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Davis v. Colleton County Memorial Library

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

April 12, 2018

Erika R. Davis, Plaintiff,
Colleton County Memorial Library, Colleton County Government, and Colleton County Library Board, Defendants.



         Erika R. Davis (“Plaintiff”) is a nonprisoner litigant is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. She has filed a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that her employment termination was discriminatory. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1), and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2), the Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the record and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Judge. Upon review, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Complaint is should be summarily dismissed as a duplicate filing, without issuance and service of process, for the following reasons:

         I. Relevant Law

         A. Liberal Construction of Pro se Pleadings

         Pro se pleadings are given liberal construction and are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, “[t]he ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view ... pro se filings does not transform the court into an advocate. United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 2401 (2013). Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.” Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., City of Baltimore., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Giving “liberal construction” does not mean that the Court can ignore a prisoner's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. “Principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints ... [do] not require ... courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented to them.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986).

         B. Standard of Review

         Upon application, an indigent litigant may commence an action “in forma pauperis” in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows the court to dismiss the case upon finding that the action is “frivolous or 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). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). Under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte “at any time.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 326. “Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.” Id.

         II. Background

         In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she began working for the Colleton Library as a book “shelver” in 2001. (DE# 9, ¶¶ 10-11). She generally contends that she was “subjected to harassment and to a hostile work environment by Defendant allowing other Caucasian employees/Caucasian patrons to make racial slurs and condemning (sic) Plaintiff (sic) work ethics.” (Id. at ¶ 14). She alleges that in August 2015, she was “falsely accused …in a write-up” regarding an incident in which the supervisor told her to call the police about some disruptive under-age persons in the library. (Id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff contends (verbatim) that in this write-up, she was “being falsely accused, harass (sic), treated in different from Caucasian employees and violated.” (Id.). Sher alleges that on August 6, 2016, Mr. Grants “started yelling at her” in his office and would not let her out. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25). She states (verbatim) that she “did not receive no sympathy, no apology, and no counseling.” (Id.). She further alleges that on January 19, 2017, the library director “came short of curing her as he raised his voice will (sic) treating to fire her.” (Id. at ¶ 27). She complains that a patron was rude to her on one occasion. (Id. at ¶ 29). She indicates that on March 3 [presumably 2017], she was given a termination letter which was read out loud to her. (Id. at ¶ 32).

         Plaintiff indicates she asked the Library Board of Trustees to fire the library supervisor (Mr. Carl Coffin) who had given her the termination letter. (Id. at ¶ 33). Plaintiff alleges that when she visited the library on April 13, 2017, staff member Vicki Brown was “very loud and obnoxious” to her. (Id. at ¶ 34). She indicates that her unemployment benefits were denied in May of 2017, that she appealed such decision, and thereafter obtained benefits. (Id. at ¶¶ 37-38). She alleges that by “accusing Plaintiff of impropriety and inadequacy in performing her duties, ” the Defendant defamed her. (Id. at ¶¶ 41-45). She alleges that the Colleton County Memorial Library negligently hired, trained, and supervised its employees. (Id. at ¶ 50). For relief, Plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages, attorney fees, and costs. (Id. at 11).

         III. Discussion: The Complaint is a Duplicate Filing

         The record reflects that Plaintiff has already filed an earlier lawsuit which is currently pending before this Court. (See Davis v. Colleton Cty. Government, Case No. 2:17-cv-2947-PMD- MGB, DE# 10, Order of 4/11/2018 authorizing service of process). That earlier case is based on the same facts as those involved in the present action. In fact, text of the Amended Complaints in both cases is identical. The only difference in the two cases is the caption. In the earlier-filed Case No. 2:17-cv-2947-PMD-MGB, Plaintiff lists “Colleton County Government” as the defendant, whereas in her identical subsequently-filed Case No. 2:17-cv-2948-PMD-MGB, Plaintiff lists “Colleton County Memorial Library, et al” as the defendants.[1] In the text of her Amended Complaint (DE# 9), Plaintiff describes the defendant as the “Colleton County Memorial Library/Library Board of Trustees liability corporation.” It is unclear why Plaintiff is attempting to pursue two lawsuits based on the same facts. In both cases, she seeks the same monetary damages for her employment termination.

         By Plaintiff's own account, the claims in the present action arise out of the same facts as the facts in her earlier-filed action. As already noted, Plaintiff filed the identical Amended Complaint in both cases. Because the present action is duplicative of the action already pending in this Court, it should be dismissed. “[D]istrict courts may dismiss a duplicative complaint raising issues directly related to issues in another pending action brought by the same party.” Aziz v. Burrows, 976 F.2d 1158 (8th Cir. 1992); see also, e.g., Reynolds v. Third Circuit Pub. Def. Office, Case No. 4:17-cv-3469-BHH-MGB, 2018 WL 1322102, *5 (D.S.C. Feb. 6, 2018), adopted by 2018 WL 1124592 (D.S.C. Mar. 1, 2018) (summarily dismissing duplicate case as frivolous); Fordham v. Bachman, D.S.C. Case No. 2:16-cv-945-RMG-MGB (same).

         “[R]epetitious litigation of virtually identical causes of action may be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 as frivolous.” Paul v. de Holczer, Case No. 3:15-2178-CMC-PJG, 2015 WL 4545974 (D.S.C. July 28, 2015) (holding that “the instant Complaint should be summarily dismissed as a frivolous duplicate filing in the interest of judicial economy and efficiency”), affirmed by 631 Fed.Appx. 197 (4th Cir. February 4, 2016); see also Cox v. Cartledge, Case No. 3:13-481-TMC, 2013 WL 1401684 (D.S.C. ...

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