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Burgess v. Mathis

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

April 3, 2018

Deon Jermaine Burgess, Plaintiff,
v.
Brendall K. Mathis, William Reece, Edgar
v.
Guthro, Regina L. Nowak, Spartanburg City Police Department, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF PARTIAL SUMMARY DISMISSAL

          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge.

         Deon James Burgess, formerly a pretrial detainee in the Spartanburg County Detention Center, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking monetary damages. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d)(D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and submit findings and recommendations to the district court. The undersigned recommends that Spartanburg City Police Department be dismissed from the case.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff alleges that on February 15, 2016, officer Brendall K. Mathis and his “cohorts” violated his constitutional rights by “erroneously apply[ing] for facially deficient warrants” based on information from an unreliable informant. He alleges that he upon learning of the warrants, he turned himself in to the Spartanburg County Detention Center (doc. 1 at 7). He alleges the case was later “nolle prossed.” In response to this court's order, the plaintiff named the five above-captioned defendants and provided service documents. The plaintiff states claims of illegal seizure (malicious arrest), abuse of process, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and negligent supervision, and he seeks monetary damages. (id. at 7-8; doc. 17, at 3).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review the complaint for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. The plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied 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). Further, the plaintiff is a prisoner under the definition in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c) and “seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Thus, even if the plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this court is charged with screening the plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to dismiss the complaint if (1) it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         As a pro se litigant, the plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). However, even under this less stringent standard, a portion of the pro se pleading remains subject to summary dismissal. 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, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         DISCUSSION

         This 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)). A civil action under § 1983 “creates a private right of action to vindicate violations of ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1501 (2012). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege 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 the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         Spartanburg City Police Department cannot be sued under § 1983 because it is not a person. It is well settled that only “persons” may act under color of state law, so a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a “person.” Although suing an entire department may be a lawsuit against a group of people, groups of people are not amenable to suit under § 1983. See Harden v. Green, 27 Fed.Appx. 173, 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (finding that the medical department of a prison is not a person pursuant to § 1983); Nelson v. Lexington Cnty. Det. Ctr., C/A No. 8:10-2988-JMC, 2011 WL 2066551, at *1 (D.S.C. May 26, 2011) (finding that Food Service Supervisors was a group of people not subject to suit); Dalton v. South Carolina Dep't of Corr., C/A No. 8:09-260-CMC-BHH, 2009 WL 823931, at *2 (D.S.C. March 26, 2009) (dismissing the medical staff of SCDC and Prison Health Services as defendants because they were not persons). Therefore, Spartanburg City Police Department should be dismissed from this action because the plaintiff fails to state a § 1983 claim against it.

         RECOMMENDATION

         For the foregoing reasons, it is recommended that Spartanburg City Police Department be dismissed from this action without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal). This action remains pending against Brendall K. Mathis, William Reece, Edgar v. Guthero, and Regina L. Nowak at this time.

         The petitioner's attention is directed to the important notice on the next page.

         Notice of Right to File Objections to Report ...


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