United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, District Judge.
February 11, 2016, this Court issued an Order that adopted
Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant's Report and
Recommendation ("R & R") and dismissed
Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice and without
service of process. After the Court entered judgment, the
Court received objections to the R & R from Plaintiff (ECF
No. 35). Plaintiff also filed two motions to vacate the
Court's February 11 order (ECF Nos. 36 &
objections were due February 8. Because Plaintiff is
incarcerated, the Court waited an additional three days to
act on the R & R in order to allow any timely objections to
make their way from the prison's mailroom to the
Clerk's office. See Houston v. Lack,
487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988). Seeing none by February 11, the
Court reviewed the R & R, adopted it, and entered judgment
objections are dated February 4, but the Court did not
receive them until February 29. In his motion to vacate,
Plaintiff has provided documents from prison officials
showing that he originally brought the objections to the
prison's mailroom on February 4 and that they were mailed
the following day. However, after the filing deadline passed,
the objections were returned to Plaintiff for insufficient
postage. The original postage form, completed on February 5,
indicates that a prison employee may have miscalculated the
amount of postage needed to mail the objections. Because it
appears that the objections arrived late through no fault of
Plaintiff, the Court finds they were timely filed on February
4. To properly consider those objections on their merits, the
Court grants Plaintiff's consolidated motion to vacate
and vacates its February 11 Order. See Galbreath v.
Cartledge, No. 1:14-cv-110-RMG, 2015 WL 1143181, at *1
(D.S.C. Mar. 13, 2015) (withdrawing prior order which
summarily adopted R & R, in order to review objections that
were filed late due to insufficient postage).
case stems from Plaintiff's September 2008 arrest on
seven criminal charges filed against him in Williamsburg
County, South Carolina. Plaintiff alleges that Williamsburg
County Sheriff's Office employees beat him and sprayed
him with chemicals when they arrested him. At the time of
Plaintiff's arrest, he was out on bond for unrelated
charges that were pending in neighboring Berkeley County. As
a result of his Williamsburg County arrest, his bond was
revoked. In January 2009, Plaintiff was convicted of those
unrelated Berkeley County charges. The state court sentenced
him to prison, where he remains.
Williamsburg County charges never went to trial. Prosecutor
Kimberly Barr made Plaintiff two plea offers, but he refused
them and maintained his innocence. After he rejected the
second offer in January 2010, he heard nothing else about the
charges. State-court records that Plaintiff has appended to
his complaint as exhibits indicate that the State dismissed
the charges because it had insufficient evidence to secure
convictions and because the purported victims of some of the
crimes were refusing to assist in the prosecution. Those
exhibits show that five of the charges were dismissed on
December 8, 2010. As for the other two charges,
Plaintiff's exhibits are missing dismissal dates.
However, the South Carolina Judicial Department's
Webbased public index shows they, too, were dismissed that
two years later, in September 2012, Plaintiff sent the
Williamsburg County Clerk of Court's office a written
request for copies of records relating to his charges.
Receiving no response, he sent another request in December
2012, this time threatening to accuse the office of fraud and
conspiracy if it did not act promptly. On March 8, 2013, the
Clerk's office sent him some of the above-mentioned
records that indicate his charges had been dismissed in
December 2010. He received more of those documents later that
month. Plaintiff alleges that Barr conspired with Clerk of
Court Sharon Staggers and with a Ms. Morris, one of
Staggers' employees, to fabricate the dismissal records
after he began requesting copies of documents.
filed this action on March 1, 2015. In his complaint,
he makes a variety of claims against officials working in
Berkeley and Williamsburg counties and against the offices
for which they work. Plaintiff's claims all relate to his
2008 arrest and detention or to his ultimately abandoned
prosecution. Plaintiff asserts causes of action such as false
arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, malicious
prosecution, negligence, defamation, civil conspiracy, and
excessive force. He asserts those theories both as state-law
claims and as federal claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and
Magistrate Judge reviewed Plaintiff's pro se
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and Local Civil Rule
73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). He then issued his R & R, in which he
recommended that the Court dismiss all of Plaintiff's
federal claims and decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state claims. As discussed
above, Plaintiff has filed objections that this Court finds
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility
for making a final determination remains with the Court.
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976).
Parties may make written objections to the R & R within
fourteen days after being served with a copy of it. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de novo review of any
portion of the R & R to which a specific objection is made,
and it may accept, reject, or modify the Magistrate
Judge's findings and recommendations in whole or in part.
Id. Additionally, the Court may receive more
evidence or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with
instructions. Id. A party's failure to object is
taken as the party's agreement with the Magistrate
Judge's conclusions. See Thomas v. Arn,
474 U.S. 140 (1985). Absent a timely, specific objection-or
as to those portions of the R & R to which no specific
objection is made-this 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 & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315
(4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory
Pro se filings are held to a less stringent standard
than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke,
574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and federal district
courts must construe such pleadings liberally to allow the
development of potentially meritorious claims, see
Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (per curiam).
The liberal construction requirement, however, does not mean
courts can ignore a clear failure to allege facts that set
forth claims cognizable in federal district court.
See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901
F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).
addressing Plaintiff's objections, the Court reviews the
conclusions in the R & R to which Plaintiff has not objected.
First, the Magistrate Judge found that Barr has prosecutorial
immunity for all of Plaintiff's claims against her.
Second, the Magistrate Judge found that the four
institutional defendants are not proper defendants to
Plaintiff's federal claims. Finally, the Magistrate Judge
found that Defendants Johnson, Lambert, Whack, DeWitt, Lonnie
Mizzelle, Danny Mizzelle, and Doe are immune from suit under
the Eleventh Amendment. Upon review, the Court finds that the
Magistrate Judge's findings and analysis on those issues
are correct, and therefore it adopts those portions of the R
large part, Plaintiff's objections merely rehash his
complaint's assertions or flatly disagree with the
Magistrate Judge's conclusions. The Court declines to
address those arguments, as they are not proper objections.
See, e.g.,Anderson v. Dobson, 627
F.Supp.2d 619, 623 (W.D. N.C. 2007) ("An objection'
that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a
magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes
what has been presented before, is not an objection' as
that term is used in this context." (citation ...