United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
RONALD I. PAUL, Plaintiff,
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATIONS; PAUL D. DE HOLCZER, individually and as a partner of the law firm of Moses, Koon & Brackett, PC; MICHAEL H. QUINN, individually and as a senior lawyer of Quinn Law Firm, LLC, ; J. CHARLES ORMOND, JR., individually and as a partner of the Law Firm of Holler, Dennis, Corbett, Ormond, Plante & Garner; OSCAR K. RUCKER, in his individual capacity as Director, Rights of Way South Carolina Department of Transportation; MACIE M. GRESHAM, in her individual capacity as Eastern Region Right of Way Program Manager South Carolina Department of Transportation; NATALIE J. MOORE, in her individual capacity as Assistant Chief Counsel, South Carolina Department of Transportation, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the court on Plaintiffs pro se
complaint, requesting declaratory judgment and money damages
based on his claims of civil conspiracy, denial of due
process, denial of equal protection, and inverse condemnation
against the above captioned defendants (collectively,
"Defendants"). ECF No. 1.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
73.02 (B)(2)(e), DSC, this matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Paige J. Gossett for pre-trial proceedings.
On September 13, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report
and Recommendation ("Report"). ECF No. 10. The
Report recommends summary dismissal of Plaintiff s Complaint
because the instant Complaint, providing the same factual
allegations as his previous four, fails to adequately allege
facts in support of any of his claims. The Magistrate Judge
advised Plaintiff of the procedures and requirements for
filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences
if he failed to do so. On September 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed
objections to the Report. ECF No. 12.
reasons set forth below, the court overrules Plaintiffs
objections and adopts the Report as supplemented here. The
court, therefore, dismisses the action without prejudice and
without issuance and service of process.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976).
The court is charged with making a de novo
determination of any portion of the Report and Recommendation
of the Magistrate Judge to which a specific objection is
made. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in
part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or
recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with
instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). The court
reviews only for clear error in the absence of an objection.
See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins.
Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating that
"in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district
court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must
'only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the
face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation'") (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory
explained in the Report, this is the fifth civil action
brought in this court by Plaintiff, Ronald I. Paul
("Paul"), challenging events surrounding a 2002
condemnation of commercial property in which Paul held a
leasehold interest. The complaints in the five actions vary
in some respects, but allege nearly identical facts in
support of Paul's central allegations: that various
individuals involved in the condemnation proceedings
conspired to deprive Paul of his constitutional rights to due
process, equal protection, jury trial, and to present an
expert witness, resulting in the taking of Paul's
leasehold property without just compensation.
prior actions were dismissed without prejudice, the first on
Defendants' motion and the remainder sua sponte
prior to service. Paul v. De Holczer, C/A No.
3:15-2178-CMC-PJG, 2015 WL 4545974 (D.S.C. July 28, 2015)
("Paul IV"); Paul v. S.C. Dep't of
Tramp., C/A No. 3:13-1852-CMC-PJG, 2014 WL 5025815
(D.S.C. Oct. 8, 2014) ("Paul III"); Paul v.
S.C. Dep't. of Tramp., C/A No. 3:13-367-CMC-PJG,
2013 WL 2180736 (D.S.C. May 20, 2013) ("Paul II");
Paulv. S.C. Dep't of Tramp., C/A No.
3:12-1036-CMC-PJG, 2013 WL 461349 (D.S.C. Feb. 6, 2013)
("Paul I"). The most recent two dismissals were
summarily affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Paul IV, aff'd, 631 F.App'x 197 (4th Cir.
2016); Paul III, aff'd, 599 F.App'x 108 (4th
light of this history and the detailed nature of the Reports
and corresponding Orders in Paul's prior cases, the court
overrules Paul's objections to the extent they challenge
the Report's failure to set out the reasons for dismissal
of repetitive allegations and claims in any greater detail.
correct in noting that the prior dismissals were without
prejudice and, consequently, do not preclude him from filing
a new action against the previously named Defendants. That
the dismissals were without prejudice does not, however,
render them without meaning. The dismissal Orders (and
incorporated Reports) in Paul I, Paul II, Paul III, and Paul
IV stand as authority for the proposition that the
allegations in each of those cases failed for reasons
explained in each of those Orders (and Reports). It follows
that the prior decisions are on-point authority for dismissal
of Paul's present complaint to the extent it merely
repeats prior allegations and claims found in his prior
complaints. This is particularly true as to Paul III and Paul
IV, both of which the Fourth Circuit summarily affirmed
"for the reasons stated by the district court."
Paul III, qff'd, 599 F.App'x 108; Paul IV,
qff'd, 631 F.App'x 197. Under these
circumstances, the Report properly relied on prior rulings as
to repetitive allegations and claims.
Paul's objections request remand to the Magistrate Judge
for specific rulings or ask the district judge to
"clearly address and clearly rule on the elements of a
civil conspiracy." ECF No. 12 at 5. However, the
Magistrate Judge did set out the elements of a civil
conspiracy, and found that Paul's conclusory factual
allegations did not plausibly set forth a claim for
conspiracy. ECF No. 10 at 4-5. This court agrees with the
Magistrate Judge and overrules Paul's objection as to
then objects to the Report as he argues that the Magistrate
Judge did not address and rule "on Plaintiffs first
cause of action seeking a declaratory judgment." ECF No.
12 at 12. However, as noted above, the Magistrate Judge has
previously ruled on Paul's allegations that form the
basis for his requested declaratory judgment, and explained
her ruling regarding the civil conspiracy (which forms the
basis of Paul's declaratory judgment claim) in this
Report. In addition, this court specifically addressed the
declaratory judgment claim in its Order in Paul IV,
dismissing the claim on two alternative grounds: as it relied
on the legal theories advanced in Paul's other claims, or
as an unstated contract-based theory. See Paul IV,
ECF No. 15. Paul's current Complaint shows that he
intends to rely on his civil conspiracy claim to support a
declaratory judgment. That theory has been considered and
ruled upon by this court. Therefore, the court overrules
Paul's objection to the recommended dismissal of his
declaratory judgment claim.
also objects to dismissal of his inverse condemnation claim.
However named, this claim rests on the same factual
allegations as his other claims and has been previously
argued and ruled upon, though differently presented, in the
previous cases, specifically in Paul IV. Any claim under the
Fifth Amendment ...