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Tinsley v. South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services

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

June 5, 2017

James Tinsley, #171943, Plaintiff,
v.
South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services; Governor Nikki Haley; Larry Ray Patton, Jr.; David Baxter; Marvin Stevenson; Henry Eldridge; Thomas Hallam; and John Doe, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Henry M. Herlong, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 of the District of South Carolina.[1] James Tinsley (“Tinsley”), proceeding pro se, alleges that the Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by relying on expunged records to deny him parole. In her Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baker recommends granting Defendants' motion to dismiss, denying Tinsley's motion for summary judgment, and dismissing as moot Defendants' motion to dismiss or stay Tinsley's motion for summary judgment. (R&R 18, ECF No. 38.)

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Tinsley was previously incarcerated at Trenton Correctional Institution, a South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) facility. (Compl. 2, ECF No. 1.) While incarcerated, Tinsley was denied parole on April 9, 2014, and again on May 27, 2015. (Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 15, ECF No. 11.) Subsequently, Tinsley was granted parole on May 25, 2016. (Id. ¶ 25, ECF No. 11.) Tinsley alleges that the Defendants violated his constitutional rights by relying upon allegedly false information in their decisions to deny parole. (Id. ¶¶ 20-23, ECF No. 11.)

         On March 28, 2016, Tinsley filed the instant case. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Tinsley amended his complaint on May 11, 2016, and again on June 24, 2016. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 8); (Sec. Am. Compl., ECF No. 11.) On January 17, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. (Defs. Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 29.) Tinsley responded and filed a motion for summary judgment on February 3, 2017. (Pl. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 34.) On February 10, 2017, Defendants replied in support of their motion to dismiss. (Defs. Reply, ECF No. 36.) Additionally, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, stay, or extend the time to respond to Tinsley's motion for summary judgment on February 17, 2017. (Defs. Mot. Dismiss Pl. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 37.) On May 16, 2017, Magistrate Judge Baker issued her Report and Recommendation, recommending that Tinsley's complaint be dismissed because: (1)Tinsley's official capacity claims against Defendants South Carolina Department of Probation (“SCDPPS”), Larry Ray Patton, Jr. (“Patton”), David Baxter (“Baxter”), Marvin Stevenson (“Stevenson”), Henry Eldridge (“Eldridge”), Thomas Hallam (“Hallam”), and John Doe (“Doe”) are barred by sovereign immunity; (2) Patton, Baxter, Stevenson, Eldridge, Hallam, and Doe are entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity in regard to Tinsley's individual-capacity claims; and (3) Tinsley has failed to adequately plead a claim against former governor Nikki Haley (“Governor Haley”) and she is entitled to qualified immunity. (R&R, generally, ECF No. 38.) Tinsley filed objections on May 24, 2017. (Objs., ECF No. 40.) This matter is ripe for consideration.

         II. Discussion of the Law

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a cause of action if the opposing party fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must restrict its inquiry to the sufficiency of the complaint rather than “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         B. Objections

         Tinsley filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. Objections to the Report and Recommendation must be specific. Failure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of a party's right to further judicial review, including appellate review, if the recommendation is accepted by the district judge. See United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 & n.4 (4th Cir. 1984). In the absence of specific objections to the Report and Recommendation of the magistrate judge, this court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983).

         Upon review, the court finds that many of Tinsley's objections are non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, or merely restate his claims. However, the court was able to glean three specific objections. Tinsley objects that the magistrate judge erred in finding that: (1) his official capacity claims are barred by sovereign immunity; (2) Defendants Baxter, Stevenson, Eldridge, Hallam, and Doe, who Tinsley alleges were members of the parole board during the relevant periods, and Patton, who Tinsley alleges was a parole board investigator responsible for the preparation of his correctional file, are entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity; and (3) he has failed to adequately plead a complaint against Governor Haley and that she is entitled to qualified immunity. (Objs., generally, ECF No. 10.)

         1. Official-Capacity Claims

         Tinsley objects that the magistrate judge erred in finding that his official-capacity claims are barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. The magistrate judge found that, while the Ex parte Young[2] doctrine provides an exception to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, it is inapplicable in this case because Tinsley's claims do not present a continuing constitutional violation. (R&R 10, ECF No. 38); see also Verizon Md. Inc. v. Public Serv. Comm'n of Md., 535 U.S. 635, 645 (2002) (“In determining whether the doctrine of Ex parte Young avoids an Eleventh Amendment bar to suit, a court need only conduct a straightforward inquiry into whether the complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). In response, Tinsley argues that, irrespective of his parole, he has a right to have the false information removed from his correctional file. (Objs. 2, ECF No. 40.) Additionally, Tinsley argues that he has alleged ongoing violations because he remains on probation and is subject to further due process violations through future probation hearings where the allegedly incorrect and prejudicial information may be relied upon to revoke his parole. (Id. at 2-3, ECF No. 40.)

         To state a complaint based upon a parole board's failure to remove allegedly incorrect and prejudicial information from his correctional file, Tinsley must allege: “(1) that information is in his file, (2) that the information is false, and (3) that it is relied on to a constitutionally significant degree.” Paine v. ...


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