Beaudett v. City of Hampton, No. 84-1009

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore RUSSELL, SPROUSE and WILKINSON; WILKINSON
Citation775 F.2d 1274
PartiesBruce 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.
Decision Date04 November 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84-1009

Page 1274

775 F.2d 1274
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.
Argued July 15, 1985.
Decided Nov. 4, 1985.

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.

Page 1277

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 his request for relief, Beaudett wrote, "I wish to tell my story to a 12 person jury for my civil suit, and now to charge the city of Hampton, Virginia, the City Attorneys and the Judges of collusion and for obstructing justice."

The district court dismissed Beaudett's complaint for failure to state a cause of action. 3 Noting that "[t]he only relief sought by the plaintiff is a right to have a jury trial on his claim for a personal injury," the district court held no recovery could be had from the named defendants because each was immune from liability. It is true, however, that these defendants are not immune from every type of relief under all circumstances. See e.g., Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 104 S.Ct. 1970, 80 L.Ed.2d 565 (1984); Supreme Court of Virginia v. Consumers Union, 446 U.S. 719, 736, 100 S.Ct. 1967, 1977, 64 L.Ed.2d 641 (1980); Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). It is therefore necessary to determine precisely the nature of the complaint and the relief requested by Beaudett, before ruling upon the propriety of the dismissal.

II

The district court perceived this lawsuit as essentially seeking a jury trial in Beaudett's civil action against the city. Before this court, Beaudett--now with the benefit of counsel--resurrects the jury trial claim by charging a conspiracy to violate his civil rights 4 and asserts a profusion of claims never considered below. Specifically, he charges that he was jailed because of his indigency, subjected to selective prosecution, and deprived of First Amendment rights by a vague and overbroad loitering ordinance. These claims, it is urged, were presented to the district court by the complaint and in subsequent proceedings but were not considered when the suit was dismissed. We hold, however, that the additional claims were never properly presented to the trial court, so there was no error in its failure to consider them. 5

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  • Vient v. APG Media, Civil Action No. ELH-18-3862
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 24, 2019
    ...pleadings liberally, Plaintiff must nevertheless allege facts that state a cause of action. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (duty to construe liberally does not require courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented).III. Discussion Defendants a......
  • Johnson v. Cuyahoga County CSEA, 1:21 CV 517
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • July 7, 2021
    ...behalf of a pro se plaintiff. See Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 577 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277-78 (4th Cir. 1985). III. Law and Analysis A. Proper Parties and Immunity As an initial matter, Defendants Cuyahoga County CSEA and the ......
  • Thomas v. Colvin, C/A: 2:11-2066-DCN-BHH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • September 6, 2011
    ...998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege ......
  • Deitemyer v. Ryback, Civil Action No. ELH-18-2002
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • August 6, 2019
    ...pleadings liberally, Plaintiff must nevertheless allege facts that state a cause of action. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (duty to construe liberally does not require courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented). As noted, defendants' motio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4884 cases
  • Vient v. APG Media, Civil Action No. ELH-18-3862
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 24, 2019
    ...pleadings liberally, Plaintiff must nevertheless allege facts that state a cause of action. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (duty to construe liberally does not require courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented).III. Discussion Defendants a......
  • Johnson v. Cuyahoga County CSEA, 1:21 CV 517
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • July 7, 2021
    ...behalf of a pro se plaintiff. See Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 577 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277-78 (4th Cir. 1985). III. Law and Analysis A. Proper Parties and Immunity As an initial matter, Defendants Cuyahoga County CSEA and the ......
  • Thomas v. Colvin, C/A: 2:11-2066-DCN-BHH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • September 6, 2011
    ...998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege ......
  • Deitemyer v. Ryback, Civil Action No. ELH-18-2002
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • August 6, 2019
    ...pleadings liberally, Plaintiff must nevertheless allege facts that state a cause of action. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (duty to construe liberally does not require courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented). As noted, defendants' motio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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