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Brooks v. Investergater Justin Head

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

June 29, 2016

Michael D. Brooks, Plaintiff
Investergater Justin Head and Investergater Banister, Defendants.


          Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Michael D. Brooks, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has sued the two above-named Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights.[1] See ECF No. 1. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 95. The matter is before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.[2] See R & R, ECF No. 105. The Magistrate Judge recommends the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismiss this case. R & R at 10. Plaintiff has filed objections to the R & R. See Pl.'s Objs., ECF No. 107.

         Legal Standards

         I. Review of the Magistrate Judge's R & R

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R & R to which specific objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         The Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only "general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).

         II. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md., 789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ("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."). "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 413, but the Court "cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations." Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015).


         Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the facts are as follows. On March 3, 2014, a home invasion occurred at a residence in Florence, South Carolina. ECF No. 95-2 at 3, 10. Defendant Investigator Justin Head of the Florence Police Department ("FPD") was assigned to the case, developed Plaintiff as a suspect, and obtained arrest warrants for Plaintiff on charges of first-degree burglary, armed robbery, kidnapping, and two weapon charges. Id. at 3-5, 18-22. On March 14, 2014, Defendant Investigator Stephen Banister and other FPD officers went to Plaintiff's mother's house (where Plaintiff was staying) to serve the arrest warrants. ECF No. 95-3 at 3. Plaintiff saw the police arrive, ran out the back door, and hid in the woods, where there was a small stream eight to twelve inches deep. ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 95-2 at 6; ECF No. 95-3 at 4. After about ten minutes in the woods, Plaintiff decided to exit the woods and began wading through the stream. ECF No. 1 at 3. Investigator Banister rushed towards Plaintiff yelling, "Get down!" Id. Plaintiff got on his hands and knees but did not lie completely flat because he believed the water would cover his head. Id. He told Investigator Banister why he could not lie down, and although Investigator Banister saw the stream, he nonetheless tased Plaintiff in the back. Id.; ECF No. 95-3 at 4. Plaintiff went underwater, and then Investigator Banister dragged him from the water by his feet, handcuffed him, and escorted him from the woods. ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 95-3 at 4. In June 2015, Plaintiff was tried in state court and convicted of all charges. ECF No. 62.

         Plaintiff has sued Investigators Head and Banister (collectively, "Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1. Among the allegations in his complaint, Plaintiff accuses Investigator Head of lying in arrest warrant affidavits and altering a statement that Plaintiff gave police. Id. at 3-5. Plaintiff also alleges that due to being underwater after Investigator Banister tased him, he has to see a doctor and take medication for chest pain caused by the water that entered his lungs. Id. at 3. Plaintiff asserts causes of action for false arrest, false imprisonment, and excessive force, and he seeks monetary damages arising from his allegedly unlawful arrest. Id. at 6. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. ECF No. 95. The Magistrate Judge has issued an R & R in which she recommends granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing this case. ECF No. 105. Plaintiff has filed timely objections to the R & R. ECF No. 107. Defendants have filed a timely reply to Plaintiff's objections. ECF No. 109.


         Plaintiff presents three cursory objections to the Magistrate Judge's R & R. See Pl.'s Objs., ECF No. 107. First, he objects to the Magistrate Judge's statement in the R & R that "Plaintiff represents that he ran out the backdoor of his mother's residence after he noticed police had arrived there." Id. at 1 (quoting R & R at 2). Although Plaintiff argues he never made that statement, his own sworn complaint in this case negates that argument. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he "ran out the back door" of his "mother['s] house" after he saw police investigators arrive. ECF No. 1 at 3. The Court summarily overrules Plaintiff's first objection as meritless.

         In his second objection, Plaintiff contends he has proven that he was arrested without warrants. Pl.'s Objs. at 1. Plaintiff's contention appears to relate to the Magistrate Judge's finding that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), bars Plaintiff's causes of action for false arrest and false imprisonment. See R & R at 4-5. The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Heck bars both claims because Plaintiff's success on them would necessarily imply the invalidity of his arrest and subsequent convictions, which have not been overturned or otherwise called into question. See Young v. Nickols, 413 F.3d 416, 417 (4th Cir. 2005) ("Heck . . . bars a ...

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