Snodgrass v. Messer et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon on 3/10/2017. (slt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
KEVIN SNODGRASS, JR.,
S.L. MESSER, et al.,
Civil Action No. 7:16CV00050
By: Elizabeth K. Dillon
United States District Judge
Kevin Snodgrass, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this action under the
Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his complaint, Snodgrass alleges that the defendant
prison officials charged and convicted him of a disciplinary offense without due process,
retaliated and conspired against him, sexually harassed him verbally and by conducting an
unlawful strip search, and/or failed to investigate his harassment complaint. Having reviewed
the record, the court concludes that the defendants’ motion to dismiss must be granted.
Snodgrass is incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison (“Red Onion”) in Pound, Virginia.1
On August 20, 2015, from about 12:00 to 1:30 p.m., he exercised in his cell. During this time,
Red Onion officers conducted the afternoon count, but Snodgrass allegedly did not hear any
whistle or verbal order announcing this procedure. He alleges that defendants Messer and
Bishop purposely failed to blow the whistle or otherwise announce the start of count procedures.
At 4:50 p.m., two officers served Snodgrass with a disciplinary charge for failing to stand for the
afternoon count. Snodgrass alleges that defendant Adams did not conduct a proper investigation
The court summarizes here the allegations in Snodgrass’s complaint and attachments without making any
finding of fact regarding the events that actually occurred.
before approving this charge, as demonstrated by Adams’ failure to obtain and attach a statement
Around 5:20 p.m., while conducting routine rounds of the unit, Messer walked up to
Snodgrass’s cell “in an aggressive manner . . . and began to verbally harass and threaten [him]
with sexual comments.”2 (Compl. 3, Dkt. No. 1.) Messer then ordered Snodgrass to strip.
Snodgrass removed his shirt, but when Messer stated, “[P]ull your pants down so I can see that
black ass,” Snodgrass refused. (Id.) “Embarrassed, and upset emotionally,” Snodgrass asked to
see a higher ranking officer and told Messer that he would file a “PREA” report that Messer had
sexually harassed him;3 in reply, Messer yelled, “[T]hat’s cause you’re a f**’n SNITCH.” (Id.)
Inmates in cells nearby have filed affidavits stating that they overheard this conversation
between Messer and Snodgrass.
In preparation for the hearing on the disciplinary charge that he had failed to stand for
count, Snodgrass requested an advisor and witness forms, but received only two forms. Officers
told him that additional forms were not available. Originally scheduled for August 26, 2015, the
hearing was actually conducted two days later with no notice of postponement. Snodgrass asked
to be allowed to obtain witness statements from two inmates and a copy of the Reporting Officer
Response Form, to show that Officers Bishop and Messer did not announce afternoon count on
August 20, 2015. Snodgrass also requested documentation to show that these two officers had
charged him numerous times in the past four months for failing to stand for count. Hearing
Snodgrass alleges that Messer said, “I’m going to knock you the f*** out and f*** you in the ass to wake
you back up. . . . I’m a let you out your cell to suck my d***!” (Compl. 3, Dkt. No. 1.)
A “PREA report” apparently refers to a complaint raised under the Virginia Department of Corrections
(“VDOC”) Operating Procedure (“OP”) 038.3, a Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) procedure adopted in
response to a federal law by that title, 42 U.S.C. §§ 15601-15609. See
http://www.vadoc.virginia.gov/about/procedures (last visited March 3, 2017).
officer Counts denied these requests and allegedly “failed to remain fair and impartial based on
the facts presented when she rendered a guilty verdict.” (Id. 4.)
On appeal, defendant Barksdale upheld the guilty finding. In doing so, he noted that he
had considered the appeal under the assumption that the officers had not announced count. He
also found that Snodgrass could have requested witness forms before the hearing. Snodgrass’s
allegation that Bishop and Messer were the only officers who had charged him with the same
offense on prior occasions over a four-month period also did not convince Barksdale to vacate
When Snodgrass notified supervisor Tori Raiford of Messer’s sexual harassment
comments, she allegedly told Snodgrass that she did not “give a shit! That’s your problem!”
(Id.) Snodgrass wrote a letter to defendant Clarke, VDOC director, about the sexual harassment.
