United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Terry D. Davis, Jr., #197349, Plaintiff,
The State; Alan Wilson; John W. McIntosh; Mary S. Williams; Lauren Maurice; J. William Weeks; and Aimee J. Zmroczek, in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
V. HODGES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
D. Davis, Jr. (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se
and in forma pauperis, is an inmate incarcerated at Livesay
Correctional Institution of the South Carolina Department of
Corrections. He filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against the State of South Carolina, South
Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney
General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Attorney General Mary S.
Williams, prosecutor Lauren Maurice, prosecutor J. Williams
Week, and defense attorney Aimee J. Zmroczek
“Defendants”). Pursuant to the provisions of 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d)
(D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such
complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations
to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the
undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the
complaint in this case without prejudice and without issuance
and service of process.
Factual and Procedural Background
alleges he appeared before Judge Dickerson for a
post-conviction relief (“PCR”) hearing on January
25, 2012. [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Plaintiff claims Zmroczek
deceived Plaintiff and defrauded the Court of Appeals when
she introduced “a fabricate[d] transcript of record by
court reporter Cheryl L. Young into the post-conviction
hearing.” Id. Plaintiff says he wrote Young
and asked when she transcribed the trial proceedings
“on behalf of Lisa H. Davenport.” Id.
Plaintiff states that Young told him she had not transcribed
the hearing and that her records reflected a transcript had
not been made. Id. Plaintiff claims he inquired
about the transcript again, and Young again responded that
she did not transcribe his proceeding. Id. at 6.
Plaintiff says he contacted Young a third time, and she
responded on October 22, 2012, that “she was unassigned
at the time and would have no knowledge about any proceeding
heard at that time.” Id. Plaintiff seeks
declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. at
Standard of Review
filed this complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal
court without prepaying the administrative costs of
proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous
or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Allison v.
Kyle, 66 F.3d 71, 73 (5th Cir. 1995).
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d
1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal district court is
charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro
se litigant to allow the development of a potentially
meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the
plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true.
Merriweather v. Reynolds, 586 F.Supp.2d 548, 554
(D.S.C. 2008). The mandated liberal construction afforded to
pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read
the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff
could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement
of liberal construction does not mean that the court can
ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that
set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district
court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d
387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).
Sovereign Immunity (State of South Carolina)
Eleventh Amendment bars suits by citizens against
non-consenting states brought either in state or federal
court. See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706,
712‒13 (1999); Seminole Tribe of Florida v.
Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996). Such immunity extends
to arms of the state, see Pennhurst State School &
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101‒ 02 (1984),
and also bars this court from granting injunctive relief
against the state or its agencies. See Alabama v.
Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978); Seminole Tribe of
Florida, 517 U.S. at 58. While sovereign immunity does
not bar suit where a state has given consent to be sued, or
where Congress abrogates the sovereign immunity of a state,
neither of those exceptions apply in the instant
case. Accordingly, the state of South Carolina
is entitled to summary dismissal from the action.
Insufficient Factual Allegations/Prosecutorial Immunity
(Wilson, McIntosh, Williams, Maurice, and Week)
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the court must
liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States
Supreme Court has made it clear that a plaintiff must do more
than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677‒78 (2009);
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible
on its face, and the reviewing court need only accept as true
the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678‒79.
Plaintiff's complaint provides no factual allegations to
demonstrate how Wilson, McIntosh, Williams, Maurice, and Week
(“Prosecutor Defendants”) violated his
extent Plaintiff sues Prosecutor Defendants for their actions
associated with the prosecution of Plaintiff's criminal
charges, they are entitled to summary dismissal. Prosecutors
have absolute immunity for activities in or connected with
judicial proceedings, such as a criminal trial, bond
hearings, bail hearings, grand jury proceedings, and pretrial
hearings. See Buckley v. Fitzsimmons,509 U.S. 259
(1993); Dababnah v. ...