United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge
Plaintiff Shawn Michael Robinson (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging violations of his constitutional rights and a state law claim.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 Shiva V. Hodges, for consideration of pretrial matters. The Magistrate Judge prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) which recommends that Defendants’ motion for summary judgment be granted. (ECF No. 69.) Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 71). 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. Plaintiff filed this matter on July 17, 2014, alleging violations of his constitutional rights and a state law claim. (ECF No. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff brings due process and equal protection claims under the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as claims for malicious prosecution and retaliation. (Id. at 7-9.) In addition, when liberally construing the pleadings, the Court finds Plaintiff has alleged a claim for civil conspiracy under South Carolina law. (Id. at 8.)
On April 3, 2015, Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 62.) After consideration of the response filed in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 66) and Defendants’ reply (ECF No. 67), the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that the motion for summary judgment be granted. (ECF No. 69.) The Court has reviewed the objections to the Report, but finds them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the district court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the district court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objection is made, and the court 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 need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate’s proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge’s conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
In reviewing these pleadings, the Court is mindful of the petitioner’s pro se status. When dealing with a pro se litigant, the Court is charged with liberal construction of the pleadings. See, e.g., De’Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003). The requirement of a liberal construction does not mean, however, that the Court can ignore a petitioner’s clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim, or that the Court must assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. See United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012).
After an extensive review of the facts and evidence, the Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary judgment on all of Plaintiff’s claims. She first found that Plaintiff could not establish any excessive force claims based on his allegations concerning eight “incidents”-one that took place on January 3, 2014, and seven that occurred on February 6, 2014. (ECF No. 69 at 7-11.) To dispose of these claims, the Magistrate Judge relied in part on the video evidence submitted by Defendants, which refuted the majority of Plaintiff’s excessive force allegations. (Id.) She found that the amount of force used by Defendants was objectively reasonable and that “Plaintiff has provided no evidence that any greater use of force was used.” (Id.) The Court has independently reviewed the video evidence and finds that it was correctly described by the Magistrate Judge and that no reasonable jury could, given the evidence, find that the amount of force used by Defendants was anything other than objectively reasonable.
The Magistrate Judge next found that Plaintiff’s claims concerning his placement in solitary confinement failed because “Plaintiff has presented no evidence that Defendants were responsible for his placement on SMS [Administrative Secure Management Status] or TRR [Therapeutic Room Restriction].” (ECF No. 69 at 12.) The Complaint alleges that “Plaintiff was ordered to be punished by Defendant Myers and Vic; by-way of a PSO/SCDMH Disciplinary Hearing; Plaintiff was placed on solitary confinement in cell 101 for 72 hours [SMS] and put into solitary confinement in cell 119 for 90 days [TRR].” (ECF No. 1 at 6.)
Here, Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s SMS placement complied with Sexually Violent Predator Treatment Program (“SVPTP”) Policy and Procedure and therefore did not violate Plaintiff’s due process rights. (ECF No. 62-1 at 7.) Pursuant to SVPTP Policy, administrative SMS is the “placement of a resident by Public Safety staff in the resident’s room or observation room with door locked in either location. . . . Examples of reasons for this type of management are a single significant disruptive activity, history of verbal or physical threats or assault, . . . or an imminent risk of harm to resident or others.” (ECF No. 62-6 at 6.) Defendants state that “Plaintiff was placed on SMS following Plaintiff’s refusal to follow directives of officers, resisting prior restraint attempts by Myers and Vick, making threatening remarks to Myers, and later injuring himself by banging his head on the cell door.” (ECF No. 62-1 at 7.) These allegations are confirmed in part by the video evidence. Accordingly, based on SVPTP Policy provisions and the evidence in the record, the Court concludes that no reasonable jury could find that Plaintiff’s placement in SMS violated his due process rights.
As for Plaintiff’s TRR placement, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Defendants were not responsible for this placement. SVPTP Policy states that placement in TRR beyond 72 hours must be approved by the Licensed Prescribing Practitioner (LPP) and the resident’s case manager. . . . Any other TRR status decisions must be made by the Behavior Management Committee [“BMC”].” (ECF No. 62-6 at 4.) The BMC held five hearings on Plaintiff’s TRR placement between February 10, 2014, and March 31, 2014, during which time they placed Plaintiff in TRR. (ECF No. 62-7.) Defendants maintain that they were not on the BMC review team for Plaintiff’s case and Plaintiff does not provide any evidence otherwise. Accordingly, the Court finds that Defendants were not responsible for Plaintiff’s TRR placement and Plaintiff’s solitary confinement claims therefore fail.
The Magistrate Judge next found that Plaintiff’s claims related to the confiscation of his legal and religious materials failed because he did not present any evidence that Defendants were responsible for the temporary confiscation of such items. (ECF No. 69 at 13.) The Complaint alleges that “[t]he BMC took all of religious things, and legal things.” (ECF No. 1 at 6.) As previously explained, Defendants were not part of the BMC that reviewed Plaintiff’s case. Accordingly, they ...