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Grant-Davis v. Board of Trustees of Charleston County Public Library

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

August 24, 2017

King Grant-Davis, Plaintiff,
Board of Trustees of Charleston County Public Library; County of Charleston, Defendants.


          PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's objections to United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker's Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) (ECF Nos. 63 & 57). The Magistrate Judge recommends the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court overrules Plaintiff's objections, adopts the R & R in part, and grants summary judgment.


         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). Parties may make written objections to the R & R within fourteen days after being served with a copy of it. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de novo review of any portion of the R & R to which a specific objection is made, and it may accept, reject, or modify the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations in whole or in part. Id. Additionally, the Court may receive more evidence or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. Id. A party's failure to object is taken as the party's agreement with the Magistrate Judge's conclusions. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). Absent a timely, specific objection-or as to those portions of the R & R to which no specific objection is made-this Court “must ‘only 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).

         The Court applies those standards recognizing that pro se filings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and that it must liberally construe pro se filings to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). That, however, does not mean the Court can ignore a clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).


         Most of Plaintiff's objections do not address specific portions of the R & R. Rather, for the most part, Plaintiff has merely rehashed assertions he made in earlier filings. The Court summarily overrules those “objections.” See, e.g., Anderson v. Dobson, 627 F.Supp.2d 619, 623 (W.D. N.C. 2007) (“An ‘objection' that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an ‘objection' as that term is used in this context.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)). The Court addresses Plaintiff's proper objections seriatim.

         I. ADA Claim Against the Library Board [1]

         Plaintiff claims the Library Board violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.[2]The Magistrate Judge recommends granting Defendants summary judgment because the record conclusively shows the Library Board banned Plaintiff because he posed a direct threat-a complete defense to a Title III claim-and not because he is disabled. Plaintiff raises several objections to the Magistrate Judge's analysis. The Court need not address the analysis or the objections. Plaintiff's claim fails on another ground.

         Title III forbids the disability-based denial of a person's enjoyment of any “public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). The term “public accommodation, ” however, “‘expressly does not apply to public entities, ' including state and local governments.” Crawford v. Dep't of Corr. Educ., No. 3:11CV430-HEH, 2011 WL 5975254, at *4 (E.D. Va. Nov. 29, 2011) (quoting Bloom v. Bexar Cty., 130 F.3d 722, 726 (5th Cir. 1997)), aff'd, 472 F. App'x 192 (4th Cir. 2012) (per curiam); accord Falchenberg v. N.Y. State Dep't of Educ., 642 F.Supp.2d 156, 165-66 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (collecting cases), aff'd, 338 F. App'x 11 (2d Cir. 2009) (per curiam); see also Callum v. CVS Health Corp., 137 F.Supp.3d 817, 839 (D.S.C. 2015) (stating one of the elements of a Title III claim is that “the defendant is a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation” (citing § 12182(a)-(b))). It is undisputed that the Library Board is a public entity, not a private one. Thus, Plaintiff's claim fails.

         II. § 1983 Claims Against the Library Board

         The Magistrate Judge liberally construed Plaintiff's complaint to assert claims against the Library Board, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violating his constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and freedom of speech. The Magistrate Judge concluded, however, that no reasonable jury could find that any of those rights were violated.

         Plaintiff's objections relating to the § 1983 claims consist of assertions that the Library Board's conduct policy and the state statute authorizing the Board to promulgate that policy are unconstitutionally vague, that the Library Board should have provided him certain documents before his appeal hearing, and that various library employees conspired against him. Those assertions are not direct responses to specific portions of the R & R. Therefore, as mentioned, they are not proper objections. Moreover, the R & R touches on only the last of those assertions. The remaining assertions are theories of liability that cannot be found in, or liberally inferred from, Plaintiff's complaint. The Court will not consider those theories, as doing so would in effect allow Plaintiff to constructively amend his pleading through his briefs and objections. See Harris v. Reston Hosp. Ctr., 523 F. App'x 938, 946 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (“Because a complaint guides the parties' discovery, putting the defendant on notice of the evidence it needs to adduce in order to defend against the plaintiff's allegations, constructive amendment of the complaint at summary judgment undermines the complaint's purpose and can thus unfairly prejudice the defendant.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)); Cloaninger v. McDevitt, 555 F.3d 324, 336 (4th Cir. 2009) (“[A] plaintiff may not raise new claims after discovery has begun without amending his complaint.”).

         As to the § 1983 theories of liability that Plaintiff has actually alleged, the Court agrees with the Library Board that Plaintiff has failed to come forward with evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to hold the Board liable under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), for any alleged constitutional violations. See Lytle v. Doyle, 326 F.3d 463, 471 (4th Cir. 2003) (reciting the four ways in which plaintiffs may establish § 1983 liability under Monell). In other words, while the Court sees no clear error in the Magistrate Judge's analysis as to whether Plaintiff has shown a triable issue on any alleged constitutional violation, ...

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