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Tolliver v. State

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

March 30, 2017

Jeffery Dale Tolliver, Plaintiff,
v.
The State of South Carolina, The County of Spartanburg, M. Hope Blackley, Clerk of Court, and Barry Barnette, Solicitors Office, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Plaintiff Jeffery Dale Tolliver, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants the State of South Carolina, the County of Spartanburg, Spartanburg County Clerk of Court M. Hope Blackley, and Solicitor Barry Barnette (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging violations of South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, his federal constitutional rights, and the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. (ECF No. 1.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pretrial handling.

         Plaintiff filed a motion to appoint counsel (ECF No. 6), which the Magistrate Judge denied (ECF No. 8). Thereafter, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the complaint be dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. (ECF No. 9.) Plaintiff timely filed objections to the Report and to the order denying his motion to appoint counsel. (ECF No. 11.) After considering the order denying the motion to appoint counsel, the Report, and Plaintiff's objections, the court AFFIRMS the order denying the motion to appoint counsel (ECF No. 8), ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 9), and DISMISSES the complaint (ECF No. 1) WITHOUT PREJUDICE and without issuance and service of process.

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In her Report, the Magistrate Judge ably summarized Plaintiff's complaint, and Plaintiff did not object to the summary:

Plaintiff indicates that he has been a pretrial detainee at the Spartanburg County Detention Center (“SCDC”) since October 9, 2013.[1] Plaintiff complains that he has “not been indicted” and no requests have been made “by the Solicitors Office in open court or motion through the Spartanburg County Clerk of Courts Office asking for any extensions.” Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants “rubber stamp” indictments without the benefit of a grand jury hearing and attempt to cover up such actions by providing only the first page of a criminal case history to detainees. Plaintiff cites to the cases of three other prisoners as purported evidence of Defendants' “rubber stamping of indictments.” Plaintiff asks this court to order Defendants to comply with the FOIA, the South Carolina Constitution, and the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure. Id. at 6. Plaintiff further seeks an order directing Defendants to provide SCDC inmates with “all pages of case histories- transcripts-and any other tangibles free of cost.”

(ECF No. 9 at 1-2 (internal citations omitted) (quoting ECF No. 1).)

         After filing his complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion to appoint counsel. (ECF No. 6.) Plaintiff explained that he is unable to afford counsel, that his pretrial detainment impeded his ability to litigate the issues in this case as he had no access to a law library, and that the appointment of counsel would better enable Plaintiff to present his case at a trial. (Id.)

         The Magistrate Judge entered an order denying Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel. (ECF No. 8.) The Magistrate Judge explained that although there is no right to appointed counsel in a § 1983 case, the court has discretion to appoint counsel for an indigent civil plaintiff in exceptional circumstances. (See Id. at 1 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160 (4th Cir. 1984), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 490 U.S. 296 (1989); Cook v. Bounds, 518 F.2d 779, 780 (4th Cir. 1975); Hardwick v. Ault, 517 F.2d 295, 298 (5th Cir. 1975); Smith v. Blackledge, 451 F.2d 1201 (4th Cir. 1971)).) The Magistrate Judge determined that the issues involved in the complaint are not so complex as to warrant the appointment of counsel. (See id.)

         On the same day that she denied the motion to appoint counsel, the Magistrate Judge also issued her Report. Reviewing Plaintiff's complaint under § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Report first noted that the complaint alleged facts regarding other prisoners, and determined that, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to bring claims on behalf of other prisoners, such claims are subject to summary dismissal because Plaintiff lacks standing to bring them. (See ECF No. 9 at 3-4 (citing Myers v. Loudon Cnty. Pub. Sch., 418 F.3d 395, 401 (4th Cir. 2005); Hummer v. Dalton, 657 F.2d 621, 625-26 (4th Cir. 1981); Inmates v. Owens, 561 F.2d 560, 562-63 (4th Cir. 1977)).)

         The Report next determined that Defendants were immune from suit. The Magistrate Judge explained that Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against the State of South Carolina and the County of Spartanburg. (See Id. at 4 (citing Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712-13 (1999); Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54, 58 (1996); Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101-02 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978); Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890)).) Because Congress has not abrogated South Carolina's sovereign immunity and because South Carolina had not consented to suit, the Magistrate Judge determined that claims against the State of South Carolina and the County of Spartanburg are subject to summary dismissal. (See Id. at 4-5.) The Magistrate Judge also determined that the claims against Barnette are for his actions in judicial proceedings and are therefore subject to summary dismissal under the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity. (See Id. at 5 (citing Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259 (1993); Dababnah v. Keller-Burnside, 208 F.3d 467 (4th Cir. 2000)).) The Magistrate Judge also determined that, to the extent the claims against Blackley are for her actions taken pursuant to a judicial directive, those claims are subject to summary dismissal under the doctrine of quasi-judicial immunity. (See Id. at 5-6 & n.2 (Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 761 (2d Cir. 1999); Kincaid v. Vail, 969 F.2d 594, 601 (7th Cir. 1992); McCray v. Maryland, 456 F.2d 1, 5 (4th Cir. 1972), overruled on other grounds by Pink v. Lester, 52 F.3d 73, 77 (4th Cir. 1995); Lockhart v. Hoenstine, 411 F.2d 455, 460 (3d Cir. 1969); Gilmore v. Bostic, 636 F.Supp.2d 496, 506 (S.D. W.Va. 2009)).) Moreover, to the extent the complaint as to Blackley is not barred by quasi-judicial immunity, the Magistrate Judge determined that it failed to provide sufficient factual matter to state a claim, in that the complaint failed to allege Blackley had an obligation to provide Plaintiff with requested information or that Blackley failed to meet any such obligation, and that the claims against her were subject to summary dismissal on this basis. (See Id. at 6.)

         The Report next determined that Plaintiff's claims under FOIA were subject to summary dismissal for numerous reasons. The Magistrate Judge explained that Plaintiff's complaint fails to allege that he made a FOIA request or that Defendants denied any such request (see id. at 7), that FOIA is inapplicable to states and state agencies (see Id. (citing Miller v. S.C. Dep't of Prob., Parole, & Pardon Servs., No. 2:08-3836-JFA-RSC, 2008 WL 5427754, at *3 (D.S.C. Dec. 31, 2008))), and that the complaint fails to allege and contains no other indication that Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies in relation to any FOIA request (see Id. (citing 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6); Pollack v. Dep't of Justice, 49 F.3d 115, 118 (4th Cir. 1995))).

         Lastly, the Report noted that Plaintiff sought relief in the nature of mandamus, asking the court to compel actions by Defendants, and determined that the court lacked jurisdiction to grant such relief. The Magistrate Judge explained that, although 28 U.S.C. § 1361 provides the court jurisdiction to grant relief in the nature of mandamus, it does so only against federal officers and employees. (See Id. at 8 (citing United States v. Oncology Assocs., 198 F.3d 502, 510 (4th Cir. 1999)).) Likewise, the Magistrate Judge explained that, although 28 U.S.C. § 1651 provides courts with mandamus authority, it is limited to cases in which the court at issue is acting in aid of its jurisdiction. (See Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1651; Gurley v. Superior Ct. of Mecklenburg Cnty., 411 F.2d 586, 587-88 nn.2-4 (4th Cir. 1969)).)

         For the above reasons, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the court dismiss Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice and without issuance or service of process. (See Id. at 8.)

         Plaintiff timely filed objections, challenging both the Magistrate Judge's Report (see ECF No. 11 at 1-15) and her order denying his ...


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