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Lee v. Town of Fort Mill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

December 15, 2016

David Royal Lee, Plaintiff,
Town of Fort Mill; Police Officer Robert Giglio, officially and individually; Police Officer Royce Clack, officially and individually; Defendants.


          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         The plaintiff, David Royal Lee, (“Lee” or “Plaintiff”) filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendants for their role in shooting Plaintiff's dog, “T, ” and Plaintiff's subsequent arrest. Plaintiff has also asserted various state law claims. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the case was referred to the Magistrate Judge.

         The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's federal constitutional claims and his remaining state law claims should be remanded to state court.[2] (ECF No. 31). The Report sets forth, in detail, the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation.

         Plaintiff was advised of his right to object to the Report, which was entered on the docket on September 30, 2016. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report on October 31, 2016, (ECF No. 35), and Defendants filed a response on December 2, 2016. (ECF No. 38). Thus, this matter is ripe for review.

         The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, a district court is only required to conduct a de novo review of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which an objection is made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Carniewski v. W. Virginia Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report of the Magistrate, this Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983).

         II. Discussion

         Here, Plaintiff makes generalized objections to the dismissal of both federal constitutional claims discussed within the Report. Although vague, specific objections are discernable within Plaintiff's memorandum. However, each objection is without merit.

         A. False Arrest and False Imprisonment

         After Officer Robert Giglio shot Lee's dog, Lee placed the dog into his car, maneuvered around several law enforcement vehicles by driving onto his neighbor's yard and sped off. (ECF No. 31 p. 4). Officer Royce Clack followed behind Lee and observed him make an illegal U-turn in front of another car on a busy two-lane road. Id. Lee finally pulled over after Clack ordered him to do so on his loud speaker. Id. This pursuit was captured on Clack's dashboard camera. Id. Clack then arrested Lee for reckless driving. Id. Lee alleges that Clack lacked probable cause for this arrest and therefore violated his constitutional rights by falsely arresting him. The Magistrate Judge disagreed and concluded that the record contained sufficient probable cause to support an arrest.

         In response to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that Lee's claim for False Arrest and False Imprisonment be dismissed, Lee sets forth two discernable objections. Initially, Plaintiff notes his dissatisfaction that several “affidavits regarding the driving of the plaintiff were not discussed in the Report and Recommendation.” (ECF No. 35 p. 5). However, Plaintiff cites to no authority that requires the court to utilize every affidavit or supporting document offered when ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Additionally, the Magistrate Judge did cite to multiple affidavits contained in the record as well as undisputed video footage from Officer Clack's dash cam. (ECF No. 31). Moreover, the Supreme Court has commented on the use of undisputed dash cam video footage by stating that the court should view “the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381 (2007). Therefore, the Magistrate Judge did not err in choosing not to discuss all affidavits submitted by Plaintiff, especially when they were clearly contradicted by video footage. See Id. (“When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”).

         Plaintiff additionally argues that “it is debatable that the officer had probable cause to arrest for reckless driving, given the facts set forth by the plaintiff.” (ECF No. 35 p. 5). However, the record clearly shows that Officer Clack had sufficient probable cause to arrest Lee for reckless driving. “Probable cause to justify an arrest arises when ‘facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge . . . are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense.' ” Porterfield v. Lott, 156 F.3d 563, 569 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 37 (1979)). It requires more than bare suspicion, but less than evidence necessary to convict, Porterfield, 156 F.3d at 569, and the determination of whether probable cause exists is reviewed under the totality of the circumstances. See Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983); Taylor v. Waters, 81 F.3d 429, 434 (4th Cir. 1996). Additionally, South Carolina law states that “[a]ny person who drives any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” S.C. Code Ann. §56-5-2920.

         As clearly indicated by the record (including video footage) and thoroughly analyzed by the Magistrate Judge, Lee was seen driving onto his neighbor's private property, speeding off, and conducting an illegal U-turn in front of an oncoming car on a busy road. (ECF No. 31 p. 16). These facts clearly provided Officer Clack with “more than a bare suspicion” that Lee was driving recklessly in violation of the South Carolina statute. Therefore, Lee's objection to the existence of probable cause is without merit.

         B. Fourth Amendment ...

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