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Valencia v. Doe

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

July 1, 2014

David Valencia, Plaintiff,
v.
John Doe Officers, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 39.] Plaintiff filed this action on March 12, 2013, alleging excessive force, false imprisonment, cruel and unusual punishment and violations of due process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Doc. 1.] Plaintiff seeks $5 million in damages for each violation. [ Id. at 5.] Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on September 3, 2013 [Doc. 39], and Plaintiff responded on November 5, 2013 [Doc. 47.] Upon review of the Motion, the Court sua sponte raised whether Younger abstention was appropriate in this case, and ordered Defendants to brief the issue. [Doc. 52.] Defendants responded to the Court's Order on June 11, 2014, and June 13, 2014. [Docs. 54, 55.] Plaintiff was given the opportunity to respond but has not done so, and the time for filing his response has passed. [ See Doc. 52.]

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is currently being held in the Greenville County Detention Center. [Doc. 1 at 2.] On December 10, 2012, Plaintiff alleges that he ran from some "associates" who wished to kill him. [ Id. at 2-3.] The police became involved and found Plaintiff at the Garden Spot Convenience Store in Greenville, South Carolina, where Plaintiff was "armed with a knife at all times for his protection only." [ Id. at 4.] Plaintiff remained inside the store with the store clerk while police were outside. [ Id. ]

Police responded to what they considered to be an armed robbery at the Garden Spot. [Doc. 39-2 at 4.] The police determined that Plaintiff had barricaded himself into the store and taken the clerk hostage. [ Id. ] Plaintiff was shot during the altercation with police as they attempted to rescue the alleged hostage. [ Id. ] Plaintiff was charged in Greenville County General Sessions Court of kidnapping, possession of a deadly weapon during a violent crime, and attempted murder. [Doc. 39-3.] Plaintiff's criminal charges remain pending. [Docs. 39-3, 55-2]; see also www.greenvillecounty.org/scjd/publicindex (last visited July 1, 2014, to confirm that Plaintiff's case remains pending).

APPLICABLE LAW

Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

Plaintiffs brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe their pleadings. Estelle, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. Even under this less stringent standard, however, a pro se complaint is still subject to summary dismissal. Id. at 520-21. The mandated liberal construction means that only if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the complainant could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the complainant's legal arguments for him. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court "conjure up questions never squarely presented." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

Requirements for a Cause of Action Under § 1983

This action is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a private cause of action for constitutional violations by persons acting under color of state law. Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'" Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under § 1983 allows "a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief." City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999).

Section 1983 provides, in relevant part,

"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress..."

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove two elements: (1) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States;" and (2) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of this constitutional right under color of [State] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage." Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir. 2001) (third alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

The under-color-of-state-law element, which is equivalent to the "state action" requirement ...


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