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Adams v. Grant

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

November 9, 2017

Naomi Adams, Plaintiff,
v.
Patricia Grant, Colleton County Clerk of Court, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARY GORDON BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is a non-prisoner litigant, who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the case initially and to submit findings and recommendations to the United States District Judge. After careful review, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Complaint (DE# 1) be summarily dismissed, with prejudice, and without issuance and service of process, for the following reasons:

         I. The Present Lawsuit

         Plaintiff filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Patricia Grant, the Colleton County Clerk of Court. The allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint are very minimal. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges (verbatim) that:

Patricia Grant acting in her official capacity as Colleton County Clerk of Court, exceeded her jurisdiction by not properly filing Plaintiff's legal documents, more specifically, the Plaintiff's (PCR) Post Conviction Relief. Defendants (sic) actions resulted in Plaintiff sustaining injuries, effecting (sic) quality of life.

(DE# 1, ¶ III, “Statement of the Claim”). Although Plaintiff complains about the filing of PCR documents, a state records check reflects that Plaintiff is not an inmate at this time.[1] For relief, Plaintiff demands monetary damages “in the amount of $500, 000.00 plus interest and cost[s].” (DE# 1 at 9, ¶¶ III and VI).

         II. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, the Magistrate Judge has carefully reviewed this pro se prisoner complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and in light of the following precedents: Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); and Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir. 1978).

         The pro se Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, and thus, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 applies to this case. Such statute permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the action. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows the court to dismiss the case upon finding that the case is “frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte “at any time” under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B). Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 319. The statute “is designed largely to discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits.” Id. at 326. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) also provides for the screening of complaints “in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         Pro se pleadings are given liberal construction and are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Jackson v. Lightsey, 775 F.3d 170, 178 (4th Cir. 2014). However, “[t]he ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view ... pro se filings does not transform the court into an advocate. United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 2401 (2013). Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.” Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Giving “liberal construction” does not mean that the Court can ignore a prisoner's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. “Principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints ... [do] not require ... courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented to them.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986).

         III. Discussion

         A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         Plaintiff appears to indicate that she is suing the Defendant Clerk of Court in her official capacity. (DE# 1 at 6, ¶ III, referring to “Patricia Grant acting in her official capacity as Colleton County Clerk of Court”). To the extent Plaintiff is seeking monetary damages from a state official in official capacity, the Defendant is immune from such relief under the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution. Sovereign immunity protects the State itself, as well as its agencies, divisions, departments, officials, and other “arms of the State.” Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989) (explaining that a suit against a state official in his official capacity is “no different from a suit against the State itself”); see also, e.g., Cromer v. Brown, 88 F.3d 1315, 1332 (4th Cir. 1996); Ransom v. Lawrence, Case No. 6:12-3141-JFA-KFM, 2013 WL 4523588, *4 (D.S.C. Aug. 26, 2013); Jones v. SCDC, Case No. 5:12-cv-03554-RBH-KDW, 2013 WL 3880175, *4 (D.S.C. July 26, 2013). Based on sovereign immunity, the Defendant sued in her official capacity should be dismissed as a party.

         B. Quasi-Judicial Immunity ...


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