In response to the PREA report, Investigator Bentley interviewed Snodgrass and told him that his
accusations against Messer could not be confirmed because surveillance camera footage did not
have audio and no one else was present. Bentley and another investigator, defendant Fannin,
failed to interview other inmates in nearby cells who overheard Messer’s comments. Snodgrass
alleges that Bentley, Fannin, and Warden Barksdale “conspired to not have the investigation
conducted thoroughly to obtain evidence.” (Id. 5.)
Snodgrass filed his § 1983 complaint in February 2016. Liberally construed,4 his
pleading raises the following constitutional issues, as construed by the court:
After failing to announce count, Messer and Bishop conspired to bring a false
charge against Snodgrass for failing to stand for count, in violation of due process
and the First Amendment;
When, as here, the plaintiff is without counsel, he is held to “less stringent standards,” and the court must
construe his complaint “liberally.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Because the federal claims overlap
substantially, the court’s opinion will not address the claims by number or chronologically.
Messer sexually harassed Snodgrass and used excessive or otherwise
unconstitutional force against him by conducting an unlawful strip search, in
violation of the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights;
Messer retaliated against Snodgrass for exercising his free speech rights;
Raiford, Barksdale, and Clarke, as supervisors, failed to act on Snodgrass’s sexual
harassment complaint against Messer;
Adams, Counts, and Barksdale violated Snodgrass’s procedural due process rights
during the disciplinary proceedings;
Fannin and Bentley failed to investigate the sexual harassment complaint against
Messer, in violation of Snodgrass’s rights under the Eighth Amendment and
In addition to these federal constitutional claims and interlocking allegations of conspiracy by
various groups of defendants, Snodgrass alleges claims under state tort law, the Virginia
Constitution, and VDOC operating procedures. As relief for the alleged violations, he seeks
monetary and injunctive relief.
The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, and Snodgrass has responded. Thus, the court finds the matter ripe for
A. Standard of Review
To survive the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, the “complaint must establish ‘facial plausibility’
by pleading ‘factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.’” Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville, 708 F.3d
The defendants have filed a motion for a protective order against discovery. Because their motion merely
tests the sufficiency of the complaint itself, however, the court may rule on their motion before resolving disputes
over discovery. Because the court herein determines that the motion to dismiss must be granted, the court will
dismiss the motion for protective order as moot.
549, 554 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In particular, to
state a § 1983 claim, Snodgrass must allege sufficient facts to establish “the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged
deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42, 48 (1988).
The court “accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff in weighing the legal sufficiency of the complaint.” Nemet Chevrolet,
Ltd. V. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). “[L]egal conclusions,
elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement fail to
constitute well-pled facts” however, and thus, need not be taken as true. Id. In considering the
motion, the court may also take judicial notice of matters of public record. Sec’y of State for
Def. v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007).
B. No Conspiracy Claims
Snodgrass opens his statement of his § 1983 claims with accusations of conspiracy,
starting with Bishop and Messer and their repeated failures to announce count procedures to
create false disciplinary charges against Snodgrass. In a later submission, Snodgrass more
compactly describes his claims of wide-spread conspiracy as follows:
Bishop, Messer, and Adams conspired to have a false Disciplinary Action served
on [Snodgrass] . . . . Counts and Kegley6 conspired with one-another to not
remain Fair and Impartial regarding [Snodgrass’s] Due Process Rights. Adams,
Bentley, Fannin, Raiford, Barksdale, and Messer conspired with each other to
ignore and deny [Snodgrass’s] rights and claims of Sexual Misconduct and
(Pl.’s Resp. 4, Dkt. No. 24.)
Snodgrass refers to Kegley as a defendant in his later submissions, but did not name Kegley in the style
of the complaint or include her in the list of defendants in that pleading.
To establish a civil conspiracy claim actionable under § 1983, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that the defendants “acted jointly in concert and that some overt act was done in
furtherance of the conspiracy,” resulting in deprivation of a federal right. Glassman v. Arlington
Cnty., Va, 628 F.3d 140, 150 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hinkle v. City of Clarksburg, 81 F.3d 416,
421 (4th Cir. 1996)). A plaintiff must make specific allegations that reasonably lead to the
inferences that members of the alleged conspiracy shared the same conspiratorial objective to try
to “accomplish a common and unlawful plan” to violate the plaintiff’s federal rights. Hinkle, 81
F.3d at 421. As such, a complaint’s allegations must amount to more than “rank speculation and
conjecture,” especially when the actions are capable of innocent interpretation. Id. at 422.
