COPENHAVER, District Judge:
Dr. Sherif A. Philips instituted two civil actions challenging the suspension of his practice privileges at Pitt County Memorial Hospital ("the Hospital"). In addition to supplemental state law claims, he alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based upon putative infringements of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights surrounding the proceedings that resulted in
The defendants moved to dismiss both actions. They contended principally that Dr. Philips could not show they acted under color of state law. The district court agreed and Dr. Philips appeals. We affirm.
From 1953 until June 1998, Pitt County owned all of the property representing the Hospital, which it apparently leased to PCMHI, a non-profit formed in 1953 under the general nonprofit incorporation laws of North Carolina. On June 1, 1998, at a time when PCMHI was operating the Hospital under a long term lease from Pitt County dated December 1, 1989, Pitt County and PCMHI entered into an "AGREEMENT TO CHANGE STATUS OF PITT COUNTY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL" ("Agreement"). (JA 47).
The Agreement was designed "to change the status of.... [Pitt County Memorial Hospital] from a Public Hospital to a Private Not For Profit Hospital" pursuant to the Municipal Hospital Act, North Carolina General Statutes § 131E-8 ("Act"). (Id.) Accompanying the change over was the filing by PCMHI with the North Carolina Secretary of State on September 18, 1998, of Restated Articles of Incorporation ("Restated Articles"), submitted for the purpose, in part, of reflecting PCMHI's "reorganization from an agency of Pitt County to a private not-for-profit corporation."
The change was accomplished by the sale of the Hospital to PCMHI, at a price of $30 million spread over two years. The Agreement includes further terms indicative of some measure of retained control by Pitt County over its former agency, PCMHI:
Noteworthy are the Agreement's automatic reversionary provisions under which all Hospital assets, real and personal, revert to Pitt County if PCMHI fails in any of the following respects:
The contemplated reversion would divest PCMHI of all ownership rights in the real and personal property of which the Hospital is composed.
In dismissing these actions, the district court observed:
Philips v. Pitt County Mem'l Hosp., Inc., 503 F.Supp.2d 776, 782 (E.D.N.C.2007).
The district court relied significantly upon our decision in Modaber v. Culpeper Memorial Hospital, Inc., 674 F.2d 1023 (4th Cir.1982), which provides that
Id. at 1025.
A. Standard of Review
We review de novo a district court's dismissal for failure to state a claim
Wahi v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 616 n. 26 (4th Cir.2009).
In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, we may properly take judicial notice of matters of public record. Hall v. Virginia, 385 F.3d 421, 424 (4th Cir.2004) (noting it was proper during Rule 12(b)(6) review to consider "publicly available [statistics] on the official redistricting website of the Virginia Division of Legislative Services.") (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 268 n. 1, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)) ("Although this case comes to us on a motion to dismiss ..., we are not precluded in our review of the complaint from taking notice of items in the public record...."). We may also consider documents attached to the complaint, see Fed. R.Civ.P. 10(c), as well as those attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic. See Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d 523, 526 n. 1 (4th Cir.2006).
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is a federal statutory remedy available to those deprived of rights secured to them by the Constitution and, in a more sharply limited way, the statutory laws of the United States. Section 1983 provides pertinently as follows:
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
One alleging a violation of section 1983 must prove that the charged state actor (1) deprived plaintiff of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that the deprivation was performed under color of the referenced sources of state law found in the statute. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir.2001).
The statutory color-of-law prerequisite is synonymous with the more familiar state-action requirement — and the analysis for each is identical. See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 929, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 73 L.Ed.2d 482 (1982) (stating "[I]t is clear that in a § 1983 action brought against a state official, the statutory requirement of action `under color of state law' and the `state action' requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment are identical."); United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787,
It has been observed that "`merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or wrongful[,]'" fails to qualify as state action. See Mentavlos, 249 F.3d at 301 (quoting American Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50, 119 S.Ct. 977, 143 L.Ed.2d 130 (1999)) (quoting Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1002, 102 S.Ct. 2777, 73 L.Ed.2d 534 (1982)). This is so, in part, to "`preserve[ ] an area of individual freedom by limiting the reach of federal law' and `avoid[ing] impos[ition] [up]on the State, its agencies or officials, responsibility for conduct for which they cannot fairly be blamed.'" Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614, 619, 111 S.Ct. 2077, 114 L.Ed.2d 660 (1991) (quoting Lugar, 457 U.S. at 936-37, 102 S.Ct. 2744). In sum, "`private activity will generally not be deemed "state action" unless the state has so dominated such activity as to convert it to state action: "Mere approval of or acquiescence in the initiatives of a private party" is insufficient.'" Wahi, 562 F.3d at 616 (quoting DeBauche v. Trani, 191 F.3d 499, 507 (4th Cir.1999)).
