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Hamm v. Jones

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 14, 2016

Michael E. Hamm, Plaintiff,
Ms. Tiffaney Jones, Case Manager; Dr. Gothard, Psychologist; and J. Michael Brown, S.C.D.C. Chaplain, Defendants.


          RICHARD MARK GERGEL, District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 38), recommending that Defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted. Plaintiff has filed objections to the R & R (Dkt. No. 43). For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the R & R as an order of this Court.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is a civilly committed inmate under the South Carolina Sexually Violent Predator's Act (SVPA), S.C. Code Ann. §44-48-60, et seq., and housed within the Broad River Correctional Institution (BRCI). Plaintiff is undergoing treatment authorized by an interagency agreement with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) and the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. In his complaint, Plaintiff bring claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq., alleging that Defendant Jones, his female case manager and a Licensed Professional Counselor, should be removed from his case and that he should be assigned a male case manager due to his religious beliefs. (Dkt. No. 1-1). Plaintiff submitted a Request to Staff form to Defendant Gothard on or about April 5, 2015, alleging general dissatisfaction with Defendant Jones and requested a reassignment to a male case manager based on his religious beliefs. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 10). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that he submitted a Declaration/Change of Religion form classifying his religious preference as "True Worshiper." (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 4). Defendant Brown recommended disapproval of the request to staff (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 4), and Defendant Gothard subsequently denied the request to staff. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 11).

         On January 28, 2016, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 31), to which Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the Defendants' motion on February 22, 2016, (Dkt. No 34). Defendants filed a reply on March 3, 2016 (Dkt. No. 35), and Plaintiff filed a sur reply on March 21, 2016 (Dkt. No. 37). On April 11, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued an R & R, recommending Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted and the case dismissed (Dkt. No. 38). Plaintiff filed objections to portions of the R & R on May 9, 2016. (Dkt. No. 43). In addition to an articulation of objections to specific portions of the R & R, Plaintiff produced his Tenets of Faith (Dkt. No. 43 at 7) and an additional 56 pages purported to be representations of his Tenets of Faith. (Dkt. No. 43-1 at 1-56). Plaintiff specifically cites to various scriptures outlining women and their roles including Leviticus 12:2-5 (women after childbirth are unclean), Leviticus 15:19 (menstruous women are unclean), Leviticus 15:25-28 (a woman with abnormal discharge is unclean), I Corinthians 14:33-35 (women to be silent in churches), and I Timothy 2:11-14 (a woman prohibited from teaching or having authority over a man).

         II. Legal Standard

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court may "agree, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)); accord. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

         However, as to the portions of the R & R to which no 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 & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 71 advisory committee note). Additionally, the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the R & R in the absence of specific objections by the parties. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983) ("Absent objection, we do not believe that any explanation need be given for adopting the report.")

         In reviewing this complaint, the Court is mindful of Plaintiff's pro se status. This Court is charged with liberally construing the pleadings of a pro se litigant. See, e.g., De Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003). The requirement of a liberal construction does not mean, however, that the Court can ignore a pro se plaintiff's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim, or that a court must assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. See United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012).

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Has. V. Am. Nat'l. Red Cross, 101, F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Caltrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party 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. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id . Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp. Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff objects to the R & R's recommendation that summary judgment be granted on five grounds. The Court will address each in turn.

          A. ...

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