United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Plaintiffs Cory Conell Carroll and Brian Schumaker (“Plaintiffs”) filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs allege Bill H.R. 3190 was not properly enacted, and thus 18 U.S.C. § 3231, which grants federal district courts original jurisdiction over matters concerning federal laws, is invalid. (ECF No. 1.)
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02, the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West for pre-trial handling. On August 22, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending the court summarily dismiss the case, overrule Plaintiff Schumaker’s objections to the initial order in this case, and deny Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. (ECF No. 30.) This review considers Plaintiffs’ Objections and Clarifications to Magistrate’s Order and Participation, filed August 6, 2014 (ECF No. 16), Objections to Magistrate’s Orders and Report and Recommendation, filed September 15, 2014 (ECF No. 40), and Supplemental Objection Brief, filed January 28, 2015 (ECF No. 44-1). For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge’s Report. The court thereby DISMISSES this action (ECF No. 1) and DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 8).
I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on June 5, 2014, naming themselves as Plaintiffs acting on their own behalf and additionally as “agents” on behalf of 75 other federal prisoners. (ECF No. 1 at 3-4.) Plaintiffs followed with a Motion for Preliminary Injunction on June 23, 2014 (ECF No. 8), and a Motion for Issuance of Subpoena on July 11, 2014, requesting the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum upon the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives to produce signature pages related to the passage of 18 U.S.C. § 3231 (ECF No. 12). On July 17, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued a Proper Form Order, informing Plaintiffs that if the case was not brought into proper form within 21 days, the action could be subject to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41. (ECF No. 13.) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge instructed Plaintiff Schumaker to pay the remaining $50 administrative fee in addition to the $350 filing fee he had paid and instructed Plaintiff Carroll to pay the full $400 filing fee or complete the proper forms to show he is indigent and cannot pay. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiffs were further instructed to complete the proper summons forms for each named Defendant and were warned no process would issue until all the specified items had been reviewed by the Magistrate Judge. (Id. at 2-3.)
On August 6, 2014, Plaintiffs filed Objections and Clarifications to Magistrate’s Order and Participation, objecting to the Magistrate Judge’s findings and orders in the Proper Form Order, and objecting to her further participation in the case. (ECF No. 16.) Plaintiffs objected specifically to the requirement that both Plaintiffs need to submit the filing fee, arguing the actions had been joined as one under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20. (Id. at 4.) Despite the protest, Plaintiff Schumaker issued a request to withdraw the remaining $50 from his prison account for the remainder of his filing fee. (Id.) However, Plaintiff Carroll completed the forms necessary to show he is indigent and unable to pay the fee, “but is currently withholding its submission pending Judge Childs[’] consideration of these objections and issuing her final Order in this regard.” (Id.) Also on August 6, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Recusal, requesting the Magistrate Judge recuse herself (ECF No. 19), which was denied on August 18, 2014 (ECF No. 25).
On August 22, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued the Report, recommending the court summarily dismiss the Complaint. (ECF No. 30.) First, the Magistrate Judge found that since Plaintiff Carroll had failed to bring his case into proper form by either paying the filing fee or filing papers to show he is indigent, he failed to comply with the court’s directions and his claims are subject to dismissal. (Id. at 5.) Additionally, the Magistrate Judge found that any attempted joinder of the other 75 prisoners who Plaintiffs purported to represent should also be denied, as pro se litigants may not represent other pro se litigants. (Id. at 7.) Further, the Magistrate Judge recommended denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, noting that “a large part of the relief requested cannot be legally granted by this court, ” and that Plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on the merits and therefore could not make the required showing to be entitled to a preliminary injunction. (Id. at 11-12.) Upon reviewing the merits of the Complaint, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiffs fail to state a plausible claim and that because Plaintiffs are challenging the underlying validity of their convictions, their claim is precluded by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). (Id. at 16.) In Heck, the United States Supreme Court found that in order to recover damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction under § 1983, a plaintiff must first prove the conviction has been reversed, invalidated, or otherwise called into question. 512 U.S. at 486-87. Neither Plaintiff has successfully had his conviction set aside, and therefore, the Magistrate Judge found, relief under § 1983 is not available for Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 30 at 17.) In light of the recommendation to dismiss the Complaint, the Magistrate Judge also issued orders on August 22, 2014, denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Subpoena (ECF No. 12) and ordering the Clerk not to authorize service. (ECF Nos. 28, 29.)
On August 28, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint, seeking to update the list of federal prisoners Plaintiffs purport to represent as “agents.” (ECF Nos. 33, 35.) On the same day, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Impose Summons Service Process Fees upon the Defendants. (ECF No. 34.)
Plaintiffs timely filed their Objections to Magistrate’s Orders and Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 40) on September 15, 2014, after the court granted an extension of time to file (ECF No. 37). Plaintiff additionally filed a Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Objection Brief (ECF No. 44) on January 28, 2015, which was granted on February 23, 2015 (ECF No. 47). Also on January 28, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a Second Motion for Issuance of Subpoena. (ECF No. 45.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS
The Magistrate Judge’s Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation, or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1).
Objections to a Report and Recommendation must specifically identify portions of the Report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). “[I]n the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.’” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee’s note). Failure to timely file specific written objections to a Report will result in a waiver of the right to appeal from an Order from the court based upon the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 155 (1985); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841 (4th Cir. 1985); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1984). If the plaintiff fails to properly object because the objections lack the requisite specificity, then de novo review by the court is not required.
As Plaintiffs are pro se litigants, the court is required to liberally construe their arguments. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). The court addresses those arguments that, under the mandated liberal construction, it has reasonably found to state a claim. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999).
Plaintiffs first take issue with the Magistrate Judge denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Issuance of Subpoena (ECF No. 12), arguing that such a ruling was “dispositive, ” and therefore outside the Magistrate Judge’s authority. (ECF No. 40 at 5-6.) Plaintiffs insist that the document which they seek to subpoena the Clerk of the House of Representatives to produce would “absolutely settle any and all controversy in these cases” and therefore to deny the issuance of a subpoena to produce the document is a denial of a substantive right. (Id. at 4, 6.)
However, the issuance of a subpoena is a discovery issue regarding the production of evidence that may or may not prove Plaintiffs’ claims. Regardless of the level of importance Plaintiffs put upon this single piece of evidence, the decision to issue a subpoena is not a final determination on this action as a whole, and is therefore not “dispositive.” Therefore, the Magistrate Judge could properly make a ruling on ...