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Pressley v. McMaster

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

March 22, 2016

Terry K. Pressley, Plaintiff,
v.
Henry D. McMaster; John W. McIntosh; Donald J. Zelenka; Jon Ozmint; Bryan P. Stirling; The State of South Carolina; The South Carolina Department of Corrections; and The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Defendants.

ORDER

Plaintiff brought this action seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012) and the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (“SCTCA”), as codified at S.C. Code Ann. §§ 15-78-10 et seq. (2015). This matter is before the court for review of the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 76) recommending that Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32) be granted. For the reasons set forth below, the court ACCEPTS IN PART and MODIFIES IN PART the Magistrate Judge’s Report (ECF No. 76) and GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32).

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The court concludes upon its own careful review of the record that the Report’s factual summation is accurate and includes relevant portions here:

After a jury trial in 1987 in Kingstree, South Carolina, the plaintiff was convicted of numerous crimes including armed robbery, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, and manufacturing cocaine. For these crimes, the plaintiff was sentenced by The Honorable John H. Smith to twenty-five years for Count 1 (armed robbery), five years for Count 2 (possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime), and fifteen years for Count 3 (manufacturing cocaine), with the sentences to run consecutively. The plaintiff concedes that Judge Smith orally stated that the sentences were to be served consecutively. The sentencing sheets confirmed that the sentences were to run. The plaintiff alleges that the sentencing judge did not sign the sentencing sheet for Count 2; however, the plaintiff does concede that the judge filled out the sentencing sheet specifically making the sentence for Count 2 consecutive to the Count 1 sentence. The plaintiff alleges that the lack of a signature on the Count 2 sentencing sheet rendered his consecutive sentences unlawful.
The plaintiff sued defendants Ozmint and Stirling in their individual and official capacities as well as the SCDC under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (“SCTCA”). The plaintiff alleges both state and federal constitutional violations of his: (1) right to due process; (2) right prohibiting unlawful seizure; and, (3) right prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. The complaint contains no allegations against Ozmint and Stirling but simply states that they “are the appropriate party defendants as representatives of the [SCDC]. As such they are statutorily liable for the acts and omissions of officers acting in the course and scope of their official duties pursuant to the [SCTCA] and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” The sole allegation relating to defendant SCDC is that “an employee of the [SCDC] added . . . a ‘conforming signature’ [to the sentencing sheet for Count II].” The plaintiff does not identify the SCDC employee who allegedly added the “conforming signature, ” nor does he state when this alleged act occurred. Furthermore, the plaintiff has presented no evidence supporting his allegation that an SCDC employee altered his sentencing sheet.

(ECF No. 40 at 1-2 (citations omitted).)

The Magistrate Judge recommended that Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 26) be granted. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff filed an Objection to the Report (ECF No. 40), to which Defendants Jon Ozmint, Bryan Stirling, and the South Carolina Department of Corrections filed a Reply (ECF No. 44). Defendants Jon Ozmint, Bryan Stirling, and the South Carolina Department of Corrections also filed an Objection to the Report (ECF No. 43).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. The Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation

The Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (2012) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The court reviews de novo only those portions of a Magistrate Judge’s recommendation to which specific objections are filed. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). It reviews those portions which are not objected to-including those portions to which only “general and conclusory” objections have been made-for clear error. Orpiano, 687 F.2d at 47. The court may accept, reject, or modify-in whole or in part-the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). A genuine question of material fact exists where, after reviewing the record as a whole, the court finds that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Newport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual City Vision, 650 F.3d 423, 434 (4th Cir. 2011).

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123- 24 (4th Cir. 1990). The non-moving party may not oppose a motion for summary judgment with mere allegations or denials of the movant’s pleading, but instead must “set forth specific facts” demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991). All that is required is that “sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “Mere unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ennis v. Nat’l Ass’n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Court’s Review of Plaintiff’s Objections In his Report, the Magistrate Judge determined:

1) that Plaintiff’s claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Stirling and Defendant Ozmint in their official capacities should be dismissed, (ECF No. 40 at 4);
2) that Plaintiff’s claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Stirling and Defendant Ozmint failed to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to hold them liable for the actions of other employees, (id. at 4-5);
3) that Plaintiff’s claims under the SCTCA against the South Carolina Department of Corrections should be dismissed on grounds of sovereign immunity, (id. at 6-7); and
4) that Plaintiff’s claim that the unsigned sentencing sheet for Count 2 voids the judicial order of confinement and makes his confinement for consecutive sentences unlawful- the allegation on which all of his ...

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