United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
TIMOTHY M. CAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed
this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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. On June 14, 2017, Defendant
filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF No.
14). The court issued an Order pursuant to Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising
Plaintiff of the potential consequences if he did not respond
adequately to Defendant's motion. (ECF No. 15). Plaintiff
subsequently amended his Complaint (ECF No. 19) and filed a
Response in Opposition to the Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 20). Defendant filed a Reply to
Plaintiff's Response. (ECF No. 21). Before the court is
the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation
(“Report”) (ECF No. 35), recommending that the
court grant Defendant Woodward's Motion to Dismiss (ECF
No. 14). Plaintiff was advised of his right to file
objections to the Report. (ECF No. 35-1). Plaintiff filed
objections to the Report (ECF No. 37), and later supplemented
those objections (ECF No. 39). On November 27, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint, seeking
leave to amend the Complaint only by withdrawing the claim
against Defendant in his official capacity. (ECF No. 40). On
December 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 44).
recommendations set forth in the Report have no presumptive
weight, and this court remains responsible for making a final
determination in this matter. See 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 a specific objection is made, and the court may accept,
reject, 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
alleges that on May 12, 2016, Defendant conducted a traffic
stop on a car in which Plaintiff was a passenger. (ECF No. 20
at 1). Plaintiff contends that Defendant checked the licenses
of both Plaintiff and the driver of the vehicle, Ricky
Ponder. Id. Plaintiff alleges that although the
license check showed no outstanding warrants regarding either
Plaintiff or Ponder, Defendant asked Ponder to exit the
vehicle so that he could conduct a pat-down
search. Id. During this pat-down,
Defendant discovered a pipe in Ponder's waistband and
subsequently placed him under investigative detention.
states that following this pat-down of Ponder, Defendant came
to Plaintiff's side of the car and searched Plaintiff
“without consent or search warrant.” Id.
Plaintiff contends that despite finding “no
objects” on Plaintiff's person, Defendant told
Plaintiff to sit on the guardrail. Id. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant then searched the vehicle and that
Defendant attests that he “[found] drugs inside or
around a[n] orange shirt.” (ECF No. 20 at 1-2).
Plaintiff further states that Defendant “alleged that
[Plaintiff] was in possession of the orange shirt but [did]
not exit [him] from driver's vehicle with a[n] orange
shirt.” (ECF No. 20 at 2). Plaintiff alleges that
he did not claim ownership of any drugs or of the vehicle.
(ECF No. 1 at 7). Furthermore, Plaintiff contends that
Defendant targeted him by charging him with the drugs and not
charging the driver of the car. Id. Plaintiff admits
to having been indicted on three counts by a grand jury: (1)
trafficking methamphetamine, first offense; (2) possession of
a controlled substance, schedule IV, first offense; and (3)
possession of a controlled substance, schedule II, first
offense. (ECF No. 1 at 5). However, Plaintiff asserts that
these charges were nolle prossed on March 14, 2017. (ECF No.
1 at 7).
is suing Defendant in his official and individual capacities.
(ECF No. 19). He asserts claims for false arrest and
unreasonable search and seizure. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff seeks
to recover punitive damages in the amount of $625, 000, along
with compensation for court costs and legal expenses
incurred. (ECF No. 1 at 7).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim should not be granted unless it
appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts
which would support his claim and entitle him to relief.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss,
the court should “accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations and should view the complaint in a light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v.
Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). However, the
court “need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from
the facts” nor “accept as true unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.”
E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd.
P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). While
“a plaintiff is not required to plead facts that
constitute a prima facie case in order to survive a motion to
dismiss . . ., factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d
187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).
a plaintiff's complaint only needs to include “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
Additionally, when “evaluating a civil rights complaint
for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6),
” the court must be “especially solicitous of the
wrongs alleged.” Harrison v. U.S. Postal
Serv., 840 F.2d 1149, 1152 (4th Cir. 1988) (internal
citations omitted). Furthermore, when the plaintiff proceeds
pro se, the court is charged with liberally construing the
factual allegations of the complaint in order to allow
potentially meritorious claims to go forward. See
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Still,
this requirement of liberal construction does not mean that
this court may ignore a clear failure in the pleading to
allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim for relief.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901
F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).
magistrate judge provided a thorough report addressing the
sufficiency of Plaintiff's claims and recommended that
this court grant the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF
No. 35). Plaintiff filed timely objections to this Report
(ECF No. 37) and later supplemented those objections (ECF No.
39). Plaintiff's objections stated that the magistrate
judge erred by stating the following: (1) that there was a
warrant for Plaintiff's arrest; (2) that there was a
search warrant for the car or for Plaintiff's person; (3)
that Plaintiff had no credible evidence that the charges were
nolle prossed because of Defendant's misrepresentations
to the grand jury; (4) that the charges were not nolle
prossed; and (5) that the Plaintiff was rightfully charged
even though the drugs were found in the vehicle of Ricky
Ponder and in his possession. (ECF No. 37). In his
supplemented objections, Plaintiff further objects to the
magistrate judge's determination that Defendant is
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and also challenges
the reasonableness of the investigation during the traffic
stop. (ECF No. 39).
Defendant's search of Plaintiff was reasonable.
Plaintiff's objections alleging that the magistrate judge
erred in stating that there was a warrant for the search of
Plaintiff and the car, this objection is without merit.
Nowhere in the Report did the magistrate judge make such a
statement. The magistrate judge did state that
“[u]under § 1983, ‘a public official cannot
be charged with false arrest when he arrests a defendant
pursuant to a facially valid warrant.'” (ECF No. 35
at 9) (citations omitted). However, this was simply a
recitation of the applicable law pertaining to how false
arrest claims might be handled in regards to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Additionally, later on in the Report, the magistrate
judge specifically stated that the Plaintiff alleged that
there was no warrant to search him or the car. (ECF No. 35 at
11). However, the magistrate judge explained that the finding
of the crack pipe gave Defendant reasonable suspicion that
illegal drugs were in the vehicle. Id. Therefore,
the Defendant needed no warrant or consent to pat-down the
occupants of the vehicle and search the car. See U ...