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Miller v. Scaturo

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

January 28, 2016

Steve E. Miller, a/k/a Steven E. Miller, Plaintiff,
v.
Holly Scaturo, Galen Sanders, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants. [Doc. 17.] Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C., this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

This action was filed on May 1, 2015, in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. [Doc. 1-1.] Defendants removed the case to this Court on June 24, 2015 [Doc. 1] and filed a motion for summary judgment on August 10, 2015 [Doc. 17]. On August 11, 2015, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Plaintiff was advised to respond to the motion and of the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond. [Doc. 19.] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion on August 21, 2015 [Doc. 22], and Defendants filed a reply on August 31, 2015 [Doc. 24]. Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on September 11, 2015. [Doc. 28.] Accordingly, the motion is ripe for review.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff appears to be civilly committed pursuant to the South Carolina Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"), S.C. Code Ann. §§ 44-48-10 through XX-XX-XXX, and housed at the Broad River Correctional Institution. [Doc. 1-1.] He asserts claims related to his living conditions. [ Id. ] Specifically, he alleges that he was forced to double cell and share a room in violation of the policy, procedures, rules, and regulations of the Sexually Violent Predator Treatment Program ("SVPTP"). [ Id. at 4-5.] He also contends that he has been subject to lockdowns that constitute cruel and unusual punishment and that the room size, particularly when double celled, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. [ Id. at 6-8.] Plaintiff alleges that he has a prostate condition that should allow him to decline having a roommate. [ Id. at 9.] Finally, Plaintiff asserts that a court order prevents the double celling. [ Id. at 10.] Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to stop all double celling in the future and to declare that all who are double celled while civilly committed under the SVPA should be returned to single cells. [ Id. at 11.]

APPLICABLE LAW

Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe her pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. The mandated liberal construction means only that if the Court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for her. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court "conjure up questions never squarely presented." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

Requirements for a Cause of Action Under § 1983

This action is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a private cause of action for constitutional violations by persons acting under color of state law. Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'" Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under § 1983 allows "a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief." City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999).

Section 1983 provides, in relevant part,

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress...

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove two elements: (1) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States" and (2) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of this constitutional right under color of [State] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage." Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir. 2001) (third alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

The under-color-of-state-law element, which is equivalent to the "state action" requirement ...


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