United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Thurmond R. Guess, Sr., Plaintiff,
Richland County Treasurer; David Adams, as Treasurer, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. Gossett UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Thurmond R. Guess, Sr., proceeding pro
se, brings this action against the defendant. The
Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having
reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the
court concludes the matter should be summarily dismissed
without prejudice and issuance and service of process.
Factual and Procedural Background
indicates that on December 3, 2012 and December 9, 2013 he
won bids for real property at two Richland County tax sales.
(Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff alleges the defendants
told him he would receive deeds to the property if the
original property owners did not redeem the properties, and
though the original owners never redeemed the properties, the
defendants cancelled the sales. (Id.) He also
alleges that the defendants have retained the money he used
to bid on the properties. (Id. at 2.) He expressly
raises a claim pursuant to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act,
15 U.S.C. § 1691, and asserts violations of the Fifth
Amendment's Just Compensation Clause and Fourteenth
Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
(Id. at 2-3.) He seeks an undefined form of
injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and damages.
(Id. at 3.)
previously filed suit against Defendant Adams in this court
in 2015 over the 2012 tax sale. See Guess v. Adams,
C/A No. 3:15-cv-657-CMC-PJG. In that case, Plaintiff alleged
that he was the highest bidder at a county tax sale on
December 3, 2012, but that defendant Richland County
Treasurer David Adams cancelled or voided the sale. Plaintiff
alleged the defendant's actions were discriminatory due
to Plaintiff's race, and he sought damages and injunctive
relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and The Equal
Opportunity Credit Act. The court granted summary judgment in
the defendants' favor, finding Plaintiff forecasted no
admissible evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could
infer intentional discrimination by the defendants based on
Plaintiff's race, that Plaintiff was treated differently
from other similarly situated bidders, or that the
defendants' proffered reason for voiding the tax sale was
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of the pro se
Complaint. 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. This
statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a
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.
order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the
plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009);
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible
on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need
only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations,
not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
court is required to liberally construe pro se
complaints, which are held to a less stringent standard than
those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d
206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, 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 (4th
Cir. 1990); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684
(outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil
court finds the Complaint should be summarily dismissed
because Plaintiff's claims are barred by res
judicata, and more precisely, by the doctrine of claim
preclusion. “Under the doctrine of claim
preclusion, a final judgment forecloses ‘successive
litigation of the very same claim, whether or not
relitigation of the claim raises the same issues as the
earlier suit.' ” Taylor v. Sturgell, 553
U.S. 880, 892 (2008) (quoting New Hampshire v.
Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 748 (2001)). The following three
elements must be met for claim preclusion to apply: (1) the
prior judgment was final and on the merits, and rendered by a
court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with the
requirements of due process; (2) the parties are identical,
or in privity, in the two actions; and (3) the claims in the
second matter are based upon the same cause of action
involved in the earlier proceeding. Pittson Co. v. United
States, 199 F.3d 694, 704 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing
Hartnett v. Billman, 800 F.2d 1308, 1313 (4th Cir.
1986)). “[R]es judicata will bar a newly articulated
claim if it is based on the same underlying transaction and
could have been brought in the earlier action.”
Clodfelter, 720 F.3d at 210 (quoting Laurel Sand
& Gravel, Inc. v. Wilson, 519 F.3d 156, 162 (4th
Cir. 2008)) (quotation marks omitted; alterations in
Plaintiff's claims associated with the 2012 and 2013 tax
sales are barred by claim preclusion. As to the three
elements of claim preclusion identified above, the 2015
judgment was final and on the merits because summary judgment
was granted in the defendants' favor on Plaintiff's
§ 1983 claim; the parties in this case were both present
in the 2015 action; and the factual bases for Plaintiff's
legal claims in both cases are Richland County tax sales.
See Clodfelter, 720 F.3d at 210. Also, any new legal
claims raised by Plaintiff in this matter that are based on
the Richland County tax sales are barred because Plaintiff
could have raised them in the 2015 action. See Laurel
Sand & Gravel, 519 F.3d at 162.
to the extent Plaintiff's new claims arising out of the
2013 tax sale could be considered a separate transaction that
does not implicate claim preclusion of Plaintiff's
claims, the court finds those claims fail to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted and should be dismissed
pursuant to § 1915. Plaintiff's allegation that the
defendant cancelled the tax sale is conclusory and
insufficient on its own to plausibly show Plaintiff was
deprived of due process or equal protection of the law under
the Fourteenth Amendment. See Mathews v. Eldridge,
424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976) (providing the Due Process Clause
requires some form of hearing before an individual is
deprived of a property interest) (citing Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557-58 (1974)); Morrison v.
Garraghty, 239 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 2001) (“To
succeed on an equal ...