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Rogers v. Valentino

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

December 29, 2014

Hayward L. Rogers, #278510, Plaintiff,
Martha M. Valentino, City of West Columbia, SC; Jason Amodio, West Columbia Police Dept.; Wendy Frazier, West Columbia Police Dept.; Dayton Riddle, Lexington County Asst. Solicitor; Wanda Carter, Appellate Defense; Tara Dawn Shurling, Esq.; William E. Salter, Asst. Attorney General; and William Y. Rast, Esq., Defendants.


WALLACE W. DIXON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Hayward L. Rogers ("Plaintiff" or "Rogers"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil action against one employee of the City of West Columbia, two employees of the City of West Columbia Police Department, one Assistant Attorney General, one assistant solicitor, and three other attorneys. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1), and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review such complaints for relief and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. After careful review, the undersigned recommends that Plaintiff's Complaint be summarily dismissed, without prejudice and without issuance and service of process, for the reasons stated below.


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. The review has been conducted in light of the following precedents: Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97 (1976); Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519 (1972); and Gordon v. Leeke , 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir. 1978). The Complaint herein has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is "frivolous or malicious, " "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B). Hence, under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke , 490 U.S. 319.

This Court is required to liberally construe pro se documents, Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97 (1976), holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Hughes v. Rowe , 449 U.S. 5 (1980) (per curiam). Even under this less stringent standard, however, a pro se complaint is subject to summary dismissal. The mandated liberal construction afforded pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a complaint to "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court. Beaudett v. City of Hampton , 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). 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 currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs. , 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).


As noted above, Plaintiff filed the instant suit against one employee of the City of West Columbia (Defendant Valentino), two employees of the City of West Columbia Police Department (Defendants Amodio and Frazier), one Assistant Attorney General (Defendant Salter), one assistant solicitor (Defendant Riddle), and three other attorneys (Defendants Carter, Shurling, and Rast). (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff states that he seeks to litigate "unlawful false arrest [and] false imprisonment" in the instant action. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2 of 6.)

Plaintiff alleges that the West Columbia Defendants "conspired to falsely arrest the plaintiff on October 6, 1998, and conspired to falsely convict and imprison[] the plaintiff." (Dkt. No. 1 at 3 of 6.) He alleges that Defendant Valentino "did on October 15, 1998 and by fraudulent means issue[] and sign[] perjured affidavits" because Valentino "had no authority to act as a Judge under any capacity" as she "has never been appointed to take the subscribed and prescribed oath and never been certified by a municipal judge, and has never been nominated by the state commission and neither elected to be a judge by legislatures." (Dkt. No. 1 at 3 of 6.) Plaintiff states,

Through misconduct in office, obstruction of justice conspiracy, deprivations of constitutional federally created rights, Valentino, Amodio, and Frazier used the fraudulent warrants to arrest the Plaintiff in violation of his Fourth Amendment right to the U.S. Constitution.


As to the attorney Defendants (prosecutor and defense attorneys), Plaintiff alleges they "knew the arrest warrants w[ere] bogus and fraudulent but conspired to hide these facts and to deprive the Plaintiff" of his constitutional rights. (Id.) He complains that Defendant Salter, an Assistant Attorney General, deprived him of his constitutional rights "by misrepresenting the state in conspiring to create cruel and unusual punishments upon the plaintiff, " essentially arguing he was erroneously sentenced to life without parole by use of a 1979 conviction for assault and battery with intent to kill when the "crime classification act... did not come into effect until 1986." (Id. at 3-4 of 6.) Plaintiff identifies other alleged conspiracies related to his criminal convictions. (See, e.g. Dkt. No. 1 at 4 of 6.)

In the "Relief" section of his Complaint, Plaintiff "ask[s] for an investigation" and "request[s] felony charges for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, misconduct in office and any other the court deems necessary." (Dkt. No. 1 at 6 of 6.) He states that he seeks a declaratory judgment, "injunctive relief, and any other relief the court deems necessary, and [to] order the conviction void or vacate conviction." (Id.)


Plaintiff's suit is subject to summary dismissal for several reasons.[1] To the extent Plaintiff seeks to challenge his criminal convictions in the instant § 1983 action, he cannot do so. See Abella v. Rubino , 63 F.3d 1063, 1066 (11th Cir. 1995) (a case applying Preiser v. Rodriquez , 411 U.S. 475 (1973), to dismiss a civil rights action for injunctive relief under Bivens that would overturn a conviction); see also Edwards v. Balisok , 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997) ("We conclude, therefore, that respondent's claim for declaratory relief and money damages, based on allegations of deceit and bias on the part of the decisionmaker that necessarily imply the invalidity of the punishment imposed, is not cognizable under § 1983."); Esensoy v. McMillan, No. 06-12580 , 2007 WL 257342, at *2 (11th Cir. ...

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