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Harrison v. Riley

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

November 16, 2017

Eugene P. Harrison, a/k/a Eugene Paul Harrison, Sr., Plaintiff,
Tim Riley, Warden, Inmate Intake, Defendant.


          Bristow Marchant United States Judge.

         This is a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Eugene H. Harrison, also known as Eugene Paul Harrison, Sr., pro se, and is before the Court for pre-service review. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); In re Prison Litigation Reform Act. 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1997)[pleadings by non-prisoners should also be screened]. Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint herein pursuant to the procedural provisions of § 1915, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams. 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Haines v. Kerner. 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden. Maryland House of Corr.. 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc); and Todd v. Baskerville. 712F.2d70(4thCir. 1983).


         Plaintiff asserts that Tim Riley, the Warden-Inmate Intake of the Kershaw Correctional Institution (KCI) (part of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC)) falsely arrested and imprisoned him and subjected him to double jeopardy. Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 3. He alleges:

In the Summer of 2005 around May-August I Eugene Harrison was arrested and reentered into the S.C. department of Correction in Kirkland Correctional Institution on the same charges that I did time before in Summer of 2003 for Fraudulent Checks/released. In 2005 incarceration did 50 days before released by repaying the same checks.

ECF No. 1 at 5 (errors in original). Plaintiff seeks $ 10, 000 a day for the 50 days he was incarcerated, three million dollars for depression and mental anguish he claims he suffered as a result of the alleged false arrest and incarceration, $10, 000 a day for pain and suffering, and punitive damages of three million dollars. Id.

         Section 1915 permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without paying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. However, to protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action "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 frivolousness can be made where the complaint "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Denton v. Hernandez. 504 U.S. at 31. Hence, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319. Further, while this Court is also required to liberally construe pro se documents, holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)(quoting Estelle v. Gamble. 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)), 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 currently cognizable in a federal court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). Such is the case here.

         This action is subject to summary dismissal because Plaintiffs § 1983 claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and double jeopardy are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. State law concerning limitation of actions applies in claims brought under § 1983; see Wilson v. Garcia. 471 U.S. 261, 266 (1985), partially superseded by statute as stated in Jones v. R .R. Donnelly & Sons, Co.. 541 U.S. 369, 377-380 (2004); and in South Carolina the applicable statute of limitations is generally three years. See S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530. While federal law governs the question of when a cause of action accrues; see Wallace v. Kato. 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007); under federal law the running of the statute of limitations begins when a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of his injury. Id.

         A Section 1983 claim for false arrest or false imprisonment accrues when the claimant is detained pursuant to legal process. Wallace v. Kato. 549 U.S. 384 (2007)[holding "that the statute of limitations upon a § 1983 claim seeking damages for false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where the arrest is followed by criminal proceedings, begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal process."]. An illegal search and seizure cause of action is analogous to a claim of false arrest and imprisonment, Barnhill v. Strong. No. JFM 07-1678, 2008 WL 544835 (D.Md. Feb. 25, 2008), and accrues at the time the defective process was initiated. See Wallace v. Kato. 549 U.S. 384 (2007); Smith v. McCarthy. 349 Fed.Appx. 851, 856-857 (4th Cir. 2009). Here, Plaintiff clearly had knowledge of the alleged violation of his double jeopardy rights, false arrest, and false imprisonment at the time of his incarceration, or at least by the time he was released from custody (both of which he alleges occurred in 2005). Thus, the incidents at issue in this lawsuit occurred well in excess of three years prior to the filing of this action, and are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

