United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRISTOW MARCHANT, Magistrate Judge.
This action was originally filed by the pro se Plaintiff in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, Florence County, and was subsequently removed to this Court by the Defendants on the grounds that Plaintiff is seeking relief for violations of his federal constitutional rights. Plaintiff subsequently amended his Complaint to clarify that he is seeking relief for violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P., on September 29, 2014. As the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, a Roseboro order was entered by the Court on September 30, 2014, advising Plaintiff of the importance of a dispositive motion and of the need for him to file an adequate response. Plaintiff was specifically advised that if he failed to respond adequately, the Defendants' motion may be granted, thereby ending his case. Plaintiff thereafter filed a response in opposition to the Defendants' motion, as well as his own motion for summary judgment, on October 16, 2014. Plaintiff supplemented his response on October 20, 2014.
The Defendants filed a reply memorandum, as well as a response in opposition to the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, on October 27, 2014. Defendants supplemented their reply memorandum on October 28, 2014. Plaintiff thereafter filed another response in opposition to the Defendants' motion for summary judgment on December 15, 2014, to which the Defendants filed a reply memorandum on December 22, 2014.
The parties' motions are now before the Court for disposition.
Allegations of the Complaint
Plaintiff alleges in his verified Complaint that he is an inmate currently incarcerated at the Evans Correctional Institution, part of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. The Defendant McLauren is alleged to be a Deputy Sheriff with the Florence County Sheriff's Department; the Defendant Parr is alleged to be a prosecutor with the Florence County Solicitor's Office; and the Defendant Floyd is alleged to be a Public Defender with the Florence County Public Defender's Officer. Although Plaintiff originally alleged that he was suing these three Defendants "under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act", he amended his Complaint to reflect that he is pursuing claims against these Defendants, in both their individual and official capacities, for violations of his constitutional rights. See Complaint, ¶¶ 2-5; see also Court Docket No. 13 [Amended Complaint]. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges various violations of his constitutional rights with respect to the arrest and prosecution which has landed him in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
Plaintiff alleges that he was stopped for a traffic violation on December 14, 2008, apparently by the Defendant McLauren. Plaintiff alleges that McLauren arrested him, that he was handcuffed and placed in McLauren's vehicle without being read his Miranda rights, and that McLauren then conducted an illegal search of his car. Plaintiff alleges that the "Solicitor stated" that McLauren found two metal vials that contained crack cocaine in his vehicle, that a bag of marijuana was also found in Plaintiff's car, and that she "concluded her testimony by stating that in terms of Plaintiff's prior record, he has a prior conviction for cocaine base and simple possession of marijuana back in 1999." Plaintiff alleges that his counsel, the Defendant Floyd, failed to investigate the 1999 drug charge, which apparently resulted in an enhancement of his sentence. Plaintiff also alleges that both Parr and Floyd failed to take into account his "extensive history of mental illness", that Floyd was ineffective, that Parr engaged in a "vindictive prosecution", and that he was prosecuted even though the search of his car had been in violation of his constitutional rights because probable cause was lacking.
Plaintiff further alleges that the Solicitor lacked the necessary elements to support the charges for the crimes with which he was charged, and that had a warrant been sought before a magistrate judge, it would have been rejected for lack of probable cause. Plaintiff alleges that "the only evidence [the State had against him] is that of the tainted evidence of this arrest that has [culminated] in multiple violations [of his constitutional rights]." Plaintiff also alleges that Floyd violated his constitutional rights by not objecting to this evidence and to the indictment, which "should have never been true billed". Plaintiff further objects to the testimony of another police officer, Kennard Williams, who testified at his trial, asserting that Williams had no personal knowledge of what occurred during the traffic stop.
Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated by McLauren, that Floyd was "constitutionally ineffective" in his handling of Plaintiff's case, and that Parr engaged in "improper conduct" by not bringing an indictment for five months and for seeking a sentence enhancement that was not justified. Plaintiff further contends that he was improperly found to be competent to stand trial, that the court failed to conduct a complete competency hearing, thereby violating his due process rights, that Floyd "lied to the Plaintiff from the beginning of this case", and that Parr and Floyd "induced [his] guilty plea by threatening the Plaintiff and by mental coercion overbearing the Plaintiff's will."
Plaintiff seek a "declaration" by this Court that his constitutional rights were violated by the Defendants, as well as monetary damages. See generally, Plaintiff's Verified Complaint, as amended.
Summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P. The moving party has the burden of proving that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. Temkin v. Frederick County Comm'rs, 945 F.2d 716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991). Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party must respond to the motion with specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992). Further, while the Federal Court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a Federal claim, nor can the Court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Weller ...