United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Court Judge
Connell Brown, brought the underlying action against
Defendant Dorchester County of South Carolina, alleging that
he was maliciously prosecuted for an armed robbery in
violation of his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and
Local Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to the
United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker for pretrial
handling. This matter is now before the court on the
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation filed on
November 29, 2017, recommending that the court grant
Defendant's motion to dismiss or in the alternative
motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 40, to which Plaintiff
filed objections on December 13, 2017, ECF No. 41.
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
February 25, 2012, Plaintiff alleges that an armed robbery
took place on 8441 West Saddlebrook Drive, North Charleston,
South Carolina, at approximately 11:21 p.m. Compl. ¶ 1.
Plaintiff claims that he had oral surgery earlier that day,
had ingested pain medication, and was sleeping at his
mother's house on or about 11:00 p.m. that night. Compl.
¶¶ 2-3. Plaintiff alleges several North Charleston
police officers “repeatedly knocked on the door
demanding entrance” to his mother's apartment.
Compl. ¶ 4. The apartment was selected based on a K-9
alert. Compl. ¶ 5. Once Plaintiff opened the door he was
arrested without any explanation. Compl. ¶ 6. Plaintiff
was then brought to an outside porch to be identified by an
alleged victim who identified Plaintiff as the suspect while
he was in handcuffs. Compl. ¶ 7. That identification
Plaintiff claims was made by “someone sitting in a
police cruiser looking up at the Plaintiff on the second
floor balcony.” Compl. ¶ 8. Plaintiff was
immediately arrested and detained in the Dorchester County
Jail. Compl. ¶ 9.
March 19, 2012, Investigator Alan Kramitz of the North
Charleston Police Department amended the incident report to
reflect that Plaintiff was not involved in the case. Compl.
¶10. On or about April 2, 2012, Plaintiff asserts the
Assistant Solicitor of the First Circuit Solicitor's
Office was contacted to dismiss Plaintiff's criminal
charge based on the lack of probable cause. Compl. ¶ 11.
Plaintiff, however, alleges “Defendant did not dismiss
the charges until February 11, 2013, nearly a year after the
first contact of the lack of probable cause.” Compl.
April 11, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a Tort Claim Form to the
Clerk of Council of Dorchester County. ECF No. 1-1 at
9-10. The Tort Claim Form listed Plaintiff's date of
injury as occurring on February 26, 2012 and claimed $300,
000 in damages. Id. at 10. Plaintiff listed the
cause of damage or injury as follows: “claimant was
arrested at his home after being awakened by law enforcement
officers and charged with strong armed robbery.”
Id. Additionally, Plaintiff claims that
“claimant immediately informed law enforcement that
they had made a mistake but had to spend thousands of dollars
before charges were dismissed.” Id. Plaintiff
alleges that the government agency is liable because
“[t]here was no probable cause for the arrest . . . and
[Law Enforcement] took more than one year to have the case
dismissed after the witness repudiated his
identification.” Id. In response on April 22,
2014, the Office of The Dorchester County Attorney
acknowledged Plaintiff's Tort Claim Form and informed
Plaintiff that “the Dorchester County Sheriff's
Department had no involvement in this matter.” ECF No.
1-1 at 8. The letter also directed Plaintiff to submit the
claim to the City of North Charleston. ECF No. 1-1 at 8.
February 29, 2016, Plaintiff brought the present lawsuit
against Defendant in the Dorchester County Court of Common
Pleas, South Carolina. Case No. 2016-CP-18-411. Plaintiff
argues that “the Assistant Solicitor by his malicious
and baseless prosecution prevented the Plaintiff from
entering the Merchant Marines due to this pending
charge.” Compl. ¶ 12. Plaintiff contends that
“the First Circuit Solicitor's office continued to
prosecute the case after numerous attempts [despite] the lack
of probable cause in the arrest by Investigator
Kramitz.” Compl. ¶ 13. Plaintiff further argues
that “the First Circuit Solicitor's Office refused
to dismiss the charges against [Plaintiff] until February
2013, nearly a year after it was informed that no case could
be maintained against [Plaintiff].” Compl. ¶ 22.
Plaintiff asserts there was no warrant for his arrest nor
reasonable grounds to believe he had committed a
crime. Compl. ¶14. Plaintiff seeks actual,
special, and compensatory damages against Defendant. Compl.
(Prayer for Relief).
April 27, 2016, Defendant removed the action to this court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 on the basis of federal
question jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. Defendant filed an Answer
on May 4, 2016, denying Plaintiff's allegations and
asserting numerous affirmative defenses. ECF No. 6. On May 1,
2017, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim or in the alternative motion for summary
judgment. ECF No. 31. Defendant argues that
Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because: (1)
even if Plaintiff's complaint is construed as asserting a
tort claim or as a constitutional claim pursuant to §
1983, Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of
limitations; (2) Plaintiff failed to produce evidence that
“any custom or policy of the Defendant caused
Plaintiff's alleged injury or constitutional rights to be
violated;” and (3) to the extent Plaintiff's
complaint is construed as alleging a state law cause of
action, Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed
pursuant to the South Carolina Tort Claims Act, as Plaintiff
failed to produce evidence demonstrating that the First
Circuit Solicitor's decision was not an exercise of
discretion or judgment. ECF No. 31-1 at 3-8.
15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to
Defendant's motion to dismiss, which included an
Affidavit from Plaintiff's mother. ECF No. 37. Plaintiff
concedes the criminal charges against him were dismissed in
February 11, 2013. ECF No. 37-1 at 1. However, Plaintiff
argues that the cause of action “for malicious
prosecution did not accrue until [Plaintiff] knew about the
dismissal of the charges against him.” Id. at
2. In support thereof, the Affidavit from Plaintiff's
mother states that “the Dorchester County Solicitor
never presented either her or [Plaintiff] written notice that
the criminal charges against [Plaintiff] were
dismissed.” ECF No. 37-2, Affidavit. Plaintiff's
mother further states that “she and [Plaintiff] were
not notified that charges were dismissed until March
22, 2017, Defendant filed a reply asserting that Plaintiff
was represented by counsel throughout the criminal proceeding
and that his counsel notified him of the dismissal of the
charges on the same day they were dismissed. ECF No. 38.
Defendant attached a copy of the letter sent from
Plaintiff's counsel to Plaintiff on February 11, 2013,
notifying him of the dismissal. ECF No. 38-2, Exhibit 2.
Defendant further argues that to the extent the court
determines that Plaintiff's constitutional claim was
preserved, Plaintiff has failed to plead or establish the
Monnell factors,  and that “Defendant is entitled
to judicial/quasi-judicial immunity based on the facts
alleged.” ECF No. 38 at 2.
November 29, 2017, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and
Recommendation, recommending that Defendant's motion to
dismiss or in the alternative motion for summary judgment be
granted. ECF No. 40. Pursuant to Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310 (4th Cir. 2005),
Plaintiff was advised of the right to file objections to the
Report and Recommendation and the possible consequences if he
failed to timely file written objections to the Report and
Recommendation. ECF No. 40 at 12. On December 13, 2017,
Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation.
ECF No. 41. Defendant filed a reply to Plaintiff's
objections on December 21, 2017. ECF No. 42.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Magistrate Judge's Findings in Report and
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the court. Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270
(1976). The court reviews de novo only those
portions of a Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation to which specific objections are filed, and
reviews those portions which are not objected to - including
those portions to which only “general and
conclusory” objections have been made - for clear
error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co.,
416 F.3d 310 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718
F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983); Opriano v. Johnson,
687 F.2d 44, 77 ...