Nevertheless, there are infrequently arising circumstances under which the actions of an ostensibly private party will be deemed to satisfy the color-of-law requirement. We recently summarized when that sort of attribution was appropriate, with a concomitant observation of why it was the exception rather than the rule:
Commentators and appellate courts, including our own, have attempted to categorize situations that justify the state-action label.
In the end, however, "there is `no specific formula' for determining whether state action is present.... `What is fairly attributable [to the state] is a matter of normative judgment, and the criteria lack rigid simplicity.'" Holly, 434 F.3d at 292 (quoting, in part, Brentwood, 531 U.S. at 295, 121 S.Ct. 924).
Dr. Philips appears to rely upon the close nexus analysis in asserting the presence of state action. (See, e.g., Ap'ant's Br. at 2 ("Dr. Philips's complaint pleaded a sufficiently close nexus between the government and Defendants/Appellees' decision to suspend his privileges."); id. ("In evaluating the sufficiency of Dr. Philips's complaint, the district court was required to ... determine whether Dr. Philips pleaded a sufficiently close nexus between the state and PCMH ...."); id. at 19, 20, 21, 26). Labels aside, however, the thrust of Dr. Philips' argument is, essentially, that inasmuch as the Board of Trustees was appointed exclusively by state actors, and the Board terminated his privileges, the Board should be deemed a state actor.
In Moore, a physician instituted an action against Williamsburg Regional Hospital ("WRH"), a private non-profit hospital, and its agents for suspending his staff privileges. As noted in Moore:
Id. at 179 (footnote omitted).
The physician asserted satisfaction of the state action requirement based upon the fact that the hospital Board of Directors that terminated him was composed of individuals nominated by the county delegates to the state legislature and ratified by the Governor, with two county representatives serving as ex-officio nonvoting members of the Board, and because WRH receives state and county funds and funds through Medicaid and the South Carolina State Plan under Title XIX of the Social Security Act as a public hospital.
Despite the government-controlled appointment process, the court, in an opinion authored by Judge Wilkinson, concluded more was necessary for state action:
Although Pitt County and another state actor exercise exclusive authority to appoint members of the Board, Dr. Philips' complaints nowhere allege that the appointing governmental entities played any role in the specific decision to terminate his privileges. Moreover, once appointed, a member of the Board is protected from undue influence by the appointing authority in that a Board member may only be removed for cause, which, as earlier noted, is defined and limited.
Pitt County did retain a measure of control over a number of matters at PCMHI. That control is largely embodied in the reverter provision which helps assure that PCMHI meets Pitt County's objectives of care for the indigent, payment to the County of specified monetary obligations, and the continuation of the Hospital. PCMHI, however, remains free to manage the Hospital and run the entirety of its operations.
Indeed, there is no allegation of Pitt County's involvement in the decisions that led to Dr. Philip's alleged deprivations. The decision in Moore suggests no basis for an exception here to the general rule that the governmental entity must play a role in the specific decision that led to the deprivations complained of by an aggrieved person. See, e.g., Pariser v. Christian Health Care Sys., Inc., 816 F.2d 1248, 1252 (8th Cir.1987) ("Here, Pariser's complaint identified no nexus between the various forms of government involvement with the hospital that it catalogued and the hospital's decision to suspend Pariser's
Dr. Philips makes passing reference to labels, besides close nexus, appearing in state action jurisprudence, such as "entwine[ment,]" "intertwine[ment,]" and "joint participation." (See, e.g., App'ant's Br. at 20, 21, 23, 25). Regardless of the category referenced, Brentwood teaches that the totality of the circumstances in this setting is determinative and that all roads lead back to a finding of state action "if, though only if, there is such a `close nexus between the State and the challenged action' that seemingly private behavior `may fairly be treated as that of the State itself.'" Id. at 295, 121 S.Ct. 924 (citation omitted). Emphasizing the same point a different way, the majority opinion stated that "[t]he judicial obligation is ... to assure that constitutional standards are invoked `when it can be said that the State is responsible for the specific conduct of which the plaintiff complains....'" Id. at 295, 121 S.Ct. 924 (citation omitted) (emphasis in part original and added).
