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Watts v. Sterling

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

January 13, 2017

Marcus L. Watts, #316590, Plaintiff,
Bryan Sterling, S.C.D.C., Defendants.


          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge


         Marcus L. Watts (“Plaintiff”) proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments by Defendants Bryan Stirling[1] and the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”). ECF No. 30.


         On February 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant Stirling. ECF No. 1. In addition, Plaintiff moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, ECF No. 2, which was granted on February 22, 2016, by Magistrate Judge Kevin McDonald, ECF No. 7. Between March 10, 2016, and March 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed two motions to amend his complaint. ECF Nos. 13, 19. On March 31, 2016, Magistrate Judge McDonald issued an order granting both motions to amend. ECF No. 24. On April 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint against SCDC. ECF No. 27. On April 12, 2016, due to Plaintiff's incorporation by reference, Magistrate Judge McDonald issued a docket text order directing the Clerk of Court to file Plaintiff's original complaint, first motion to amend, second motion to amend with attachments, and amended complaint as one document to be labeled as the amended complaint. ECF Nos. 1, 13, 19, 19-1, 27, 28, 30. On May 4, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint. ECF No. 33.

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court entered an order pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.3d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising him of the importance of the motion and of the need for him to file an adequate response. ECF No. 34. On May 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss. ECF Nos. 39, 44. On May 25, 2016, Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 42.

         On September 20, 2016, the Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[2] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opined that this Court grant Defendants' motion to dismiss. ECF No. 55. The Report set forth in detail the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation. The parties were advised of their right to object to the Report, which was entered on the docket on September 20, 2016. ECF Nos. 55-56. The Magistrate Judge gave the parties until October 7, 2016, to file objections. Id. On October 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report. ECF No. 57. On October 20, 2016, Defendants responded to Plaintiff's objections. ECF No. 60. Thus, this matter is ripe for the Court's review.


         The 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. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objection is 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). In the absence of specific objections to the Report of the Magistrate Judge, 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).


         Plaintiff alleged three claims in his amended complaint: (1) SCDC's policy providing only two envelopes per month to indigent prisoners violates his right to free speech under the First Amendment[3]; (2) said policy also violates the constitutional rights of his non-incarcerated family and friends to receive mail; and (3) SCDC's “Indigent hygiene bags” are racially biased and violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. ECF No. 30.

         The Magistrate Judge opined that Plaintiff's amended complaint should be dismissed: (1) Plaintiff failed to allege he suffered an actual injury or specific instances regarding the restriction of his rights due to SCDC's policy nor did he show the policy was unconstitutional, ECF No. 55 at 5-6; (2) Plaintiff lacked standing to bring an action on behalf of his family and friends, id. at 8; (3) Plaintiff failed to allege that he has been treated differently than other inmates as a result of intentional discrimination, id. at 7; (4) Plaintiff failed to allege any personal involvement by Defendant Stirling or supervisory liability, id. at 3; (5) Defendants were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from monetary damages-Defendant Stirling in his official capacity, id. at 4-5; and (6) Defendant Stirling was entitled to qualified immunity in his individual capacity, id. at 8.

         Plaintiff essentially raises four specific objections to the Report.[4] ECF No. 57. Each objection will be addressed in turn. However, no objection was made to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that Plaintiff did not have standing to bring claims on behalf of his family and friends. The Magistrate Judge's analysis is correct, and, therefore, the recommendation with regard to Plaintiff's lack of standing is adopted in full. See Thomas v. Am., 474 U.S. 140, 151-53 (1985).

         A. Objections as to Defendant Stirling and the ...

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