United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
Olandio Ray Workman, a state pretrial detainee proceeding pro
se, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See ECF No. 1. The matter is before the Court for
consideration of Plaintiff's objections to the Report and
Recommendation (“R & R”) of United States
Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald, who recommends summarily
dismissing this action without prejudice. See ECF
Nos. 12 & 14.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive
weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination
remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S.
261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review
of those portions of the R & R to which specific
objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. 72(b).
Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the
Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been
filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de
novo review when a party makes only “general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a
specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews
only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
presently detained at the Greenville County Detention Center
on state charges,  filed a § 1983 complaint alleging an
“officer and [the] administration” at the jail
“are retaliating” against him for filing prior
lawsuits by not providing him “legal copies” and
by taking his legal paperwork. See ECF No. 1 at p.
6. He also alleges that an unnamed officer assaulted him,
that his back, neck, and shoulders hurt, and that he has not
yet seen a doctor. Id. at p. 9. The Magistrate Judge
recommends summarily dismissing Plaintiff's complaint
because it (1) fails to state First Amendment claims for
retaliation or denial of access to the courts and (2) fails
to provide sufficient factual allegations subjecting
Defendants to personal or supervisory liability. See
R & R at pp. 3-6. The Magistrate Judge also notes
Defendant Greenville County Council is not a
“person” for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Id. at p. 6 n.2. Plaintiff has filed objections to
the R & R. See Pl.'s Objs. [ECF No. 14].
Plaintiff appears to argue he has been denied access to a law
library while at the Greenville County Detention Center,
citing Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977).
See Pl.'s Objs. at p. 1. However, the “the
law is quite clear that those being temporarily detained in
county facilities awaiting criminal trials do not have a
constitutional right to a law library.” Jones v.
Lexington Cty. Det. Ctr., 586 F.Supp.2d 444, 448 (D.S.C.
2008) (citing Magee v. Waters, 810 F.2d 451, 452
(4th Cir. 1987)). Moreover, although Plaintiff mentions
several other cases he has filed in this Court and indicates
a law library could have helped him in those cases,
“[a]ctual injury cannot be established merely by
conclusory statements that the inmate would have fared better
in litigation had he or she had more or better access to
legal research materials.” Id. at 448 (citing
Magee and Hause v. Vaught, 993 F.2d 1079,
1084 (4th Cir. 1993)); see also Lewis v. Casey, 518
U.S. 343, 349, 351 (1996) (explaining “Bounds
did not create an abstract, freestanding right to a law
library” and holding “an inmate alleging a
violation of Bounds must show actual injury”).
Plaintiff objects to the dismissal of Defendant Greenville
County Council. See Pl.'s Objs. at p. 4.
However, as the Magistrate Judge found and the Court has
previously ruled, “Greenville County Council is not a
proper defendant for purposes of § 1983.”
Workman v. Vandermosten, No. 6:17-cv-00766-RBH-KFM,
2017 WL 4776717, at *2 (D.S.C. Oct. 23, 2017), appeal
dismissed, No. 17-7584, 2018 WL 1603116 (4th Cir. Apr.
3, 2018). See, e.g., Crouchman v. Pickens Cty.
Council, No. 9:16-cv-00804-CMC, 2017 WL 767185, at *9
(D.S.C. Feb. 3, 2017), adopted by, 2017 WL 749393
(D.S.C. Feb. 27, 2017) (finding the Pickens County Council
was not a proper § 1983 defendant and explaining a
“group of people or use of such collective terms to
name a § 1983 defendant has been found improper and
inadequate” (internal quotation marks omitted));
Hodges v. Mayor & City Council of Annapolis,
2016 WL 4140954, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 3, 2016) (recognizing
“a county council is not sui juris”).
See also Dunbar v. Metts, No. 2:10-cv-01775-HMH-BHH,
2011 WL 1480279, at *5 (D.S.C. Mar. 31, 2011), adopted
by, 2011 WL 1480096 (D.S.C. Apr. 19, 2011)
(“Lexington City Council is not a ‘person'
and is not responsible for the alleged violations of
Plaintiff's rights.”); Smith-Berch, Inc. v.
Baltimore Cty., 68 F.Supp.2d 602, 626-27 & n.1 (D.
Md. 1999) (finding the Baltimore County Council was not a
“person” within the meaning of § 1983).
Plaintiff indicates in his objections that he is attempting
to assert a municipal liability claim, and he refers to the
individual members of the Greenville County Council named as
defendants in this case. See Pl.'s Objs. at pp.
2, 4. “[M]unicipalities and other local government
units” (such as cities and counties) can be liable
under § 1983 if an official policy or custom causes a
deprivation of constitutional rights. See Monell v.
Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436
U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). However, to the extent Plaintiff has
attempted to sue Greenville County, such a claim is
foreclosed by the fact “that, under South Carolina law,
it is the Sheriff of the County who is responsible for the
operation of county detention centers, not the County.”
Crouchman, 2017 WL 767185, at *9 (citing S.C. Code
Ann. § 24-5-10). As such, the sheriff of Greenville
County-not Greenville County or its individual county council
members-is responsible for operating the Greenville County
Detention Center where Plaintiff is detained. Plaintiff has
made no allegations calling into question the existence and
applicability of this state law to his claims. See Cobb
v. South Carolina, No. 2:13-CV-02370-RMG, 2014 WL
4220423, at *2, 7 (D.S.C. Aug. 25, 2014) (summarizing Fourth
Circuit and South Carolina law holding that because the
county has no control over the operations or policy of the
jail, it cannot be held liable for events that take place
Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion
that he fails to state a First Amendment retaliation claim.
See Pl.'s Objs. at p. 3. “In order to
state a colorable retaliation claim under Section 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that (1) he engaged in protected First
Amendment activity, (2) the defendant took some action that
adversely affected his First Amendment rights, and (3) there
was a causal relationship between his protected activity and
the defendant's conduct.” Martin v. Duffy,
858 F.3d 239, 249 (4th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks
and alterations omitted). Although Plaintiff alleges somebody
called him a racial slur and threatened to kill him,
“mere threats or verbal abuse, without more, do not
state a cognizable claim under § 1983.” Wilson
v. McKeller, 254 Fed.Appx. 960, 961 (4th Cir. 2007)
(involving a racial slur); see also Morrison v.
Martin, 755 F.Supp. 683, 687 (E.D. N.C. ) (“The
law is clear that [m]ere threatening language and gestures of
a custodial officer do not, even if true, amount to
constitutional violations.”), aff'd, 917
F.2d 1302 (4th Cir. 1990). Also, as the Magistrate Judge
correctly explains, Plaintiff fails to provide sufficient
factual allegations subjecting any of the named
Defendants to personal or supervisory liability. See
R & R at pp. 5-6.
the Court notes that before entering the R & R, the
Magistrate Judge issued an order informing Plaintiff that his
complaint contained deficiencies that could subject it to
summary dismissal, providing him fourteen days to file an
amended complaint, and notifying him that failure to file an
amended complaint would result in a recommendation of
dismissal. See ECF No. 7. However, Plaintiff never filed an
amended complaint, and he does not specifically object to the
Magistrate Judge's additional recommendation in the R
& R that this action be dismissed for failure to comply
with a court order. See R & R at p. 1.
Accordingly, the Court will also dismiss this action without
prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
foregoing reasons, the Court overrules Plaintiff's
objections, adopts the R & R [ECF No. 12], and
DISMISSES this action without prejudice