United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
Ras. Stefen E. Harris, Plaintiff,
Warden Eagleton; Asso. Warden Bradshaw; Chaplain Wilks; Capt. Kelly; Director Byars, being sued in their individual and official capacities as an employee in the scope of official duties and Public Duty Rule; S.C. Dept. of Corrections, being sued as an agency, Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
M. Herlong, Jr. Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation
of United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett, made in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil
Rule 73.02 of the District of South Carolina. Ras. Stefen E.
Harris (“Harris”), a state prisoner, proceeding
pro se, alleges several claims against the Defendants, the
crux of which appears to be a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
retaliation claim. In her Report and Recommendation,
Magistrate Judge Gossett recommends granting the
Defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
Factual and Procedural Background
is currently incarcerated at the Kershaw Correctional
Institution (“KCI”), a South Carolina Department
of Corrections (“SCDC”) facility. Harris was
formerly housed at the Turbeville Correctional Institution
(“TCI”), another SCDC facility in which the
alleged conduct occurred. In his complaint, Harris raises
claims regarding his right to exercise his religion.
Specifically, Harris alleges that he and three other inmates
applied and were approved to establish a Rastafarian worship
service, but that his subsequent “lock up” and
transfer from TCI to KCI were in retaliation for him
practicing his Rastafarian faith. (Not. Removal Ex. 1
(Compl.), ECF No. 1-1.)
filed his complaint on May 1, 2015, in the Court of Common
Pleas for Richland County, South Carolina. (Id. Ex.
1 (Compl.), ECF No. 1-1.) On October 8, 2015, the Defendants
removed the case. (Id., ECF No. 1.) The Defendants
filed a motion for summary judgment on February 12, 2016.
(Def. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 27.) On May 16, 2016, Harris
responded in opposition. (Pl. Resp. Opp’n Mot. Summ.
J., ECF No. 34.) The Defendants replied on June 6, 2016.
(Reply Supp. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 49.) The magistrate judge
filed her Report and Recommendation on July 13, 2016,
recommending the Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment be granted. (Report & Recommendation 1, 12, ECF
No. 57.) On August 3, 2016, Harris filed objections.
(Objections, ECF No. 59.) This matter is now ripe for review.
Discussion of the Law
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate only “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). In deciding whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is
to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn
in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes
over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary
will not be counted.” Id. at 248.
litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material
fact through mere speculation or the building of one
inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769
F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). “Where the record taken
as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find
for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is
appropriate.” Monahan v. County of
Chesterfield, 95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996).
“[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Ballenger v. N.C. Agric.
Extension Serv., 815 F.2d 1001, 1005 (4th Cir. 1987).
filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. Objections
to the Report and Recommendation must be specific. Failure to
file specific objections constitutes a waiver of a
party’s right to further judicial review, including
appellate review, if the recommendation is accepted by the
district judge. See United States v. Schronce, 727
F.2d 91, 94 & n.4 (4th Cir. 1984). In the absence of
specific objections to the Report and Recommendation
of the magistrate judge, this court is not required to give
any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See
Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Upon
review, the court finds that most of Harris’s
objections are non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive
portions of the magistrate judge’s Report and
Recommendation, or merely restate his claims. However, the
court was able to glean three specific objections.
Harris objects to the magistrate judge’s
recommendation, because he alleges it is based on hearsay
referenced in the affidavit of Defendant Linda Bradshaw
(“Bradshaw”). (Objections 1-3, ECF No. 59.)
However, upon review, Bradshaw’s affidavit is her sworn
testimony of the underlying facts, and does not contain
hearsay. For example, Harris objects to Bradshaw’s
statement in her affidavit that she “received verbal
complaints about Harris from other inmates.” (Def. Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. 2 (Bradshaw Aff. ¶ 22), ECF No. 27-2.)
However, this statement is not hearsay, because it is not
offered for “the truth of the matter asserted.”
Fed.R.Evid. 801(c)(2). Rather, this statement is offered for
the limited purpose of explaining the government’s
legitimate penological interest in transferring Harris from
TCI to KCI. See United States v. Wackman, No.
08-4435, 2010 WL 23056, at *2 (4th Cir. Jan. 4, 2010)
(unpublished) (citing United States v. Love, 767
F.2d 1052, 1063 (4th Cir. 1985)). Based on the foregoing,
Harris’s objection is without merit.
Harris objects to the magistrate judge’s finding that
he failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation.
(Objections 3, ECF No. 59.) The magistrate judge, citing
Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74-75 (4th Cir. 1994),
noted that bare or conclusory assertions of retaliation are
insufficient to establish a retaliation claim. (Report &
Recommendation 4, ECF No. 57.) However, in his objections,
Harris again failed to provide any evidence or factual
allegations that support his conclusory assertion of
retaliation. Thus, the court finds that Harris failed to
establish a prima facie case of retaliation. Based on the
foregoing, Harris’s objection is without merit.
Harris objects to the magistrate judge’s finding that
Defendant SCDC, as an agency of the state, is not a person
within the meaning of § 1983 and thus not a proper
defendant. (Objections 5, ECF No. 59; Report &
Recommendation 10, ECF No. 57.) More specifically, Harris
argues that because SCDC is a recipient of federal funds, it
is subject to suit under § 1983. (Objections 5, ECF No.
59.) However, contrary to Harris’s assertion, even if
agencies of the state receive federal funds, such agencies
are not persons within the meaning of § 1983. See,
e.g., Roach v. Burke, 825 F.Supp. 116, 118
(N.D. W.Va. 1993) (finding that a correctional facility that
was funded in large part by state and federal funds was ...