Merely labeling a chronological series of actions by multiple individuals as “conspiracy” or
providing only a conclusory, formulaic recitation of the legal elements of conspiracy will not do.
Nemet Chevrolet, 591 F.3d at 255.
As reflected in Snodgrass’s own description of his conspiracy theory, his “conspiracy”
claims are built on nothing more than conjecture, coincidental sequences of events, and tackedon labels. Snodgrass fails to state facts supporting a reasonable inference of the essential
ingredient for a § 1983 conspiracy claim — a shared conspiratorial plan among the members to
accomplish, jointly, a violation of the plaintiff’s federal rights. Most importantly, for reasons the
court will further discuss, Snodgrass’s complaint as a whole fails to state any plausible claim that
anyone, individually or as part of a conspiracy, violated his constitutional rights. Therefore, the
court will grant the motion to dismiss all of Snodgrass’s conspiracy claims.7
Defendant Bishop has not joined in the motion to dismiss. For the same reasons discussed in addressing
the other defendants’ motion, however, Snodgrass fails to state any actionable § 1983 claim against Bishop.
Therefore, the court will summarily dismiss the claims against this defendant under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Under this section, “a prisoner’s complaint seeking redress from the Government that is frivolous, malicious, or fails
to state a claim may be dismissed sua sponte.” Brown v. Brock, 632 F. App’x 744, 746 (4th Cir. 2015).
C. No First Amendment Retaliation Claim
In his response to the motion to dismiss, Snodgrass explains his First Amendment
retaliation claim: after Snodgrass exercised his First Amendment right to free speech (a) by
complaining to an officer that Messer and Bishop had wrongfully caused him to incur a
disciplinary charge, (b) by threatening to write a PREA report about Messer’s comments, and (c)
by demanding to see supervisors about those comments, Messer retaliated against Snodgrass by
labeling him as a snitch. Snodgrass also apparently includes a similar claim against Messer and
Bishop for initiating the disciplinary charge in the first place. The court finds no constitutional
claim of retaliation arising from these alleged events.
“Retaliation, though it is not expressly referred to in the Constitution, is nonetheless
actionable because retaliatory actions may tend to chill individuals’ exercise of constitutional
rights.” American Civil Liberties Union v. Wicomico County, 999 F.2d 780, 785 (4th Cir. 1993)
(citation omitted). Claims of constitutionally significant retaliation against prison inmates must
be treated with healthy skepticism, because many actions by prison officials are “by definition
‘retaliatory’ in the sense that [they are in] respon[se] to prisoner misconduct” or conduct.
Cochran v. Morris, 73 F.3d 1310, 1317 (4th Cir. 1996); Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74 (4th
Cir.1994). “To state a valid claim for retaliation under section 1983, a prisoner must allege (1) a
specific constitutional right, (2) the defendant’s intent to retaliate against the prisoner for his or
her exercise of that right, (3) a retaliatory adverse act, and (4) causation.” Jones v. Greninger,
188 F.3d 322, 324-25 (5th Cir. 1999). An officials’ retaliatory action that causes nothing more
than a mere inconvenience to the plaintiff’s exercise of his constitutional rights is not sufficient
to support a § 1983 claim. Wicomico County, 999 F.2d at 785-86. “Where there is no
impairment of the plaintiff’s rights, there is no need for the protection provided by a cause of
action for retaliation. Thus, a showing of adversity is essential to any retaliation claim.” Id. at
785 (citing, in a related context, Jones v. Franzen, 697 F.2d 801, 803 (7th Cir. 1983) (to make
out a § 1983 claim based on denial of photocopying privileges, inmate must show that denial
impeded exercise of his right of access to the courts, “for if it is unreasonable but not impeding
he has not made out a prima facie case of violation of his constitutional rights”).
Snodgrass’s verbal complaints to Messer and other officials were essentially verbal
grievances. Inmates do not have a constitutional right of access to a grievance process. Adams,
40 F.3d at 75. Thus, contrary to Snodgrass’s assertions, his “mere expressions of dissatisfaction
were not constitutionally protected” for purposes of a § 1983 claim of retaliation. See, e.g., Daye
v. Rubenstein, 417 F. App’x 317, 319 (4th Cir. 2011). Snodgrass’s submissions also fail to state
facts showing that Messer’s snitch comment adversely affected his free speech rights in any way.
