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LaSure v. S.C. Mental Health

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

September 20, 2016

Alfred William LaSure, Plaintiff,
S.C. Mental Health; and Cynthia Helff, Program Director, and John McGill, both in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.


          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Alfred William LaSure, a state civilly committed person proceeding pro se, has filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. The matter is before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.[1] See R & R, ECF No. 82. The Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismiss this case. R & R at 14. Plaintiff has filed objections to the R & R. See ECF No. 84.

         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).


         Plaintiff is a civilly committed person in the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (“SCDMH”) pursuant to the South Carolina Sexually Violent Predator Act (“SVPA”), SC Code Ann. §§ 44-48-10 through -170. Plaintiff has filed an amended complaint, with attached exhibits, against the SCDMH, John McGill, and Cynthia Helff (collectively, “Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging he has been subjected to several unconstitutional conditions of confinement including: (a) restriction of his canteen privileges; (b) placement on therapeutic room restriction; and (c) being restrained in shackles and handcuffs during transport. See Pl.'s Am. Compl. & Exhs., ECF No. 8. Plaintiff also alleges a deprivation of property claim and challenges the constitutionality of the SVPA, claiming it is punitive in nature. Id.


         The Magistrate Judge recommends granting summary judgment as to all three Defendants and dismissing this case. R & R at 14. Plaintiff has filed objections to the R & R.[3] See Pl.'s Objs., ECF No. 84. Defendants have filed a response to Plaintiff's objections, and Plaintiff has filed a reply[4] to Defendants' response. See ECF Nos. 85 & 87.

         I. Defendants SCDMH and McGill

         As an initial matter, the Court notes Plaintiff does not specifically object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that Defendants SCDMH and McGill be dismissed. See R & R at 9-11. Finding no clear error, the Court adopts this recommendation and will dismiss these two defendants from this action. See Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby, 718 F.2d at 199-200.

         II. Defendant Helff

         Plaintiff does object to the Magistrate Judge's discussion regarding Defendant Helff, his conditions of confinement claims (those involving restriction of his canteen privileges and use of restraints), and his deprivation of property claim.[5] See Pl.'s Objs. at 3-4.

         A. Conditions of Confinement Claims

         1. Canteen Privileges

         Applying the professional judgment standard articulated in Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 324 (1982), the Magistrate Judge has concluded Defendant Helff is not subject to liability as to Plaintiff's canteen privileges claim. See R & R at 11-14. In Youngberg, the Supreme Court recognized that a person who is involuntarily committed to a state hospital retains constitutionally protected liberty interests, and that protection of those interests generally requires the exercise of professional judgment. 457 U.S. at 319-23. The Supreme Court held a ‚Äúdecision, if made by a professional, is presumptively valid; liability may be imposed only when the decision by the professional is such a substantial departure from accepted ...

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