MCCLINTON et al v. BROWN et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER signed by JUDGE LORETTA C. BIGGS on 04/27/2021, that Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and improper venue, (ECF No. 10 at 1), is DENIED. FURTHER that Defendants' motion to dismiss Defendant Bernard Chapple as a party to this matter pursuant to 12(b)(4), (ECF No. 10 at 1), is GRANTED. Mr. Chapple is DISMISSED from this matter and the Clerk of Court shall terminate him as a party. FURT HER that Plaintiff Glenn Wallace has fourteen (14) days from the entry of this Order to file a more definite statement setting forth all claims, if any, he seeks to bring against Ms. Chapple-Brown pertaining to the allegation that she used local a uthorities to harass and/or intimidate him and sufficient facts which support said claim(s). Should Plaintiff fail to file such a statement, which may be in the form of an Amended Complaint, upon notice by Defendants of such failure, this matter will be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.(Taylor, Abby)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
ROBIN P. MCCLINTON-WALLACE, and
TOBI CHAPPLE-BROWN, and
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LORETTA C. BIGGS, District Judge.
On May 14, 2020, the above-captioned matter was initiated in this Court with the filing
of a pro se complaint naming Robin P. McClinton-Wallace and Glenn Wallace as Plaintiffs
against Defendants Tobi Chapple-Brown and Bernard Chapple. (ECF No. 1.) The matter
came before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, brought pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b). (ECF No. 10.)
Upon review of the Complaint, and after the instant motion had been filed and briefed,
the Court determined that a hearing was necessary in order to ascertain more information
about Plaintiff Robin P. McClinton-Wallace with respect to her competency and her personal
involvement in the filing of the Complaint. It appeared to the Court that Plaintiff Glenn
Wallace was attempting to represent Mrs. McClinton-Wallace under a purported Power of
Attorney that was never provided to the Court. Moreover, it appeared clear to the Court that,
irrespective of whether a Power of Attorney exists, Plaintiff Glenn Wallace is not an attorney
and, while he can file on his own behalf, he is not authorized to represent another party in a
matter before this Court. The Court will first discuss this issue.
On April 19, 2021, Plaintiff Glenn Wallace, Attorney Pete Blaetz—who represented
that he had been appointed guardian of Mrs. McClinton-Wallace’s estate—and attorneys for
Defendants, John Wright and Loch Saslow, each came before the Court for a hearing to clarify
the representation of Plaintiff McClinton-Wallace. At this hearing, the Court requested, and
the parties provided, information pertaining to Mrs. McClinton-Wallace’s level of competency
and her involvement in the filing of the Complaint. Attorney Blaetz and counsel for
Defendants also provided state court documents and records from Alamance County Court
pertaining to the competency of Mrs. McClinton-Wallace as follows:
A Petition for Order Authorizing Protective Services and Ex Parte Emergency Services
and Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem filed in North Carolina District Court by the
Alamance County Department of Social Services (“ACDSS”) dated August 14, 2020,
A Petition for Adjudication of Incompetence and Application for Appointment of
Guardian Ad Litem filed in North Carolina Superior Court by the ACDSS dated
October 5, 2020, In re Robin P. McClinton, (20SP275);
A state court order dated November 10, 2020, finding Mrs. McClinton-Wallace
incompetent by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and ordering that she be
appointed a guardian ad litem, Order on Petition for Adjudication of Incompetence,
In re Robin P. McClinton, (20SP275); and
A copy of the state court order that appointed Defendant Tobi Chapple-Brown as Mrs.
McClinton-Wallace’s guardian and Attorney Peter Blaetz as guardian of her estate that
had previously been filed with the Court. (See ECF No. 19-1.)
Additionally, a number of state court documents presented to the Court referenced some
level of domestic violence which appears to have led to an Order for Emergency Services
being granted for the removal of Mrs. McClinton-Wallace from her living situation with
Plaintiff Glenn Wallace by ACDSS in August of 2020.
At the conclusion of the hearing, and upon findings by the Court that: (1) Plaintiff
Glen Wallace, a non-attorney acting pro se, has no authority to represent Plaintiff Robin
McClinton-Wallace in any proceedings before this Court; (2) Attorney Blaetz had been
appointed Guardian of Mrs. McClinton-Wallace’s estate by Alamance County Superior Court;
and (3) Defendant Tobi Chapple-Brown had been appointed as guardian of Mrs. McClintonWallace’s person by Alamance Superior Court; the Court allowed a stipulation of dismissal
that was filed on April 5, 2021. (See ECF No. 21.) Pursuant to the Order approving the
stipulation, any claims made by Mrs. Robin McClinton-Wallace were dismissed, and this Court
further orders that she will be terminated as a Plaintiff in this matter.
Consistent with the Court’s determination above, the Court will now proceed to the merits
of Defendants’ motion to dismiss and will analyze the motion solely in the context of how the
claims relate to Plaintiff Glenn Wallace as the sole plaintiff currently in this action.
