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Tice v. Dennis

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 6, 2018

Joseph Charles Tice, Plaintiff,
v.
Honorable Judge R. Markley Dennis, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Paige J. Gossen UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Joseph Charles Tice, a self-represented state prisoner, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. 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 that it should be summarily dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff brings claims of constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the South Carolina circuit court judge who revoked his probation based on Plaintiff's failure to pay probation fees, which resulted in Plaintiff's incarceration. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 5.) Plaintiff indicates the South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the circuit judge's revocation of Plaintiff's probation because the judge did not make a finding that Plaintiff's failure to pay fees was willful. (Id.) Plaintiff claims the circuit judge's decision violated several constitutional rights and he seeks damages for those violations. (Id. at 4, 7.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), including 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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, and is also governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the court to review a complaint filed by a prisoner that seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2009). Section 1915A requires, and § 1915 allows, a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is frivolous, 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); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         This 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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         A legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 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: (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). In this action, Plaintiff alleges that the Honorable R. Markley Dennis, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge, violated multiple provisions of the United States Constitution when he revoked Plaintiff's probation. However, the court finds that Plaintiff's Complaint should be summarily dismissed because the defendant, as a judge, is immune from suit.

         It is well settled that judges have absolute immunity from a claim for damages arising out of their judicial actions. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991) (providing that judges are entitled to absolute immunity from suit, not just the ultimate assessment of damages, for judicial actions taken within their jurisdiction); Chu v. Griffith, 771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985) (“It has long been settled that a judge is absolutely immune from a claim for damages arising out of his judicial actions.”). Judicial immunity is not pierced by allegations of corruption or bad faith, nor will a judge “be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority.” Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978). Because judicial immunity is a protection from suit, not just from ultimate assessment of damages, Mireless, 502 U.S. at 11, Plaintiff's claims against the defendant are barred, and this action should be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) and § 1915(b)(2).

         III. Conclusion

         Based on the foregoing, the court recommends the Complaint be dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.

         The parties are directed to note the important information in the attached “Notice of Right to File Objections ...


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