United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Hayward L. Rogers, Plaintiff,
Alan M. Wilson, Attorney General, South Carolina; and Kristin M. Simons, Esq., Defendants.
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge
proceeding pro se, filed this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c), D.S.C.,
this matter was referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial
handling. This case is now before the court on the magistrate
judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”),
recommending the court dismiss Plaintiff's complaint with
prejudice and without issuance and service of process. (ECF
No. 17). Plaintiff was advised of his right to file
objections to the Report, (ECF No. 17 at 20), and he filed
timely objections. (ECF No. 21).
Report has no presumptive weight and the responsibility to
make a final determination in this matter remains with this
court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). In making that determination, the court is charged
with conducting a de novo review of those portions of the
Report to which either party specifically objects.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Then, the court may
accept, reject, or modify the Report or recommit the matter
to the magistrate judge. See id.
objections are mostly nonsensical and unspecific to the
dispositive portions of the Report. In his objections,
Plaintiff generally argues that the magistrate judge erred by
not making findings of fact as to the propriety of his arrest
and the legitimacy of certain DNA evidence used at his trial.
(ECF No. 21 at 1-2). However, besides failing to connect his
claims to the Defendants in any way, Plaintiff's
arguments illustrate his misapprehension of the scope of a
§ 1983 claim. A state prisoner's sole remedy to
challenge the fact or duration of his sentence is through
habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475,
500 (1973). Thus, a § 1983 suit is an improper vehicle
to obtain immediate release or a speedier release from state
prison. Id. Likewise, a plaintiff may only recover
damages in a § 1983 suit for an allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment if his sentence
is first reversed on appeal, expunged by executive pardon, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477, 486-87 (1994). “[A] state prisoner's §
1983 action is barred . . . 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 duration.” Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82 (2005).
Plaintiff requests the court order various forms of equitable
relief. Liberally construed, Plaintiff's
claims (and his objections) intractably circle around
advancing one of three arguments: (1) his initial arrest was
unconstitutional because the state magistrate judge who
ostensibly issued his arrest warrant lacked authority to do
so; (2) after his arrest, the State unconstitutionally
collected his DNA because the nurse who extracted the sample
was unqualified pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 23-3-630;
and (3) at his trial, the State engaged in prosecutorial
misconduct by suppressing DNA evidence.
each argument in turn, Plaintiff cannot use this § 1983
action to attack the legitimacy of his State arrest.
Plaintiff appears to argue that officers arrested him without
a warrant or probable cause because the state magistrate
judge who signed his arrest warrant was
“impersonating” a judge. Throughout his
arguments, Plaintiff repeatedly asserts that he is innocent
of the crimes for which he was arrested and ultimately found
guilty, and as a corollary, Plaintiff implies that, but for
improper use of the warrant, his conviction would not have
occurred. Accordingly, Plaintiff's challenge to the
propriety of his arrest goes to the very heart of his current
detention. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87; c.f.
Alipui v. Byerson, 638 F.App'x 214, 216 (4th Cir.
2016) (holding plaintiff's § 1983 claim against
state officer cognizable where plaintiff challenged probable
cause for separate state arrest while in federal
custody). And even if Plaintiff's challenge did not
implicate the validity of his State confinement, his claim
would be time barred. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384,
397 (2007) (“We hold that the statute of limitations
upon a § 1983 claim seeking damages for a false arrest
in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where the arrest is
followed by criminal proceedings, begins to run at the time
the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal
process.”); Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem,
85 F.3d 178, 183 (4th Cir. 1996) (holding a plaintiff's
§ 1983 claim for unconstitutional warrantless arrest
that does not imply invalidity of the plaintiff's
underlying conviction accrues when the plaintiff knows or
should know of the injury); Williams v. City of Sumter
Police Dept., No. 3:09-2486-CMC, 2011 WL 723148, at *3
(D.S.C. Feb. 23, 2011) (stating that the statute of
limitations for a § 1983 claim brought in the District
of South Carolina is governed by the State's three year
general or residual statute of limitations for personal
injury claims, SC Code Ann. § 15-3-530(5)).
this § 1983 suit is an improper means to contest the
circumstances under which the State extracted Plaintiff's
DNA or presented DNA evidence at trial. Although the United
States Supreme Court has found that state prisoners may bring
§ 1983 claims to gain access to biological evidence for
purposes of DNA testing, Skinner v. Switzer, 562
U.S. 521, 534 (2011), this is not the sort of relief
Plaintiff seeks here. Rather, at bottom, Plaintiff's
arguments are properly couched as either (1) inviting the
court to reassess the veracity of evidence used to convict
him at trial or (2) contesting “biased” state
procedures for admitting (or not admitting) evidence. In both
instances, Plaintiff's arguments are inconsistent with
guilt and inextricably linked to invalidating Plaintiff's
criminal conviction through suppression or reconsideration of
evidence. See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641,
646-48 (1997) (holding that allegations of bias and deceit on
the part of the decision-maker in a prison disciplinary
hearing necessarily imply the invalidity of a punishment);
Ballenger v. Owens, 352 F.3d 842, 846-47 (4th Cir.
2003) (holding that suppression of evidence seized pursuant
to a challenged search would necessarily imply invalidity of
the plaintiff's criminal conviction); see also Rogers
v. City of W. Columbia, No. 8:06-3058-MBS, 2007 WL
2332465, at *2-3 (D.S.C. Aug. 13, 2007) (dismissing
Plaintiff's § 1983 claim because suppression of the
blood sample taken from him would invalidate his underlying
criminal conviction); c.f. Covey v. Assessor of Ohio
Cnty., 777 F.3d 186, 197 (4th Cir. 2015) (holding that
an improper search did not necessarily imply the invalidity
of conviction where the plaintiff did not contest
his guilt or seek to suppress evidence). And again, even if
Plaintiff's unlawful search claim did not strike at the
validity of his conviction, it would be time barred.
Hubbard v. Bohman, No. 1:11-cv-716, 2013 WL 2645260,
at *5 (M.D. N.C. Jun. 11, 2013) (collecting cases);
Williams, 2011 WL 723148, at *3.
Plaintiff's arguments related to prosecutorial misconduct
are misplaced, as no court has reversed his conviction or
issued a writ of habeas corpus. Heck, 512 U.S. at
486-87. As already explained above, successful exhaustion of
a challenge to a conviction is an essential step before
bringing suit under § 1983. Because Plaintiff's
claims fail to meet this threshold requirement, no cognizable
right of action against State officials has accrued.
Rogers, 2007 WL 2332465, at *2.
court has thoroughly reviewed the Report and Plaintiff's
objections and finds no reason to deviate from the
Report's recommended disposition. Through his arguments and
objections to the Report, Plaintiff improperly attempts to
mount a collateral attack on his state conviction by masking
a request for habeas relief as a § 1983 claim.
Plaintiff's claims are therefore barred and subject to
summary dismissal. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 487;
see also Dist. Attorney's Office for Third Judicial
Dist. v. Osborne, 557 U.S. 52, 66 (2009). No finding of
fact as to the propriety of his arrest or legitimacy of
evidence used against him at trial is necessary to make this
determination, and indeed, such an inquisition would be
on the foregoing, the court overrules Plaintiff's
objections (ECF No. 21), adopts the Report (ECF No. 17), and
incorporates the Report herein. It is therefore
ORDERED that Plaintiff's complaint is
DISMISSED with prejudice and without
issuance of service of process.
IS SO ORDERED.
OF RIGHT TO APPEAL
parties are hereby notified of the right to appeal this order
pursuant to Rules 3 and 4 of the ...