United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Kay F. Paschal, PLAINTIFF
Leon Lott; Stan Smith; Howard Hughes; Heidi Scott a/k/a Heidi Jackson; all in their individual and official capacities; Richland County, South Carolina, DEFENDANTS
L. Wooten, Chief United States District Judge.
Kay F. Paschal, an attorney, filed this civil rights action
against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No.
1. Plaintiff asserts Defendants violated her Constitutional
rights during the prosecution of criminal charges against her
in Lexington and Richland Counties, South Carolina, arising
from Plaintiff's use of an allegedly forged power of
matter is before the Court for review of the detailed Report
and Recommendation (R&R) filed by United States
Magistrate Judge Paige Gossett to whom this case was
previously assigned pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), DSC.
ECF No. 59. In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge analyzed the
case both factually and legally and she recommends granting
summary judgment to Defendants as to Plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment claims on the ground of qualified immunity, and on
Plaintiff's Sixth Amendment claims because they fail as a
matter of law. Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R and
Defendants replied. ECF Nos. 62, 67.
District Court held a hearing in this matter on August 29,
2016. Counsel for all parties were present: S. Jahue Moore
for Plaintiff, and Robert D. Garfield for Defendants. The
parties also submitted supplemental authorities after the
hearing. ECF Nos. 71, 72. This matter is now ripe for
reviewing the R&R, the Court applies the following
The magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to the
Court, to which any party may file written objections . . . .
The Court is not bound by the recommendation of the
magistrate judge but, instead, retains responsibility for the
final determination. The Court is required to make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
findings or recommendation as to which an objection is made.
However, the Court is not required to review, under a de novo
or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of
the magistrate judge as to those portions of the report and
recommendation to which no objections are addressed. While
the level of scrutiny entailed by the Court's review of
the Report thus depends on whether or not objections have
been filed, in either case the Court is free, after review,
to accept, reject, or modify any of the magistrate
judge's findings or recommendations.
Wallace v. Hous. Auth. of City of Columbia, 791
F.Supp. 137, 138 (D.S.C. 1992) (citations omitted).
light of this standard, the Court has carefully considered
the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, the record in
this case, the applicable caselaw, and the arguments advanced
by the parties. For the reasons set forth below and in the
R&R, the Court accepts the R&R and grants
Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
R&R, the Magistrate Judge set forth in detail the
relevant facts viewed in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff. ECF No. 59 at 1-6. As the Magistrate Judge
observed, Plaintiff's Constitutional claims are
essentially that Defendants arrested her, searched her home,
and seized her property without probable cause. Id. at
Magistrate Judge observed that the specific question in this
case is whether “a reasonable officer in
[Defendants'] position could have believed that probable
cause existed.” ECF No. 59 at 9 (citing Torchinsky
v. Siwinski, 942 F.2d 257, 261 (4th Cir. 1991)). As the
Fourth Circuit has explained, the Court applies an objective,
not subjective, analysis of this issue. See, e.g., Graham
v. Gagnon, ___F.3d ___, 2016 WL 4011156, at *6 (4th Cir.
2016) (“Because probable cause is an objective test, we
examine the facts within the knowledge of arresting officers
to determine whether they provide a probability on which
reasonable and prudent persons would act; we do not examine
the subjective beliefs of the arresting officers to determine
whether they thought that the facts constituted probable
cause.” (citing United States v. Gray, 137
F.3d 765, 769 (4th Cir. 1998)).
stated in the R&R, there is extensive Fourth Circuit
caselaw recognizing that officers are generally entitled to
rely on the opinions of prosecutors and findings by a neutral
and detached magistrates, for example: Wadkins v.
Arnold, 214 F.3d 535 (4th Cir. 2000); Porterfield v.
Lott, 156 F.3d 563, 568 (4th Cir. 1998); and
Torchinsky, 942 F.2d 257. To demonstrate that an
officer seized an individual pursuant to an arrest warrant
without probable cause, a plaintiff must show that the
officer “deliberately or with a reckless disregard for
the truth made material false statements in his affidavit or
omitted from that affidavit material facts with the intent to
make, or with reckless disregard of whether they thereby
made, the affidavit misleading.” Miller v. Prince
George's Cty., 475 F.3d 621, 627 (4th Cir. 2007)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In light of
these standards, the Magistrate Judge addressed the claims
against each Defendant in As noted in the R&R, however,
these asserted violations of state law do not implicate
rights protected by the United States Constitution and
therefore are not remediable under Section 1983. See
Street v. Surdyka, 492 F.2d 368, 371 (4th Cir. 1974)
(“[N]ot all violations of state law rise to the level
of constitutional tort.”).turn.
Magistrate Judge first addressed Plaintiff's claim
against Lt. Heidi Scott, the Richland County investigator who
obtained search and arrest warrants against Plaintiff in
Lexington County based on Plaintiff's use of an allegedly
forged power of attorney. Id. at 7-13. The
Magistrate Judge summarized the key actions taken by Scott
during her investigation, which are supported by the
uncontradicted evidence of record, as follows:
Defendant Scott conducted a months' long investigation
and consulted with two veteran prosecutors from two different
judicial circuits who both opined that she had probable cause
to seek a warrant for various offenses. The affidavit
supporting the warrant application, although brief, sets
forth the affiant's belief that the plaintiff used a
fraudulent power of attorney to purchase a minivan with ...