The Complaint alleges that Ms. Chapple-Brown: (1) conducted unauthorized
withdrawals from Mrs. McClinton-Wallace’s bank account; (2) changed the locks on a property
and did not allow Mrs. McClinton-Wallace access to personal effects on the property; (3) is
withholding an interest in a property from Mrs. McClinton-Wallace; and (4) called local
authorities on Mr. Wallace for the purpose of harassing and intimidating him. (ECF No. 1 at
In their motion to dismiss, Defendants first contend that this Court does not have
subject matter jurisdiction over the matter due to lack of diversity, (ECF No. 11 at 2–4), and
that venue is improper because no substantial claim arose in North Carolina, (id. at 4–5).
Defendants also argue that the Complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
because Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim. (Id. at 6–9.) Finally, with respect to
Defendant Bernard Chapple, Defendants argue that he never received service of process and
therefore he should be dismissed from the action completely pursuant to Rule 12(b)(4). (Id.
Whether this Court has Subject Matter Jurisdiction Pursuant to
The Court will first address whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s
claim. A motion brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), which governs dismissals for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, raises the question of “whether [Plaintiff] has a right to be in the
district court at all and whether the court has the power to hear and dispose of [the] claim.”
Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood, Inc., 669 F.3d 448, 452 (4th Cir. 2012). “Federal courts
are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377
(1994). A federal court has “original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in
controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000 . . . and is between . . . citizens of different
[s]tates.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). For this Court to have subject matter jurisdiction based on
diversity, complete diversity of citizenship must exist between the parties, meaning that no
party on one side may be a citizen of the same state as any party on the other side. See Exxon
Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 553 (2005).
Generally, when making a determination of citizenship for the purposes of determining
whether diversity jurisdiction exists, courts apply the time-of-filing rule, which stands for the
principle that the jurisdiction of the court depends on the state of things at the time the action
was filed. Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Glob. Grp., L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 570 (2004). However, there
is an exception to the time-of-filing rule where the jurisdictional defect has been cured. Id. at
572–73 (discussing multiple cases where “the less-than-complete diversity which had subsisted
throughout the action had been converted to complete diversity between the remaining
parties” after a severable party had been dismissed).
In the instant matter, Defendants argue that there was not complete diversity at the
time the Complaint was filed because Mrs. McClinton-Wallace and Defendant Chapple-Brown
were “both citizens of the State of New York.” (ECF No. 11 at 2.) As discussed above, Mrs.
McClinton-Wallace has been dismissed as a party to this matter. With the dismissal of Mrs.
McClinton-Wallace as a party to this action, the remaining action involves only Mr. Glenn
Wallace, a citizen of North Carolina, and Tobi Chapple-Brown and Bernard Brown, who the
Complaint alleges are citizens of Florida. (See ECF No. 1 at 2, 3.) This cures the jurisdictional
defect Defendants assert in their motion.1 As such, Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction will be denied.
In their motion, Defendants assert that Ms. Chapple-Brown is a citizen of New York and provide supporting
documentation to that effect. (ECF No. 11 at 3–4.) However, whether Ms. Chapple-Brown is a citizen of New
York or Florida does not change the determination of diversity, as there is no dispute that remaining Plaintiff
Glenn Wallace is a citizen of North Carolina.
Whether Venue is Proper Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3)
“When an objection to venue has been raised under Rule 12(b)(3), the burden lies with
the plaintiff to establish that venue is proper in the judicial district in which the plaintiff has
brought the action.” Plant Genetic Sys. v. Ciba Seeds, 933 F. Supp. 519, 526 (M.D.N.C. 1996)
(citing Bartholomew v. Va. Chiropractors Ass’n, Inc., 612 F.2d 812, 817 (4th Cir. 1979)). A plaintiff
is only obliged to make a prima facie showing of proper venue in order to survive a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(3). Aggarao v. MOL Ship Mgmt. Co., Ltd., 675 F.3d 355, 365–66 (4th
Cir. 2012) (citing Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004)). In determining whether
such a showing has been made, the Court must “view the facts in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff.” Id.
The general venue statute governs most civil actions founded on diversity of
citizenship. Venue is proper in any judicial district in which a “substantial part of the events or
omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) (emphasis added). Because
“substantial” events related to a claim may occur in different places, venue is sometimes proper
in more than one district. See Mitrano, 377 F.3d at 405.
“[I]n determining whether events or omissions are sufficiently substantial to support
venue,” a court should consider “the entire sequence of events underlying the claim.” Id.
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, for the purposes of making a
venue determination, what is “sufficiently substantial” is a question of quality, not quantity;
what matters most is whether the material acts or omissions within the forum “bear a close
nexus to the claims.” See Daniel v. Am. Bd. of Emergency Med., 428 F.3d 408, 432–33 (2d Cir.
2005); see also 17 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore’s Federal Practice § 110.04 (2019).