At the most, in his response to the motion to dismiss, Snodgrass asserts that because inmates
overheard Messer call him a snitch, he was “subjected . . . to further ha[r]assment by [officer]
Brandy Lewis and threats of physical harm from inmates.” (Pl.’s Resp. 4, Dkt. No. 24.)
Nevertheless, Snodgrass proceeded to file his PREA report, wrote a letter to Clarke, and filed
this lawsuit about Messer’s comment. Thus, Snodgrass fails to show that Messer’s conduct,
even if retaliatory in some sense, caused Snodgrass anything more than undesirable comments
from those who learned of it and did not impede his exercise of his right to seek redress. See
Daye, 417 F. App’x at 319 (finding no adverse effect from alleged retaliation where inmate
“proceeded to file written grievances on the issue and then filed [a] lawsuit”). Accordingly, the
court will grant the motion to dismiss as to Snodgrass’s First Amendment retaliation claim
D. No Eighth Amendment Claims
Snodgrass alleges that Messer, in making sexually offensive remarks and conducting a
partial strip search, violated the Eighth Amendment. The court finds no cognizable § 1983 claim
arising from these allegations.
“The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments necessarily
excludes from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the use
of force is not of a sort ‘repugnant to the conscience of mankind.’” Hudson v. McMillian, 503
U.S. 1, 9-10 (1992) (omitting citations). Only “the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain”
violates the Eighth Amendment. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321 (1986). Thus, to state a
claim that a prison guard used unconstitutional force against him, a plaintiff must state facts
showing that the force was “nontrivial,” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 39 (2010), and that the
official acted “maliciously and sadistically and for the very purpose of causing harm.” Whitley,
475 U.S. at 320-321.
Numerous courts, including this one, have held that “sexual abuse by a prison guard on
an inmate may violate the Eighth Amendment.” Chapman v. Willis, No. 7:12-CV-00389, 2013
WL 2322947, at *4 (W.D. Va. May 28, 2013) (Kiser, J.) (citing other cases). Courts have also
recognized, however, that not every allegation of sexual abuse is “objectively, sufficiently
serious” for purposes of the Eighth Amendment. Id. (citing other cases, including Boddie v.
Schnieder. 105 F.3d 857, 861 (2d Cir.1997) (“[I]solated episodes of harassment and touching . . .
are despicable. . . . But they do not involve a harm of federal constitutional proportions as
defined by the Supreme Court.”) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833-34). Moreover, “[w]ords by
themselves do not state a constitutional claim, without regard to their nature.” Morrison v.
Martin, 755 F. Supp. 683, 687 (E.D.N.C.)), aff’d, 917 F.2d 1302 (4th Cir. 1990) (unpublished).
Thus, mere allegations of verbal abuse and harassment by guards cannot state any constitutional
claim. See Henslee v. Lewis, 153 Fed. App’x 178, 180 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Collins v. Cundy,
603 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir. 1979)). It follows that without some evidence that the defendant’s
alleged sexual abuse involved touching and inflicted pain, a complaint of sexual harassment
against a prison guard does not reach constitutional proportions. See, e.g., Freitas v. Ault, 109
F.3d 1335, 1338 (8th Cir. 1997) (“To prevail on a constitutional claim of sexual harassment, an
inmate must therefore prove, as an objective matter, that the alleged abuse or harassment caused
‘pain’ and, as a subjective matter, that the officer in question acted with a sufficiently culpable
state of mind.”); Chambliss v. Jones, No 14-2435, 2015 WL 328064, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 26,
2015) (“sexual harassment in the absence of contact or touching does not establish excessive and
unprovoked pain infliction” as is required to state a claim for a constitutional violation).
The comments that Messer allegedly made to Snodgrass were flagrantly sexual and
unprofessional. Those words alone, however, did not constitute punishment on a constitutional
scale. It is troubling that such alleged comments were immediately followed by Messer’s
demand for Snodgrass to strip naked, invoking increased fear that Messer might carry out his
threats of sodomy. Snodgrass does not allege that he bared more than his torso, however, or that
Messer touched or could have touched him during the partial strip search procedure that occurred
while Snodgrass was inside his cell. On these allegations, even if proven, the court cannot find
the elements of touching and pain as necessary to an Eighth Amendment claim of sexual abuse
or excessive force. Therefore, the court will dismiss this claim against Messer.
