Holbrook v. Elkins
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Michael F. Urbanski on 11/13/2023. (Opinion mailed to Pro Se Party via US Mail)(tvt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
CURTIS DWAYNE HOLBROOK,
Case No. 7:23-cv-00643
By: Michael F. Urbanski
Chief United States District Judge
Curtis Dwayne Holbrook, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Jeff Elkins, an attorney in Wise, Virginia. Holbrook has not
paid the filing fee but will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis for purposes of initial
review of his complaint. For the following reasons, the court concludes that the complaint
must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Holbrook alleges that he was involved in a car accident approximately two years ago
and that he talked to Elkins about filing a lawsuit against an insurance company. Compl., ECF
No. 1, at 2. Holbrook asserts that he has written letters to Elkins several times and that he is
“starting to think [Elkins] doesn’t care” about filing a lawsuit. Id. He seeks to have his medical
bills and other expenses paid by Elkins. Id. at 3.
Standard of Review
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), which governs in forma pauperis proceedings, the court
has a duty to screen initial filings. Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 656–57 (4th Cir.
2006). The court must dismiss a case at any time if the court determines that the complaint
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). To survive
dismissal for failure to state a claim, “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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
Holbrook commenced this action by filing a form complaint for use by inmates seeking
to assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 imposes liability on any “person” who,
under color of state law, deprives another person “of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “To state a claim under § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege 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).
Having reviewed the complaint in accordance with the applicable law, the court
concludes that it fails to state a plausible claim for relief under § 1983. In particular, Holbrook
does not allege facts from which the court could conclude that Elkins, a private attorney, acted
“under color of state law” in the course of representing, or declining to represent, Holbrook.
Id. “Although lawyers are generally licensed by the States, ‘they are not officials of government
by virtue of being lawyers.’” Polk Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 319 n.9 (quoting In re
Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717, 729 (1973)); see also Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800, 800 (4th Cir. 1976)
(holding that a “private attorney who is retained to represent a criminal defendant is not acting
under color of state law, and therefore is not amenable to suit under § 1983”). Accordingly,
Holbrook’s allegations against Elkins fail to state a claim under § 1983.
For the foregoing reasons, the court concludes that Holbrook’s complaint must be
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. An appropriate order
will be entered.
Entered: November 13, 2023
Michael F. Urbanski
Chief 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?