United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge
Boyd Thomas Dean, Jr. (“Dean”), proceeding pro se
and in forma pauperis, filed this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02, DSC, this matter was
referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial handling. Before
the court is the magistrate judge's Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) recommending that the
court dismiss the complaint, without prejudice and without
issuance and service of process, as to the South Carolina
Department of Mental Health (“SCDMH”). (ECF No.
14). Dean has filed timely objections to the Report (ECF No.
20), and this matter is ripe for review.
magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to the court.
The Report has no presumptive weight and the responsibility
to make a final determination in this matter remains with
this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261,
270-71 (1976). In making that determination, the court is
charged with conducting a de novo review of those portions of
the Report to which either party specifically objects.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Then, the court may
accept, reject, or modify the Report or recommit the matter
to the magistrate judge. Id.
Report, the magistrate judge recommends dismissing defendant
SCDMH because SCDMH does not qualify as a
“person” subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. A civil action under § 1983 creates a private
cause of action “to vindicate violations of
‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws' of the United States.”
Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 361 (2012). To state
a claim pursuant to § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1)
that he or she “has been deprived of a right, privilege
or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States, ” and (2) “that the conduct complained of
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law.” Dowe v. Total Action Against Poverty in
Roanoke Valley, 145 F.3d 653, 658 (4th Cir. 1998).
Because SCDMH is not a person under § 1983, Price v.
Sanders, No. CA 3:07-3924-CMC-PJG, 2008 WL 5076859, at
*1 (D.S.C. Nov. 21, 2008) (“It is well-settled that an
agency of the state [SCDMH] is not a “person”
within the meaning of § 1983, and thus is not a proper
defendant.”), aff'd, 339 F.App'x 339
(4th Cir. 2009), and entire departments or groups of people
are not amenable to suit under § 1983, Shadoan v.
Florence Cty. Det. Ctr. Med. Dep't, No. 8:12-CV-2908
DCN JDA, 2013 WL 6408347 (D.S.C. Dec. 6, 2013), the
magistrate judge recommends that the court dismiss SCDMH from
asserts three objections to the magistrate judge's
Report. First, he objects to the magistrate judge mentioning
the fact that Dean is civilly committed to the Sexually
Violent Predator Treatment Program (“SVPTP”).
(ECF No. 20 at 1). Dean alleges that he intentionally left
this detail out of his complaint because he believes this
designation may be prejudicial to his case if it were to go
before a jury. However, he does not assert that the
magistrate judge's statement of fact is untrue or
erroneous and provides no legal basis for relief.
Furthermore, any prejudice Dean asserts may arise in the
future from mention of the SVPTP is purely speculative. Dean
does not allege or show that he has suffered any prejudice
from the magistrate judge or from this court. Accordingly,
Dean's objection is without merit.
Dean's second objection, he largely restates his
argument. The magistrate judge has already conducted an
analysis of this argument, and Dean fails to specifically
assert where the magistrate judge erred in that analysis. A
party's general, non-specific objection is insufficient
to challenge findings by a magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.A.
§ 636(b)(1). To the extent that Dean mentions the
SCDMH's policies, he may be attempting to argue municipal
liability principles. However, because SCDMH is an arm of the
state, and not a political subdivision or municipality,
theories of municipal liability discussed in Monell v.
Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) and
City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989), i.e.,
liability through an unconstitutional policy, have no
application here. Specifically, the “Court's
holding in Monell was limited to local government
units which are not considered part of the State for Eleventh
Amendment purposes . . .” Quern v. Jordan, 440
U.S. 332, 338 (internal citations and quotation marks
in his third objection, Dean argues that the magistrate judge
erred in finding that SCDMH is not a person liable under
§ 1983 (1) because SCDMH is a corporation and (2)
because SCDMH is accountable through agency principles.
However, Dean's first argument fails because SCDMH is a
state agency-not a corporation. Valbert v. S.C. Dep't
of Mental Health, No. 9:12-CV-01973-RBH, 2013 WL
4500455, at *9 (D.S.C. Aug. 20, 2013) (Defendant “South
Carolina Department of Mental Health, as a state agency,
enjoys Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in this Court,
and is therefore entitled to dismissal . . .”),
aff'd, 549 F.App'x 179 (4th Cir. 2013);
Bell v. Scaturo, No. C/A 9:08-CV-1746-GRA, 2009 WL
821958, at *4 (D.S.C. Mar. 26, 2009).
argument that SCDMH is liable for the acts of its
administrators is equally without merit because, as discussed
above, SCDMH is immune from suit under § 1983. Dean has
failed to plead any facts or legal arguments demonstrating
error in the magistrate judge's Report. Accordingly,
Dean's objections are overruled and the court dismisses
SCDMH from this action. Neitzke v. Williams, 490
U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
thorough review of the Report and the record in this case,
the court adopts the magistrate judge's Report (ECF No.
14) and incorporates it herein. Accordingly, defendant South
Carolina Department of Mental Health is DISMISSED without
prejudice and without issuance and service of process.
OF RIGHT TO APPEAL
parties are hereby notified of the right to appeal this order
pursuant to Rules 3 and 4 of the ...