Presley v. City of Charlottesville

Decision Date22 September 2006
Docket NumberNo. 05-2344.,05-2344.
Citation464 F.3d 480
PartiesShirley PRESLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF CHARLOTTESVILLE; Rivanna Trails Foundation, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Deborah Chasen Wyatt, Wyatt & Armstrong, P.L.C., Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant. Stanley Paul Wellman, Harman, Claytor, Corrigan & Wellman, Richmond, Virginia; Alvaro Antonio Inigo, Taylor & Zunka, Ltd., Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellees.


Joseph Robinson, Harman, Claytor, Corrigan & Wellman, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee Rivanna Trails Foundation.

Before MOTZ, TRAXLER, and SHEDD, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded by published opinion. Judge MOTZ wrote the opinion, in which Judge SHEDD joined. Judge TRAXLER wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.



Shirley Presley, a long-time resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2000) action against the City of Charlottesville and the Rivanna Trails Foundation ("RTF"), a nonprofit private corporation (collectively, the Defendants).1 She alleges that, without her consent, the Defendants conspired to publish a map that showed a public trail crossing her yard. Presley further alleges that, even after the Defendants realized their error, they did not correct it but rather criminally prosecuted her when she herself took measures to prevent trespasses on her property. Presley asserts that the Defendants' actions violated her Fourth Amendment and due process rights. The district court granted the Defendants' motions to dismiss Presley's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.


We must take as true the factual allegations in Presley's complaint. Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 764 (4th Cir.2003).

Presley's home and yard encompass less than an acre of land along the Rivanna River. In 1998, without having obtained her consent, the RTF began distributing a map that displayed a public trail — known as the Rivanna trail — crossing a portion of Presley's property. The City publicized the RTF's map on the City's official website. Relying on the Rivanna trail map, members of the public began traveling across Presley's yard, leaving behind trash, damaging the vegetation, and sometimes even setting up overnight camp sites. Initially, Presley did not realize the extent of the intrusion because she was caring for her ailing husband in a nursing home. After her husband's death in 2001, however, Presley became aware of the extent of the trail's use and began complaining to the RTF and the City about the trespasses.

Although the Defendants acknowledged their error, they assertedly neither changed the map nor stopped its distribution. Rather, several RTF officials and members of the Charlottesville city council met with Presley and asked her to give the Defendants an easement across her property in exchange for favorable tax treatment and other official favors (but not compensation). Presley refused.

The intrusions by trespassers persisted and became more severe. Presley called the City police several times to eject the trespassers, but, although the police responded regularly, they could not stem the tide. Presley then posted over one hundred "no trespassing" signs on her property, all of which were defaced and destroyed. Finally, Presley installed razor wire along the perimeter of her property. City officials responded by revising a local ordinance to prohibit Presley's protective measures and then bringing a criminal prosecution against her for violating that ordinance. The prosecution was later dismissed.

When Presley filed this action in February 2005, the City and the RTF still had not amended the trail map. Presley alleges that the Defendants have engaged in a conspiracy to violate her constitutional rights. Specifically, she asserts that the Defendants' actions constitute an unreasonable Fourth Amendment seizure and deprive her of procedural and substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.2 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Defendants moved to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim. The district court granted their motions, and Presley filed a timely appeal.

Before addressing the merits of this appeal, we note at the outset that "[t]he purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of a complaint" and not to "resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir.1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). For this reason, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion should not be granted "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002) (explaining that a "court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations" (internal quotation marks omitted)). Moreover, when, as here, a defendant seeks dismissal of a civil rights complaint, "we must be especially solicitous of the wrongs alleged" and "must not dismiss the complaint unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any legal theory which might plausibly be suggested by the facts alleged." Edwards, 178 F.3d at 244 (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).


We initially consider whether Presley has stated a claim under the Fourth Amendment, which provides that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable . . . seizures, shall not be violated." U.S. Const. amend. IV. Presley alleges that an unreasonable seizure of her property occurred here when private individuals trespassed onto her land due to the active and knowing encouragement of the Defendants.

The Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable seizures clearly extend to real property. See, e.g., United States v. James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U.S. 43, 52, 114 S.Ct. 492, 126 L.Ed.2d 490 (1993) (noting that the Fourth Amendment applies to the seizure of a four-acre parcel of land with a house); Freeman v. City of Dallas, 242 F.3d 642, 647 (5th Cir.2001) (en banc) ("[T]he City seized the Freemans' real property for demolition.").3 Nevertheless, the district court held that Presley had failed to allege a Fourth Amendment violation. The court offered two grounds for its holding; we find neither persuasive.


The district court held that Presley's Fourth Amendment seizure claim was foreclosed because it "merely amount[ed]" to a Fifth Amendment takings claim. But the Supreme Court has time and again considered multiple constitutional claims based on the same facts. See, e.g., Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712, 720 n. 3, 725, 124 S.Ct. 1307, 158 L.Ed.2d 1 (2004) (Free Exercise, Free Speech, and Equal Protection Clauses); Jones v. United States, 526 U.S. 227, 243 n. 6, 119 S.Ct. 1215, 143 L.Ed.2d 311 (1999) (Fifth and Sixth Amendments); Alexander v. United States, 509 U.S. 544, 546-47, 113 S.Ct. 2766, 125 L.Ed.2d 441 (1993) (rejecting First Amendment claim on the merits but remanding for reconsideration of Eighth Amendment claim).

As the Court has explained, "[c]ertain wrongs affect more than a single right and, accordingly, can implicate more than one of the Constitution's commands." Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U.S. 56, 70, 113 S.Ct. 538, 121 L.Ed.2d 450 (1992). Accord James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U.S. at 50-52, 114 S.Ct. 492. Indeed, the Court has squarely rejected the argument that, on the basis of a single set of facts, a plaintiff could only assert the violation of one constitutional provision, holding instead that the plaintiff could simultaneously bring a due process claim and a Fourth Amendment claim. See James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U.S. at 52, 114 S.Ct. 492; Soldal, 506 U.S. at 70-71, 113 S.Ct. 538. Moreover, the Court has observed that it sees "no basis for doling out constitutional protections" one at a time; rather, a court should examine each constitutional claim in turn. Soldal, 506 U.S. at 70, 113 S.Ct. 538.

In just one circumstance has the Supreme Court held that a single set of facts may not simultaneously give rise to two constitutional violations: when one of the provisions assertedly violated contains only a "generalized notion" of constitutional rights — such as substantive due process — and the other provision is "an explicit textual source of constitutional protection" that specifically addresses the precise harm at issue. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989); see also Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 125 n. 27, 95 S.Ct. 854, 43 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975). This is not the case here — both the Fourth Amendment Seizure Clause and the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause address specific, rather than general, harms, and the Court has never held that one specific constitutional clause gives way to another equally specific clause when their domains overlap. The Supreme Court's conclusion in Soldal that "[s]urely, Graham does not bar resort . . . to the Fourth Amendment's specific protection for `houses, papers, and effects,'" 506 U.S. at 70-71, 113 S.Ct. 538, holds true here as well.

Moreover, contrary to the suggestion of the district court, recognizing that a Fourth Amendment claim and a Fifth Amendment claim may arise from the same appropriation of property does not "extinguish[]" the distinction between a seizure and a taking. Many seizures —...

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