United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Bobby C. Jenkins, Plaintiff,
Mr. Bittinger; Eric S. Hooper; Charles West, Walter Martin, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (PARTIAL SUMMARY
Kaymani D. West United States Magistrate Judge
a civil action filed pro se by a state prison inmate.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule
73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized
to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to
submit findings and recommendations to the district court.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e); 1915A (as soon
as possible after docketing, district courts should review
prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to
Jenkins (“Plaintiff”) alleges he was subjected to
a false disciplinary violation charge for Inciting/Creating a
Disturbance as the result of an encounter with Defendant
Hooper on March 1, 2016 (“the March 1 incident”).
Compl. 9, ECF No. 1. He asserts that Defendant West filed
that charge and several other charges (striking and
threatening an employee),  and that Defendant Bittinger improperly
“stacked” seven charges against him and conducted
an unconstitutional disciplinary hearing that resulted in the
loss of good-time credits along with the imposition of other
sanctions. Id. at 15. Plaintiff asserts Defendant
Hooper did not follow South Carolina Department of
Corrections (“SCDC”) policy when he handcuffed
Plaintiff in the Alpha area of Evans Correctional
Institution, and that he used excessive force by spraying
chemical munitions in Plaintiff's face and using
“palm heal [sic] strikes.” Id. at 10.
Plaintiff asks for declaratory and injunctive relief
including removal of the disciplinary convictions from his
prison record and placement into general population. He also
requests compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro se
Complaint filed in this case. This review has been conducted
pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform
Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents:
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden,
Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995);
Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983);
Boyce v. Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d
1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and 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). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se
complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be
true. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 630
n.1 (4th Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal
construction does not mean that this court can ignore a clear
failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a
claim currently cognizable in a federal district court.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387,
391 (4th Cir. 1990). Even under this less stringent standard,
the Complaint filed in this case is subject to partial
summary dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
the Complaint is subject to partial summary dismissal as to
Defendant Martin because a close review of the pleading fails
to disclose any allegations of any kind against this
Defendant. There is no mention of Defendant Martin anywhere
in the body of the Complaint and the only references to him
are in the caption and on one of the pages provided for a
listing of Defendants. ECF No. 1 at 3. Under the provisions
of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, more specifically 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this court should dismiss an
action filed by a prisoner which is “frivolous”
or “fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted.” Because there are no allegations of any
wrongdoing by Defendant Martin, Plaintiff's Complaint
fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted as to
this Defendant. See Potter v. Clark, 497 F.2d 1206,
1207 (7th Cir. 1974) (“Where a complaint alleges no
specific act or conduct on the part of the defendant and the
complaint is silent as to the defendant except for his name
appearing in the caption, the complaint is properly
dismissed.”); Newkirk v. Circuit Court of City of
Hampton, No. 3:14CV372-HEH, 2014 WL 4072212 (E.D. Va.
Aug. 14, 2014) (complaint subject to summary dismissal where
no factual allegations against named defendants within the
body of the pleading); see also Krych v. Hvass, 83
F. App'x 854, 855 (8th Cir. 2003); Black v.
Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1401 n.8 (7th Cir. 1994); Walker
v. Hodge, 4 F.3d 991, *2 n.2 (5th Cir. 1993); Banks
v. Scott, 3:13CV363, 2014 WL 5430987, at *2 (E.D. Va.
Oct. 24, 2014). In absence of substantive allegations of
wrongdoing against the named Defendant, there is nothing from
which this court can liberally construe any type of plausible
cause of action arising from the Complaint against him.
See Cochran v. Morris, 73 F.3d 1310 (4th Cir. 1996)
(statute allowing dismissal of in forma pauperis
claims encompasses complaints that are either legally or
factually baseless); Weller v. Dep't of Social
Servs., 901 F.2d at 389 n.2 (dismissal proper where
there were no allegations to support claim).
all of Plaintiff's allegations against Defendants
Bittinger and West relate to their participation in the
filing and prosecution of disciplinary violation charges that
resulted in convictions and loss of good-time credits along
with other sanctions. As a result, Plaintiff's claims
against these two Defendants, as well as his allegations of
false charges against Defendant Hooper, are not properly
raised in this § 1983 action. It is settled that
“habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state
prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his
confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even
though such a claim may come within the literal terms of
§ 1983.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477,
481 (1994) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S.
475 (1973)). Cf. Muhammad v. Close, 540
U.S. 749, 755 (2004) (§ 1983 may be used to challenge
disciplinary procedures where no accrued/earned good-time
credits are taken as a sanction). The holdings of
Heck and Preiser, insofar as applicable to
challenges to prison disciplinary procedures under which
forfeited good-time credits may be restored were confirmed by
the United States Supreme Court in Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 (2005). Referencing both
Heck and Preiser, along with Edwards v.
Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997) and Wolf v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), the Wilkinson
These cases . . . taken together, indicate that a state
prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior
invalidation) - no matter the relief sought (damages or
equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner's
suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison
proceedings) - if success in that action would
necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its
Thus, in Preiser we held the prisoners' §
1983 action barred because the relief it sought - restoration
of good-time credits, which would shorten the prisoners'
incarceration and hasten the date on which they would be
transferred to supervised release - was available in habeas.
544 U.S. at 82, 86 (citations omitted); see, e.g.,
Cabbagestalk v. Hardin, No. 5:13-cv-2974-RMG, 2014 WL
2881930 (D.S.C. June 25, 2014) (§ 1983 challenge to
prison disciplinary process barred by Heck);
Battle v. Eagleton, 8:07-cv-1841-GRA-BHH, 2008 WL
2952349, at *5 (D.S.C. July 28, 2008) (“A prisoner
cannot bring a § 1983 action challenging a disciplinary
proceeding resulting in the loss of good-time credits if the
possible relief would necessarily imply the invalidity of the
punishment imposed, unless the disciplinary action was
previously invalidated.”). Similarly, Plaintiff has no
actionable constitutional claim against either Defendant West
or Hooper based on his allegations of their filing
“false” disciplinary charges. See, e.g.,
Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d 949, 962-63 (2d Cir. 1986)
(“The act of filing false disciplinary charges does not
itself violate a prisoner's constitutional
rights.”); McClary v. Fowlkes, No. 1:07CV1080
(LO/TCB), 2008 WL 3992637, *4 (E.D. Va. 2008) (finding inmate
has no constitutional right against being falsely accused of
conduct that may result in deprivation of protected liberty
interest). Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint should be
partially summarily dismissed as to both Defendants West and
Bittinger because Plaintiff's allegations against them
should be raised in a habeas petition and not in a §
1983 complaint. Also, the Complaint should be partially
summarily dismissed to the extent that it asserts a
“false charge” claim against Defendant Hooper.
Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a plausible
constitutional claim and should be partially summarily
dismissed to the extent that it asserts Defendant Hooper did
not follow SCDC policy in connection with the placing of
restraints on Plaintiff in the Alpha area and Defendants
Bittinger and West did not follow SCDC policy in connection
with the filing and determination of disciplinary charges
arising from the March 1, 2016 incident. An allegation
that an SCDC defendant did not follow the institution's
policies or procedures, standing alone, does not amount to a
constitutional violation. See United States v.
Caceres, 440 U.S. 741 (1978) (IRS agent failed to follow
IRS rule re: electronic surveillance; no exclusionary rule in
criminal action); see also Riccio v. Cnty. of Fairfax,
Va., 907 F.2d 1459, 1469 (4th Cir. 1990) (if state law
grants more procedural rights than the Constitution requires,
a state's failure to abide by that law is not a federal
due process ...