Strasburg v. Mineral Cnty. Magistrate's Office

Decision Date24 August 2022
Docket NumberCivil Action 3:22-cv-126 (GROH)
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of West Virginia




Pending before the Court is pro se Plaintiff William Strasburg's Motion [ECF No. 2] for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.[1] Because Plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the undersigned must conduct a preliminary review to determine whether Plaintiff's Complaint [ECF No. 1] sets forth any viable claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion [ECF No. 3] for Injunction, Motions [ECF Nos. 4, 10] for Removal to Federal Court, Motion [ECF No. 5] for a Cease-and-Desist Order, and Emergency Request for Injunction [ECF No. 8]. The undersigned concludes that removal is improper and that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and seeks monetary relief against defendants who are immune from such relief. Accordingly, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's Complaint [ECF No. 1] be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE and RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's related Motions [ECF Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10] be DENIED. Lastly, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the state criminal matter of State v. William Joseph Strasburg, No. 22-M29M-390 be REMANDED to the Magistrate Court of Mineral County, West Virginia, and that the state criminal matter of State v. William Joseph Strasburg, No. 22-M12M-645, be REMANDED to the Magistrate Court of Grant County, West Virginia.


On July 25, 2022, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants Mineral County Magistrate's Office,[2] Charles R. Gulbronson, Augusta WV Regional Jail,[3] Trooper Hartman, Trooper Trenton, Trooper Kerns, and the West Virginia State Police. ECF No. 1. Liberally construed, Plaintiff seeks to bring the following causes of action against Defendants in his Complaint: intimidation of a federal witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, conspiracy to commit color of law violations under 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242, torts of outrage, trespass, prosecutorial misconduct, obstruction of justice, contempt of court, Bivens violations, and what appears to be several claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and constitutional violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. It is unclear which claims Plaintiff seeks to bring against each Defendant. Id. For these claims, Plaintiff requests damages in the aggregate amount of $30,085,000. Id. at 8.

In support of his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that in early May of 2022, he witnessed a motorist operating a motor vehicle in a “reckless and negligent manner.” ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff then got into a traffic dispute and altercation with this motorist. Id. Defendant Trooper Kerns pulled over the Plaintiff, and Plaintiff described the incident to Defendant Kerns and filled out some paperwork. Id. On May 14, 2022, Plaintiff was charged in Mineral County with three criminal misdemeanors arising from the prior traffic altercation with the motorist: Destruction of Property, Assault, and Unlawful Stopping. ECF No. 1 at 2; ECF No. 1-4 at 2. Kerns then arrested Plaintiff and brought him to Mineral County Magistrate Court. ECF No. 1 at 2. Afterwards, Plaintiff was released on bond. ECF No. 1-4 at 4. Plaintiff then informed Kerns and Magistrate Charles Gulbronson of his intent to remove this criminal case to federal court. ECF No. 1 at 2.

On June 15, 2022, an arrest warrant was issued against Plaintiff for failure to appear in Mineral County Magistrate Court.[4] Id. at 3. On July 1,2022, Defendants Hartman and Trenton arrived at the Plaintiff's home to execute the arrest warrant, placed Plaintiff under arrest and drove him to the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail, where he spent the next six days. Id. at 3-4, 6. Plaintiff also met with a magistrate from Grant County after his arrest on July 1, 2022. Id. at 5. Plaintiff alleges that the Mineral County Magistrate Court “maliciously left Plaintiff in jail for several days to effect a punishment without due process.” Id. Plaintiff asserts challenges to his conditions of confinement at the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail, which he contends amount to Bivens violations. Id. at 6. On July 6, 2022, Plaintiff was released from jail on a $5,000 cash bond with his bench trial set for July 29, 2022, in Mineral County Magistrate Court. ECF No. 1 at 6-7; ECF No. 1-4 at 1. Plaintiff failed to appear on July 29, 2022, for his criminal trial, and a resulting arrest warrant was issued. See ECF No. 8. Since then, Plaintiff may have absconded, stating in a later filing that he has left the State to protect himself. Id.

In addition to his Complaint,[5] Plaintiff also filed several related motions that reiterate the same facts and legal conclusions presented in the Complaint. Plaintiff's Motions [ECF Nos. 4, 10] for Removal to Federal Court appear to be, foremost, an effort to remove two different State prosecutions in Mineral and Grant County, inappropriately, to federal court. Further, he seeks to use these motions as a vehicle to articulate, prematurely, federal civil claims related to these state proceedings. Additionally, Plaintiff filed a separate pro se Motion [ECF No. 3] asking the Court to issue an order granting injunctive relief. Plaintiff then filed a Motion [ECF No. 5] for a Cease-and-Desist Order, asking the Court for Defendants to cease all contact with Plaintiff, refrain from filing further arrest warrants against him, refrain from prosecuting Plaintiff in state court, and cease any illegal traffic stops. Lastly, Plaintiff filed an Emergency Request for Injunction [ECF No. 8], again repeating the same claims that he has removed his criminal case to federal court, rendering all state proceedings invalid. Plaintiff claims that he “requires immediate injunctive relief against the Defendants to keep [him] from being unlawfully arrested and unlawfully incarcerated.” ECF No. 8.


When filing a lawsuit in federal court, the plaintiff is required to pay certain filing fees. The court has the authority to allow a case to proceed without the prepayment of fees “by a person who affirms by affidavit that he or she is unable to pay costs ....” L.R. Gen. P. 3.01. The plaintiff files this affidavit along with the request or motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Id. The Supreme Court of the United States has explained that the purpose of the “federal in forma pauperis statute . . . is designed to ensure that indigent litigants have meaningful access to the federal courts.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

When a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the court conducts a preliminary review of the lawsuit before allowing the case to proceed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). This includes cases filed by non-prisoners. See Michau v. Charleston Cnty., S.C., 434 F.3d 725, 727 (4th Cir. 2006) (holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the non-prisoner complaints under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)). The court must dismiss a case at any time if the court determines that the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A case is often dismissed sua sponte before the defendant is notified of the case “so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints.” Id. at 324. Furthermore, if a court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); see also Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Eng'g, Inc., 369 F.3d 385, 390 (4th Cir. 2004) (stating that “questions of subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised at any point during the proceedings and may (or, more precisely, must) be raised sua sponte by the court).

When reviewing pro se complaints, the Court must construe them liberally. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Courts must read pro se allegations in a liberal fashion and hold those pleadings “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, “the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure . . . to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable” in federal court. Gamache v. F.B.I., 2011 WL 4966281, at *1 (D.S.C. Apr. 19, 2011).

As stated above, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) permits the court to dismiss a complaint that “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “require only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Although a complaint need not assert “detailed factual allegations,” it must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the complaint must raise a right to relief that is more than speculative. Id. In...

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