United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Tonya R. Chapman, Plaintiff,
Sarah Day Hurley, Defendant.
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge
Tonya R. Chapman (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se
and in forma pauperis, filed this action asserting
claims of defamation, libel, perjury and assault against
Defendant Sarah Day Hurley. In accordance with 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this
matter was referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial
handling. Before the court is the magistrate judge's
Report and Recommendation (“Report”),
recommending that Plaintiff's action be dismissed without
prejudice and without issuance and service of process. (ECF
No. 9). Plaintiff was advised of her right to file objections
to the Report (ECF No. 9 at 8-9) and filed timely objections.
(ECF No. 13). On November 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion
for judgment as a matter of law (ECF No. 18) and a motion for
judgment as a matter of law on fraud upon the court and
falsification (ECF No. 19). On November 29, 2017, Plaintiff
filed a motion for a show cause hearing and judgment as a
matter of law for fraud upon the court and falsification.
(ECF No. 21).
judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is
to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn
in his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary
will not be counted.” Id. at 248. A litigant
“cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through
mere speculation or the building of one inference upon
another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214
(4th Cir. 1985). “Where the record taken as a whole
could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is
appropriate.” Monahan v. County of
Chesterfield, 95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996).
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 recommends that the court
dismiss Plaintiff's action because (1) any communications
by Defendant that Plaintiff complained of were absolutely
privileged as arising out of a judicial proceeding, (2)
perjury is not a recognized civil action under the South
Carolina Code, and (3) Plaintiff fails to allege facts
sufficient to state a claim for assault. (ECF No. 9 at 4-7).
objections, Plaintiff fails to specifically object to any
dispositive portion of the magistrate judge's Report.
Rather, Plaintiff recites Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
60(b) and asserts that a court may set aside a judgment based
on fraud on the court. However, Plaintiff fails to allege any
facts satisfying the requisite elements. Plaintiff merely
states in a conclusory manner that “Defendant committed
a ‘fraud on the court'” and that she has
provided several documents of fraud. (ECF No. 13 at 4).
60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final civil
judgment in a limited number of circumstances, including: (1)
mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or neglect; (2) newly
discovered evidence; (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or
misconduct; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has
been satisfied, released, or discharged; and (6) “any
other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
60(b)(1)-(6). Furthermore, pursuant to Rule 60(d) a court has
the “power to . . . set aside a judgment for fraud on
the court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(d)(3). However, not all
fraud is considered to be fraud on the court. Great
Coastal Express, Inc. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters,
675 F.2d 1349, 1356 (4th Cir. 1982). Courts have held that
fraud on the court “should be construed very narrowly,
” and “is typically confined to the most
egregious cases, such as bribery of a judge or juror, or
improper influence exerted on the court by an attorney, in
which the integrity of the court and its ability to function
impartially is directly impinged.” Id.
“By contrast, perjury and fabricated evidence alone,
being evils which can be exposed by the normal adversary
process, do not constitute grounds for relief as ‘fraud
on the court.' ” Rainwater v. Mallas, C.A.
No. 94-1122, 1994 WL 712570, at *2 (4th Cir. Dec. 23, 1994)
(per curiam) (citing Great Coastal Express,
675 F.2d at 1357); see also In re Genesys Data Techs.,
Inc., 204 F.3d 124, 130-31 (4th Cir. 2000). The court
finds that, even assuming Plaintiff's allegations of fact
as true, Plaintiff fails to satisfy the standard for setting
aside a judgment for fraud on the court.
Plaintiff were to amend her complaint, it would not change
the fact that (1) Defendant's statements, made during the
course of a judicial proceeding, are absolutely privileged
and (2) perjury is not recognized as a civil action under the
South Carolina Code. Further, this is Plaintiff's third
action filed against defendant Hurley. Both
substantially similar prior actions were subject to summary
dismissal. This action is the first in which
Plaintiff alleges assault. However, Plaintiff offered no
factual allegations to support for her claim; rather, she
merely listed assault as a cause of action in her complaint
(ECF No. 1 at 5) and never addressed it again. In his Report,
the magistrate judge found that Plaintiff provided no factual
support for her assault claim. (ECF No. 9 at 6). The court
agrees with the magistrate judge's finding that
Plaintiff's single-word allegation of assault is
insufficient to state a claim. (ECF No.1 at 5). In her
objections, Plaintiff did not contest or object to this
finding of the magistrate judge's Report. (ECF No. 13).
See United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 &
n. 4 (4th Cir. 1984) (failure to file a specific objection
constitutes waiver of a party's right to further judicial
review, including appellate review, if the recommendation is
accepted by the district judge).
while the court liberally construed Plaintiff's pro se
complaint, Plaintiff must provide more than mere conclusory
statements to state a claim. See Adams v. Rice, 40
F.3d 72, 74-75 (4th Cir. 1994) (finding that a complaint was
subject to summary dismissal because it did not contain any
facts to support the claim). Moreover, her failure to address
this issue in her objections leads the court to find that
dismissal of this claim is appropriate.
court has thoroughly reviewed the Report of the magistrate
judge and the filings in this case. For the reasons set forth
above and by the magistrate judge, the court overrules
Plaintiff's objections and hereby adopts the Report (ECF
No. 9) and incorporates it herein. Based on the foregoing,
Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED
without prejudice and without issuance and service of
process; as such, Plaintiff's motions for judgment as a
matter of law (ECF Nos. 18 and 19) and motion for a show
cause hearing and judgment as a matter of law (ECF No. 21)
are DENIED as MOOT.
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 ...