United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. GOSSETT, Magistrate Judge.
plaintiff, Robert Bruce McCoy, proceeding pro se,
brings this action alleging the probate hearing regarding his
mother's estate was unfair. (ECF No. 1 at 3-5.) The
Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Â§ 1915. This
matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Â§ 636(b) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the
Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court
concludes that it should be summarily dismissed.
Factual and Procedural Background
alleges he was denied a fair trial in the probate hearing for
the distribution of his mother's estate. (ECF No. 1 at
4-5.) Plaintiff claims Defendant Judge Carolyn W. Rogers
("Judge Rogers") made Plaintiff sell land to Roger
Jellenick, his attorney, because the estate ran out of money.
(Id. at 5.) Plaintiff requests the land be returned to him.
(Id.) Plaintiff also alleges his mother was supposed to leave
him a house in Lancaster upon her passing, but she left it to
his brother James instead. (ECF No. 1-1 at 10-11.) Plaintiff
claims he had an insurance policy on the house, but when the
house was destroyed by a fire, the insurance benefits were
paid to the estate and not to him. (Id. at 16.) Plaintiff
further claims he was supposed to be paid $3, 500 for a truck
but he never received the payment. (Id. at 26.) Plaintiff
further claims he was not provided fair notice of the probate
hearing because he was served via mail only twenty days
before the hearing. (Id. at 13.) Finally, Plaintiff claims
Defendants York County and Lancaster County are responsible
for Judge Rogers's actions. (Id. at 4.)
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of the pro se
Complaint. This court is required to liberally construe pro
se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). Such pro se complaints are held to a less
stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, id.;
Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.
1978), and 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.
Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v.
Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a federal court is
evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's
allegations are assumed to be true. Erickson, 551
U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).
the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that
the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to
allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal
district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009)
(outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure for "all civil actions").
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; however, a district court may not
rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never
presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128 (10th
Cir. 1999), construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for
him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir.
1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely
presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
Claims Against Judge Rogers
claims the probate hearing before Judge Rogers concerning the
distribution of his mother's estate was unfair. (ECF No.
1 at 4-5.) Though Plaintiff fails to state with any
specificity what actions by Judge Rogers caused the hearing
to be unfair, the court construes his allegations as a claim
that Judge Rogers denied Plaintiff due process under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, in light of this court's
duty to liberally construe Plaintiff's pro se
Complaint, the court construes the Complaint as stating a
civil rights cause of action under 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983. However,
to the extent Plaintiff seeks to raise a Â§ 1983 claim against
Judge Rogers, such a claim would fail because Judge Rogers is
entitled to absolute judicial immunity.
well settled that judges have absolute immunity from a claim
for damages arising out of their judicial actions.
Mireless v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 12 (1991); Chu v.
Griffith, 771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985). Judges are
also protected from claims for injunctive relief as Â§ 309(c)
of the Federal Courts Improvement Act, Pub. L. No 104-317,
110 Stat. 3847 (1996), amended Â§ 1983 to bar injunctive
relief against a judicial officer "for an act or
omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity...
unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory
relief was unavailable." 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983; see also
Donato Malave v. Abrams, 547 F.Appx. 346, 347 (2013)
(affirming district court's holding that state court
judges were immune from claims for injunctive relief under Â§
1983 where plaintiff did not show the violation of a
declaratory decree or the unavailability of declaratory
relief). Judicial immunity is not pierced by allegations of
corruption or bad faith, nor will a judge "be deprived
of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done
maliciously, or was in excess of his authority."
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978).
Because judicial immunity is a protection from suit, not just
from ultimate assessment of damages, Mireless, 502
U.S. at 11, Plaintiff's claims against Judge Rogers are
subject to summary dismissal.
Claims Against York County and Lancaster County
alleges Defendants York County and Lancaster County are
responsible for Judge Rogers's actions. (ECF No. 1 at 4.)
However, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to raise a Â§ 1983
claim against Judge Rogers and hold the defendant ...