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Chafin v. West Virginia Division Of Juvenile Services

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

January 25, 2018

CHRISTOPHER LEE CHAFIN, Plaintiff,
v.
WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF JUVENILE SERVICES, WEST VIRGINIA INDUSTRIAL HOME FOR YOUTH, and UNKNOWN OFFICERS THAT WORKED AT WEST VIRGINIA INDUSTRIAL HOME FOR YOUTH,

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          DWANE L. TINSLEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is assigned to the Honorable John T. Copenhaver, Jr., United States District Judge, and it is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Pending before the court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by the West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services and the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth (ECF No. 15).

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 7, 2016, the plaintiff, who is presently incarcerated at a state correctional facility in Georgia, filed a Complaint (ECF No. 2) alleging that he was physically and sexually abused by staff at the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth in Salem, West Virginia (hereinafter “WVIHY”).[1] The Complaint neither alleges any specific time frame of when this abuse occurred, nor the identities of the correctional officers who allegedly abused him.

         However, the plaintiff has also filed a Memorandum in support of his Complaint (ECF No. 10), which indicates that he arrived at Salem when he was 13 years old, and was 31 years of age when he filed the Memorandum on November 18, 2016. The Memorandum also suggests that the first incident of physical abuse occurred during his first week at the WVIHY, which, by calculation of the plaintiff's age, would have been sometime in 1998. Additionally, because it is believed that the plaintiff could only be housed at the WVIHY until he turned 18, it would appear that the latest date any abuse could have occurred would have been sometime in 2002 or 2003.[2]

         On June 22, 2017, the West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services (“WVSJS”) and the WVIHY filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15) and a Memorandum of Law in support thereof (ECF No. 16), asserting that the plaintiff's Complaint is time-barred and, that, at any rate, these defendants are immune from a suit by a private citizen seeking monetary damages in federal court. Specifically, the motion documents assert that, although the plaintiff has not specified when this alleged abuse occurred, it is clear that the Complaint was filed well outside the two-year statute of limitations applicable to claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in West Virginia. Additionally, the defendants assert that the WVDJS and the WVIHY (which was simply a facility operated by the WVDJS) are arms of the State of West Virginia and, as such, are not suable entities under section 1983 and are immune from a suit for damages in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution.

         On July 3, 2017, the plaintiff filed an Objection to the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 21) (hereinafter “the plaintiff's First Response”), in which he alleges, in pertinent part, as follows:

As a juvenile, I did not know that the physical abuse that I was a victim of violated my rights. Now as an adult, I understand completely that a child should never go through this kind of abuse because it has left me with emotional scars so deep that I need psychological treatment to deal with the hurt and pain that I still suffer from.

(ECF No. 21 at 3). On July 10, 2017, the plaintiff filed another Objection to the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 23) (hereinafter “the plaintiff's Second Response”). In the second response, the plaintiff asserts as follows:

I developed a condition like many juveniles develop when they suffer extreme shock from being abused. I as a child forgot what happened to me and it is as though my subconscious blocked out this abuse to protect me. About January 2016 I started having “flashbacks” and my memory came back to me and I started remembering everything and also developed severe stress, depression, and other mental health problems as a result. A mental health employee discussed these “flashbacks” with me and helped me know what was going on. This happened while I was in the Athens-Clarke County Jail. Therefore, I clearly did not know of these events due to my “mental block” and psychological issues so this is why the state's statute of limitations should not be used.

(ECF No. 23 at 1). Thus, the plaintiff appears to be arguing, for the first time, that the court employ a “delayed discovery rule” to the statute of limitations based upon his repressed memories of the abuse he allegedly suffered at the WVIHY.[3]

         The plaintiff's Second Response further asserts that the defendants are governmental entities capable of being sued and that no immunity should apply in this matter because the WVDJS engaged in a lack of supervision over the WVIHY and possibly even encouraged its employees to engage in the abuse of the plaintiff and other children. Thus, the plaintiff asserts that the WVDJS had an official policy or custom that led to his constitutional injury, and that it should be held accountable for the conduct alleged in his Complaint.

         On July 21, 2017, the WVDJS and WVIHY filed a Reply (ECF No. 24), in which they dispute the credibility of the plaintiff's repressed memory assertions, noting that there was no mention of the same in either his Complaint or his First Response. The Reply states as follows:

Plaintiff first responds by arguing that he did not remember the events alleged in his Complaint until January 2016. (ECF No. 23-1). Thus, he believes the statute of limitations should not be used against him. (Id.) Defendants want to point out the shift in Plaintiff's allegations. In his Complaint, Plaintiff does not contend that he only recently remembered these events, but rather that he still has memories of this abuse and requests psychological treatment. (ECF No. 2-8). Plaintiff also filed a “Memorandum in Support of his Complaint wherein he also fails to assert that he only recently remembered these events. (ECF No. 10). In fact, in Plaintiff's Memorandum of Support, he actually claims the opposite. “These actions have left me with unforgettable memories that have affected my life very negatively. I am now thirty one years old and still affected by these abusive actions.” (Id. at 3-4). Further, Plaintiff states: “I will never forget what happened to me . . .” (Id. at 4). Thus, it is clear that Plaintiff did not actually forget or repress any of the alleged events, or if he did he didn't make these allegations in his Complaint. Plaintiff cannot now claim to have done so only because a Motion to Dismiss was filed.

(ECF No. 24 at 1-2). The Reply further notes that the plaintiff has filed a number of other lawsuits in federal courts in West Virginia and Georgia, asserting, inter alia, claims of abuse by correctional officers at other facilities that has caused him emotional damage. (Id. at 2). Finally, the Reply contends that the plaintiff's attempt to overcome sovereign immunity by asserting that the state entities should be held liable under a Monell[4] theory of liability is meritless. (Id. at 2, 4).

         On August 28, 2017, the plaintiff filed an unauthorized “Sur-Reply” (ECF No. 26), which simply attempts to bolster his assertion of repressed memories of the ...


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