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Braxton v. Boyd

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

April 19, 2018

Michael T. Braxton, #119081, Plaintiff,
v.
A. Boyd; C. York; Donnie Stonebreaker; Mr. Scarborough; Mrs. Freeman; Ms. Hendrix, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge.

         Michael T. Braxton (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff is a South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) inmate incarcerated at Kershaw Correctional Institution. He files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This case is subject to summary dismissal.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff asserts that prison officials have violated his constitutional rights by confining him under an expired sentence, subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment and false imprisonment, and violating his due process rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. [Doc. 1 at 5 ¶ B.] Plaintiff makes the following factual allegations in his Complaint. He was convicted on October 24, 1983, and sentenced to thirty years imprisonment in SCDC. [Id. at 8.] After serving ten years and four months, Plaintiff was paroled on March 31, 1994, to the State of Tennessee where he successfully complied with his parole supervision terms from March 31, 1994, through May 28, 1996. [Id.] He was then sentenced in Tennessee for a subsequent offense and incarcerated for twenty-five months, from April 16, 1996, through May 1, 1998. [Id.] On May 28, 1996, a parole violation warrant was issued, negating his opportunity for bond. [Id.] Plaintiff was then transferred to the Tennessee Department of Corrections to serve a twenty-three year sentence. [Id.] After serving seventeen years and five months, from June 1, 1998, to November 2, 2015, Plaintiff was extradited back to South Carolina. [Id.] It is at this time that Plaintiff's “injury arose, ” because from May 28, 1996, through November 2, 2015, Plaintiff “received no due process probable cause or revocation hearing.” [Id.] Then, on November 18, 2015, Plaintiff went before the South Carolina Board of Pardons and Parole, who referred his case to the full parole board, and, on January 20, 2015, the full parole board remanded Plaintiff back into the custody of SCDC. [Id.]

         Thereafter, in January 2016, Plaintiff submitted a request to clarify his classification within SCDC, which was never responded to. [Id.] Plaintiff submitted a second request regarding his classification on February 4, 2016, and on February 17, 2016, Defendant Boyd responded by forwarding the issue to Plaintiff's “perman[e]nt institution” without conducting any investigation. [Id.] Upon Plaintiff's arrival at Kershaw Correctional Institution (his “perman[e]nt institution”), he submitted additional grievances, requesting clarification of his classification within SCDC. [Id.] On July 15, 2016, Plaintiff met with Defendant York, who insisted that Plaintiff's classification was correct. [Id.] However, Plaintiff had not been credited with his time for his successful parole supervision, nor his pre- and post-trial incarceration time in Tennessee. [Id. at 9.] Plaintiff met with Defendant York again in December 2016 and provided her with additional documentation confirming his relevant incarceration time in Tennessee. [Id.] On January 30, 2017, Defendant Stonebreaker validated the inaction of Defendant York in his response to Plaintiff's grievance. [Id.] On March 3, 2017, Defendant Scarborough asserted that Plaintiff's claim that his sentence had been calculated incorrectly was without merit. [Id.] On June 13, 2017, Plaintiff attempted to contact SCDC central and, on July 10, 2017, a concerned family member spoke to Defendant Freeman who assured Plaintiff's family member that Plaintiff's classification was correct. [Id.] On July 13, 2017, Defendant Hendrix refused to process Plaintiff's grievance pertaining to the misapplication of his good behavior credits and his earned work credits, despite the fact that Plaintiff provided documentation showing that he had accumulated time on successful parole supervision as well as his pre- and post-trial incarceration in Tennessee, which had not been applied to his original South Carolina sentence. [Id.]

         For his injuries, Plaintiff alleges he has suffered confusion, emotional distress, mental anguish, and depression and anxiety, resulting in the need for mental health counseling. [Id. at 10 ¶ V.] For his relief, Plaintiff seeks “immediate restoration of his liberty, and (10) ten million dollars in punitive, compensatory and actual damages.” [Id. at 10 ¶ VI.]

         With respect to the named Defendants in this action, Plaintiff alleges each Defendant acted under color of state law in violating Plaintiff's constitutional rights as follows: Defendant Boyd refused to address or bring to the attention of an appropriate authority the glaring issue of Plaintiff being “incorrectly classified;” Defendant York refused to correct or have corrected the “erroneous classification” of Plaintiff; Defendant Stonebreaker endorsed Defendant York's “assessment of the Plaintiff's classification” and submitted an erroneous response to Plaintiff's grievance; Defendant Scarborough endorsed “the incorrect classification;” Defendant Freeman, who was contacted by a concerned family member of Plaintiff, “insisted his classification was correct” and refused to correct or present the issue to the appropriate authority; and Defendant Hendrix refused to process Plaintiff's step 1 grievance pertaining to the “incorrect application of his good behavior credits and earned work credits.” [Id. at 6.]

         Plaintiff alleges he filed a lawsuit on October 17, 2017, in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas at case No. 2017-CP-40-6376 regarding these issues, which remains pending. [Id. at 15.] This Court takes judicial notice[1] that, upon a review of the Public Index records, Plaintiff's complaint entered in his PCR action in state court asserts nearly identical claims to those asserted in the instant civil rights action.[2] Also, according to an SCDC inmate search, Plaintiff is serving the remainder of a 30 year sentence for criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, which began on October 24, 1983.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review the Complaint for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. 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, 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 Plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this Court is charged with screening 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, 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, the pro se pleading remains subject to summary dismissal. The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). 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

         The 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). Plaintiff's claims are subject to summary dismissal based on the doctrine set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, as explained below.

         For his relief, Plaintiff requests the “immediate restoration of his liberty, ” and therefore appears to be asking for release from custody, in addition to “ten million dollars in punitive, compensatory and actual damages.” [Doc. ...


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