United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
MARY G. LEWIS, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Teddy Pyatt ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, initiated this action by filing his Complaint on January 27, 2012, seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000c et. seq. (ECF No. 1). The matter now comes before this Court on Defendants' Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 76).
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was first referred to United States Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant. The Magistrate Judge reviewed the Defendants' Motion and the Plaintiff's Response and filed a Report and Recommendation ("Report") on April 7, 2014, recommending that Defendants' Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment be granted with respect to Plaintiff's claims for money damages under both the United States Constitution and the RLUIPA but denied with respect to Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief. (ECF No. 89). Defendants filed an Objection to the Report on April 24, 2014, (ECF No. 90), to which Plaintiff responded on May 12, 2014. (ECF No. 92). Defendants then replied on May 15, 2014. (ECF No. 93).
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the Report of the Magistrate Judge to which a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). In the absence of a timely filed Objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must "only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
In light of the standards set forth above, the Court has reviewed, de novo, the Report and, in particular, the Defendants' Objection. In their Objection, Defendants maintain that the Magistrate Judge erred by failing to make a determinative ruling on the first prong of the two prong qualified immunity standard, with respect to both Plaintiff's constitutional and statutory claims. (ECF No. 90). However, as the Defendants themselves acknowledge, although Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit precedent calls for the consideration of both prongs in appropriate cases, it is not mandatory. Id. at p. 3. A Court in its sound discretion may elect to pass over the first prong (whether the official violated an existing federal right) and move directly to the equally determinative second prong (whether a federal right, assuming it exists, was clearly established at the time of the official action). If the Court concludes, as the Magistrate Judge did here, that even if a federal right existed, it was not clearly established at the time of the official action, then the qualified immunity defense is properly established.
After careful review of the Report and the Objection thereto, the Court concurs with the reasoning of the Magistrate Judge and adopts and incorporates the Report herein by reference. (ECF No. 89). Defendants' Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment is thereby GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. (ECF No. 76). Specifically, Defendants are granted summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for money damages under both the Constitution and the RLUIPA. ...