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Davis v. Henry

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

December 15, 2016

Curt Alan Davis, Plaintiff,
v.
Att. Sally J. Henry, Att. Robert Madsen, Att. Brad Kirkland, Att. y N. Rankin, Lexington County 11th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Curt Alan Davis, a self-represented state pretrial detainee, brings this civil rights action against the defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court concludes that it should be summarily dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the Lexington County Detention Center, is currently being held on a state charge of second-degree burglary. (ECF No. 1 at 9.) He claims he has been held for 557 days as of September 16, 2016. (Id.) He claims the defendants, the solicitors, and defense counsel associated with his case have had poor communication with him, and he is not satisfied with the manner in which his case is progressing. (Id. at 2-3, 5, 7, 9.) He claims this has caused him stress and frustration, in violation of his due process rights and the Rules of Professional Conduct. (Id. at 5, 10.) He asks the court to “bring to light the issues in Lexington County, ” resolve his case, and compensate him for his time of incarceration, loss of wages, and emotional damage. (Id. at 10.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). This review has been conducted 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).

         The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” “is frivolous or malicious, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.”[1] 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A finding of frivolousness can be made where the complaint “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Denton, 504 U.S. at 31. Hence, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke, 490 U.S. 319; Allison v. Kyle, 66 F.3d 71 (5th Cir. 1995).

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Such pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, id.; 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. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).

         Nonetheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999), construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         B. Analysis

         A legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). In this action, Davis alleges his due process rights were violated by the defendants' conduct. However, as discussed below, the court finds that Davis's Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         As to Davis's defense counsel, Defendants Sally J. Henry, Robert Madsen, and Brad Kirkland, they are not amenable to suit under § 1983 because they were not acting under color of state law. See Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800, 800 (4th Cir. 1976) (“A private attorney who is retained to represent a criminal defendant is not acting under color of state law, and therefore is not amenable to suit under [§] 1983.”); Hall v. Quillen, 631 F.2d 1154, 1155 (4th Cir. 1980) (finding no state action under § 1983, even where the plaintiff's attorney was court-appointed). Accordingly, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against these defendants. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         As to Defendant Casey N. Rankin, the solicitor prosecuting Davis's criminal charge, he is entitled to prosecutorial immunity because Plaintiff's § 1983 claim hinges on the Rankin's actions as a prosecutor. See Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976) (“Solicitors are immune from § 1983 claims where their challenged actions are ‘intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.' ”); Lyles v. Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 377 (4th Cir. 1996) (explaining “the Imbler Court specified that absolute immunity protects prosecutors' decisions ‘whether and when to ...


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