E. No PREA Claim
Snodgrass contends that Fannin and Bentley violated PREA by their deliberate
indifference and failure to investigate his sexual harassment claim against Messer. This court
and others have found no basis in law for a private cause of action under § 1983 to enforce an
alleged PREA violation. See, e.g., Chapman, 2013 WL 2322947, at *4; Berry v. Eagleton, No.
13-2379, 2014 WL 4273314 at * 10 (D.S.C, Aug. 29, 2014) (citing other cases).
“[S]ection 1983 itself creates no rights; rather it provides a method for vindicating
federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Doe v. Broderick, 225 F.3d 440, 447 (4th
Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). “[W]here the text and structure of a statute
provide no indication that Congress intends to create new individual rights, there
is no basis for a private suit, whether under § 1983 or under an implied right of
action.” Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 286 (2002).
Nothing in the PREA suggests that Congress intended to create a private right of
action for inmates to sue prison officials for noncompliance with the Act. See
Ball v. Beckworth, No. CV 11-00037, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109529, 2011 WL
4375806, at *4 (D. Mont. Aug. 31, 2011) (citing cases). “The PREA is intended
to address the problem of rape in prison, authorizes grant money, and creates a
commission to study the issue. . . . The statute does not grant prisoners any
specific rights.” Chinnici v. Edwards, No. 1:07-cv-229, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
119933, 2008 WL 3851294, at *3 (D. Vt. Aug.13, 2008). Thus, Plaintiff fails to
state a § 1983 claim based on an alleged violation of the PREA.
Chapman, 2013 WL 2322947, at *4. The court finds this reasoning persuasive and hereby
adopts it. Thus, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that Snodgrass cannot pursue a § 1983
claim based on officers’ alleged violation of their duties under the state’s PREA procedures.
Therefore, the court will grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss as to any alleged PREA claim.
F. No Due Process Claims
Snodgrass asserts a due process violation, based on his allegation that Bishop and Messer
falsely charged him for failing to stand for count. This claim has no factual support. Snodgrass
admits that he did not stand for count, and he does not present any factual matter indicating that
an excuse for this rule violation will prevent a disciplinary charge or conviction.8 “Absent some
evidence or claim that his disciplinary conviction was improperly obtained, [an inmate’s]
The court takes judicial notice of the current version of VDOC Operating Procedure 861.1, titled
“Offender Dicipline, Institutions,” which identifies Offense 213 as “Failing to follow facility count procedures or
interfering with count.” http://www.vadoc.virginia.gov/about/procedures (Last visited on March 3, 2017.)
assertions that the initial charge was false cannot state a claim.” Richardson v. Ray, 492 Fed.
App’x 395, 396 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Moore v. Plaster, 266 F.3d 928, 931-33 (8th Cir.2001)
(retaliatory-discipline claim may proceed where disciplinary action is not supported by “some
evidence”) (emphasis added). Moreover, Snodgrass is missing a key ingredient for all of his due
process claims in this action: he provides no facts showing that he had a constitutionally
protected liberty interest at stake in the challenged disciplinary proceedings.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state from depriving
“any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV,
§ 1. “To state a procedural due process violation, a plaintiff must (1) identify a protected liberty
or property interest and (2) demonstrate deprivation of that interest without due process of law.”
Prieto v. Clarke, 780 F.3d 245, 248 (4th Cir. 2015). “A liberty interest may arise from the
Constitution itself, by reason of guarantees implicit in the word ‘liberty,’ or it may arise from an
expectation or interest created by state laws or policies.” Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221
(2005) (citations omitted).
As a convicted prisoner, Snodgrass does not have an inherent, constitutionally protected
liberty interest in avoiding penalties for prison disciplinary infractions. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 556-57 (1974). (“[T]he interest of prisoners in disciplinary procedures is not included
in that ‘liberty’ protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”) A state-created liberty interest may
exist, however, if Snodgrass (a) points to “a basis for an interest or expectation in state
regulations” in avoiding a particular penalty, Prieto, 780 F.3d at 250; and (b) shows that the
penalty “impose[d] atypical and significant hardship . . . in relation to the ordinary incidents of
prison life,” or will “inevitably affect the duration” of his confinement.” Sandin v. Connor, 515
U.S. 472, 484, 487 (1995). Only if Snodgrass makes these showings does the Due Process
Clause require a particular measure of procedural protection. Id.
