United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Elton Hewins, Plaintiff, represented by Thomas Chase Samples,
Jackson Lewis PC.
Loftis, Defendant, represented by Knox L. Haynsworth, III,
Brown Massey Evans McLeod and Haynsworth.
Charles Cothran, Defendant, represented by Knox L.
Haynsworth, III, Brown Massey Evans McLeod and Haynsworth.
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, DENYING
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO AMEND THEIR ANSWER TO ASSERT THE
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS AS AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE, AND
DISMISSING WITHOUT PREJUDICE WITH LEAVE TO REFILE
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO AMEND TO ASSERT THE STATUTORY CAP
ON ATTORNEY'S FEES
GEIGER LEWIS, District Judge.
case was filed as a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. The matter is
before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation
(Report) of the United States Magistrate Judge suggesting
that Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and
Defendants' motion for summary judgment be denied. The
Report was made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local
Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
those portions of the Report to which specific objection is
made, and the Court 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).
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on May 19, 2016, and the
Clerk of Court entered Plaintiff's objections on June 8,
2016, ECF No. 63, at which time Plaintiff was proceeding pro
se. On June 9, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion
to appoint counsel, appointing Mr. T. Chase Samples from the
Greenville, South Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. as
Plaintiff's counsel in this matter. ECF No. 64.
Defendants filed their objections to the Report, reply to
Plaintiff's objections, and motion to amend on June 20,
2016. ECF Nos. 67, 68, 69, 70. Plaintiff filed a reply to
Defendants' objections and a response in opposition to
Defendants' motion to amend their answer on July 8, 2016.
ECF Nos. 72, 73. Defendants then filed replies to both of
Plaintiff's filings on July 14, 2016. ECF Nos. 75, 76.
The Court has reviewed the parties' objections, but finds
them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment
first to Plaintiff's objections to the Report, Plaintiff
initially objects to the Report because "it fails to
fully address his motion for summary judgment." ECF No.
63 at 1. Plaintiff asserts that the Magistrate Judge
neglected to consider the affidavit he attached to his motion
for summary judgment. But this is simply not so. The
Magistrate Judge refers to Plaintiff's affidavit
throughout the Report, in fact using Plaintiff's
affidavit to identify several of Plaintiff's
constitutional claims against Defendants. Further, the
Magistrate Judge's interpretation of Plaintiff's
affidavit ultimately saves this case from being dismissed via
Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See,
e.g., ECF No. 53 at 9. Therefore, for these reasons, the
Court will overrule Plaintiff's first objection.
Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation that his motion for summary judgment be denied
because, as the Report notes, Defendants' failed to
respond to Plaintiff's Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendment claims. ECF No. 63 at 1-2. In Plaintiff's view,
Defendants' failure to respond to these constitutional
claims should be grounds for granting summary judgment in his
favor. Id. "Although the failure of a party to
respond to a summary judgment motion may leave uncontroverted
those facts established by the motion, the moving party must
still show that the uncontroverted facts entitle the party to
a judgment as a matter of law." Custer v. Pan Am.
Life Ins. Co., 12 F.3d 410, 416 (4th Cir. 1993)
(internal quotation marks omitted). As the Magistrate Judge
found and as this Court holds, genuine issues of material
fact remain as to Plaintiff's claims, and he is thus
unentitled to summary judgment at this juncture. See
ECF No. 53 at 16 n.4. Accordingly, the Court will also
overrule this objection.
Plaintiff objects to the Report "because it fails to
show that the defendants have to establish why they believed
Plaintiff was in possession of drugs to justify the extended
detention beyond the scope of the traffic stop, for the
purpose of searching for drugs." ECF No. 63 at 2-4.
Although it is unclear how this contention advances
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, as already
observed, there remain genuine issues of material fact on
Plaintiff's constitutional claims. When a motion to
suppress is allowed, the criminal defendant cannot obtain an
estoppel effect in a later civil case because estoppel cannot
be applied against a party who had no ability to participate
in the first litigation. See Allen v.
McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 95 (1980) (noting that
"collateral estoppel cannot apply when the party against
whom the earlier decision is asserted did not have a full and
fair opportunity to litigate that issue in the earlier
case" (internal quotation marks omitted)). The Court
will thus overrule this objection as well.
fourth and final objection states that the Report neglects to
consider the fact that Defendants "completely failed to
address the alleged drugs that never made it to Court for
trial purposes." Id. at 4. However, contrary to
Plaintiff's assertion, the Magistrate Judge notes that
Defendants' motion for summary judgment fails to address
the merits of Plaintiff's constitutional claims and thus
recommends denial of Defendants' motion for summary
judgment as to Plaintiff's constitutional claims. ECF No.
53 at 11; see Custer, 12 F.3d at 416
(holding that the moving party must still show his
entitlement to judgment as a matter of law where the
nonmoving party fails to respond to a motion for summary
judgment). Again, as noted above, because there remain
genuine issues of material fact on Plaintiff's claims,
the Court will overrule Plaintiff's fourth objection.
Consequently, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
will be denied.
Court will now turn to Defendants' objections to the
Report. First, Defendants insist that the Magistrate Judge
erred in finding that Plaintiff asserted constitutional
claims against Defendants in his Complaint and Amended
Complaint. ECF No. 69 at 4-5. Rather, Defendants argue that
the Magistrate Judge drew Plaintiff's constitutional
claims from the affidavit Plaintiff filed in support of his
motion for summary judgment. Id.
contention is entirely meritless, as both Plaintiff's
Complaint and his Amended Complaint assert constitutional
claims. It is uncontroverted that pleadings of a pro se party
are to be liberally construed by the Court. Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Even ignoring this less
stringent standard, however, Plaintiff unquestionably raises
constitutional violations against Defendants Cothran and
Loftis in his Complaint, his Motion to Amend the Complaint,
and his Amended Complaint, which the Magistrate Judge ordered
to be consolidated and served on Defendants as one pleading.
ECF No. 40. Specifically, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment, Eighth Amendment,
and Fourteenth Amendment against Defendants Cothran and
Loftis. ECF No. 1-7 at 1. Consequently, the Magistrate Judge
properly recommended denial of Defendants' motion for
summary judgment as to these claims, and the Court will thus
overrule Defendants' first objection.
Defendants object to the Report because they purportedly
"are entitled to summary judgment pursuant to qualified
immunity and there is no evidence that any constitutional
right which Plaintiff claims was violated had been clearly
established so as to defeat Defendants' qualified
immunity." ECF No. 69 at 5 (emphasis omitted).
Defendants aver that the state of the law regarding the
circumstances under which traffic stops could be extended was
unclear at the time of Plaintiff's stop on September 15,
2009. Id. at 7. Defendants notably focus on the
length of Plaintiff's traffic stop-25 to 35 minutes-in