United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Judge.
Joseph Randolph (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro
se, filed this complaint on September 1, 2016, alleging
a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendants Kevin Lawrence, a Richland County Sheriff's
Deputy, and Leon Lott, Richland County Sheriff
(“Defendants”). ECF No. 1 at 5.
RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
alleges false arrest and malicious prosecution arising from
an arrest that occurred during a traffic stop effectuated on
or about May/June of 2013. ECF No. 1 at 5-6. Plaintiff
alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when:
(1) drugs were allegedly planted on him; (2) he was falsely
charged with possession with intent to distribute crack
cocaine, driving under suspension, and possession of a stolen
vehicle; and (3) he was subsequently incarcerated for ninety
days before the charges were dropped. Id. Plaintiff
is seeking monetary damages for pain and suffering, mental
anguish, and emotional distress. Id. at 7. Plaintiff
indicates that he is suing Defendants in their official
capacities only. ECF No. 1 at 3.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule
73.02(b)(2)(e), D.S.C., this matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West for pretrial
handling. On November 18, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a
Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending
that Plaintiff's complaint be summarily dismissed without
prejudice. See ECF No. 17; Brown v.
Briscoe, 998 F.2d 201, 202-04 (4th Cir. 1993). The
Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's claims for
damages against Defendants in their official capacities are
barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States
Constitution. ECF No. 53 at 2. Further, the Magistrate Judge
posits, Plaintiff fails to state a plausible claim against
Defendants even if Plaintiff had sued Defendants in their
individual capacities. ECF No. 17 at 4.
December 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report.
Plaintiff asserts that he was unaware of the proper
procedures required when filing suit. ECF No. 19 at 1.
Specifically, Plaintiff objects “to not having
knowledge of the steps needed to be taken toward filing pro
se for litigation cases.” Id. Plaintiff
continues, “I was told that by adding the
‘capacity' and adding their employment as Richland
County that it would place (Richland County) as the Defendant
as well . . . ” Id. Plaintiff continues
alleging that money was taken from him after he was charged
with PWID crack cocaine. Id. He says the money was
later mailed back to him, but that the Sheriff's
Department had complete knowledge that his money was seized.
Id. at 2. Plaintiff then continues making many of
the arguments raised in his complaint, maintaining that he
was falsely imprisoned and that his constitutional rights
were deprived by Defendants. Id. On December 8,
2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend or correct the
complaint, requesting that Defendant Lott be dismissed and
that Richland County, South Carolina, be added as Defendant.
ECF No. 21 at 1.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
this Court. Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270
(1976). This court is charged with making a de novo
determination of any portions of the Report to which a
specific objection is made. However, the district court need
not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only
general and conclusory objections that do not direct the
court to a specific error in the Magistrate Judge's
proposed findings and recommendations. Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47-48 (4th Cir. 1982). The court
may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit
the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
1983 allows plaintiffs to seek monetary damages from
governmental officials who have violated their constitutional
rights. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Section 1983
establishes liability against:
Every person who, under statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District
of Columbia, subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen
of the United States or another person within the
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
cannot, without its consent, be sued by one of its own
citizens in federal court. See Edleman v. Jordan,
415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). This immunity extends not only
to the states, but also “protects state agents and
state instrumentalities” also known as “the arms
of the State.” Bland v. Roberts, 730 F.3d 368,
389-90 (4th Cir. 2013)(internal citation omitted). In South
Carolina, a county is considered an arm of the state, and is
therefore barred from suit in federal court. See
S.C. Code Ann. § 4-1-10 (stating that counties are a
“body politic and corporate” to sue and be sued);
Pennington v. Kershaw County, CA No.
3:12-1509-JFA-SVH, 2013 WL 2423120 at *4 (D.S.C. June 4,
2013) (applying S.C. Code Ann. §4-1-10 to the Eleventh
Amendment to determine a county cannot be sued).
State of South Carolina has not consented to be sued in this
case. S.C. Code Ann. §15-78-20(e). Therefore, Plaintiff
is barred from suing Defendants under the Eleventh Amendment
because he sought suit against Defendants in their official
capacities. As the Magistrate Judge notes, “because a
county employee in his or her official capacity is deemed to
be the county itself, and therefore the state itself, this
federal court is precluded from considering an official
capacity claim against such an employee.” ECF No. at
secondary matter, Plaintiff's motion to amend complaint
is futile. In his motion, Plaintiff seeks to dismiss Sheriff
Leon Lott as a Defendant and to add Richland County, South
Carolina as “head defendant.” Id.
However, Plaintiff's amendment is futile because Richland
County, like the current Defendants in their ...