United States District Court, D. South Carolina
May 14, 2014
Lamar Rashad Jackson, Plaintiff,
Randy Scott, Chief of Police CPD; Investigator Montgomery CPD, etc., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PAIGE J. GOSSETT, Magistrate Judge.
The plaintiff, Lamar Rashad Jackson ("Plaintiff"), a self-represented pretrial detainee, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) DSC. Plaintiff is currently housed at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, and files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court concludes that it should be summarily dismissed as to defendant Randy Scott, Chief of Police CPD.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was arrested by an officer of the City of Columbia Police Department on June 13, 2011, for attempted murder and failure to stop on police command. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) The Complaint asserts that Plaintiff was subjected to a gunshot residue test shortly after arrest and questioned by Investigator Montgomery; however, Plaintiff refused to be interrogated. (Id. at 4.) The Complaint further asserts that results from the gunshot residue test proved Plaintiff's innocence in August of 2011, but Plaintiff was not released from detention until January 22, 2013. (Id. at 6-7.) The Complaint indicates that Plaintiff's attempted murder charge was dismissed after nineteen months, and blames Plaintiff's alleged wrongful imprisonment on "sloppy investigative techniques." (Id. at 7-8.) As relief, the Complaint requests monetary damages. (Id. at 8.)
A. Standard of Review
Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). This review has been conducted in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez , 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995) ( en banc ); Todd v. Baskerville , 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983).
The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, " "is frivolous or malicious, " or "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A finding of frivolousness can be made where the complaint "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Denton , 504 U.S. at 31. Hence, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke , 490 U.S. 319; Allison v. Kyle , 66 F.3d 71 (5th Cir. 1995).
This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Such pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, id.; Gordon v. Leeke , 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe , 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v. Beto , 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Erickson , 551 U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).
Nonetheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. , 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for "all civil actions"). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett , 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999), construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott , 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir. 1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton , 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). In addition, a plaintiff must affirmatively show that a defendant acted personally in the deprivation of his or her constitutional rights. Vinnedge v. Gibbs , 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977). While Plaintiff provides sufficient factual information to withstand summary dismissal of his claims against Defendant Investigator Montgomery CPD, the Complaint's allegations against Defendant Randy Scott, Chief of Police CPD, should be summarily dismissed.
1. Individual liability
Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the Unites States Supreme Court has made clear that a plaintiff must do more than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678-79; Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679; Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. The Complaint in this case provides no factual allegations to demonstrate any personal involvement by Defendant Scott in Plaintiff's arrest, imprisonment, and prosecution. Therefore, Defendant Scott is entitled to summary dismissal from this action for any individual capacity claims alleged by Plaintiff.
2. Supervisory liability
A claim based upon the doctrine of respondeat superior does not give rise to a § 1983 claim. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. , 436 U.S. 658, 691-94 (1978). Moreover, "[b]ecause vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 676. Plaintiff identifies Defendant Scott as the Chief of Police for the City of Columbia Police Department. (ECF No. 1 at 2.) However, the Complaint provides no facts to demonstrate that Defendant Scott was aware of, or deliberately indifferent to, any constitutional risk of injury to Plaintiff. As the Complaint provides no facts to establish supervisory liability under Fourth Circuit precedent, see Carter v. Morris , 164 F.3d 215, 221 (4th Cir. 1999); Shaw v. Stroud , 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994) (outlining the requirements to hold a supervisor liable for constitutional injuries inflicted by their subordinates), Defendant Scott is also entitled so summary dismissal from this action for any claims asserted by Plaintiff resulting from his role as a supervisor.
For the foregoing reasons, it is recommended that the Complaint be summarily dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process as to Defendant Randy Scott, Chief of Police CPD.