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Grant v. State

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

February 5, 2018

Henry Kevin Grant, #374660 Plaintiff,
State of South Carolina, Laurens Police Department, P.T.L. Heidi Blackstock, Prosecuting Officer Dillon Sherfield, Defendants.



         Henry Kevin Grant (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brought this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 against the State of South Carolina, the Laurens Police Department, P.T.L. Heidi Blackstock (“Blackstock”), and Prosecuting Officer Dillon Sherfield (“Sherfield”) (collectively, “Defendants”). At the time Plaintiff commenced this action, he was a pretrial detainee at the Laurens County Detention Center (“Detention Center”). Plaintiff is now a state prisoner in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections and is housed at the MacDougall Correctional Institution. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B) (2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons below, this case is subject to summary dismissal.


         Plaintiff filed this civil rights action alleging claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution related to pending state court criminal proceedings against the Plaintiff. [Doc. 1.] Plaintiff claims that, on July 31, 2017, he committed a “simple assault” involving the “mother of his baby” and that the incident was caught on video showing that he simply “push[ed] her out [of] my face and walked away.” [Id. 1 at 3.] He then returned home intoxicated, and, shortly thereafter, the police arrived and entered the house without permission. [Id.] Plaintiff was transported to the Detention Center where he was placed in “[l]ock up to sober up, ” after which we was taken to get “book[ed].” [Id.] He contends that he was charged with disorderly conduct, 2nd degree criminal domestic violence, threatening the life of a public official, and assault.[1] [Id.] On August 1, 2017, Judge C.W. Weir set bail at $20, 000 for the charge of threatening the life of a public official and $7, 000 for the charge of criminal domestic violence 2nd degree; Plaintiff was given a P.R. bond on the charge of disorderly conduct. [Id. at 4.]

         Plaintiff does not challenge the disorderly conduct charge. However, he challenges the other remaining pending charges. He asserts that the

parties purposely got together with the intent to enhance [sic] charges, causing pain and suffering, enhance my bond making it hard for me to uptained [sic] my freedom, and all out lying by not giving a statement which states my intoxication. The Officer Dillon Sherfield . . . along with PTL Heidi Blackstock and others.

[Id. at 5.] Specifically, as to the pending domestic violence charge, he claims that he should have been charged only with simple assault because there were no “scares [sic] on the victim” and because the victim had made these claims previously. [Id. at 4.] As to the charge of threatening the life of a public official, Plaintiff contends that he has never heard of that charge. [Id.] Notably, Plaintiff does not deny that he committed that offense; instead he appears to assert that he should not have been charged with the offense because he was intoxicated. Plaintiff requests damages of $11, 000, 000 and protection from the parties. [Id.]


         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute, which authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied 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). Further, Plaintiff is a prisoner under the definition in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), and “seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Thus, even if Plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this Court is charged with screening Plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to dismiss the Complaint if: (1) it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         As a pro se litigant, Plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). 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 petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). 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 cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).


         Plaintiff asserts a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “‘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) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). A civil 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). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege 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 the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         The State of South Carolina

         The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution divests this court of jurisdiction to entertain suits against the State of South Carolina. See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 728-29 (1999); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). As noted in Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 n.9 (1984), a state must expressly consent to suit in a federal district court. The State of South Carolina has not consented to suit in a federal court. The South Carolina Tort Claims Act, section 15-78-20(e) of the South Carolina Code of Laws, 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. See McCall v. Batson, 285 S.C. 243, 329 S.E.2d 741, 743 (1985) (abolishing sovereign immunity in tort “does not abolish the immunity which applies to all legislative, judicial and executive bodies and to public officials who are vested with discretionary authority, for actions taken in their official capacities.”); see also Pennhurst, 465 ...

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