United States District Court, D. South Carolina
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
Williams (“Plaintiff”) is a prisoner currently
confined at the Walden Correctional Institution, part of the
South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”)
prison system. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges he was not
provided with due process in connection with a disciplinary
action arising from a fight among fellow prisoners. Compl. 6,
ECF No. 1. He sues SCDC and all officers involved and the
Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”). He also
claims that he was subjected to malicious prosecution in
state court and sues the SCDC officer who allegedly submitted
a false affidavit for the arrest warrant (Brockenberry) and
the county magistrate who issued the warrant (Timmons).
Plaintiff also names two fellow prisoners as Defendants (John
Carter, Newsome) and alleges they conspired with Defendant
Brockenberry to maliciously prosecute him by providing false
statements during the investigation. Id. at 5-6.
According to Plaintiff, the state criminal charges were
dismissed/nolle prossed and the disciplinary violation
conviction was overturned at Step 1. Id. at 5, 9.
Plaintiff asks for damages from each Defendant in the amount
of $20, 000.00.
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. §
Complaint is subject to partial summary dismissal insofar as
it seeks to hold SCDC liable for damages in this court
because the state agency is entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. The Eleventh Amendment to the United States
Constitution divests this court of jurisdiction to entertain
a suit for damages brought against the State of South
Carolina or its integral parts. As a state agency, SCDC is
considered an integral part of the State of South Carolina.
See S.C. Code Ann. § 24-1-30 (statute creating
the agency of Department of Corrections); Fla. Dep't.
of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U.S. 670, 684
(1982) (state agencies are arms of the state and entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity); Ram Ditta v. Md. Nat'l
Capital Park & Planning Comm'n, 822 F.2d 456,
457 (4th Cir. 1987) (same); Laudman v. Padula, No.
3:12-2382-SB, 2013 WL 5469977, at *7 (D.S.C. Sept. 30, 2013)
(dismissing claims against state agency). The Eleventh
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced
or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of
another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign
See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999); College
Savs. Bank v. Fla. Prepaid Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S.
666 (1999); Bellamy v. Borders, 727 F.Supp. 247,
248-50 (D.S.C. 1989); Coffin v. S. C. Dep't of
Soc. Servs., 562 F.Supp. 579, 583-85 (D.S.C. 1983);
Belcher v. S. C. Bd. of Corr., 460 F.Supp. 805,
808-09 (D.S.C. 1978).
Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465
U.S. 89, 99 n.9 (1984), a state must expressly consent to
suit in a federal district court. The State of South Carolina
has not consented to suit in a federal court. South Carolina
Code § 15-78-20(e), a part of the South Carolina Tort
Claims Act (SCTCA), expressly provides that the State of
South Carolina does not waive Eleventh Amendment immunity,
consents to suit only in a court of the State of South
Carolina, and does not consent to suit in a federal court or
in a court of another state. See McCall v. Batson,
329 S.E.2d 741, 743 (1985) (opinion abolishing sovereign
immunity in tort “does not abolish the immunity which
applies to all legislative, judicial and executive bodies and
to public officials who are vested with discretionary
authority, for actions taken in their official
capacities.”). Thus, regardless of whether this court
liberally construes Plaintiff's allegations against SCDC
as an attempt to state a federal constitutional-violation
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or as a state-law-based
claim under the SCTCA, Plaintiff fails to state a plausible
claim against this state agency. See, e.g.,
DeCecco v. Univ. of S.C., 918 F.Supp.2d 471, 498
(D.S.C. 2013) (finding that even if the SCTCA allowed
plaintiff's gross negligence claim against the agency to
proceed in state court, “it would not allow it to
proceed in federal court”); Lockhart v. S.C.
Dep't. of Corr., No. 2:13-cv-1345-MGL, 2013 WL
3864052, at *2 (D.S.C. July 24, 2013) (“Plaintiff's
Complaint seeking monetary damages in this court pursuant to
the S.C. Tort Claims Act is subject to summary dismissal
based on the Eleventh Amendment's grant of sovereign
immunity to the State of South Carolina and its integral
parts.”); Swinton v. Allen, No.
3:12-cv-1587-CMC, 2013 WL 3197077, at *4 (D.S.C. June 21,
2013) (finding an agency of the state would be entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity in federal court and that a claim
against the agency pursuant to the SCTCA must be brought in
state court), aff'd, 548 F. App'x 941 (4th
Cir. 2013); King v. Ozmint, No.
0:11-cv-1455-TLW-PJG, 2012 WL 4092689, at *3 (Aug. 17, 2012)
(“[T]he SCTCA requires the agency or political
subdivision to be substituted when an employee is
individually names, and the agency is similarly entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity in federal court.”),
report adopted, 2012 WL 4092661 (D.S.C. Sept. 18,
the Complaint is subject to partial summary dismissal insofar
as it seeks to hold Defendant Timmons liable for damages.
Plaintiff's only reference to Defendant Timmons is that
“Defendant Brockenberry sworn out arrest warrant before
defendant Timmons where there was insufficient probable cause
to issue for arrest of plaintiff on 11-5-15.” ECF No. 1
at 5. To the extent this mention could be construed as
asserting that Defendant Timmons wrongfully issued an arrest
warrant in connection with the performance of her judicial
duties as a county magistrate involving consideration of
applications for warrants, the Complaint is subject to
partial summary dismissal. Defendant Timmons is entitled to
absolute judicial immunity for judicially-related decisions
and activities. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9,
11-12 (1991) (judges are immune from civil suit for actions
taken in their judicial capacity, unless “taken in the
complete absence of all jurisdiction.”); Chu v.
Griffith, 771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985) (“It has
long been settled that a judge is absolutely immune from a
claim for damages arising out of his judicial
actions.”). In Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547
(1967), the Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider
whether a judge was liable for damages under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for an unconstitutional conviction. The Court presented
its rationale in applying the doctrine of judicial immunity:
Few doctrines were more solidly established at common law
than the immunity of judges from liability for damages for
acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction . . . This
immunity applies even when the judge is accused of acting
maliciously and corruptly, and it “is not for the
protection or benefit of a malicious or corrupt judge, but
for the benefit of the public, whose interest it is that the
judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions with
independence and without fear of consequences” . . . It
is a judge's duty to decide all cases within his
jurisdiction that are brought before him, including
controversial cases that arouse the most intense feelings in
the litigants. His errors may be corrected on appeal, but he
should not have to fear that ...