Close nexus or "pervasive entwinement" id. at 298, 121 S.Ct. 924, was present in Brentwood. In that case, a voluntary statewide association of schools, incorporated to regulate interscholastic athletic competition among its members, drew its membership from 290 public and 55 private schools. In Brentwood, unlike PCMHI and its Board of Trustees in this action, the association was "not an organization of natural persons acting on their own;" rather it was an organization "of schools, and of public schools to the extent of 84% of the total." Id. Further, each public school was represented by its principal or a faculty member who in turn voted to select the association's governing council and board composed of principals and superintendents, all of whom the Court viewed as acting within the scope of their official duties as public school employees. Id. at 298-300, 121 S.Ct. 924. Those two factors played a significant role in the conclusion that "[t]he nominally private character of the [a]ssociation [wa]s overborne by the pervasive entwinement of public institutions and public officials in its composition and workings...." Id. at 298, 121 S.Ct. 924.
Such is not the case here where there is no allegation that the members of the Board of Trustees are employees of, or controlled in the ordinary course of their decision making by, Pitt County. Instead, the Board of Trustees is at the helm of a private, non-profit organization, with Pitt County retaining enough control to assure the Hospital's critical healthcare mission is continued indefinitely, with the receipt of some state and federal funds, but without concern as to the day-to-day operation of the facility. Based upon the foregoing discussion, the district court did not err in concluding at the pleading stage that state action was absent.
The parties have not cited our decision many years ago in Eaton v. Grubbs, 329 F.2d 710 (4th Cir.1964), perhaps because this area of the law has undergone a transformation in many respects since 1964.
As outlined in Eaton, JWMH was chartered as a corporation. Under the chartering act, it was run by a self-perpetuating board initially elected by the city and county. The city and county donated to JWMH a new hospital building and the land upon which it stood. The conveyance was restricted to use and maintenance as a hospital for the benefit of the city and county with a reverter, as here, to those governmental units in the event of abandonment or a use inconsistent with the restriction. The city and county also regularly appropriated money for the hospital's operation, including contributing a majority of the funds necessary for a new wing.
Of particular significance also was that JWMH was granted the power of eminent domain. It had exercised that power by filing a petition to condemn land for use in connection with a state-financed addition to the hospital facilities. That petition alleged the hospital was "a municipal corporation, a public body." Id. at 713. The New Hanover County Court, in granting the petition, described the institution as "a public body, a body corporate and politic." Id. After noting, under North Carolina law, that the power of eminent domain is governmental in nature, it was recognized in Eaton that JWMH was a body exercising a segment of sovereign authority.
Under these circumstances, it was concluded as follows:
Id. at 715.
PCMHI does not possess the power of eminent domain. Nor is it aptly described either as a municipal corporation or as "a public body, a body corporate and politic." The absence of these attributes of sovereignty distinguish the comprehensive bundle of state-related characteristics in Eaton from those present here.
As an alternate ground, Dr. Philips has made reference to Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., 513 U.S. 374, 115 S.Ct. 961, 130 L.Ed.2d 902 (1995). In Lebron, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") was deemed part of the federal government for First Amendment purposes rather than the private entity that Congress explicitly endeavored to create. Lebron, 513 U.S. at 400, 115 S.Ct. 961 ("We hold that where, as here, the Government  creates a corporation
The district court observed that "PCMH[I] was not created by special statute." Id. at 784. Dr. Philips does not appear to contend otherwise, inasmuch as he cites Lebron but once in his briefing, and he does not point us to any allegation in the complaint in satisfaction of the special law requirement.
It is plain enough that PCMHI was not created by special law. Rather, it was created in 1953, presumably at the instance of Pitt County, under the general nonprofit incorporation statutes of North Carolina. In 1998, PCMHI filed the Restated Articles in order to receive conveyance of the Hospital from Pitt County under the general statute of North Carolina known as the Municipal Hospital Act. Accordingly, the Lebron test is not met.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the district court's judgment.
(Restated Articles at 7).
S.C.Code Ann. § 4-9-82 (emphasis added).