Krieger v. Loudon Cnty.

Decision Date30 September 2014
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 5:13cv073
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Virginia

By: Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge


This matter is before the court on defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiff's revised amended complaint for failure to state a claim and lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Dkt. Nos. 42, 45, and 56. The court referred the matter to the Honorable James G. Welsh, United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) for proposed findings of fact and a recommended disposition. On July 15, 2014, the magistrate judge issued a report recommending that summary judgment be granted in favor of all the defendants and the case be dismissed with prejudice and stricken from the court's active docket. Dkt. No. 72. The plaintiff, Roy W. Krieger ("Krieger"), timely filed an objection to the Report and Recommendation, and defendants filed responses to Krieger's objection.

The court has reviewed the Report and Recommendation, plaintiff's objections thereto, and the defendants' responses. For the reasons set forth below, the Report and Recommendation is adopted in part and rejected in part, each of the motions to dismiss are granted, and the case will be dismissed with prejudice.


In this case, Krieger, appearing pro se,1 alleges the defendants, Loudon County Department of Family Services ("Loudon DFS"), Virginia's Department of Social Services ("VA DSS"), Warren County Department of Social Services ("Warren DSS"), and Jennifer Doyle ("Doyle"), deprived him of his right to register and vote in two elections held in Virginia, denied him Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP") benefits, and discriminated against him. Krieger argues this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because several of his claims arise under various federal statutes including the Food Stamp Reauthorization Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2011, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, 52 U.S.C. § 20101, and the National Voter Registration Act, 52 U.S.C. § 20501.2 Krieger also asserts the defendants violated Virginia's election laws and alleges other state law claims.


Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to "serve and file specific, written objections" to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations within fourteen days of being served with a copy of the report. See also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Fourth Circuit has held that an objecting party must do so "with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection." United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir.), cert denied, 127 S. Ct. 3032 (2007).

To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate judge's report. Either the district court would then have to review every issue in the magistrate judge'sproposed findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be required to review issues that the district court never considered. In either case, judicial resources would be wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on help from magistrate judges would be undermined.

Id. The district court must determine de novo any portion of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a proper objection has been made. "The district court may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); accord 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

If, however, a party "'makes general or conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations,'" de novo review is not required. Diprospero v. Colvin, No. 5:13-cv-00088-FDW-DSC, 2014 WL 1669806, at *1 (W.D.N.C. Apr. 28, 2014) (quoting Howard Yellow Cabs, Inc. v. United States, 987 F. Supp. 469, 474 (W.D.N.C. 1997) (quoting Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982))). "The court will not consider those objections by the plaintiff that are merely conclusory or attempt to object to the entirety of the Report, without focusing the court's attention on specific errors therein." Camper v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 4:08cv69, 2009 WL 9044111, at *2 (E.D. Va. May 6, 2009), aff'd, 373 F. App'x 346 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 610 (2010); see Midgette, 478 F.3d at 621 ("Section 636(b)(1) does not countenance a form of generalized objection to cover all issues addressed by the magistrate judge; it contemplates that a party's objection to a magistrate judge's report be specific and particularized, as the statute directs the district court to review only 'those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.'"). Such general objections "have the same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of such objection." Moon v. BWX Technologies, 742 F. Supp. 2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010), aff'd, 498 F. App'x 268 (4th Cir. 2012); see also Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985) ("[T]he statute does not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are filed").

Additionally, objections that simply reiterate arguments raised before the magistrate judge are considered to be general objections to the entirety of the report and recommendation. See Veney v. Astrue, 539 F. Supp. 2d 841, 844-45 (W.D. Va. 2008). As the court noted in Veney:

Allowing a litigant to obtain de novo review of [his] entire case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an objection "mak[es] the initial reference to the magistrate useless. The functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act." Howard [v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.], 932 F.2d [505,] [] 509 [(6th Cir. 1991)].

539 F. Supp. 2d at 846. A plaintiff who reiterates his previously-raised arguments will not be given "the second bite at the apple []he seeks;" instead, his re-filed brief will be treated as a general objection, which has the same effect as would a failure to object. Id.


Part V. of the Report and Recommendation, entitled Analysis, is divided into eight substantive sections as follows: A. Section 1983; B. Eleventh Amendment Waiver Standard; C. Rehabilitation, Americans with Disabilities, and "Motor Voter" Acts; D. Voting Rights Act; E. ADA, Title II; F. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies; G. Younger Abstention; and H. Personal Capacity Liability. In his Response and Objections to the Report and Recommendation, Dkt. No. 73, Kriger agrees with the magistrate judge as regards parts F. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies and G. Younger Abstention. The majority of Krieger's objections to the remaining parts of the Report and Recommendation are either verbatim recitations or reiterated arguments previously raised in his response to defendants' motions to dismiss. The portions of Krieger's objections that simply reiterate arguments previously advanced are properly construed as general objections to the Report and Recommendation. See Veney, 539 F. Supp. 2d at 844-46. Regardless, the court has conducted a de novo review of each of the parts of the report to which Krieger objects and sets forth its findings below.

A. Section 1983

Krieger objects to the magistrate judge's analysis of his claims as regards 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That section is limited to the VA DSS's potential liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under § 1983 a plaintiff may plead a cause of action alleging that he was deprived "of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States" by a person acting under color of state law. Adickes v. S. H. Kress, 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970) (internal quotations omitted). Because 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contains no language abrogating a state's 11th Amendment sovereign immunity, the plaintiff must identify a "person" who violated his rights unless, of course, the state waives its immunity. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 340-41 (1979). "[N]either a state nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under § 1983." Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989). Likewise, state agencies are not "persons" for the purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. for City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 396 (4th Cir. 1990) (citing Will, 491 U.S. at 58). The VA DSS is a state agency of the Commonwealth created in the executive branch and is therefore entitled to 11th Amendment immunity. Va. Code § 63.2-200; Bd. of Sup'rs of Warren County v. Va. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 731 F. Supp. 735, 740 (1990). Thus, because the VA DSS is a state agency and the Commonwealth has not waived its immunity, Krieger cannot maintain a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the VA DSS.

B. Eleventh Amendment's Waiver Standard

Krieger objects to the magistrate judge's application of the 11th Amendment's sovereign immunity provision as it pertains to some of Krieger's claims under federal law against the Virginia Department of Social Services. Krieger asserts violations of various federal statutes including the Food Stamp Reauthorization Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2011, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, 52 U.S.C....

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