Hopkins v. State, 4:21-cv-00087-M

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
Docket Number4:21-cv-00087-M
PartiesROSIE HOPKINS, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, et al, Defendants.
Decision Date23 March 2022


STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, et al, Defendants.

No. 4:21-cv-00087-M

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

March 23, 2022



This matter comes before the court on the Memorandum & Recommendation (M&R) issued by Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers, II on August 23, 2021. Judge Numbers recommends that this court dismiss the Complaint in this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and the Supreme Court's opinion in Heck v. Humphrey. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP") timely filed an objection to the M&R, arguing that her claims are sufficiently stated and that, if the court finds they are not, she be permitted to file an amended pleading.

The operative pleading in this case is 105 pages long, names more than twenty defendants, and alleges at least eight federal claims and numerous state law claims. Plaintiff asserts these claims, stemming from her January 2019 "assault" on a "client" while she worked as a "Habilitation Technician" at Pathways for People, Inc. ("PFP"), an organization providing home and community services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The pleading is prolix, argumentative, largely redundant, and incoherent in some respects. Construing the pleading liberally, the court finds Plaintiff alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended ("Title VII") and violations of her First, Third, Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth


Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as several state law claims. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court will determine whether the pleading is frivolous or fails to state a claim for relief.

First, as individuals are not "employers" under Title VII, the court finds that any claim Plaintiff alleges under Title VII against an individual is barred. Scott v. Maryland State Dep 't of Lab., 673 Fed.Appx. 299, 307-08 (4th Cir. 2016) ("interpreting similar language in Title VII, we held that individuals are not subject to liability under that statute") (citing Lissau v. S. Food Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 180-81 (4th Cir. 1998)).

Second, for her Title VII claims against her employer, PFP, Plaintiff alleges retaliation and discrimination on the bases of race, color, sex, religion, age, and disability.[1] The court finds Plaintiffs allegations fail to support any claim that PFP suspended, terminated, and/or otherwise discriminated against Plaintiff because of her religion, age, or disability and, thus, her Title VII claims based on religion and any claims construed as violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") or Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") are dismissed.

Third, Plaintiff seeks recovery under Section 1983 for violations of her constitutional rights; however, she may only do so against defendants "acting under color of state law." Martin v. Duffy, 977 F.3d 294, 298-99 (4th Cir. 2020) ("To recover damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show (1) 'the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law ...'") (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970)). Plaintiffs allegations fail to demonstrate that Karen and Zakary Beaty, PFP, the Apex Club House, and Accident Fund of America, or any of the entities' employees, acted under color of state law when


they engaged in conduct that allegedly injured the Plaintiff. Therefore, any Section 1983 claims raised against these Defendants are dismissed.

Fourth, Plaintiff sues Wake County Judges Michael Denning and Keith Gregory and Assistant District Attorneys Becker, Braxton, and Ashton-Slagle for actions they took during criminal proceedings against her. "State judges, magistrates, and prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity from § 1983 damages claims, and [Plaintiff has] failed to allege that any of these defendants acted outside the scope of their judicial or prosecutorial duties." Mateen-El v. Bell, 747 Fed.Appx. 169, 170 (4th Cir. 2019) (citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 424-29 (1976); Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991); Safar v. Tingle, 859 F.3d 241, 248 (4th Cir. 2017)). Plaintiffs claims against these Defendants are dismissed.

Fifth, a governmental entity may only be sued if the law of the state in which the court is located permits it. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3). Police departments are not permitted to be sued in North Carolina; therefore, Plaintiffs claims against the "Apex Police Department" are dismissed. See Smith v. Munday, 848 F.3d 248, 256-57 (4th Cir. 2017) ("Under North Carolina law, police departments cannot be sued as entities.").

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that she has been convicted of assault against her former client. Based on this allegation, Judge Numbers recommends that this court dismiss Plaintiffs Section 1983 claims. The Supreme Court has held that

to recover damages for . . . harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254

Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 485 (1994) (emphasis added). "Through what has become known as the 'favorable termination requirement,' the Court ensured that § 1983 litigation would not result in inconsistent judgments or retrials of old state convictions through pathways other than those delineated by Congress." Griffin v. Baltimore Police Dep't, 804 F.3d 692, 695 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 646-47 (2004)).

Notably, not all claims related to a criminal...

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