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Butler v. State

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

November 14, 2017

Richard Butler, Plaintiff,
State of South Carolina, Defendant.



         Richard Butler (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, brings this civil action alleging violations of the United States Constitution and South Carolina State Constitution. Plaintiff filed this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Complaint is subject to summary dismissal.


         Plaintiff alleges the following facts. Plaintiff was issued tickets on July 23, 2017, by Officer B.J. Bolt for (1) failure to stop for blue light, (2) driving under the influence, 1st offense, (3) driving under suspended license, 3rd offense, and (4) seat belt violation. [Doc. 1.] Plaintiff attached copies of the four tickets as exhibits to his Complaint. [Doc. 1-2.] Plaintiff contends that the statutes pursuant to which the tickets were issued are “ex por [sic] facto” laws, which violate the United States Constitution and South Carolina State Constitution. [Doc. 1.] Plaintiff also contends that the charges and procedures against him violate his due process rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. [Id.]

         In support, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant and its agents lack the authority to issue traffic tickets because they do not have any fiduciary relationship with Plaintiff. [Doc. 1.] Plaintiff alleges that there is no “Proof of Claim” or “IRS FORM 4490" pursuant to tax law creating a fiduciary relationship between Defendant and Plaintiff that would grant Defendant any authority to issue such tickets. [Id.] As a result, Plaintiff contends, the tickets issued by Officer Bolt constitute a violation of due process by the government. [Id.] For his relief, Plaintiff asks that the Court issue an order declaring that the tickets violate due process and awarding Plaintiff $9, 051.00. [Id.]

         This Court takes judicial notice from the Saluda County online court records that Plaintiff was arrested on July 23, 2017, for the charges listed above, and that the charges remain pending against Plaintiff in the state court. See Saluda County Eleventh Judicial Circuit Public Index, (enter Plaintiff's name, and 6102P0346504, 6102P0346505, 6102P0346506, 6102P0346507) (last visited Nov. 13, 2017); see also Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem. Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (courts “may properly take judicial notice of matters of public record”); Colonial Penn Ins. Co. v. Coil, 887 F.2d 1236, 1239 (4th Cir. 1989) (“We note that ‘the most frequent use of judicial notice is in noticing the content of court records.'”). The state records indicate Plaintiff was released on bond with regard to the pending charges. Id. Further, according to the state records, Plaintiff was indicted (Indictment No. 2017GS4101376) on July 25, 2017, as to case number 610P0346505. Id.


         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) DSC, the undersigned is authorized to review the Complaint for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).[*]

         As a pro se litigant, Plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). However, even under this less stringent standard, the pro se pleading remains subject to summary dismissal. The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).


         The Complaint appears to be filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “‘is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). A civil action under § 1983 “creates a private right of action to vindicate violations of ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1501 (2012). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         Because it is well settled that only “persons” may act under color of state law, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a “person.” A state is not a “person” amenable to suit under § 1983. See Will v. Michigan State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989); Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 396 (4th Cir. 1990); Drake v. Ham, No. 3:06-1611-MJP-JRM, 2007 WL 2580629, at *5 (D.S.C. Aug. 16, 2007). Therefore, because the State of South Carolina is not a person under § 1983, the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         Even if Plaintiff had sued a person, for example Officer Bolt, this action still would be subject to dismissal based on the Younger abstention doctrine. Here, Plaintiff asks this Court to interfere with or enjoin the pending state criminal prosecution against him. However, because a federal court may not award injunctive relief that would affect pending state criminal proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances, this Court should abstain from interfering with it.

         In Younger v. Harris, the Supreme Court held that a federal court should not equitably interfere with state criminal proceedings “except in the most narrow and extraordinary of circumstances.” Gilliam v. Foster, 75 F.3d 881, 903 (4th Cir. 1996). The Younger Court noted that courts of equity should not act unless the moving party has no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable injury if denied equitable relief. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971); see ...

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