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Scott v. City of Camden

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

November 16, 2017

Blanche Scott, Plaintiff,
City of Camden, South Carolina, and John Burns, Building Inspector, and Charles Cushman III, former City Attorney, City of Camden City Council, and Michael Wright, Attorney for City of Camden, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, Blanche Scott (“Plaintiff”), brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a Fourth Amendment claim for malicious prosecution and a claim for “prosecutorial misconduct” as well as state law claims for outrage (intentional infliction of emotional distress), trespass, negligent supervision, breach of fiduciary duty, promissory estoppel, and abuse of process.[1] See ECF No. 1-1, Compl. Plaintiff brought these claims against the City of Camden, the City of Camden City Council[2], and individuals John Burns, City Zoning Administrator; Charles Cushman III, former City Attorney; and Michael Wright, current City Attorney.

         The matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges a series of zoning citations were issued against her in retaliation for a successful lawsuit she brought against the City of Camden in 1987. Compl. ¶¶ 8-13. “In the current set of circumstances, ” Plaintiff attempted to have a yard sale on her property but was cited as violating several zoning ordinances, despite allegedly and “on information and her belief. . . [being] in compliance with City ordinances allowing her to have up to five (5) personal items for sale on her property.” Id. at ¶ 11-12. Plaintiff alleges she was “targeted and singled out for ticketing and suits by the city in part in retaliation for having won a judgment against the city as aforementioned.” Id. at ¶ 13.

         In February of 2016, Defendant Burns, the Zoning Administrator, sent Plaintiff a letter informing her she was in violation of City of Camden ordinances for personal property too close to the roadway at each of her homes and for having miscellaneous items for sale on her property without a permit. ECF No. 17-2 at 28-30. When Plaintiff failed to timely take sufficient corrective action, she was issued three citations on April 11, 2016 (“2016 citations”). Id. at 32-35. Plaintiff, represented by counsel, was found guilty on all three citations at a jury trial in Camden Municipal Court on September 16, 2016. ECF No. 17-6. She was sentenced to pay a fine of $1, 087.00 or thirty days in jail on each charge, suspended to a fine of $543.75 on each charge. Id. at 10. She paid the fines in full. Id. Plaintiff's convictions were affirmed by the Kershaw County Court of Common Pleas on October 25, 2017. ECF No. 19-1.

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges malicious prosecution because she was “singled out for prosecution where others in her neighborhood have gross violations of ordinances and are not prosecuted or ticketed.” Compl. at ¶ 17. She further alleges prosecutorial misconduct in changing dates of her hearings so that her attorney was unable to attend. Id. at ¶ 16. Her second cause of action alleges trespass on the part of City employees and “the building inspector” who “cited Scott for alleged violations that could not have otherwise, and without trespass, been observable from any point other than by trespassing upon her property.” Id. at ¶ 20. In her third cause of action, Plaintiff alleges the City of Camden and its officers and administrators were negligent in failing to supervise the building administrator and failed to prevent, or encouraged, officials or administrators in harassing or singling out Plaintiff for prosecution. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff also alleges these actions and inactions caused intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. at ¶¶ 23, 27. Plaintiff alleges promissory estoppel, in that she relied on the ordinance allowing her to have a certain number of items for sale on her property, and she was denied this right while others were allowed to do so. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff contends “certain Defendants” breached a fiduciary duty owed to her as a resident of Camden to be treated “fairly and justly.” Id. at ¶ 33. Finally, Plaintiff alleges abuse of process in enforcement of city ordinances by “specifically targeting and harassing Plaintiff and in denying Plaintiff representation at hearings and denying Plaintiff enjoyment of her property by abusing the ability to issue summons and tickets even though Plaintiff had not violated ordinances as written.” Id. at ¶ 35.

         As noted by Defendants, Plaintiff was also prosecuted by the City of Camden for ordinance violations in 2008. ECF No. 17-1 at 4 n.4. Following her conviction, she sued the City of Camden, John Burns, and Charles Cushman, along with one other Defendant not named in the instant suit, alleging Constitutional violations as a result of her prosecution, civil conspiracy, and state law claims. See Civil Action No. 3:08-1599-CMC. Defendants were granted summary judgment in that case. Id. at ECF No. 60. Plaintiff conceded Cushman was to be dismissed due to prosecutorial immunity and that her claim for retaliatory prosecution in violation of the First Amendment was barred by her conviction on the citation (citing Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250 (2006). Id. She also abandoned her claim for outrage. The court granted summary judgment on the merits regarding Plaintiff's Sixth Amendment claim that Defendants violated her right to counsel, her federal conspiracy claim, and her state law claims. Id.


         Summary judgment should be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). It is well established that summary judgment should be granted “only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts.” Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Properties, 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and the court must view the evidence before it and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         Rule 56(c)(1) provides as follows:

(1) A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials; or
(b) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce ...

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