United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, AND
DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case was filed as an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. The matter is before the
Court for review of the Report and Recommendation (Report) of
the United States Magistrate Judge suggesting Plaintiff's
Complaint be dismissed without prejudice and without issuance
and service of process. The Report was made in accordance
with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the
District of South Carolina.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
those portions of the Report to which specific objection is
made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or
recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
filed his Complaint on May 15, 2017. ECF No. 1. On July 25,
2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a first Report recommending
the Court dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint without prejudice
and without issuance and service of process. ECF No. 9.
Plaintiff filed objections. ECF No. 11. In an abundance of
caution, the Court construed one of Plaintiff's
objections as a motion for leave to amend the complaint to
change the Defendants. ECF No. 12. The Court thus vacated the
Magistrate Judge's July 25, 2017 Report, directed
Plaintiff to file his amended complaint no later than
September 8, 2017, and remanded the case to the Magistrate
Judge. Id. Plaintiff failed to file an amended
Magistrate Judge filed the instant Report on September 20,
2017, ECF No. 19, and the Clerk of Court entered
Plaintiff's objections to the Report on October 2, 2017,
ECF No. 21. The Court has reviewed the objections, but holds
them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment
first objects his § 1983 proceeding would not
necessarily invalidate his confinement or duration, so
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), does not bar
his claim for monetary damages, and the collateral order
doctrine allows him an immediate appeal from the underlying
State proceedings. Plaintiff also claims because he is
challenging the constitutionality of his State court
proceedings, not the validity or duration of his confinement,
Heck does not bar his claims for declaratory or
injunctive relief. The Magistrate Judge suggested
Heck barred Plaintiff's claims for monetary
damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief.
objection fails for two reasons. First, a state prisoner is
barred from bringing claims under § 1983 when the
success of his § 1983 action necessarily implies his
underlying conviction or sentence is invalid unless the
underlying conviction or sentence has been previously
invalidated. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87 (barring
claims for monetary damages), Wilkinson v. Dotson,
544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) (indicating that the same bar
applies to § 1983 actions whether they seek damages or
equitable relief). Plaintiff, who is currently detained at
the Darlington County Detention Center awaiting civil
commitment proceedings under the South Carolina Sexually
Violent Predator Act (SVPA), challenges the validity of a
probable cause hearing held in connection with his SVPA
proceedings. For Plaintiff to succeed on his § 1983
claim, he must show that a person acting under color of state
law deprived him of a federal right. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Success on that claim would necessarily imply Plaintiff's
underlying conviction or sentence was invalid, and Plaintiff
has failed to show his sentence or conviction was previously
invalidated. Thus, Heck bars his claims.
the collateral order doctrine allows the appeal of certain
non-final rulings. See, e.g., Mohawk Indus., Inc. v.
Carpenter, 558 U.S. 100, 106-07 (2009) (citations
omitted). Plaintiff, however, does not seek an appeal of his
underlying State court proceeding. Rather, he filed a §
1983 action. Thus, the collateral order doctrine does not
apply. On that basis, the Court will overrule Plaintiff's
objection regarding his claims for monetary damages,
injunction, and declaratory relief being barred.
next argues that abstention does not apply because his civil
commitment is not a criminal proceeding, and there has been a
substantial due process violation here. The Magistrate Judge
noted that under abstention doctrines, the federal court
would abstain from State criminal proceedings absent
extraordinary circumstances, and would abstain from
constitutional challenges to State judicial proceedings if
the federal claims could be presented in the State
proceeding. As a preliminary matter, federal courts should
abstain from interfering in State criminal prosecutions
absent extraordinary circumstances. See Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971). Further, federal
district courts should not decide constitutional challenges
to State judicial proceedings if the federal claims could be
raised in the ongoing State proceedings. Cinema Blue of
Charlotte, Inc. v. Gilchrist, 887 F.2d 49, 52 (4th Cir.
1989) (citing Haw. Hous. Auth. v. Midkiff, 467 U.S.
229, 237-38 (1984)). Though civil commitment under the South
Carolina SVPA is civil rather than criminal, the
Heck bar applies to civil rights challenges to the
SVPA, like the one at issue here. See Huftile v.
Miccio-Fonseca, 410 F.3d 1136, 1139-40 (9th Cir. 2005)
(holding Heck applies to civilly committed detainees
who are confined under California's “Sexually
Violent Predators Act”). Additionally, Plaintiff could
have brought his constitutional challenge to the underlying
State proceeding in that State proceeding. For those reasons,
the Court will overrule Plaintiff's objections to the
Magistrate Judge's recommendations on abstention.
alleges the Magistrate Judge erred in suggesting Plaintiff
requested release from custody. The Magistrate Judge,
however, did not state Plaintiff requested release from
custody, but merely noted “to the extent Plaintiff is
requesting release from custody, such relief may only be
obtained in a habeas action, not in a § 1983
case.” ECF No. 19 at 7. Because the Magistrate Judge
did not state Plaintiff requested release from custody, the
Court will overrule Plaintiff's objection on this point.
then argues the Magistrate Judge erred in suggesting
Plaintiff improperly brought claims against his defense
attorney, James K. Falk. The Magistrate Judge suggested Falk
was entitled to summary dismissal because he did not act
under color of state law, and thus is not subject to
liability under § 1983. According to Plaintiff, Falk
acted under color of state law because he conspired with the
State to have Plaintiff civilly committed. “Unlike a
prosecutor or the court, [defense] counsel ordinarily is not
considered a state actor.” Vt. v. Brillon, 556
U.S. 81, 91 (2009). A defense attorney may be acting under
color of state law, however, where he conspires with state
officials to deprive another of his federal rights. See
Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 919-20 (1984) (citations
omitted). Although Plaintiff alleges in both his Complaint
and his objection that Falk conspired with state officials to
violate Plaintiff's civil rights, Plaintiff provides no
facts supporting this allegation. For this reason, the Court
will overrule Plaintiff's objection regarding the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation Falk be dismissed.
avers the Magistrate Judge erred in recommending James Bogle
Sr., the prosecutor in Plaintiff's State proceeding, was
immune from § 1983 liability under prosecutorial
immunity. Plaintiff argues that “state immunity rules
do not apply in state court action § 1983.” ECF
No. 21 at 8. As a preliminary matter, this is not a State
court action, but a federal court action. Even assuming-under
liberal construction rules--Plaintiff meant to say that state
immunity rules do not apply in a federal § 1983 action,
his objection still fails for two reasons.
the Magistrate Judge based his recommendation on
prosecutorial immunity, not state immunity. Second, the law
is clear: a prosecutor is immune from liability under §
1983 for those activities “intimately associated with
the judicial phase of the criminal process . . . .”
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976).
Because the activities Bogle undertook were “intimately
associated with the judicial phase” of the proceedings
against Plaintiff under South Carolina's SVPA, Bogle is
immune from liability under § 1983. Accordingly, the
Court will overrule Plaintiff's objection as to the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation regarding Bogle.
Plaintiff alleges he did not fail to comply with the
Court's Order directing him to file an amended complaint.
Rather, he never received the Order because the mail
department at the jail failed to deliver it to him. Plaintiff
thus requests the Court send him a new Order to amend his
Complaint, and he will substitute John Doe as a Defendant for
Bogle until he learns the name of the actual prosecutor at
his probable cause hearing. Even if Plaintiff substituted the
actual prosecutor, or for that matter, the Attorney General
of South Carolina (whom the Court thought Plaintiff
originally sought to substitute for Bogle) as a Defendant for
Bogle, prosecutorial immunity would protect those prosecutors
from § 1983 ...