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Reynolds v. Third Circuit Public Defenders Office

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

February 6, 2018

Nathanael L Reynolds, Plaintiff,
Third Circuit Public Defenders Office, Chief Public Defender Jack Howle, and Amanda Shuler, Esq., Defendants.



         Plaintiff has filed a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (DE# 1). Plaintiff initially filed this case in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which transferred the case to this judicial district. (DE# 4). Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center located in North Charleston, South Carolina. He has filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), the United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the complaint and to submit findings and recommendations to the United States District Judge. After careful review, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Complaint be summarily dismissed, with prejudice, and without issuance and service of process, for the following reasons:

         I. The Complaint's Allegations

         The gist of the Complaint is that Plaintiff is displeased because the state court granted several continuances (upon prosecution motion) in 2014 in Plaintiff's criminal case. (DE# 1, ¶ IV “Statement of Claim”). Plaintiff sues the Third Circuit Public Defender's Office and his appointed counsel Amanda Shuler. Plaintiff also sues “Head Solicitor Jack D. Howle.” The Court takes judicial notice of the fact that Jack D. Howle, Jr. is not a prosecutor, but rather, is the Third Circuit Chief Public Defender.[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that in July of 2014, he was scheduled to appear in state court for a preliminary hearing. He complains that upon motion by the prosecution, the state court continued the hearing several times. Plaintiff alleges that he complained to “Solicitor Jack Howle” about the continuances, but received no response. (Id.). Plaintiff indicates that he was released from custody, and that in subsequent hearings, he “proved that he was the real victim in a shooting and was acquitted of all charges.” (Id.). Plaintiff indicates that he “therefore sues each defendant in their individual and official capacity for acts they committed while acting under the color of law.” (DE# 1, ¶ IV “Statement of Claim”). He sues them for purported “emotional pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, inconvenience, reputation, and for fraud upon the courts.” (Id.). Plaintiff indicates that the charges were dismissed and that he was released from state custody on November 14, 2014. Plaintiff is presently in detention for other criminal charges.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks $5, 000, 000.00 (five million) dollars in compensatory damages and $3, 000, 000.00 (three million) dollars in “exemplary” damages from each defendant. He also demands the “termination of each defendant” and unspecified “permanent injunctive relief.” (DE# I, ¶ V, “Relief”).

         II. Relevant Law

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, the Magistrate Judge has carefully reviewed this pro se prisoner complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and in light of the following precedents: Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); and Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir. 1978).

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows the court to dismiss the case upon 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 frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). Under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte “at any time.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 319.

         With respect to a failure to state a claim, “Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 326. The “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. “Unless otherwise specified, a dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is presumed to be both a judgment on the merits and to be rendered with prejudice.” McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391, 396 (4th Cir. 2009).

         B. Liberal Construction of Pro se Filings

         Pro se pleadings are given liberal construction and are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, “[t]he ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view ... pro se filings does not transform the court into an advocate. United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir.2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 2401 (2013). Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.” Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., City of Baltimore., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir.1990). Giving “liberal construction” does not mean that the Court can ignore a prisoner's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. “Principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints ... [do] not require ... courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented to them.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir.1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986).

         C. The PLRA's 3-strike provision

         Plaintiff has filed numerous meritless and duplicative cases. A search on CM-ECF reveals that in this federal judicial district, Plaintiff has filed the following cases, all of which have been dismissed:

1:14-cv-4430-MGL Reynolds v. Pressley et al., filed 11/17/14, closed 05/26/15
1:16-cv-1741-MGL Reynolds v. Johnson et al., filed 05/31/16, closed 06/22/16
1:15-cv-0388-MGL, Reynolds v. Johnson et al., filed 01/28/15, closed 01/26/16
4:15-cv-2350-MGL, Reynolds v. Johnson et al., filed 06/10/15, ...

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