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S.M.B. v. West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority

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

October 26, 2017

S.M.B., Plaintiff,
v.
WEST VIRGINIA REGIONAL JAIL AND CORRECTIONAL FACILITY AUTHORITY, MICHAEL YORK, P. OWENS, and JOHN DOE #1, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBER C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 13). For reasons specified herein, the Court GRANTS the motion and DISMISSES West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority as a defendant in this case.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed the present Complaint on February 17, 2017 (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges, among other things, that he was sexually assaulted while incarcerated in the Western Regional Jail and that the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority (“WVRJCFA”) failed to maintain “appropriate policies and procedures” to prevent the alleged sexual assault (ECF No. 1 at 10).

         WVRJCFA filed a Motion to Dismiss and a Memorandum in Support on June 5, 2017 (ECF Nos. 13 and 14).[1] In its Memorandum in Support, WVRJCFA asserts that “Plaintiff is no longer housed in any West Virginia correctional facility and currently resides in Point Pleasant, W.V. according to his parole officer” (ECF No. 31 at 3). The memorandum continues, “[A]s Plaintiff is no longer subject to the challenged policy, practice, or conditions, Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief is moot” (ECF No. 31 at 4).

         In response, Plaintiff contends that WVRJCFA has failed to offer evidence to support its claim that Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the Western Regional Jail (ECF No. 15 at 6). Plaintiff further argues that, even if he is no longer incarcerated at the Western Regional Jail and his claim is moot as a result, his claim is excepted from the mootness doctrine because it is capable of repetition, yet evades review (ECF No. 15 at 6).

         In consideration of these arguments, the Court conducted inquiry into public records regarding Plaintiff's incarceration status. As a result of that inquiry, the Court learned that Plaintiff was paroled on March 28, 2017, several months before he filed his response to WVRJCFA's motion to dismiss.[2]

         II. Discussion

         a. Standard of Review

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss, “a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, however, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “Dismissal . . . is appropriate when the face of the complaint clearly reveals the existence of a meritorious affirmative defense.” Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem, 85 F.3d 178, 181 (4th Cir. 1996). Mootness is one such affirmative defense.

         “In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, [the Court] may properly take judicial notice of matters of public record.” Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). Additionally, the Court's decision to take judicial notice of matters of public record does not automatically require that the Court then treat a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment. Corbett v. Duerring, 780 F.Supp. 486, 492 (S.D.W.Va. 2011). The Court may properly consider a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss in the context of relevant matters of public record. Id.

         A defendant's incarceration and parole status are matters of public record. As discussed above, the Court's review of relevant public records in this case revealed that Plaintiff was paroled earlier this year. Accordingly, the Court TAKES JUDICIAL NOTICE that Plaintiff no longer resides at the Western Regional Jail.

         b. Mootness

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff objects to WVRJCFA's allegedly insufficient policies and procedures regarding prisoner admission and housing assignments (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff asks the Court to grant him equitable relief in the form of requiring WVRJCFA to reform those policies and procedures and to enforce them against its employees (ECF No. 1). Defendant WVRJCFA argues that Plaintiff's request for equitable relief is moot as he is no longer housed in any of the Authority's facilities (ECF No. 31).

         “The doctrine of mootness constitutes a part of the constitutional limits of federal court jurisdiction.” Brooks v. Vassar, 462 F.3d 341, 348 (4th Cir. 2006). Accordingly, “a present, live controversy . . . must exist” for the Court to properly hear a claimant's case. Hall v. Beals, 396 U.S. 45, 48 (1969). In prisoner cases, specifically, this rule requires that a prisoner challenging a specified prison policy have a ...


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