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Shamblen v. Fragale

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

September 7, 2017

CHASE FRAGALE, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court are two sets of motions. Plaintiff Franklin Shayne Shamblen's (“Plaintiff) Letter-Form Motion for Ruling on Case and for Costs (ECF No. 32), Defendant Chase Fragale's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 33), and Defendants Keith Butcher, Paul Gordon, Russell Matson, Gary McDonald, Aaron Simonton, and Ann Thomas's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 35) all turn on issues related to proper service of process. A second set of Motions to Dismiss from Defendant Fragale (ECF No. 59) and Defendants Butcher, Gordon, Matson, McDonald, Simonton, and Thomas (ECF No. 56) seek dismissal for lack of subj ect matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. By Standing Order entered May 7, 2014, and filed in this case on August 13, 2014, this action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation (PF&R). Magistrate Judge Tinsley entered his PF&R (ECF No. 66) addressing the motions based on service of process on June 14, 2017, recommending that this Court deny Plaintiffs Letter-Form Motion for Ruling on Case and for Costs (ECF No. 32) and the initial Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 33 and 35). Magistrate Judge Tinsley entered his PF&R (ECF No. 70) addressing the second set of motions on July 13, 2017, recommending that this Court grant both Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 56 and 59) and dismiss this matter from the docket of the Court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action stems from a disciplinary procedure instituted against Plaintiff while he was an inmate at the Parkersburg Correctional Center. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) According to the Complaint, on April 29, 2014, Plaintiff was selected for a random urinalysis screening for drugs and intoxicants. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) At the time, the West Virginia Division of Corrections used a two-step system: a sample would be field tested, and if the results were positive or inconclusive, it would be sent on for “analytical/confirmation testing.” (ECF No. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff's sample tested negative, but Defendant Fragale, who conducted the test, recorded the results as inconclusive and sent the sample for the confirmation testing anyway. (ECF No. 1 at 4-5.) Those results also came back negative, but Defendant Fragale charged Plaintiff with a rule violation for possession of drugs and intoxicants anyway. (ECF No. 1 at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that the remaining defendants knew of the improper infraction report and either affirmed the decision or failed to remedy it. (ECF No. 1 at 6-7.) The facts of the case are more fully stated in the July 13, 2017, PF&R (ECF No. 70).


         The Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge as to those portions of the findings or recommendation to which no objections are addressed. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Failure to file timely objections constitutes a waiver of de novo review and the Petitioner's right to appeal this Court's Order. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Snyder v. Ridenour, 889 F.2d 1363, 1366 (4th Cir. 1989); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1984). In addition, this Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party “makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). Objections to the first PF&R (ECF No. 66) in this case were due on July 3, 2017. To date, no objections have been filed.[1] Objections to the second PF&R (ECF No. 70) in this case were due on July 31, 2017. Plaintiff filed timely Objections (ECF No. 71) on July 21, 2017.


         Plaintiff raises four objections to the July PF&R, addressing whether his claims were raised against the Defendants in their individual or official capacities, the application of the Eleventh Amendment as a bar to his suit, whether the Complaint sufficiently stated a due process claim, and the application of qualified immunity.[2]

         A. Individual or Official Capacity Claims

         Plaintiff's first objection takes issue with the PF&R's categorization of his claims, with regard to whether he intended to raise them against the Defendants in their individual or official capacities. Plaintiff asserts that “whether the defendant[s] were sued in their individual or official capacities is obvious.” (ECF No. 71 at 1.) The Court notes that the PF&R addresses Plaintiff's claims against the Defendants in their individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 70 at 9.) Thus, regardless of Plaintiff s intent and whether such intent was apparent, his claims have been addressed as he intended, and he has not been prejudiced by having them construed both ways. Accordingly, Plaintiffs first objection is overruled.

         B. Eleventh Amendment

         Plaintiffs second objection apparently challenges the PF&R's finding that, to the extent the Complaint raises claims for monetary damages against the Defendants in their official capacities, those claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution's prohibition of suits against a state by a citizen of that state or another state. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 3107, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). Plaintiffs objection asserts that he is “a ward of the state/property of the state in which the defendants are paid employee(s) required to serve [and] protect not committ [sic] criminal offen[s]es against.” (ECF No. 71 at 1.) To the extent this can be interpreted to state an objection to the PF&R, the Court construes this to be asserting that there is an exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity for suits brought by prisoners against state defendants.

         The United States Supreme Court has specifically held that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was not intended to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment Immunity of the states. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 344-45 (1979). Nor is there any specific exception to this immunity for claims by a state prisoner against state officials; indeed, state prisoners' claims for monetary damages are commonly dismissed as barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. See, e.g., Clark v. Maryland Dep't of Pub. Safety & Corr. Servs., 316 F.App'x 279, 282 (4th Cir. 2009) (recognizing that defendant prison administrators were immune to prisoner's suit to the extent it raised claims against them in their official capacities); Curtis v. Close, No. 2:14-CV-24624, 2016 WL 889012, at *4 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 11, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, No. 2:14-CV-24624, 2016 WL 890582 (S.D. W.Va. Mar. 8, 2016); Gilmore v. Bostic, 659 F.Supp.2d 755, 764 (S.D. W.Va. 2009). Accordingly, Plaintiff's second objection is meritless.

         C. ...

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