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Holcomb v. Kindley

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 25, 2016

Dean Alton Holcomb, #XXXXXX-XXXX, Plaintiff,
Lieutenant Jeff Kindley; Lieutenant Duncan; South Carolina Law Enforcement Division; and 2 Unknown SLED Agents, Defendants.


SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

Dean Alton Holcomb ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at Greenville County Detention Center ("GCDC"). He filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against South Carolina Law Enforcement Division ("SLED"), SLED Lieutenant Jeff Kindley ("Kindley"), GCDC Lieutenant Duncan ("Duncan"), and two unknown SLED Agents (collectively "Defendants"). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the complaint in this case without prejudice and without issuance and service of process as to Duncan and SLED.[1]

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed this complaint alleging an unlawful seizure of constitutionallyprotected reading, religious, and legal materials. [ECF No. 1 at 2]. Plaintiff claims Duncan called him to the officer's desk on February 1, 2016. Id. at 3. Plaintiff states Kindley patted him down, escorted him to the multipurpose room, and told him to wait while his property and laundry bins were searched. Id. Plaintiff claims he was told that a search warrant was served on GCDC, but he was not allowed to see it. Id. Plaintiff alleges four men returned to the multipurpose room with his bin and bag. Id. Plaintiff states he was told to return to his bunk. Id. Plaintiff claims he was called back to the multipurpose room approximately 20 minutes later and all his legal papers, his personal and legal mail, and legal books were packaged into eight large envelopes approximately two feet tall. Id. Plaintiff also claims SLED seized law books, the holy scripture, a leather bound book containing phone numbers and addresses, a copy of the Kyballian (religious text), two journals, and a working screenplay and novel. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges Kindley was the investigating officer. Id. Plaintiff claims his items were seized one month before he was scheduled for trial and alleges he was not given a receipt for the seized property. Id. Plaintiff alleges this was an illegal search attempted by Kindley to further intimidate, censor, and retaliate against Plaintiff "for resisting and attempting to expose the corruption and blatant disregard for Plaintiff's constitutional and human rights." Id. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and compensatory damages. Id.

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Plaintiff filed this complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Allison v. Kyle, 66 F.3d 71, 73 (5th Cir. 1995).

Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Merriweather v. Reynolds, 586 F.Supp.2d 548, 554 (D.S.C. 2008). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

B. Analysis

1. Insufficient Factual Allegations

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that a plaintiff must do more than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face, and the reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. Plaintiff's complaint does not contain any factual allegations of specific wrongdoing attributable to Duncan. Accordingly, Duncan should be summarily dismissed from this action.

2. Eleventh Amendment

The Eleventh Amendment bars suits by citizens against non-consenting states brought either in state or federal court. See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712-13 (1999); Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996).[2] Such immunity extends to arms of the state, see Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101-102 (1984), and also bars this court from granting injunctive relief against the state or its agencies. See Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978); Seminole Tribe of Florida, 517 U.S. at 58. SLED, as a state agency, has eleventh amendment immunity from suit under § 1983. See S.C. ...

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