United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Michael L. Parker and Robert J. Parker, Sr., Plaintiffs,
William O. Spencer, Jr., Joseph Kershaw Spong, Robinson, McFadden & Moore, P.C., Green Tree Servicing, LLC, Walter Mortgage Company, LLC, and J. Michael Baxley, Defendants.
R. BRYAN HARWELL, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court after the issuance of the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West. See R & R, ECF No. 31. Plaintiffs Michael L. Parker and Robert J. Parker, Sr. (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), proceeding pro se, filed a complaint and an amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988, alleging violations of their constitutional rights by Defendants William O. Spencer, Jr., Joseph Kershaw Spong, Robinson, McFadden & Moore, P.C., Green Tree Servicing, LLC, Walter Mortgage Company, LLC, and J. Michael Baxley (collectively, "Defendants"). Compl., ECF No. 1; Am. Compl., ECF No. 22. The Magistrate Judge recommends the Court dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint without prejudice. R & R at 17.
Plaintiffs have sued Defendants for alleged civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988, which Plaintiffs claim occurred during a mortgage foreclosure action litigated in state court. See Compl. at 1-2, Am. Compl. at 1, 3. This case arose from Plaintiffs' unsuccessful attempt to discharge a mortgage debt based upon their alleged status as sovereign citizens. The R & R contains a detailed summary of the factual allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint, see R & R at 2-8; the Court provides a brief summary below.
In their amended complaint, Plaintiffs claim to be "sovereign Plaintiffs..., true sovereign Electors, and natural born American citizens, " and that "[t]he only manmade laws binding to the sovereign Plaintiffs is the lawful, therefore genuine' national Constitution." Am. Compl. at 7. Plaintiffs allege they "legally and lawfully" discharged the mortgage debt on their house and property located in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, by mailing various documents to the Internal Revenue Service and defendants Walter Mortgage Company, LLC and Green Tree Servicing, LLC, and receiving no response from them. Id. at 2-7, 9, 20-21. Green Tree, represented by defendant Joseph Kershaw Spong, an attorney for the law firm of defendant Robinson, McFadden & Moore, P.C., brought a foreclosure action against plaintiff Michael L. Parker. Id. at 2, 8-11, 15, 18. Defendant William O. Spencer, Jr., serving as a special referee for the Chesterfield County Court of Common Pleas, granted summary judgment for Green Tree. Id. Special Referee Spencer issued a judgment and deed of foreclosure, conducted the foreclosure sale, and issued a writ of assistance directing the Chesterfield County Sheriff to evict Michael Parker and his family from the house and land. Id. at 11-12, 15-16. Michael Parker filed a motion captioned "Motion for Rule 38 and Relief from Judgment, " and Special Referee Spencer issued an order denying the motion. Id. at 16. The Honorable J. Michael Baxley, a state circuit court judge named as the final defendant, refused to hear Michael Parker's motion or hold an evidentiary hearing. Id. at 2, 16, 18, 20. After Michael Parker filed a notice of appeal with the South Carolina Court of Appeals,  Green Tree forcibly entered Plaintiffs' house and removed their personal belongings. Id. at 20-21.
Plaintiffs allege their constitutional rights were violated as a direct and proximate cause of Defendants' actions, and claim Defendants were acting under color of state law at all times. Id. at 1-2, 21. Plaintiffs list seven causes of action against Defendants. Id. at 22-23. In the R & R, the Magistrate Judge recommends the Court dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint without prejudice. R & R at 17. Plaintiffs have filed timely objections to the R & R. Pls.' Objs., ECF Nos. 33 & 34.
Standard of Review
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R & R to which specific objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been filed. Id. However, 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 magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The Court reviews only for clear error in the absence of a specific objection. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005). Furthermore, in the absence of a specific objection to the R & R, the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983).
I. The Magistrate Judge's R & R
The Magistrate Judge recommends dismissing Plaintiffs' amended complaint without prejudice. R & R at 17. First, as to Plaintiffs' claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Magistrate Judge concludes Plaintiffs fail to state a claim against defendants Spong, Walter Mortgage, Green Tree, and Robinson, McFadden & Moore, P.C. because these four defendants consist of a private individual and private entities and because no state action occurred in the foreclosure proceedings. Id. at 11-13. Regarding Special Referee Spencer and Judge Baxley, the Magistrate Judge notes these two defendants could be considered state actors to the extent they served as judges, but the Magistrate Judge concludes Special Referee Spencer had quasi-judicial immunity as a special referee and Judge Baxley had judicial immunity as a circuit court judge because they acted at all times in their official judicial capacities. Id. at 9-11. Second, the Magistrate Judge concludes Plaintiffs fail to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) because their amended complaint contains no allegations of racial, religious, or class-based discrimination by Defendants. Id. at 13-14. Third, the Magistrate Judge concludes Plaintiffs fail to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1986 because a cause of action under § 1986 is contingent upon the existence of a claim under § 1985. Id. at 14. Fourth, the Magistrate Judge concludes Plaintiffs fail to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 because they are pro se litigants not entitled to attorneys' fees. Id. at 14-15.
Citing an additional ground for dismissing Plaintiffs' amended complaint, the Magistrate Judge recommends the Court find the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes the exercise of jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims. Id. at 15-16. The Magistrate Judge reasons Plaintiffs are essentially attempting to have the Court review the state court judgment of foreclosure. Id. at 16. Finally, the Magistrate Judge ...