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Wazney v. Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center

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

April 28, 2016

Robert Wazney, Plaintiff,
v.
Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center, Director Simon Major, Major McGhaney, Captain Theresa Ray-Lee, Captain Ronald Gailliard, Lieutenant C Kelly, and Sergeant Chance Limpkin, Defendants.

          ORDER AND REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          KEVIN F. McDONALD, Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment (doc. 47) and the plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint (doc. 66). The plaintiff is a former pretrial detainee at the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center ("SLRDC"), and the individual defendants are officers at the SLRDC. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his civil rights while he was housed at the SLRDC awaiting trial. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         The defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on December 17, 2015 (doc. 47). On December 18, 2015, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the plaintiff was advised of the summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately (doc. 48). After receiving several extensions of time, the plaintiff filed his response in opposition to the motion on March 29, 2016 (doc. 68), and the defendants filed a reply on April 8, 2016 (doc. 74).

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff was arrested in December 2013 for criminal sexual conduct with a minor and was housed at the SLRDC until April 2015, when he was convicted and sentenced to 80 years imprisonment and transferred to the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC. 47-6, Ray Lee aff. ¶ 6). In his complaint here, the plaintiff alleges that upon his arrival at the SLRDC, he was placed in D-Pod, which went on lock down for 17 days, preventing him from communicating with the "outside" and resulting in his attending a bond hearing without counsel (doc. 1, comp. ¶ 11). He thereafter requested legal materials from the staff without success and sought legal materials by mail, which were intercepted and denied as against SLRDC policy ( id. ¶¶ 14-16). The majority of the plaintiff's complaint chronicles his dissatisfaction with the SLRDC's grievance system, as he alleges that he received "evasive and less than diligent" responses, if any, to the 62 grievances he filed within a 13-month period ( id. ¶¶ 9-28). Significantly, while the names of the six individual defendants appear in various paragraphs of the complaint, the plaintiff fails to make any specific allegations against them beyond their various communications with him regarding his grievances or the SLRDC grievance system.

         With his response in opposition to summary judgment (doc. 68), the plaintiff provides copies of some of the grievances he filed while at the SLRDC. These show his complaints about SLRDC staff improperly processing or responding to his grievances, interfering with his mail, denying him access to legal materials, and initially confining him in lock down status without certain privileges (docs. 68-1 through 3). In his complaint, the plaintiff requests that this court award him "some sort of relief from this unfair treatment. The amount of damages done to this point are grossly irreversible" (doc. 1, comp. ¶ 31).

         In support of their motion for summary judgment, the defendants provide affidavits denying that they violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. They argue that the plaintiff's complaint fails to set forth sufficient facts to state a claim, as each of them are named only sporadically in the complaint and only in relation to their respective alleged communications regarding the plaintiff's grievances. They further contend that the plaintiff has failed to allege that any of their individual conduct resulted in injury to him.

         After the defendants moved for summary judgment, the plaintiff filed a motion to supplement or amend his complaint so as to name the defendants in their individual and official capacities and to add other SLRDC employees (doc. 66). The defendants filed a response objecting to the amendment as futile and prejudicial (doc. 75).

         MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 states, as to a party who has moved for summary judgment: "The court shall grant summary judgment 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). As to the first of these determinations, a fact is deemed "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the district court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings; rather, he must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. at 324. Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Id. at 248. "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id.

          SLRDC as a Defendant

         The claims against the SLRDC should be dismissed. Section 1983 provides a cause of action for constitutional violations committed by a "person, [acting] under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State...." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The SLRDC is a building or group of buildings and not a "person" for purposes of § 1983 liability, and thus it cannot be a defendant in this action. SeeBrooks v. Pembroke City Jail, 722 F.Supp. 1294, 1301 (E.D. N.C. 1989) ...


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