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Richardson v. Mahon

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

March 23, 2017

Curtis Richardson, aka Curtis D. Richardson, aka Curtis Dale Richardson, Plaintiff,
Matt Mahon, Loris S.C. Policeman; Karen Shepherd, Chief of Police of Loris, S.C.; Officer Jeff Gore; Defendants.


          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Curtis Richardson, currently incarcerated at FCI Butner in Butner, North Carolina and proceeding pro se, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Pending before the Court is Defendants' [ECF No. 81] motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's [ECF No. 88] motion for preliminary injunction.

         This matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 96] of Magistrate Judge Thomas E. Rogers, III filed on January 31, 2017.[1] The Magistrate Judge recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be denied as to the excessive force claim against Officer Mahon and granted as to his false arrest and supervisory liability claims. With regard to Plaintiff's claim relating to the search of his house and the loss or destruction of property, the Magistrate Judge recommended summarily dismissing that claim because the Plaintiff failed to state a claim under § 1983 and also has a viable state remedy under the S.C. Tort Claims Act, SC Code Ann. § 15-78-10, et seq. for any property damage. The Magistrate Judge also recommended that Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction be denied. On February 6, 2017, Defendants filed objections the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. On February 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and a reply to Defendant's objections.

         Standard of Review

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R 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. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         The right to de novo review may be waived by the failure to file timely objections. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific error in the [M]agistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Id. Moreover, in the absence of objections to the R & R, the Court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). However, in the absence of objections, the Court must “‘satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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) (2010). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). When no genuine issue of any material fact exists, summary judgment is appropriate. See Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1011 (4th Cir. 1991). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. However, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         "Once the moving party has met [its] burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with some evidence beyond the mere allegations contained in the pleadings to show that there is a genuine issue for trial." Baber v. Hospital Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992). The nonmoving party may not rely on beliefs, conjecture, unsupported speculation, or conclusory allegations to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Baber, 977 F.2d at 875. Rather, the nonmoving party is required to submit evidence of specific facts by way of affidavits, depositions, interrogatories, or admissions to demonstrate the existence of a genuine and material factual issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).


         A. False Arrest Claim

         The Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's arrests on April 14, 2015, and May 2, 2015, did not constitute a violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. As to the April 14, 2015 arrest, the Magistrate Judge found that the arresting officer's knowledge that Plaintiff was driving with a suspended license in an uninsured vehicle was sufficient probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. As to the May 2, 2015 arrest, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's possession of Oxycodone, a crack pipe, and what appeared to be cocaine base was sufficient to establish probable cause for his arrest. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommended summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's false arrest claims arising from his April 14, 2015 and May 2, 2015 arrests.

         In his objections, Plaintiff clarifies that he did not intend to bring a false arrest claim for his April 14, 2015 arrest. Rather, Plaintiff intended to seek a claim for an alleged Miranda violation that resulted in the suppression of statements in his Federal criminal case. However, a violation of Miranda does not result in a constitutional violation unless the statements were used against Plaintiff in his criminal case. See Chavez v. Martinez, 538 U.S. 760, 769 (2003); Burrell v. Virginia, 395 F.3d 508, 513-14 (4th Cir. 2005). In Plaintiff's case, the statements allegedly taken in violation of Miranda were suppressed by the district court and not used in his criminal case. See United States v. Curtis Richardson, Crim. No. 4:15-cr-00492-RBH, [ECF Nos. 102, 211]. Accordingly, Plaintiff cannot state a constitutional claim for the alleged Miranda violation that resulted in the suppression of statements in his Federal criminal case.

         As to the May 2, 2015 arrest, Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that the Oxycodone, crack pipe, and the substance appearing to be crack cocaine was probable cause for his arrest. Plaintiff, citing Smith v. Ohio, 494 U.S. 541 (1990), argues that the items discovered as a result of an unlawful search cannot serve as the basis for probable cause. Plaintiff's reliance on Smith is misplaced. In Smith, the Supreme Court held that a warrantless search of a suspect's bag could not be justified as a search incident to a lawful arrest when the suspect was arrested for drug abuse after drug paraphernalia was found in the bag. Smith, 494 U.S. at 543-44. Smith involved the suppression of evidence in a criminal case, not a civil § 1983 action. As the Magistrate Judge noted in footnote 6 of the Report and Recommendation, “exlusionary rules or ‘fruit of the poisonous tree' arguments are not applicable in § 1983 civil actions for ...

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