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Allison v. Martin

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

November 24, 2014

Marcus Daniel Allison, Plaintiff,
v.
Tom Martin, Oconee County Attorney; Deputy Sol David Wagner; Chief PD Wilson Burr; Cpl. Jarrett Price; Sgt. Casey Bowling; James Singleton; Elizabeth Holcomb, M.D., Lieber Corr. Inst.; Jointly, Individually and in their Official Capacities; Defendants.

ORDER

R. BRYAN HARWELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Marcus Daniel Allison, currently incarcerated at McCormick Correctional Institution in McCormick, South Carolina and proceeding pro se, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages for alleged constitutional violations associated with his 2010 arrest and subsequent prosecution, and conviction. Plaintiff also alleges he was denied medical care following a stabbing incident while incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Institution. Additionally, Plaintiff has filed a motion [Docket Entry #14] to show cause for a preliminary injunction.

This matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation [Docket Entry #17] of Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges filed on April 24, 2014.[1] The Magistrate Judge recommended that the case be dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. Plaintiff timely filed Objections [Docket Entry #19] to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. After the Magistrate Judge issued the Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff filed the following motions: 1) motion to amend his complaint [Docket Entry #20]; 2) motion for inspection of grand jury transcripts and supplementals [Docket Entry #23]; and 3) motion for transcribing the record [Docket Entry #25].

Standard of Review

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R to which specific objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

The right to de novo review may be waived by the failure to file timely objections. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only "general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific error in the [M]agistrate's proposed findings and recommendations." Id. Moreover, in the absence of objections to the R & R, the Court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). However, in the absence of objections, the Court must "satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'" Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

Discussion

Plaintiff's claims can be divided into two categories: 1) claims related to his 2010 arrest, prosecution, and conviction; and 2) claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs related to an alleged stabbing incident at Lieber Correctional Institution.

I. Claims related to 2010 arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentence

The Magistrate Judge recommended that all of Plaintiff's claims related to his 2010 arrest, subsequent prosecution, conviction, and sentence were due to be dismissed under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477. In Heck v. Humphrey , the Supreme Court held that "in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254." Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. A state prisoner's claim for damages that necessarily implies the invalidity of the prisoner's conviction or sentence is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless the prisoner can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has been previously invalidated.[2] Id. Here, Plaintiff, cannot demonstrate that his conviction and sentence have been previously invalidated. Indeed, in his Objections, Plaintiff appears to acknowledge his inability to demonstrate that his state court conviction and sentence have been invalidated by arguing that "any claims that challenge the conviction or sentence, but not the procedures should be tolled until a determination of said conviction is reached by the courts currently considering plaintiff's appeals." [Objections to Report and Recommendation, at pg. 8, Docket Entry #19]. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims related to his 2010 arrest, subsequent prosecution, conviction, and sentence are dismissed pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. at 486-87.

The Magistrate Judge also found that the Oconee County attorney (Martin) and Chief Public Defender (Burr) were not state actors and therefore improper defendants in a § 1983 action. Plaintiff objected arguing that Chief Public Defender Burr could be liable upon a proper determination of capacity. [Objections to Report and Recommendation, at pg. 5, Docket Entry #19]. However, a defense attorney in a criminal case, such as Defendant Burr, whether retained, court-appointed, or a public defender, does not act under color of state law. See Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800 (4th Cir.1976) (private attorney); Hall v. Quillen, 631 F.2d 1154, 1155-1156 & nn. 2-3 (4th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1141, 102 S.Ct. 999, 71 L.Ed.2d 293 (1982) (court-appointed attorney); Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 317-324 & nn. 8-16, 102 S.Ct. 445, 70 L.Ed.2d 509 (1981) (public defender).

With regard to Oconee County attorney Martin, Plaintiff appears to argue that he did not intend to sue Martin individually, but instead intended to sue Oconee County. Plaintiff argues he simply served Martin in his capacity as one authorized to accept service on behalf of Oconee County under Rule 4(d)(6), SCRCP. However, regardless of whether Plaintiff intended to sue Oconee County or Martin individually, because Plaintiff's injury is his conviction and imprisonment, and he cannot demonstrate that the state court criminal proceedings terminated in his favor, any claim Plaintiff may have against Oconee County related to his arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentence fails pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. at 486-87. Furthermore, as the Magistrate Judge noted, Plaintiff has failed to identify any governmental policy or custom of the County which caused his constitutional rights to be violated. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1974) (a municipality or other local government entity may be held liable under § 1983 only where the constitutionally offensive actions of its employees are taken in furtherance of some municipal policy or custom).

The Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's claims against Deputy Solicitor David Wagner were barred by prosecutorial immunity. Plaintiff objected arguing that under Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259 (1993), prosecutors are not entitled to immunity when engaged in administrative or investigative functions. Plaintiff contends that he will be able to show a § 1983 violation by Defendant Wagner if given the opportunity for more specific pleading and discovery. Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges that "Deputy Solicitor David Wagner negligently, and/or recklessly, and/or maliciously maintained the prosecution of the charges against plaintiff, knowing the result of a conviction would cause the plaintiff severe mental and physical injury, while placing the plaintiff in a life threatening situation." [Amended Complaint, at ¶ 9, Docket Entry #11]. Plaintiff's allegation that Wagner "maintained the prosecution of the charges against plaintiff" describes traditional prosecutorial functions for which immunity should apply. See Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31 (1976). Plaintiff does not allege any conduct that could be construed as administrative or investigative action by Wagner. Therefore, Wagner should enjoy prosecutorial immunity from this lawsuit. Additionally, because Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that his state court conviction has been overturned or invalidated, his claims against Wagner fail under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. at 486-87.

In summary, Plaintiff's claims related to his 2010 arrest, subsequent prosecution, conviction, and ...


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