United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on the City of Georgetown
(“Georgetown”), Janet Grant
(“Grant”), Ricky Martin “Martin”),
and Robert O'Donnell's (“O'Donnell”)
(collectively, “Defendants”) motion for summary
judgment, ECF No. 17. For the reasons set forth below, the
court grants in part and denies in part defendants'
summary judgment motion.
case arises out of a citation levied on a piece of property
(“the Lot”) in the City of Georgetown, South
Carolina. Compl. ¶ 4. The citation charged Willie
Singleton (“Singleton”) with violating City of
Georgetown Municipal Code Article II of Public Nuisance
§ 11-26 (“Section 11-26”), which categorizes
lots with “excessive overgrowth with a dilapidated
structure” as a public nuisance subject to citation.
Id. ¶¶ 47-51, 56. The relevant text of
Section 11-26 identifies a public nuisance as:
(3) Any building or part of any building which, on account of
its condition, its occupancy or use, may endanger life or
(7) Any property, whether occupied or vacant, upon which
grass, weeds, or undergrowth exceeding eighteen (18) inches
in height, trash, garbage, offal, stagnant water, building
materials, glass, wood, metal or other matter deleterious to
good health and public sanitation is permitted or caused to
accumulate in any manner which is or may become a nuisance
causing injuries or sickness to the public or neighboring
(8) Any property which, because of its condition, may promote
the breeding of harborage of flies, [rats], snakes, vermin or
other insects and animals.
sent a series of letters regarding the overgrowth on the Lot
beginning in April 2009, but ultimately issued a citation for
violation of Section 11-26 in September 16, 2010, Defs.'
appeared at the municipal court hearing for his citation and
requested a jury trial. Id. Singleton did not show
up at his trial, set for July 13, 2011, and was found guilty
of violating Section 11-26. Id. at 3. O'Donnell
was the municipal court judge presiding over the trial.
Compl. ¶ 38. Singleton was fined $1, 092.00, consisting
of a $500.00 fine and the remainder in court fees. Defs.'
Mot. 3. Singleton appealed his conviction to the South
Carolina Circuit Court on July 29, 2011, which affirmed his
conviction. Id. at 4. Singleton then appealed to the
South Carolina Court of Appeals, which found on January 7,
2015 that Singleton's original appeal to the circuit
court was untimely and so the circuit court lacked appellate
jurisdiction over the appeal. Id., Ex. H, S.C Ct.
App. Op. No. 2012-212102. The result of the South Carolina
Court of Appeals ruling is that the Circuit Court's
decision was vacated, and the original municipal court
judgment against Singleton stands.
who is African-American, alleges that Georgetown chose to
prosecute him for the overgrowth of his lot because of his
race and Singleton's history of lodging complaints
against Georgetown and various city employees. Compl. ¶
9. Singleton argues that the Lot was a “naturalized
lot” containing an unoccupied house, but that
Grant-an employee of Georgetown-nonetheless issued a
municipal citation for violating Section 11-26. Id.
¶¶ 47-51, 56. Singleton contends that Section 11-26
is inapplicable to naturalized lots. Defs.' Mot., Ex. A,
Singleton Deposition 51:15-18.
filed this suit against defendants in the Court of Common
Pleas of Georgetown County, South Carolina on May 14, 2015.
ECF No. 1. The case was removed to this court on June 26,
2015 because it contained a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim.
Id. Singleton asserts the following claims: (1)
taking of his property as to all defendants; (2) deprivation
of substantive and procedural due process based on
defendants' failure to give Singleton notice and an
opportunity to be heard, and failure to follow prescribed
statutory procedures governing condemnation of dilapidated
properties as to all defendants; (3) violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 as to Martin, Grant, and O'Donnell; (4) gross
negligence as to all defendants; (5) Conversion of property
without proper compensation as to all defendants; (6)
Violation of the Administrative Procedures Act by wrongfully
condemning and ordering the removal of the building on the
Lot as to all defendants; (7) Negligence in failing to follow
proper procedures; (8) Violation of Singleton's equal
protection rights as to all defendants.
filed a motion for summary judgment on June 1, 2016, ECF No.
18, which Singleton responded to on July 11, 2016. ECF No.
26. The motion is now ripe for the court's review.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure requires that the district court enter
judgment against a party who, ‘after adequate time for
discovery . . . fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.'” Stone v. Liberty
Mut. Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 188, 190 (4th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986)). Any reasonable inferences are to be drawn in favor
of the nonmoving party. See Webster v. U.S. Dep't of
Agric., 685 F.3d 411, 421 (4th Cir. 2012). However, to
defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify an
error of law or a genuine issue of disputed material fact.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); see also
Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d
514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003).
the court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of
the nonmoving party, the nonmoving party must rely on more
than conclusory allegations, mere speculation, the building
of one inference upon another, or the mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at
252; Stone, 105 F.3d at 191. If the adverse party
fails to provide evidence establishing that the factfinder
could reasonably decide in his favor, then summary judgment
shall be entered “regardless of ‘[a]ny proof or
evidentiary requirements imposed by the substantive
law.'” Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 522 (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
move for summary judgment on the following grounds: (1) the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits federal district
court review of a state court judgment; (2) the statute of
limitations precludes Singleton's action; (3) no
cognizable U.S.C. § 1983 claim; (4) no cognizable equal
protection claim; (5) no cognizable Fifth Amendment takings
claim; (6) no cognizable procedural due process claim; (7) no
cognizable substantive due process claim. Defendants also
contend that they should be awarded summary judgment because
of the following affirmative defenses: (1) Georgetown is not
liable under the doctrine articulated in Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658
(1978); (2) Grant, Martin, and O'Donnell are protected by