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Legette v. McBee

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 28, 2018

Matthew Leo Legette, #344367, Plaintiff,
Cpl. McBee, Lt. Larry, Warden Dean, Defendants.


          Thomas E. Rogers, III Florence, South Carolina United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is a civil action filed by a state prisoner, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and District of South Carolina Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), the undersigned is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to the district court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).


         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint filed in this case. This review has been conducted pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir.1995) (en banc); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir.1983).

         The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding 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). A finding of frivolousness can be made where the complaint “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Denton, 504 U.S. at 31. Hence, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Such pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Id.; Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Even under this less stringent standard, however, the pro se complaint is 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 complaint to include claims that were never presented, construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for him, or conjure up questions never squarely presented to the court. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985); Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir. 1993); Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999). 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 district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990) (The “special judicial solicitude” with which a [court] should view such pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate.).


         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by other inmates on May 27, 2016, after Defendant McBee left his door unlocked. (ECF No. 1 at 6). Plaintiff suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung, a fractured vertebra, and major cranial swelling. (ECF No. 1 at 7). Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for several days. (ECF No. 1 at 7). Plaintiff requests monetary damages. (ECF No. 1 at 8). Plaintiff sues all defendants in their official capacity only.

         Section 1983 “ 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) (internal quotation and citation omitted). A legal action under § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999).

         Under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish 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 color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         In order to assert a plausible § 1983 claim against any particular state actor, a “causal connection” must exist between the conduct alleged by the plaintiff and the particular defendant named in the suit. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.159, 166 (1985); Rizzo v. Good, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976) (a § 1983 plaintiff must show that he suffered a specific injury resulting from a specific defendant's specific conduct and must show an affirmative link between the injury and that conduct); Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (for an individual to be liable under § 1983, the Plaintiff must show that the defendant named acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights).

         Plaintiff sues all Defendants in their official capacity only. Plaintiff's request for relief is monetary damages. When a defendant is sued in his official capacity, the suit is frequently intended as one against the state, the real party in interest. If review of the pleadings indicates that the state is, in fact, the party being sued, then a judgment awarding damages is precluded by the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution. The United States Supreme Court analyzed the interplay between § 1983 and the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution and stated:

Section 1983 provides a federal forum to remedy many deprivations of civil liberties, but it does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy against a State for alleged deprivations of civil liberties. The Eleventh Amendment bars such suits unless the State has waived its immunity (cites omitted) or unless Congress has exercised its undoubted power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to override that immunity.

Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 67 (1989). The Eleventh Amendment immunity granted to the states “applies only to States or governmental entities that are considered ‘arms of the State' for Eleventh Amendment purposes, ” but the court found that state agencies, divisions, departments and officials are entitled to the Eleventh Amendment immunity. Id. at 58. In reaching this conclusion, the court held that a suit against state officials acting in their official capacities is actually against the office itself, and therefore, against the state. State officials may only be sued in their individual capacities. “[W]hen 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 sovereign immunity from suit even though individual officials are nominal defendants.” Ford Motor Co. v. Dep't ofTreasury, 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945), overruled on other ...

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