United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
TIMOTHY M. CAIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Petitioner's “motion
for mandamus” which was docketed as a petition for a
writ of mandamus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1361. (ECF No.
1). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule
73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., all pre-trial proceedings were referred
to a magistrate judge. On August 24, 2017, Magistrate Judge
Mary Gordon Baker filed a Report and Recommendation
recommending the petition be summarily dismissed with
prejudice. (ECF No. 6). Petitioner was advised he could file
objections to the Report. (ECF No. 6 at 11). However, rather
than file objections, on September 13, 2017, Petitioner filed
a Supplement and an Amended Petition. (ECF Nos. 11 and 12).
Upon review, the court summarily dismisses this action with
magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to the 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, 270-71
(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. § 636(b)(1). However, the court need not
conduct a de novo review when a party makes only
“general and conclusory objections that do not direct
the court to a specific error in the magistrate's
proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of a timely filed, specific objection, the magistrate
judge's conclusions are reviewed only for clear error.
See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins.
Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
Report, the magistrate judge set forth an in-depth discussion
of the background relating to Petitioner's state
convictions and his prior actions challenging these
convictions. (Report at 1-4). Briefly, in 1992 following a
jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of murder, kidnaping,
and sexual conduct with a minor. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment for the murder and thirty years'
imprisonment for the kidnaping, to run concurrently; and
thirty years' imprisonment for the sexual conduct with a
minor conviction, to run consecutively. The South Carolina
Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions and
sentences. State v. John J. Bell, Op. No. 94-MO-185
(S.C. 1994). Petitioner's first application for
post-conviction relief (“PCR”) was denied, and
the South Carolina Supreme Court, which initially granted a
writ of certiorari to review the denial of PCR, subsequently
dismissed the writ as improvidently granted. Bell v.
State, Op. No. 98-MO-33 (S.C. 1998). Petitioner has
filed numerous other unsuccessful actions in state court in
regard to his 1992 convictions and sentences. In federal
court, Petitioner has also filed several actions regarding
his 1992 convictions, including an initial § 2254 habeas
petition. See Bell v. Moore, No. 4:99-2663-GRA
(D.S.C. filed Aug, 12, 1999).
magistrate judge interpreted the instant action as a petition
for mandamus seeking to force the South Carolina Supreme
Court to issue a writ of certiorari for a review of the
denial of PCR in regard to Petitioner's state
convictions. (Report at 5, 8). The magistrate judge concluded
that Petitioner was not entitled to such relief, and that
this deficiency could not be cured by an amendment. (Report
at 9). Further, the magistrate judge determined that this
Petition is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Id. Finally, the magistrate judge concluded
that even if the relief which Petitioner seeks could be
construed as a request for habeas relief, because this is not
Petitioner's first habeas action, he would have to obtain
authorization to file a successive habeas petition from the
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Report at 10).
subsequent filings, the Supplement and Amended Petition,
Petitioner contends that there has been a gross miscarriage
of justice because he was not provided with discovery for the
offenses he committed in November 1991 and for which he was
convicted of in 1992. (ECF No. 12 at 3). In regard to
these charges, he alleges there were errors with his
indictment, trial, and appeal. Id. at 5. He argues
he was wrongfully convicted. Id. at 6. Reviewing
Petitioner's filings, it is clear the court cannot grant
Petitioner the relief that he is seeking. As the magistrate
judge explained, the Petition is barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine and mandamus relief is
unavailable. Moreover, even if the court were to
construe this action as one for habeas relief, Petitioner
would need authorization from the Fourth Circuit Court of
Appeals, and any amendment would not cure this deficiency.
after a thorough review of the Report and the record in this
case pursuant to the standards set forth above, this action
is DISMISSED with prejudice.
IS SO ORDERED.
OF RIGHT TO APPEAL
parties are hereby notified of the right to appeal this order
pursuant to Rules 3 and 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine holds that
“lower federal courts are precluded from exercising
appellate jurisdiction over final state-court
judgments.” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 463
(2006) (per curiam). A “party losing in state court is
barred from seeking what in substance would be appellate
review of the state judgment in a United States district
court.” Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997,
In his Supplement, Petitioner noted
that he had received the Report, and he requested a thirty-
day extension of time to “Amend [his] Appeal” to
address the magistrate judge's conclusion that federal
courts generally do not grant writs of mandamus to compel
state officials to act. ((ECF No. 11 at 1). Petitioner has
filed an Amended Petition (ECF No. 12), in which he addresses
the magistrate judge's ...