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Jones v. State

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

March 22, 2017

Quanjay Jaculb Jones, Plaintiff,
State of South Carolina; The County of Richland; The Humane SPCA, Defendants.


          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge


         Quanjay Jaculb Jones (“Jones”) filed this action asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985, as well as a state law claim for gross negligence against the remaining defendants in this case; the State of South Carolina and the County of Richland.[1] In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the case was referred to the Magistrate Judge. On November 23, 2016, Defendants State of South Carolina and The County of Richland[2] (“Defendant” or “Richland County”), submitted a motion for summary judgement. (ECF No. 57). Plaintiff responded by conceding to a dismissal of all federal claims, but opposing a dismissal of the remaining state law claim for gross negligence. (ECF No. 59).

         The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[3] prepared a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that Jones' federal claims should be dismissed and the remaining state law claim should be remanded to the Richland County Court of Common Pleas[4]. (ECF No. 61). Both Defendant and Plaintiff objected to the report. Defendant objects to the extent that the Magistrate Judge recommends a remand of the state law claim and request that this court retain jurisdiction over the remaining issue. (ECF No. 62). Plaintiff similarly objects to the Report because “it would be a waste of time and judicial resource for this matter to be remanded to State Court.” (ECF No. 66).

         The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are 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). However, a district court is only required to conduct a de novo review of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which an objection is made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Carniewski v. W. Virginia Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report of the Magistrate, 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).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A review of the record indicates that the remaining claim for gross negligence can be easily adjudicated by this court, thereby obviating any need for remand. Accordingly, a brief recitation of the factual history and relevant law is warranted.

         A. Background

         This matter arises out of the prosecution of Plaintiff for animal cruelty. According to Jones, he was wrongly arrested for that offense in 2007, and when other family members provided exculpatory statements to the SPCA's investigator Steve Stevenson, Stevenson drafted a letter requesting that Defendant Richland County withdraw the warrants against Jones. Allegedly, in July 2007, Stevenson called Jones and informed him that all charges had been dropped. However, this was apparently not the case, as Jones was tried in his absence and convicted in 2009 by Defendant Richland County. Jones learned of the conviction in 2013 and retained counsel, ultimately succeeding in having the conviction reversed. However, charges apparently remained pending and, despite Jones's providing Stevenson's letter to authorities, the prosecution against Jones proceeded to another trial in 2014, at which Jones was acquitted. Jones then filed this action in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas on February 1, 2016.

         B. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute of material fact is “genuine” if sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party meets that burden and a properly supported motion is before the court, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. All inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, but he “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985).

         C. Discussion

         Here, Richland County asserts several arguments as to why the claim for gross negligence should be dismissed. Chief among them is that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Indeed, this court previously analyzed an identical argument when deciding to dismiss the same claim for gross negligence as against Defendant SPCA. (ECF No. 45, 55). Plaintiff ...

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