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Boschele v. Rainwater

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

February 10, 2016

Anthony Boschele and Nancy Boschele, Plaintiffs,
v.
David G. Rainwater, Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office, Sam Parker in his official capacity as the Deputy of Chesterfield County, Chesterfield County, Kip Kiser in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Chesterfield County and Robert Lee in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Chesterfield County Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION

BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

On April 10, 2013, Plaintiffs Anthony Boschele (“Husband”) and Nancy Boschele (“Wife”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that Defendant David G. Rainwater violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during the course of their arrest and subsequent imprisonment.[1] Plaintiffs also bring state law claims for battery, false arrest, and false imprisonment against the remaining Defendants.[2] In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Kaymani D. West, for consideration of pretrial matters. The Magistrate Judge prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation which recommends that Defendants’ motion for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (ECF No. 72.) Specifically, she recommends dismissing Husband’s § 1983 claims for Fourth Amendment violations and his state law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment, and allowing all other claims to proceed past summary judgment. Defendants filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 74) and Plaintiffs filed a reply (ECF No. 76). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Report and Recommendation sets forth in detail the relevant facts and standards of law, and the Court incorporates them and summarizes below only in relevant part. Plaintiffs filed this matter on April 10, 2013, alleging violations of their constitutional rights and state law claims. (ECF No. 1-1.) Specifically, Plaintiffs bring suit against Defendant Rainwater individually under § 1983 for improper seizure, excessive force, and false arrest under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. (Id. at 8-11.) Additionally, Plaintiffs bring a § 1983 claim under the First Amendment for false arrest because they claim that the exercise of their First Amendment rights was a motivating factor in their arrest. (Id. at 13-14.) Plaintiffs also bring suit against Defendant Sheriff of Chesterfield County for common law false imprisonment, battery, and false arrest under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. (Id. at 9-10, 12-13.)

On March 6, 2015, Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 42.) After consideration of the response filed in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 55) and Defendants’ reply (ECF No. 59), the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that the motion for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (ECF No. 72.) The Court has reviewed the objections to the Report, but finds them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.[3]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portions of the Report and Recommendation to which a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

DISCUSSION

Defendants have objected to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that: (1) genuine issues of material fact preclude granting summary judgment on Wife’s Fourth Amendment claims; (2) genuine issues of material fact preclude granting summary judgment on Husband’s excessive force claim during and after his exit from the porch; (3) genuine issues of material fact preclude granting summary judgment on Wife’s First Amendment claim; (4) Defendant Rainwater is not entitled to a qualified immunity defense on Plaintiffs’ excessive force claims and Wife’s First and Fourth Amendment claims; (5) genuine issues of material fact preclude granting summary judgment on Wife’s state law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment and Plaintiffs’ state law claims for battery; and (6) Defendant Sheriff of Chesterfield County is not immune from suit for the surviving state law claims under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.

Respectfully, Defendants’ objections are largely restatements of arguments made to, and rejected by, the Magistrate Judge. See Hendrix v. Colvin, 2013 WL 2407126, at *4 (D.S.C. June 3, 2013); see also Jackson v. Astrue, 2011 WL 1883026 (W.D. N.C. May 17, 2011); Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004). “Examining anew arguments already assessed in the report of a magistrate judge would waste judicial resources; parties must explain why the magistrate judge's report is erroneous, rather than simply rehashing their prior filings and stating the report’s assessment was wrong.” Hendrix, 2013 WL 2407126, at *4. Absent proper objections, the district court 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).

The Court has considered Defendants’ various objections de novo and finds them insufficient to reject the recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. In her exceptionally thorough thirty-nine page Report, the Magistrate Judge engaged in a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of Plaintiffs’ claims. She first found that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to Husband’s Fourth Amendment seizure and arrest violation allegations, and Defendants were therefore entitled to summary judgment on these claims. (ECF No. 72 at 5-11.) However, in reference to Wife’s Fourth Amendment seizure and arrest violation allegations, the Magistrate Judge found genuine issues of material fact as to “whether some of Defendant Rainwater’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances”; specifically, whether he had probable cause to arrest Wife for hindering a law enforcement officer. (Id. at 12-17.) The Magistrate Judge granted Defendants’ motion seeking “summary judgment for Wife’s initial seizure while Defendant Rainwater secured his safety and attempted to maintain the status quo, ” and denied the portion seeking “summary judgment because probable cause existed to arrest Wife for hindering an officer.” (Id. at 19.)

Here, Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge’s analysis of Wife’s claims, arguing that she: (1) did not consider whether Defendant Rainwater’s actions were reasonable “at the time the decision to arrest [Wife] was made”; and (2) focused solely on Wife’s words when considering whether Wife constituted a hindrance to Defendant Rainwater. (ECF No. 74 at 2.) Both objections are without merit. First, when disposing of Wife’s Fourth Amendment claims, the Magistrate Judge expressly considered “the totality of the facts and circumstances within Defendant Rainwater’s knowledge at the time of the arrest.” (ECF No. 72 at 19 (emphasis added).) Second, the Magistrate Judge exhaustively recounted the parties’ markedly different versions of the events leading up to Wife’s arrest, including Defendant Rainwater’s allegations that Wife verbally harassed him, “[swung] at his head with her fist, ” and was in close proximity to him throughout the course of their interaction. (Id. at 13-15.) Contrary to Defendants’ assertion, the Magistrate Judge did not focus on Wife’s words alone to find a genuine issue of material fact as to whether probable cause existed to arrest Wife. Rather, the Magistrate Judge also noted that “Wife never positioned herself between Husband and Defendant Rainwater” and eventually complied with Defendant Rainwater’s directive that she return inside Plaintiffs’ home. (Id. at 18.)

The Magistrate Judge’s probable cause analysis was guided in part by McCoy v City of Columbia, 929 F.Supp.2d 541, 546-559 (D.S.C. 2013), wherein another court in this district found that probable cause existed for officers to arrest a boisterous interloper for “interfere[ing] with . . . a police officer in the lawful discharge of his duties.” Defendant argues that the Magistrate’s analysis is flawed because she failed to consider that unlike in “McCoy, where there were multiple officers-on-scene that could deal with the interloper, here [Defendant] Rainwater was alone and outnumbered.” (ECF No. 74 at 2.) However, this fact was not crucial to the McCoy court’s probable cause analysis-more important to the court was that the interloper’s actions “forced the officers to divide their attention between securing the arrestee and engaging [the interloper], ” and that the interloper “positioned himself in between the officers and their patrol car.” McCoy, 929 F.Supp.2d at 559. Thus, the Magistrate Judge did not err in this respect or in any other portion of her analysis of Wife’s Fourth Amendment claims for seizure and arrest violations.

The Magistrate Judge next found that a question of fact remains as to whether Defendant Rainwater used excessive force during the course of Plaintiffs’ arrest. (ECF No. 72 at 19.) After recounting “the three versions of what transpired between Plaintiffs and Defendant Rainwater, ” she recommended granting Defendants’ motion seeking “summary judgment for Defendant Rainwater’s actions until Husband fell or was pushed from [the] porch, ” and denying the motion seeking summary judgment for Defendant Rainwater’s actions during and after Husband’s fall or push from [the] porch.” (Id. at 19- 27.) As for Wife, the Magistrate could not “find as a matter of law that Defendant ...


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