775 F.2d 1274 (4th Cir. 1985), 84-1009, Beaudett v. City of Hampton

Docket Nº:84-1009.
Citation:775 F.2d 1274
Party Name:Bruce BEAUDETT, Appellant, v. CITY OF HAMPTON; City Attorneys A. Paul Burton and W. Stephen Moore; Judge T.H. Wilson, II; and Judge Nelson T. Overton, Appellees.
Case Date:November 04, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 1274

775 F.2d 1274 (4th Cir. 1985)

Bruce BEAUDETT, Appellant,

v.

CITY OF HAMPTON; City Attorneys A. Paul Burton and W.

Stephen Moore; Judge T.H. Wilson, II; and Judge

Nelson T. Overton, Appellees.

No. 84-1009.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

November 4, 1985

Argued July 15, 1985.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1276

Martha J. Tomich, Appellate Law Fellow, Washington, D.C. (Stephen A. Goldblatt; Nancy E. Hezlep; Steven L. Zelinger; Appellate Litigation Clinical Program, Georgetown University Law Center on brief), for appellant.

Thomas E. Glascock, Hampton, Va., Linwood Wells, Asst. Atty. Gen., Richmond, Va. (Glascock, Martin & Graves, Hampton, Va., Gerald L. Baliles, Atty. Gen., Robert B. Condon, Asst. Atty. Gen., Richmond, Va., on brief), for appellees.

Before RUSSELL, SPROUSE and WILKINSON, Circuit Judges.

WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

This case requires the court to consider once again the difficult problems raised when pro se litigants only vaguely identify potential legal issues in the controversy at hand. Though these litigants cannot, of course, be expected to frame legal issues with the clarity and precision ideally evident in the work of those trained in law, neither can district courts be required to conjure up and decide issues never fairly presented to them. In this case, the district court addressed the only issue that this litigation gave it reason to consider, and we affirm the court's dismissal of this action. Other issues urged on appeal simply were not presented to the district court, and neither that court nor this court need reach them.

I

Bruce Beaudett brought this action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 after a protracted dispute with the City of Hampton, Virginia. The controversy began on April 18, 1980 when Beaudett tripped over a six-inch high curb erected by the city and suffered a wrist injury resulting in $200 in medical expenses. After unsuccessfully seeking removal of the curb and reimbursement from the city, Beaudett took his grievance to state court.

Beaudett sought $5000 damages from the city in Virginia's General District Court. 1 After a bench trial, judgment was entered for the city. Beaudett noted his desire to appeal the decision so that he might receive a jury trial. He failed, however, to perfect his appeal as required by Virginia law, 2 so no appeal followed.

On December 1, 1980 Beaudett began, according to his complaint, a "benign vigil in [the] lobby of city hall, as [a] protest for being denied a jury and (to my mind) justice." Seven months into Beaudett's vigil, City Attorney Moore told Beaudett that he had been asked to draft a loitering ordinance, but would not have to do so if Beaudett left city hall. Beaudett did not leave, and the ordinance was passed.

Starting on September 1, 1981, and continuing over the next two years, Beaudett was convicted at least six times under either the loitering ordinance, Hampton Code Sec. 24-17, or Virginia's criminal trespass statute, Va.Code Sec. 18.2-119. On each occasion he was fined and subsequently sentenced to jail for refusing to pay his fines. He was last released from jail on August 26, 1983.

Beaudett instituted this Sec. 1983 suit shortly thereafter. In addition to the city of Hampton, defendants in the suit include Judge T.H. Wilson, II of Hampton General District Court, who presided over Beaudett's personal injury claim, and Judge Nelson T. Overton of Hampton Circuit Court, who presided over Beaudett's criminal matters. Also named are two City Attorneys, A. Paul Burton and W. Stephen Moore.

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The complaint is set forth on a printed form commonly used by state prisoners in Sec. 1983 actions. After briefly setting out the facts stated above, it asserts that Beaudett is, as a citizen, "entitled to (1) a jury in my civil suit, (2) freedom of speech (sitting in city hall lobby), and (3) equal protection from persecution." In...

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