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Clark v. Aiken Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 8, 2018

Blake Marcell Clark, Plaintiff,
v.
Aiken Department of Public Safety; Terrance Fredrick Pattern; J. Waltower; B. Bethmann; D. Drasher, Defendants.

          ORDER REGARDING AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT

         The plaintiff, Blake Marcell Clark, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action against the defendants. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 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 finds this action is subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff indicates he is currently being held in the Edgefield County Jail.[1] (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 3.) He brings this action against the defendants seeking damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest and imprisonment. (Id. at 4, 6.) He alleges that he was arrested by the defendants on June 14, 2017 at Hahn Village. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff asserts his “rights were violated” by the defendants. (Id.) He further alleges that “I informed the officers that the substance believed to be heroin by the officers was not heroin but they wouldn't listen to me.” (Id. at 9.)

         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).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements to state a claim. 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.

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

         B. Analysis

         The Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “ ‘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) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). 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).

         The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government and requires warrants be issued only upon a finding of probable cause. U.S. Const. amend. IV. To establish a § 1983 claim for false imprisonment in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the plaintiff must show the seizure of his person was unreasonable, i.e., he must show he was arrested without probable cause. See Rogers v. Pendleton, 249 F.3d 279, 294 (4th Cir. 2001) (stating that claims for false arrest and false imprisonment “are essentially claims alleging a seizure of the person in violation of the Fourth Amendment”); see also Brown v. Gilmore, 278 F.3d 362, 367 (4th Cir. 2002) (stating that to establish an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, the plaintiff must show he was arrested without probable cause). Thus, there is no § 1983 claim for false imprisonment unless the officer lacked probable cause. See Street v. Surdyka, 492 F.2d 368, 372-73 (4th Cir. 1974).

         Here, Plaintiff merely alleges that the defendants violated his rights, presumably because the defendants mistakenly believed Plaintiff was in possession of heroin. However, such conclusory allegations are not sufficient to plausibly show that the defendants violated Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth Amendment. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. For instance, Plaintiff fails to allege facts that would plausibly show the defendants arrested him without probable cause. See Rogers, 249 F.3d at 294. Moreover, Plaintiff fails to provide any individualized facts about the defendants to demonstrate that they were personally involved in the violation of Plaintiff's rights. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (providing that a plaintiff in a § 1983 action must plead that the defendant, through his own individual actions, violated the Constitution); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985) (“In order for an individual to be liable under § 1983, it must be ‘affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior has no application under this section.' ”) (quoting Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d, 928 (4th Cir. 1977)).[2]

         Consequently, Plaintiffs Complaint is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff is hereby granted twenty-one (21) days from the date this order is entered (plus three days for mail time) to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) that corrects the deficiencies identified above.[3] If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint ...


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