United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. MCDONALD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
plaintiff, proceeding pro se and informa
pauperis, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging violation of his constitutional rights.
The plaintiff is a South Carolina Department of Corrections
inmate incarcerated at the Chester Detention Center DF.
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.
plaintiff alleges that on June 14, 2017, the defendant
officers with the Union County Police Department initiated an
illegal traffic stop, resulting in his arrest for less than
three grams of marijuana and the seizure of $982.00 in cash
(doc. 1 at 4, 14). He says the arrest resulted in a
“parole confliction” and amounted to an
unreasonable search and seizure (id. at 4). He also
claims that the defendants failed to produce a “proper
receipt of chain of custody and or to secure a drug
analysis” (id. at 15).
plaintiff seeks the return of the $982.00 seized from him
when arrested, and an order vacating his conviction
(id. at 6).
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). 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 (2007) (per curiam). However, even under
this less stringent standard, 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 (4th
plaintiff's claims of false arrest and illegal search and
seizure are subject to dismissal pursuant to the Supreme
Court's ruling in Heck v. Humphrey, which held
that in order to recover damages for imprionment in violation
of the United States Constitution, the imprisonment must
first be successfully challenged. 512 U.S. 477, 490 (1994);
see Edwards v. Balisock, 520 U.S. 641,
647-48 (1997) (holding that the preclusive rule of
Heck extended to § 1983 claims challenging
procedural deficiencies that necessarily imply the invalidity
of the judgement). The Supreme Court held that
“to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm whose
unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, .
. . a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or
sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal
authorized to make such a determination, or called into
question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages
bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that
has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under §
Id., 512 U.S. at 486-87.
review of publicly available online records for the Union
County Sixteenth Judicial Circuit shows that following the
plaintiff's arrest, he was indicted and ultimately pled
guilty (case numbers 2017A4410100559-561). “[A] grand
jury indictment is affirmative evidence of probable cause
sufficient to defeat claims for malicious prosecution and
false arrest under § 1983.” Wilson v.
Chickering, C/A No. 0:15-4166-TMC, 2016 WL 422217, at *2
(D.S.C. Feb. 4, 2016) (citing Gatter v. Zappile, 67
F.Supp.2d 515, 519 (E.D. Pa.1999) (collecting cases holding
that a grand jury indictment is affirmative evidence of
probable cause), aff'd, 225 F.3d 648 (3d Cir.
2000)); see also Provet v. South Carolina, C/A No.
6:07-1094-GRA-WMC, 2007 WL 1847849, at *5 (D.S.C. June 25,
2007). Here, the plaintiff is attempting to attack the
validity of his conviction; however, he has not shown that
his conviction has been overturned or otherwise impugned. A
favorable determination on the merits of the plaintiff's
§ 1983 claims would require a finding that his detention
is invalid; accordingly, his claims are barred under
Heck and subject to summary dismissal. In addition,
the seizure of the money during his drug arrest was an issue
that could have been presented to the state court during his
criminal proceedings and cannot be raised here in light of
the Union County 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 Green v.
Murdaugh, C/A No. 5:12-1086-RMG-KDW, 2012 WL 1987764, *2
(D.S.C. May 07, 2012), adopted by 2012 WL 1987259
(D.S.C. June 04, 2012) (dismissing because police department
was not subject to suit under § 1983). Therefore, the
Police Department should be dismissed from this action
because the plaintiff fails to state a § 1983 claim
recommended that the District Court dismiss this action
without prejudice. The plaintiff's attention is