United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Howe Hendricks United States District Judge.
December 21, 2010, Plaintiff filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983
action alleging that Defendant violated her constitutional
rights during the course of her arrest on December 25, 2007,
and her subsequent imprisonment. Plaintiff also brings state
law claims for malicious prosecution, abuse of process,
defamation, and civil conspiracy. In accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 D.S.C.,
this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Thomas
E. Rogers, III, for consideration of pretrial matters. The
Magistrate Judge prepared a thorough Report and
Recommendation which recommends that Defendants’ motion
for summary judgment be granted. (ECF No. 125.) Plaintiff
filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation.
(ECF No. 128.) For the reasons set forth herein, the Court
adopts the Report and Recommendation.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Report and Recommendation sets forth in detail the relevant
facts and standards of law, and the Court incorporates them
and summarizes below only in relevant part. Plaintiff filed
this matter on December 21, 2010, alleging violations of her
constitutional rights and state law claims. (ECF No. 1.)
Specifically, Plaintiff brings suit against Defendant under
§ 1983 for malicious prosecution under the Fourth
Amendment, alleging, inter alia, that Defendant
“did imprison and prosecute the Plaintiff maliciously
and without probable cause.” (Id. at 4.) She
also brings a § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment for cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at
4-5.) Plaintiff brings state law claims for malicious
prosecution, abuse of process, defamation, and civil
conspiracy. (Id. at 5-6.)
August 3, 2015, Defendant moved for summary judgment pursuant
to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No.
105.) After consideration of the response filed in opposition
to the motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 112), the
Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation
recommending that the motion for summary judgment be granted
with respect to the federal causes of action and that the
Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
state law causes of action. (ECF No. 125.) He further
recommended that the case be dismissed in its entirety.
(Id.) The Court has reviewed the objections to the
Report, but finds them to be without merit. Therefore, it
will enter judgment accordingly.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270
(1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo
determination of any portions of the Report and
Recommendation to which a specific objection is made. The
Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit
the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court need not
conduct a de novo review when a party makes only
“general and conclusory objections that do not direct
the court to a specific error in the magistrate’s
proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate
Judge’s conclusions are reviewed only for clear error.
See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins.
Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
reviewing these pleadings, the Court is mindful that
Plaintiff claims to be proceeding pro
se. (ECF No. 122.) When dealing with a pro
se litigant, the Court is charged with liberal
construction of the pleadings. 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 plaintiff’s clear failure
to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim, or that
the 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).
initial matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff’s filing
(ECF No. 128) is nearly identical to her response to
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 105).
she fails to raise any arguments that would invoke de
novo review. Accordingly, the Court is tasked only with
review of the Magistrate Judge’s conclusions for clear
Magistrate Judge first found that Plaintiff’s §
1983 malicious prosecution claim fails on the merits and the
Court agrees. Noting that Plaintiff was arrested without a
warrant and that the parties addressed false arrest rather
than malicious prosecution, the Magistrate Judge correctly
found that “the proper claim is one for false
arrest.” (ECF No. 125 at 5-6); see Dorn v. Town of
Prosperity, 375 Fed. App’x 284, 286 (4 Cir. 2010)
(“‘As a general rule, an unlawful arrest pursuant
to a warrant will be more closely analogous to the common law
tort of malicious prosecution. An arrest warrant constitutes
legal process, and it is the tort of malicious prosecution
that permits damages for confinement pursuant to legal
process. On the other hand, wrongful warrantless arrests
typically resemble the tort of false arrest.’”)
(quoting Calero-Colon v. Betancourt-Lebron, 68 F.3d
1, 4 (1st Cir. 1995)).
Magistrate Judge then correctly determined that
Plaintiff’s claim was barred by the Heck
doctrine because Plaintiff was convicted of resisting arrest
and finding for Plaintiff on her false arrest claim would
invalidate her conviction. (ECF No. 125 at 6-8); see Heck
v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 2372,
129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994) (“Thus, when a state prisoner
seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must
consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless
the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence
has already been invalidated.”); State v.
McGowan, 557 S.E.2d 657, 659 (S.C. 2001) (“[A]
person may not be convicted of resisting arrest . . . where
the underlying arrest [was] unlawful.”). In other
words, it would require the Court to negate an element of the
resisting arrest conviction by finding the underlying arrest
unlawful. Because Heck bars such a claim, the
Magistrate Judge correctly found that summary judgment is
appropriate on her § 1983 claim for false arrest. The
Court finds no error in his analysis and conclusion.
Magistrate Judge next found that Plaintiff’s excessive
force claim fails on the merits and the Court agrees. He
thoughtfully recounted the evidence in the record relating to
this claim and correctly concluded that “Plaintiff
fail[ed] to present sufficient evidence to show that
[Defendant’s] use of force in restraining her from
leaving the scene and then handcuffing her was
unreasonable.” (ECF No. 125 at 9-11); see Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 1872, 104
L.Ed.2d 443 (1989) (“As in other Fourth Amendment
contexts, . . . the “reasonableness” inquiry in
an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is
whether the officers’ actions are ‘objectively
reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances
confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent
or motivation.”). The Court agrees with the Magistrate
Judge’s finding that “[t]he force used by
[Defendant] was minimal, swift, and for the purpose of
preventing Plaintiff from walking away from the scene.”
(Id. at 11.) See Graham, 490 U.S. at 387
(an excessive force analysis “must embody an allowance
for the fact that police officers are ...