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Roberts v. Lewis

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston

March 3, 2017

Emory W. Roberts, Jr., #2016003071, Plaintiff,
Sheriff Dwayne Lewis, et al., Defendants.



         This is a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at Hill Finklea Detention Center located in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. After three proper form orders, this case is now in proper form. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the case initially and to submit findings and recommendations to the United States District Judge. After careful review, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Complaint (DE# 1), as amended (DE# 1-3), should be summarily dismissed, without prejudice, and without issuance and service of process, for the following reasons:

         I. The Present Lawsuit

         A. Parties

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee with currently pending state criminal charges. On January 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (DE# 1, totalling 25 pages with attachments). On February 16, 2017, Plaintiff indicated he wished to amend his Complaint in order to add a defendant (Davis Schwacke, Public Defender), but otherwise made no other changes to his Complaint. (DE# 1-3).[1] Plaintiff sues the following twelve defendants: (1) Sheriff Dwayne Lewis; 2) Director Randy Demory; 3) Captain Phyall; 4) S/A Justin Wingo; 5) CO D. Wilson; 6) CO Harvey; 7) CO Ravenell; 8) Corpral (sic) Carroll; 9) Sgt. Dobbs; 10) Sgt. Samuel; 11) CO Green (Intake/Admissions); and 12) Davis P. Schwacke (Public Defender). Plaintiff indicates that he is suing the Defendants in their official and individual capacities. (Id. at 3-4, ¶ I(B)).

         B. The Complaint's Allegations

         Plaintiff's Complaint consists largely of a list of conclusory generalized statements against all the defendants collectively. Liberally construed, the gist of the Complaint is that Plaintiff is complaining that unspecified officers illegally searched his home without a warrant, arrested him, and seized unspecified property. (DE# 1 at 6). Plaintiff contends that they invaded his “privacy in violation of my 4th Amendment rights to the Constitution, ” and that by arresting him, they “unlawfully imprisoned/kidnapped” him. (Id.). He complains that upon arrest, he “was denied screening/right to counsel, ” but (inconsistently) indicates he wishes to sue his public defender for unspecified reasons. (DE# 1-3). Plaintiff also complains that his grievances were ignored or were not successful. (Id. at 6, 9).

         The pre-printed complaint form asks the Plaintiff “what federal constitutional or statutory rights do you claim are being violated by state or local officials?” (DE# 1 at 7). Plaintiff responded as follows (verbatim): “(Article IV. Searches and Seizures)(Article V. Rights of Accused in Criminal Proceedings; Due process; Eminent domain)(8th Amendment, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, right to bail, unlawful incarceration, right to counsel) 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 14th Amendments Illegally Detained, Unlawfully Imprisoned, Kidnapping.” (Id., ¶ II (B)).

         When asked to “explain how each defendant acted under color of state or local law, Plaintiff responded: “S/A Justin Wingo did raid my home and arrest & seize me without search warrant or arrest warrant. Dwayne Lewis unlawfully imprisoned myself without commitment warrant, Randy Demory & Phyall (Captain and Director) aided & abetted this action. Plaintiff makes no specific factual allegations against any other Defendants.

         For “injuries, ” Plaintiff lists the following: “paranoid (N/A medically), pain and suffering, lost wages, mental anguish, defamation of character, becoming/rendered absentee father to my children, lost all of my belongings/property, lost my job, and means of support for my children.” Id., ¶ V).

         For relief, the Plaintiff does not indicate any amount of damages and indicates that these are “to be determined at a later time once I've had time to consult with a lawyer.” (DE# 1 at 10, ¶ VI “Relief”). The Plaintiff additionally states “I would like to be released.” (Id.). In a subsequent letter to the Court, the Plaintiff indicates he wants “$7.5 million dollars in damages.” (DE# 5).

         II. Relevant Law

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, the Magistrate Judge has carefully reviewed this pro se prisoner complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and in light of the following precedents: Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); and Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir. 1978).

         As the pro se Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 applies to this case. Such statute permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the action. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows the court to dismiss the case upon finding that the case is “frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte “at any time” under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B). Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 319. The statute “is designed largely to discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits.” Id. at 326. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) also provides for the screening of complaints “in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         Pro se pleadings are given liberal construction and are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Jackson v. Lightsey, 775 F.3d 170, 178 (4th Cir. 2014). However, “[t]he ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view ... pro se filings does not transform the court into an advocate. United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 2401 (2013). Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.” Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Giving “liberal construction” does not mean that the Court can ignore a prisoner's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. “Principles requiring generous ...

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