         In issuing this Recommendation, the undersigned also notes that Plaintiff previously filed actions (against different defendants) which appear to concern the same alleged incident, further indicating that Plaintiff had knowledge of his alleged injuries more than three years before this action was filed. In July 2005, Plaintiff and his wife brought claims against Deputy Kelly, Lt. Colclough, Deputy Reynolds, and Sheriff Anthony Dennis, all employees of the Sumter County Sheriffs Department, in which he alleged that the defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by entering his home without a search warrant and by falsely arresting him. The defendants in that case filed a motion for summary judgment in which they attached copies of arrest warrants for numerous charges of fraudulent checks, and in May 2006, the Honorable Patrick Michael Duffy, Senior United States District Judge, adopted the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge and granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Harrison v. Colclough, No. 3:05-2090-PMD, 2006 WL 1345091 (D.S.C. May 15, 2006), affd. 199 Fed.Appx. 211 (4th Cir. Sept. 8, 2006). In 2007, Plaintiff filed an action against the Sumter County Sheriffs Department, Deputy Jerry Kelly, Deputy Robert Reynolds, and Lt. Colclough, in which he alleged that he was arrested in May 2005 by Sumter County Sheriff deputies on outdated and wrongly addressed arrest warrants from 1998 and 1999 for fraudulent checks. He claimed that he was unlawfully arrested and his constitutional rights were violated. Judge Duffy dismissed the complaint in that action without prejudice because Plaintiff failed to state a claim against the Defendants for a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and that his claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Harrison v. Sumter County Sheriffs Dep't.. No. 2.07-3555-PMD-GCK, 2008 WL 553181 (D.S.C. Feb. 25, 2008).

         Moreover, even if this claim was not subject to dismissal for the reasons set forth hereinabove, this action is still subject to summary dismissal because Plaintiff makes no specific allegations against the Defendant and provides no supporting facts to show what the Defendant allegedly did or did not do to violate his rights. Although Plaintiff claims that he was falsely arrested and imprisoned, he makes no allegations that the Defendant arrested him, and states no facts as to what Defendant allegedly did to falsely imprison him. Thus, this action is also subject to dismissal because Plaintiff s Complaint does not contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that [Plaintiff] is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2): see Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twomblv. 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         Finally, the Defendant is an employee of the SCDC and thus is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity in his official capacity as to any claims for monetary damages. The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution divests this Court of jurisdiction to entertain a suit for damages brought against the State of South Carolina, its integral parts, or its officials in their official capacities, by a citizen of South Carolina or a citizen of another state. See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999); College Savs. Bank v. Florida Prepaid Educ. Expense Bd.. 527 U.S. 666 (1999); Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida. 517 U.S. 44 (1996)(reaffirming Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10(1890) [holding that a citizen could not sue a state in federal court without the state's consent]; Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman. 465 U.S. 89 (1984)[although express language of Eleventh Amendment only forbids suits by citizens of other States against a State, Eleventh Amendment bars suits against a State filed by its own citizens]; Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police. 491 U.S. 58, 61-71 (1989); Edelman v. Jordan. 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974) [stating that "when the action is in essence one for the recovery of money from the state, the state is the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to invoke its [Eleventh Amendment] sovereign immunity from suit even though individual officials are nominal defendants"](quoting Ford Motor Co. v. Dep't. of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945)); see also Harter v. Vernon. 101 F.3d 334, 338-39 (4th Cir. 1996); Bellamy v. Borders. 727 F.Supp. 247, 248-50 (D.S.C. 1989); Coffin v. South Carolina Dep't of Social Servs.. 562 F.Supp. 579, 583-85 (D.S.C. 1983); Belcher v. South Carolina Bd. of Corrs.. 460 F.Supp. 805, 808-09 (D.S.C. 1978).

         While the United States Congress can override Eleventh Amendment immunity through legislation, Congress has not overridden the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity in § 1983 cases. See Quern v. Jordan. 440 U.S. 332.343 f 1979). Further, although a State may consent to a suit in a federal district court, Pennhurst 465 U.S. at 99 & n.9, the State of South Carolina has not consented to such actions. Rather, the South Carolina Tort Claims Act expressly provides that the State of South Carolina does not waive Eleventh Amendment immunity, consents to suit only in a court of the State of South Carolina, and does not consent to suit in a federal court or in a court of another state. S.C. Code Ann. § 15-78-20(e).

         Based on the foregoing, it is recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint without prejudice and ...

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