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Rivera v. Leonard

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

June 17, 2016

KENNETH D. RIVERA, Plaintiff,
v.
SERGEANT LEONARD and OFFICER PONDER, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West’s report and recommendation (“R&R”) that the court grant defendants Sergeant Leonard and Officer Ponder’s (“defendants”) motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Kenneth D. Rivera (“Rivera”), proceeding pro se, was a pre-trial detainee at Greenville County Detention Center (“GCDC”) during the time period relevant to this action. Rivera’s claims arise out of an alleged altercation with defendants at GCDC on February 5, 2015. Compl. 3. Rivera alleges that Officer Ponder and Sergeant Leonard threatened him with “caustic gas” and assaulted him because he would not get out of the shower. Id. at 4. According to defendants, Rivera was transferred to SCDC on March 9, 2015 “after pleading guilty to charges of armed robbery, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a violent crime.” Defs.’ Mot. 1. Rivera filed suit on March 13, 2015, bringing causes of action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Eighth and Fifth Amendment rights.[1] Rivera seeks: (1) a declaration that the actions and omissions described in his complaint violated his rights under the constitution; (2) a preliminary and permanent injunction ordering defendants to stop using excessive force; (3) compensatory damages in the amount of $10, 000.00 against both defendants; (4) punitive damages in the amount of $10, 000.00 against both defendants; (5) a jury trial; (6) costs; and (7) any additional relief this court deems just, proper, and equitable. Id. at 4-5.

         Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on September 15, 2015. Rivera filed a response in opposition to the motion on September 23, 2015, and defendants replied on October 5, 2015. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on February 16, 2016, recommending that the court dismiss Rivera’s claims for failure to exhaust his available administrative remedies. Rivera filed timely objections to the R&R on February 25, 2016. Defendants replied to Rivera’s objections on March 11, 2016, and Rivera filed a sur-reply on March 18, 2016. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for the court’s review.

         II. STANDARDS

         A. Objections to R&R

         This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge’s R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party’s failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). In absence of a timely filed objection to a magistrate judge’s R&R, this court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead 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 & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee’s note). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination rests with this court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court may adopt the portions of the R&R to which the plaintiff did not object, as a party’s failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. Thomas, 474 U.S. at 149-50. This court may accept, reject, or modify the report of the magistrate judge, in whole or in part, or may recommit the matter to him with instructions for further consideration. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper “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). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ’ that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. At the summary judgment stage, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Id. at 255.

         C. Pro Se Plaintiff

         Plaintiff proceeds pro se in this case. Federal district courts are charged with liberally construing complaints filed by pro se litigants to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). Pro se complaints are therefore held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Id. Liberal construction, however, does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; (2) Rivera failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (3) there is no evidence that defendants used excessive force; (4) there is no evidence that defendants denied Rivera medical treatment; (5) there is no evidence that defendants violated Rivera’s Fifth Amendment rights when he was housed in a segregated cell; (6) defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from Rivera’s claims against them in their individual capacity; (7) Rivera’s request for preliminary and permanent injunctions are legally defective; and (8) defendants are entitled to an order granting summary judgment as a matter of law. Defs.’ Mot. 3-4. The magistrate judge recommends that ...


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