Thomas v. Meyer
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
DE’ANDRE LAMAR THOMAS,
WILLIAM C. MEYER, II,
Case No. 7:23-cv-00645
By: Michael F. Urbanski
Chief United States District Judge
De’Andre Lamar Thomas, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against his court-appointed attorney. Thomas 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.
Thomas alleges that he has been incarcerated for thirteen years after being convicted
of offenses in the Circuit Court of Pittsylvania County. Compl., ECF No. 1, at 2. He claims
that his court-appointed attorney deprived him of due process by failing to perfect a direct
appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Id. He attaches a letter from the attorney apologizing
for the error. Compl. Ex. A., ECF No. 1-1. Thomas states that he “would like to be liberated
and compensated . . . $1 million (dollars).” Compl. 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.
Thomas 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, Thomas
does not allege facts from which the court could conclude that his court-appointed attorney
acted “under color of state law.” Id. It is well settled that an attorney does not act under color
of state law when representing a defendant in a criminal case. See Hall v. Quillen, 631 F.2d
1154, 1155–56 (4th Cir. 1980) (holding that a § 1983 action against a state-appointed attorney
was subject to dismissal “for want of state action”); 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, Thomas’s allegations against his court-appointed attorney fail to state a claim
under § 1983.
For the foregoing reasons, the court concludes that Thomas’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
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