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Norman v. Woodhurst

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 24, 2014

Rahmad Norman, Plaintiff,
Angie Woodhurst; Betty Page; Betty Ozuts; Jane Harvey; Sammie Hill, Defendants.


BRISTOW MARCHANT, Magistrate Judge.

The Plaintiff, Rahmad Norman, a frequent filer of litigation in this Court proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants violated his constitutional rights.

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 and § 1915A, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (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, Maryland House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995), and Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983). 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 pro se complaint 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); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).

However, even when considered pursuant to this standard, for the reasons set forth herein below, this case is subject to summary dismissal. 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. lqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).


Angie Woodhurst is the Clerk of Court, Betty Page is the Assistant Clerk of Court/Child Support Supervisor, and Jane Harvey works in child support for Greenwood County, South Carolina. See Greenwood County website, available at (last visited June 16, 2014).[1] In previous actions, [2] Plaintiff has identified Sammie Hill as a deputy sheriff with the Greenwood County Sheriffs Department and Betty Ozuts as a child support worker for Greenwood County. See Norman v. Hill, 8:14-cv-00434-TMC-BM (D.S.C.); Norman v. Tunstall, Civil Action No. 9:09-cv-01890-PMD (D.S.C.).

Plaintiff alleges that his equal rights have been violated based on the manner in which he was treated in a state court child support case. He claims that the state court "will not force the mot[h]er of [his] son to update her address so that [he] can serve her legal summons to come to court[.]" Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 3. Plaintiff asserts that the state court has issued papers stating that all parties are to keep the court updated on any change of address, that he was arrested pursuant to bench warrants for allegedly failing to timely notify the court of his new address, but that when he tried to serve the mother of his child with papers they came back with the notation that she no longer is at the listed address. He claims he asked "them" why the court did not force the mother of his child to comply with the judge's order and "they" said they did not know. Id. at 4. Plaintiff requests compensation for the "grief' and "emotional disasters" he has suffered. He also asks that this Court order an investigation into the practices of the state court system. Id at 5.


First, to the extent Plaintiff is asking that this Court intervene in his pending state court action, this Court should abstain. The Supreme Court has held that a federal court should not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings "except in the most narrow and extraordinary of circumstances;" Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971); Gilliam v. Foster, 75 F.3d 881, 903 (4th Cir.1996); and has made clear that Younger abstention applies "as well to noncriminal judicial proceedings when important state interests are involved." Harper v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of West Va., 396 F.3d 348, 351 (4th Cir. 2005).

From Younger and its progeny, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has culled the following test to determine when abstention is appropriate: "(1) there are ongoing state judicial proceedings; (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims in the state proceedings." Martin Marietta Corp. v. Maryland Comm'n on Human Relations, 38 F.3d 1392, 1396 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Middlesex County Ethics Comm'n v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432(1982)). The area of family law lies at the heart of state sovereignty. Harper, 396 F.3d at 354. Plaintiff can raise all of the issues he asserts in this case before the family court and, ifnecessary, during an appeal to the South Carolina appellate courts. Plaintiff should also have an adequate opportunity to raise any constitutional claims in the South Carolina court proceedings, and following this process will give the State courts the opportunity to review the family court's procedures. Accordingly, even though abstention doctrines are rare exceptions to a federal court's duty to exercise the jurisdiction conferred upon it, Martin v. Stewart, 499 F.3d 360, 363 (4th Cir. 2007), in this case the Court should abstain from deciding this lawsuit based upon Younger abstention.

Failure to state a claim

Additionally, Defendants are entitled to summary dismissal of this action because Plaintiff's pleadings fail to provide any specific factual information to support a claim that any named Defendant has violated his constitutional rights. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)(requiring, in order to avoid dismissal, "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests' (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Plaintiff merely states that when he "ask the court why haven't they forced [the mother of his child] to comply with the judges order and they just look at me and say they don't know..." ECF No. 1 at 4. He has not referenced any of the named Defendants in the body of his Complaint, and has not alleged any specific claim against any named Defendant.

In order to proceed under § 1983, a plaintiff must affi natively show that a defendant acted personally in the deprivation of his constitutional rights; Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977); and when a complaint contains no personal allegations against a defendant, that defendant is properly dismissed. See Karafiat v. 0'Mally, 54 F.Appx. 192, 195 (6th Cir. 2002); Curtis v. Ozmint, C/A No. 3:10-3053-CMC-JRM, 2011 WL 635302 at *4 n. 5 (D.S.C. Jan. 5, 2011); Whaley v. Hatcher, No. 1:08CV 125-01-MU, 2008 WL 1806124, at *1 (W.D. N.C. Apr.18, 2008). Since Plaintiff has failed to make ...

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