Defendants contend that this Court is not the proper venue to adjudicate this action
because “no defendants reside in North Carolina, nor did any substantial claim arise in North
Carolina.” (ECF No. 11 at 4.) Despite Defendants’ contention, however, the Complaint
appears to allege that Plaintiff Glenn Wallace was harassed and intimidated at his home in
Mebane, North Carolina by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department and ACDSS as a result
of calls made by Ms. Chapple-Brown. (ECF No. 1 at 5.)
Construing the allegation in the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and
resolving all inferences in his favor, the Court finds that he has sufficiently pleaded that the
events giving rise to his claim pertaining to claims of intimidation and harassment occurred in
Mebane, North Carolina. As such, Defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis of improper
venue is denied.
Defendants 12(b)(4) Motion to Dismiss
Defendants next contend that the entire Complaint should be dismissed with respect
to Defendant Bernard Chapple because he never received service of process in any way. (ECF
No. 11 at 5–6.) In Mr. Wallace’s response to Defendants’ motion, he does not contest
dismissing Mr. Chapple as a Defendant in this matter. (ECF No. 15 at 4) (stating that “the
complaint against Mr. Bernard Chapple can be dismissed without prejudice”). Given that
there is no evidence in the record that Mr. Chapple was properly served, and Plaintiff concedes
that Mr. Chapple should be dismissed from this suit, the Court grants Defendants’ motion as
it pertains to any and all claims asserted against Mr. Chapple.
Defendants’ 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Finally, Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, arguing that Plaintiff
fails to state a cognizable claim. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint,” including whether it meets
the pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2). See Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009).
Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), thereby “giv[ing] 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)). To survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A complaint may fail to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted in two ways: first, by failing to state a valid legal cause of action, i.e., a
cognizable claim, see Holloway, 669 F.3d at 452, or, second, by failing to allege sufficient facts
to support a legal cause of action, see Painter’s Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th
In evaluating whether a claim is stated, “a court accepts all well-pled facts as true and
construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff” but does not consider “legal
conclusions, elements of a cause of action, . . . bare assertions devoid of further factual
enhancement[,] . . . unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Nemet
Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must be mindful of the principle
that “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per
curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also Noble v. Barnett, 24 F.3d 582,
587 n.6 (4th Cir. 1994). However, “[w]hile a pro se litigant’s pleadings are liberally construed,
a pro se complaint must still contain sufficient facts to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level and state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Adams v. Sw. Va. Reg’l
Jail Auth., 524 F. App’x 899, 900 (4th Cir. 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks
While the Complaint alleges several underlying facts giving rise to the instant matter,
as listed above, those facts largely involved actions that were alleged to have occurred against
Mrs. McClinton-Wallace, who is no longer a party to this suit. (See ECF No. 1 at 5–6.)
Likewise, the relief sought exclusively pertains to alleged harms against Mrs. McClintonWallace. (Id. at 5.) Nevertheless, as discussed above, a court must construe a pro se complaint
liberally and, upon a motion to dismiss, consider whether the facts alleged state a cognizable
claim even when a plaintiff does not specify the legal basis upon which the complaint is
Here, with respect to himself, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Chapple-Brown made
complaints to Alamance County Sheriff’s Department and Adult Protective Services with the
purpose of harassing and intimidating him. (Id. at 5.) Defendants assert that they “are unable
to respond to this claim” because they “cannot reason what this claim might be.” (ECF No.
11 at 7.) The Court agrees that it is difficult to ascertain the legal cause of action Plaintiff
Wallace seeks to bring against Ms. Chapple-Brown on behalf of himself with respect to the
underlying facts concerning the authorities’ visit to his home. In reaching this finding, the
Court considered that the Complaint seeks no relief related to this allegation or related to any
claim involving Mr. Wallace. The Court, however, based on the unique circumstances in this
case, will allow Plaintiff fourteen (14) days to file with the Court a more definite statement of
any claim he wishes to bring against Ms. Chapple-Brown related to his allegations of
harassment and/or intimidation.
Accordingly, based on the reasons outlined above., the Court enters the following:
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction and improper venue, (ECF No. 10 at 1), is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants’ motion to dismiss Defendant
Bernard Chapple as a party to this matter pursuant to 12(b)(4), (ECF No. 10 at 1), is
GRANTED. Mr. Chapple is DISMISSED from this matter and the Clerk of Court shall
terminate him as a party.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff Glenn Wallace has fourteen (14) days
from the entry of this Order to file a more definite statement setting forth all claims, if any, he
seeks to bring against Ms. Chapple-Brown pertaining to the allegation that she used local
authorities to harass and/or intimidate him and sufficient facts which support said claim(s).
Should Plaintiff fail to file such a statement, which may be in the form of an Amended
Complaint, upon notice by Defendants of such failure, this matter will be dismissed with
prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
This, the 27th day of April 2021.
/s/ Loretta C. Biggs
United States District Judge
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