United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Dominick J. Palmer and Paiden Palmer, Plaintiffs,
Nicholas Santanna and Town of Summerville, Defendants.
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Dominick J. Palmer
and Paiden Palmer's objections to United States
Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker's Report and
Recommendation (“R & R”) (ECF Nos. 46 &
44). For the reasons stated herein, the Court adopts the R
& R, denies Defendants' motion to strike, grants
Defendants' motion for summary judgment, and dismisses
Court adopts the thorough background set forth in the R &
R without objection. The Court briefly summarizes that
background: On October 5, 2013, Defendant Nicholas Santanna,
a detective for the Town of Summerville Police Department,
received a call about a drive-by shooting near the
Planter's Retreat apartment complex. According to
Santanna's investigation, Lamont ‘Chaz' Brown
was driving a vehicle with John Hilton in the passenger seat
when another vehicle pulled up beside them and opened fire,
injuring Hilton. Hilton did not initially provide a
description of the person who shot him, so Santanna pursued
other leads. One lead was an anonymous phone call stating
that someone named “D” was bragging to others in
Planter's Retreat that he had shot Hilton. The
Planter's Retreat office informed Santanna that Dominick
Palmer was known to them as “D.” Santanna's
leads eventually ran out and he stopped pursing the case
until Hilton called him on March 27, 2014. Hilton explained
why he changed his mind about assisting the investigation and
identified Mr. Palmer as the shooter. Shortly thereafter,
Santanna met with Brown. Based on the information he learned
from Brown and Hilton, Santanna prepared affidavits for two
arrest warrants for Mr. Palmer. A state court magistrate
judge agreed that there was probable cause to arrest Mr.
Palmer and issued the warrants. Palmer was arrested, but his
charges were later dismissed.
August 22, 2016, Mr. Palmer filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
claim of malicious prosecution and Ms. Palmer filed a related
claim for loss of consortium. Defendants Santanna and the
Town of Summerville filed a motion for summary judgment on
June 19, 2017. On August 18, the parties signed a Stipulation
of Partial Dismissal, dismissing some defendants and claims.
After receiving an extension, Plaintiffs responded to the
motion for summary judgment on September 18, Defendants
replied on September 25, and Plaintiffs filed a sur-reply on
October 17. Defendants moved to strike the sur-reply on
October 18. On January 30, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued
her R & R. Plaintiffs objected on February 13, and
Defendants responded on February 27. Accordingly, this matter
is now ripe for review.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). Parties may make written objections to the R & R
within fourteen days after being served with a copy of it. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de novo
review of any portion of the R & R to which a specific
objection is made, and it may accept, reject, or modify the
Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations in whole
or in part. Id. Additionally, the Court may receive
more evidence or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge
with instructions. Id. A party's failure to
object is taken as the party's agreement with the
Magistrate Judge's conclusions. See Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). Absent a timely, specific
objection-or as to those portions of the R & R to which
no specific objection is made-this Court “must
‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on
the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's
Magistrate Judge recommends granting Defendants' motion
for summary judgment and denying their motion to strike. The
parties do not object to the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation regarding Defendants' motion to strike.
The Court has reviewed that portion of the R & R and,
finding no clear error, adopts the recommendation and denies
Defendants' motion to strike.
object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the
Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment. To
grant a motion for summary judgment, a court must find that
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The judge is not to weigh
the evidence but rather must determine if there is a genuine
issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). All evidence should be viewed in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Perini
Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 124 (4th
Cir. 1990). “[I]t is ultimately the nonmovant's
burden to persuade [the court] that there is indeed a dispute
of material fact. It must provide more than a scintilla of
evidence-and not merely conclusory allegations or
speculation-upon which a jury could properly find in its
favor.” CoreTel Va., LLC v. Verizon Va., LLC,
752 F.3d 364, 370 (4th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). The
Court addresses each objection in turn.
Failure to Include All Material Facts in the Reconstructed
first object that the Magistrate Judge failed to include all
omitted material facts when she reconstructed the warrant as
part of the analysis of the malicious prosecution claim
against Santanna. To establish malicious prosecution, a
plaintiff must show “that the defendant (1) caused (2)
a seizure of the plaintiff pursuant to legal process
unsupported by probable cause, and (3) criminal proceedings
terminated in plaintiff's favor.” Evans v.
Chalmers, 703 F.3d 636, 647 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing
Durham v. Horner, 690 F.3d 183, 188 (4th Cir.
2012)). The Magistrate Judge found that Mr. Palmer had
established that Santanna caused his seizure and that the
criminal proceedings terminated in his favor. The parties do
not object to these findings. To establish the second element
of his malicious prosecution claim, Mr. Palmer must show that
Santanna “deliberately or with a ‘reckless
disregard for the truth' made material false statements
in his affidavit, or omitted from that affidavit
‘material facts with the intent to make, or with
reckless disregard of whether they thereby made, the
affidavit misleading.'” Miller v. Prince
George's Cnty., 475 F.3d 621, 627 (4th Cir. 2007)
(quoting Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171
(1978)). Plaintiffs argue that Santanna deliberately or
recklessly omitted material facts in the affidavits he
submitted in support of the two warrants to arrest Mr.
Palmer. “To determine materiality, a court
must ‘excise the offending inaccuracies and insert the
facts recklessly omitted, and then determine whether or not
the “corrected” warrant affidavit would establish
probable cause.'” Id. at 628 (quoting
Wilson v. Russo, 212 F.3d 781, 789 (3d Cir. 2000)).
“If the ‘corrected' warrant affidavit
establishes probable cause, no civil liability lies against
the officer.” Id. Probable cause exists when
“the circumstances within [an] officer's knowledge
are sufficient to lead a reasonable person to believe that a
crime has been committed by the person being arrested.”
State v. Baccus, 625 S.E.2d 216, 220 (S.C. 2006).
R & R, the Magistrate Judge reconstructed the affidavit
with facts Plaintiff claimed were material: that Hilton and
Brown initially did not identify the shooter, and that they
gave varying descriptions of the shooter's vehicle. The
Magistrate Judge concluded that these omissions were not
material because the reconstructed warrant affidavit did
establish probable ...