.) Defendant Shuman filed a reply brief on April 15, 2019. (Docket Entry 22.)

         Plaintiff has also filed several motions. On April 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment against Defendants Scott and Jerald. (Docket Entry 19.) On May 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to appoint counsel to conduct discovery. (Docket Entry 25.) On September 9, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment against “Defendant Vanardo, ” who is not a party in this case. (Docket Entry 26.) On September 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed another motion to appoint counsel. (Docket Entry 27.) Finally, on September 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to correct the spelling of Defendant Jerald's name to “Queen Gerald” and to reissue a summons to her. (Docket Entry 29.) No. Defendant responded to any of Plaintiff's motions.

         On October 9, 2019, the summons for Defendant Scott was reissued. (Docket Entry 30.) Defendant Scott received service of process and filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (Docket Entry 32) along with an accompanying memorandum (Docket Entry 33). Plaintiff filed a response brief on November 14, 2019. (Docket Entry 36.)

         All seven of the above-mentioned motions are before the Court and ripe for disposition.


         A. Defendant Shuman and Defendant Scott's Motions to Dismiss

         The Court will first address Defendant Shuman and Defendant Scott's motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Docket Entries 16, 32.) Because the two Defendants raise similar arguments in favor of their motions, the Court will address them collectively. As a threshold matter, the Court must consider whether any injunctive or declaratory relief sought by Plaintiff is moot, as he has been transferred from Scotland to another prison.[1] (See Docket Entry 12; Docket Entry 22 at 2.) “A case becomes moot-and therefore no longer a ‘Case' or ‘Controversy' for the purposes of Article III-‘when the issues presented are no longer “live” or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.'” Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc., 568 U.S. 85, 91 (2013) (quoting Murphy v. Hunt, 455 U.S. 478, 481 (1982) (per curiam)). However, a case that is not “live, ” but is “capable of repetition, yet evading review, ” is not moot. Murphy, 455 U.S. at 482. “[A]s a general rule, a prisoner's transfer or release from a particular prison moots his claims for injunctive and declaratory relief.” Rendelman v. Rouse, 569 F.3d 182, 186 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Incumaa v. Ozmint, 507 U.S. 281, 286-287 (4th Cir. 2007). Here, Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at Scotland, and any claims by him for injunctive relief are moot. Nor are the claims here “capable of repetition, yet evading review” if he were to return to Scotland, as “he would have sufficient opportunity to re-initiate an action seeking injunctive relief.” See Rendelman, 569 F.3d at 186. Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff seeks injunctive or declaratory relief from either Defendant Shuman or Defendant Scott, those claims are moot and should be dismissed.

         Defendants Shuman and Scott also seek to dismiss Plaintiff's suit in its entirety, arguing that the second complaint filed by Plaintiff is an amended complaint and supersedes the original complaint. (Docket Entry 17 at 3.) Defendants are correct that an amended complaint supersedes a prior one, see Young v. City of Mt. Rainier, 238 F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2001), and are also correct that the second complaint is titled “Amended” and does not state a claim, injury, or relief sought (see Amended Complaint ¶¶ IV-VI). However, despite the document being docketed as an “amended complaint, ” the Court declines to construe it as such, for two reasons. First, such a characterization of Plaintiff's second complaint would be unduly harsh and formalistic in light of Plaintiff's status as a pro se litigant. Cf. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (holding that a pro se litigant's pleadings are to be liberally construed); Fireman's Ins. Co. of Newark, New Jersey v. Herbert, No. 4:04CV139, 2005 WL 3436091 at *2 (E.D. Va. Dec. 20, 2005) (noting that a “court does not expect a pro se litigant to perfectly comply with all procedural rules). Second, it is evident from the attachments to the “amended” complaint, which include medical documents and a grievance ...

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