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Julius v. Dickers

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 5, 2018

Richard Leroy Julius, #631850, Plaintiff,
v.
Officer Dickers, Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Thomas E. Rogers, III United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is a civil action filed by a pretrial detainee, 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).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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.).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff fails to allege what federal constitutional right or statutory right underlies his § 1983 claim. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was a current pretrial detainee due to pending charges for second degree assault/battery, with arrest date in July 2017 with bond set and an indictment filed. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Dickers, an alleged employee at the detention center, lied as to what happened during an incident on November 15, 2017. Plaintiff was asking for tissue paper from Dickers and an incident ensued when Plaintiff was grabbing the roll from Dickers. Dickers alleged Plaintiff hit Dickers. Public records[1] show that Plaintiff was arrested in Richland County on December 1, 2017, for the charge of third degree assault/battery by officer Ronald Truluck. Bond was set on the same date. Plaintiff alleges this charge to be as a result of his incident with Dickers. Plaintiff wishes to sue Dickers because she “lied” in the incident report and the charges resulted. Plaintiff alleges as injuries that the lie by Dickers caused him pain and suffering, triggering stress and loss of sleep.[2]

         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). 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. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.159, 166 (1985); Rizzo v. Good, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976).

         A pretrial detainee's § 1983 actions are evaluated under the Fourteenth Amendment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, 537 n.16 (1979); Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988). Plaintiff's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment are at least as great as Eighth Amendment protections available to prisoners. Martin, 849 F.2d at 870.

         Plaintiff has failed to allege a cognizable claim of constitutional magnitude under § 1983. Under longstanding South Carolina case law, contents of governmental records-such as judicial proceedings, case reports, published cases, investigative reports, or arrest records-do not give rise to liability for slander or libel. See Heyward v. Cuthbert, 15 S.C.L. (4 McCord) 354, 356-59 (1827); and Padgett v. Sun News, 278 S.C. 26, 292 S.E.2d 30, 32-33 (1982). Even assuming that the defendant made a false report resulting in criminal charges, any violations of state procedural law do not implicate federal due process rights and are not cognizable under § 1983. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). Moreover, any defamation liberally construed to be alleged is not actionable because Plaintiff fails to allege a violation of a federally protected right. See Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 233, (1991)(“Defamation, by itself, is a tort actionable under the laws of most states, but not a constitutional deprivation.”); Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 712 (1976)(finding that “any harm or injury to [Plaintiff's interest in his reputation], even where as here inflicted by an officer of the State, does not result in a deprivation of any ‘liberty' or ‘property' recognized by state or federal law”). Thus, it appears that if Plaintiff is alleging a defamation claim, it would be one under state law and this court cannot consider it under its supplemental jurisdiction because Plaintiff has failed to state any other claim for which relief can be granted over which this court has original jurisdiction. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint should be summarily dismissed because he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         To the extent under a liberal construction that Plaintiff is attempting to state a claim for malicious prosecution, Plaintiff's attempted claim would fail under Heck. To state a malicious prosecution claim, Plaintiff must show at least, that “defendant[s] have seized [plaintiff] pursuant to legal process that was not supported by probable cause and that the criminal proceedings [have] terminated in [plaintiff's] favor.” Burrell v. Virginia, 395 F.3d 508, 514 (4th Cir. 2005)(internal citations and quotations omitted). The U.S. Supreme Court provided in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) that until a conviction was set aside or charges finally dismissed without the possibility of revival, a § 1983 claim could not be pursued based on allegations of unlawful circumstances surrounding the criminal prosecution. See also Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem, N.C. , 85 F.3d 178 (4th Cir. 1996). Under the favorable termination rule, the charges must be terminated “for reasons indicative of the innocence;” courts have held that an unexplained nolle prosequi or disposal of charges for reasons other than innocence do not satisfy the Heck “favorable termination” requirement. Restatement(Second) of Torts § 660 (1977); see also Tucker v. Duncan, 499 F.2d 963, 965 (4th Cir. 1974); Wilkins v. DeReyes, 528 F.3d 790, 802-03 (10th Cir. 2008); Washington v. Summerville, 127 F.3d 552, 558-59 (7th Cir. 1997); Posr v. Court Officer Shield # 207, 180 F.3d 409, 418 (2nd Cir. 1999); Jackson v. Gable, 2006 WL 1487047, at *6 (D.S.C. May 25, 2006); Nicholas v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 33 Fed.Appx. 61, 64-65 (4th Cir.. 2002). While Wallace held that Heck no longer bars claims of false arrest by pretrial detainees, Heck is still applicable to claims of malicious prosecution. Wallace, 549 U.S. at 387 n.1, 390 n.2. Plaintiff has not shown that the charges connected to his allegations have been favorably terminated in accordance with the above law. As such, any construed claim for malicious prosecution must be dismissed.

         Furthermore, this case is subject to the Younger abstention doctrine. The crux of the matter from the Complaint is that Plaintiff alleges he has been falsely accused in a pending state criminal matter. Thus, Plaintiff invites this Court to interfere with the state court criminal proceedings. However, because a federal court may not award injunctive relief that would affect pending ...


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