Snodgrass does not state in the complaint the penalty imposed on him for the disciplinary
infraction of failing to stand for count on August 20, 2015. Nothing in the record provides this
information. Thus, Snodgrass fails to allege that the penalty constituted an atypical or significant
hardship or that it inevitably affected the length of his confinement so as to trigger a protected
liberty interest and the requisite, federal due process protections. Without stating facts to
establish that he had protected liberty interest at stake in the challenged disciplinary proceedings,
Snodgrass has stated no actionable claim that he was deprived of a federal right to any particular
Snodgrass also has no federal claim that any of the defendants failed to provide him the
procedural protections provided under VDOC procedures. State officials’ failure to abide by
state procedural regulations is not a federal due process issue, and is, therefore, not actionable
under § 1983. Riccio v. Cty. of Fairfax, 907 F.2d 1459, 1469 (4th Cir. 1990) (“If state law grants
more procedural rights than the Constitution would otherwise require, a state’s failure to abide
by that law is not a federal due process issue.”).
For the reasons already stated, the court will grant the motion to dismiss. Furthermore,
Snodgrass fails to show that he was deprived of any of the limited procedural protections to
which he would have been entitled if he had a protected liberty interest. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at
556, 566 (finding that in prison disciplinary proceedings, “advance written notice of the claimed
violation and a written statement of the factfinders as to the evidence relied upon and the reasons
for the disciplinary actions taken” may satisfy due process); Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 456 (1985) (finding “some evidence” to support disciplinary officer’s decision sufficient to
satisfy due process evidentiary requirements). Snodgrass received advance written notice of the
charge; the reporting officer’s statement that Snodgrass did not stand for count provided some
evidence to support a finding that he was guilty of the procedural violation; the hearing officer
could reasonably have found that additional witness statements were irrelevant, as their proffered
content did not contradict the evidence that Snodgrass violated count procedure as charged;
Snodgrass does not deny receiving written findings of the hearing officer’s findings, as indicated
by Snodgrass’s appeal of those findings; and the warden, even accepting a presumption that no
whistle or announcement signaled the start of count, nevertheless, upheld the finding of guilt.
Snodgrass’s conclusory claim that the hearing officer failed to maintain impartiality is loosely
based on his disagreement with the outcome and not any facts suggesting partiality.
G. No Supervisory Liability
The court will also grant the motion to dismiss as to Snodgrass’s claims of supervisory
liability. First, as stated, the court concludes that Snodgrass fails to allege facts stating an
actionable claim that any defendant committed any constitutional violation. Second, even if a
defendant had violated Snodgrass’s constitutional rights in some way, supervisory officials, even
if they are subsequently notified, may not be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for the
unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 676. Third, because Snodgrass does not state facts showing that any supervisor, through
his own “individual actions [or inactions], has violated the Constitution” or caused others to
violate it, the § 1983 claims against the supervisory defendants fail. Id.; Slakan v. Porter, 737
F.2d 368, 373 (4th Cir. 1984) (holding that supervisory liability under § 1983 requires showings
that official had actual or constructive knowledge of risk of constitutional injury and was
deliberately indifferent to that risk, and that there is an affirmative causal link between the injury
and supervisory official’s inaction). Because Snodgrass fails to state a plausible a supervisory
liability claim, all such claims must be dismissed. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
H. State Law Claims
In addition to his constitutional claims, Snodgrass asserts numerous claims under state
law. Section 1983 was intended to protect only federal rights guaranteed by federal law,
however. Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 849 (4th Cir. 1985). Snodgrass’s state law claims are
thus not independently actionable under § 1983. Furthermore, because the court has determined
that all his federal claims must be dismissed, the court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over his state claims in this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). All such claims will be
dismissed without prejudice.
For the stated reasons, the court will grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss as to the
§ 1983 and PREA claims and will summarily dismiss without prejudice the state law claims and
all claims against defendant Bishop.
An appropriate order will be entered.
Entered: March 10, 2017.
/s/ Elizabeth K. Dillon
Elizabeth K. Dillon
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?