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Holmes v. Whitney

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

May 29, 2014

George Holmes, Plaintiff,
Rebecca Whitney, W0901, Defendant.



Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee in the Beaufort County Detention Center in Beaufort, South Carolina, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] alleging "harassment, illegal arrest [and] abridgement [of] civil rights" in connection with Plaintiff's arrest and detention on charges of strong arm robbery. See Complaint, ECF No. 1, p. 2. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), pretrial proceedings in this action have been referred to the assigned United States Magistrate Judge. Because Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Complaint should be summarily dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.


Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro se Complaint filed in this case. This review has been conducted pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez , 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr. , 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995); Todd v. Baskerville , 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); Boyce v. Alizaduh , 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).

Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, 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. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Hughes v. Rowe , 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (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. Fine v. City of N.Y. , 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that this Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs. , 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). Even under this less stringent standard, however, the Complaint filed in this case is subject to summary dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).


On April 1, 2014, Plaintiff filed his Complaint, alleging that he was arrested on February 3, 2014, when he was "within 50 feet of the so call[ed] victim[s] house." Plaintiff alleges Defendant engaged in "harassment of illegal arresting me by up a false police report knowledge it was false, and she stated to me that I told you I was going to lock your big fat black ass up." Complaint, ECF No. 1, p. 3. Plaintiff alleges that "there was no... probable cause, evidence of goods nor victim - person appearing in any of the courts such [as at the] bond hearing... [and] preliminary hearing. Id . Plaintiff seeks for Defendant "to be fire[d] from [the] Beaufort Police Department, " and "to be drug tested every 3 months" or "I [time] a month for crack cocaine, " and "to keep her away from me." Id. at 5. Plaintiff also seeks "to sue [Defendant] for $200.00 cash every day and night I had to spend in [the] Beaufort County Detention Center." Id.


Section 1983 actions premised on alleged unlawful seizure, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and/or false imprisonment are analyzed as actions claiming unreasonable seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment. See, e.g., Brown v. Gilmore , 278 F.3d 362, 367-68 (4th Cir. 2002) (analyzing the plaintiff's allegations of false arrest as a claim of unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment); Rogers v. Pendleton , 249 F.3d 279, 294 (4th Cir. 2001) (stating that claims of false arrest and false imprisonment "are essentially claims alleging a seizure of the person in violation of the Fourth Amendment"). A claim that a warrantless arrest is not supported by probable cause constitutes a cause of action for false arrest as opposed to malicious prosecution. See Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem , 85 F.3d 178, 181 (4th Cir.1996). Whether an independent cause of action for malicious prosecution under § 1983 even exists is a question that has, for quite some time, confronted the federal courts. See, e.g., Wallace v. Kato , 549 U.S. 384, 390 n.2 (2007) ("We have never explored the contours of a Fourth Amendment malicious-prosecution suit under § 1983, and we do not do so here.") (citation omitted). Recently, in Snider v. Seung Lee , 584 F.3d 193 (4th Cir. 2009), the Fourth Circuit summarized its understanding of the law surrounding such a claim:

While it is not entirely clear whether the Constitution recognizes a separate constitutional right to be free from malicious prosecution, see Albright v. Oliver , 510 U.S. 266, 279-80 n. 5 (1994) (Ginsburg, J., concurring); Lambert v. Williams , 223 F.3d 257, 261-62 (4th Cir. 2000), if there is such a right, the plaintiff must demonstrate both an unreasonable seizure and a favorable termination of the criminal proceeding flowing from the seizure. In Lambert we explained:
Our analysis in Brooks [v. City of Winston-Salem , 85 F.3d 178 (4th Cir. 1996)], understood in light of these precedents, makes clear that there is no such thing as a "§ 1983 malicious prosecution" claim. What we termed a "malicious prosecution" claim in Brooks is simply a claim founded on a Fourth Amendment seizure that incorporates elements of the analogous common law tort of malicious prosecution - specifically, the requirement that the prior proceeding terminate favorably to the plaintiff.
223 F.3d at 262. In a footnote, we explained the significance of the second element of a malicious prosecution claim:
As we noted in Brooks, the significance of the favorable termination element is not only that it constitutes a prerequisite for recovery, but also that it establishes the time from which the claim accrues for purposes of ...

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