United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge.
Miles Lancaster (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se,
brings this civil action alleging constitutional violations.
Plaintiff is detained in the Spartanburg County Detention
Center, and he files this action in forma pauperis
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Complaint is subject to
alleges he is detained in the Spartanburg County Detention
Center, and a state drug charge is pending against him. [Doc.
1.] The following specific facts are alleged. On March 15,
2016, Defendants Justin Horton (“Horton”) and
Lorin Williams (“Williams”), narcotics officers
with the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office, used an
unmarked vehicle to conduct a stop of a vehicle in
Spartanburg, South Carolina, where Plaintiff was a passenger.
[Id.] Horton and Williams searched Plaintiff without
having a search warrant and without Plaintiff's
permission, and illegally arrested Plaintiff while seizing
drugs and $5683. [Id.] Horton and Williams also
questioned Plaintiff without giving him a Miranda warning.
[Id.] Horton tricked Plaintiff into signing a
document to forfeit the money when Plaintiff was under the
influence of drugs and did not know what he was signing.
on this incident, Plaintiff appears to allege he received a
state charge of possession of drugs with intent to
distribute. [Id.] For his relief, Plaintiff requests
that the “PWID” drug charge be dismissed by the
state, and he requests damages. [Id.] He also
requests the return of $5683. [Id.] Further,
Plaintiff asks to have his state jury trial delayed until
this federal Court makes a ruling on this case; and a bond.
Court takes judicial notice from the Spartanburg County
on-line court records that Plaintiff was arrested on March
15, 2016, for distribution of meth. See Spartanburg
County Seventh Judicial Circuit Public Index,
Plaintiff's name, and 2016A4210200922) (last visited Feb.
1, 2017); see also Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem. Hosp.,
572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (courts “may properly
take judicial notice of matters of public record.”);
Colonial Penn Ins. Co. v. Coil, 887 F.2d 1236, 1239
(4th Cir. 1989) (“We note that ‘the most frequent
use of judicial notice is in noticing the content of court
records.'”). And, in this case, the state record
indicates that Plaintiff was indicted on September 30, 2016.
to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) DSC, the undersigned is authorized
to review the Complaint for relief and submit findings and
recommendations to the District Court. Plaintiff filed this
action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma
pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District
Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied 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.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). Further, Plaintiff is a prisoner under the
definition in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), and “seeks
redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of
a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
Thus, even if Plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this
Court is charged with screening Plaintiff's lawsuit to
identify cognizable claims or to dismiss the Complaint if (1)
it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted or (2) seeks monetary relief from
a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
pro se litigant, Plaintiff's pleadings are accorded
liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard
than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam).
However, even under this less stringent standard, the pro se
pleading remains subject to summary dismissal. 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 Plaintiff could prevail, it should do
so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to
include claims that were never presented, Barnett v.
Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or
construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small
v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (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). 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, 391 (4th Cir.
Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
“‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,
' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating
federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Albright
v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker
v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). A civil
action under § 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 two
essential elements: (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).
extent Plaintiff brings a claim based on the Fourth Amendment
alleging false arrest, he fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. The constitutional right to be free
from unreasonable searches and seizures is well settled.
Merchant v. Bauer, 677 F.3d 656, 662 (4th Cir.
2012). To state a claim for false arrest, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that he was arrested without probable cause.
Sowers v. City of Charlotte, 659 F. App'x 738
(4th Cir. 2016). Nevertheless, because Plaintiff was indicted
on the state drug charge about which he complains in this
case, his allegation of false arrest fails. A grand jury
indictment is affirmative evidence of probable cause
sufficient to defeat claims for malicious prosecution and
false arrest under § 1983. See Durham v.
Horner, 690 F.3d 183, 189 (4th Cir. 2012) (an
indictment, fair upon its face, returned by a properly
constituted grand jury conclusively determines the existence
of probable cause); cf. Swick v. Wilde, 529 F.
App'x 353 (4th Cir. 2013) (explaining about the effect of
deliberately supplying misleading information that influenced
a decision); see also Provet v. South Carolina,
Civil Action No. 6:07-1094-GRA-WMC, 2007 WL 1847849, at *5
(D.S.C. June 25, 2007) (§1983 claims of false arrest and
malicious prosecution were precluded because of indictment).
Therefore, Plaintiff fails to allege a plausible claim for
false arrest, and this action should be dismissed.
Plaintiff's alleged constitutional violation with respect
to the taking of his money fails to state a plausible claim.
The Constitution's due process clause is not violated by
the intentional unauthorized taking of a person's
property by a state or city employee if a meaningful
postdeprivation remedy for the loss is available. See
Mora v. City of Gaithersburg, MD, 519 F.3d 216, 230-31
(4th Cir. 2008) (concerning the intentional taking of guns
and ammunition from the plaintiff and noting that a due
process violation occurs not when the property is taken but
when a state fails to provide due process); Bogart v.
Chapell, 396 F.3d 548, 561-63 (4th Cir. 2005) (finding
that intentional destruction of the plaintiff's animals
did not violate the due process clause because South Carolina
afforded a meaningful postdeprivation remedy for the loss of
animals). Here, Plaintiff must utilize his remedies under
South Carolina law to obtain damages or the return of his
money. See Mora, 519 F.3d at 231 (the state courts
were open to Mora for claims of conversion or trespass to
chattels and there was no reason to think that the state
process was constitutionally inadequate); see also Samuel
v. Ozmint, C/A No. 3:07-178-PMD-JRM, 2008 WL 512736 at
*7 (D.S.C. Feb. 25, 2008) (noting that claims related to
taking of personal property are cognizable under South
Carolina state law); Greene v. Stonebreaker, C/A No.
9:06-3392-PMD-GCK, 2007 WL 2288123 at *6 (D.S.C. Aug. 6,
2007) (noting that a person in South Carolina appears to have
adequate postdeprivation remedies for personal property
loss). Therefore, Plaintiff fails to allege a plausible
constitutional claim for deprivation of personal property,
and this action should be dismissed.
this case is subject to the Younger abstention
doctrine. From a review of the Complaint, the crux of the
matter is that Plaintiff seeks a ruling by this federal Court
on the Fourth Amendment issues in his state court case and
seeks to delay the state prosecution until this Court rules.
Thus, Plaintiff invites this Court to interfere with the
state court criminal proceedings. However, because a federal
court may not award injunctive relief that ...