United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge
a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis,
filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil
Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to a magistrate
judge for pretrial handling. Plaintiff subsequently moved to
Amend his Complaint. (ECF No. 12). On December 19, 2017,
Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint. (ECF No. 13). The court issued an Order pursuant
to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir.
1975), advising Plaintiff of the potential consequences if he
did not respond adequately to Defendants' motion. (ECF
No. 14). Plaintiff then filed his Response in Opposition to
the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 19).
Defendants filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response. (ECF
No. 21). Plaintiff subsequently filed a “Motion to
Clarify Defendants' Reply, ” which was essentially
a response to Defendants' Reply. (ECF No. 22). On
February 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 23). Defendants filed a response (ECF No.
24) and Plaintiff replied (ECF NO. 26).
the court is the magistrate judge's Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 28), which
recommends that the court grant Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 13) and find Plaintiff's motions (ECF
Nos. 22, 23) as moot. Plaintiff was advised of his right to
file objections to the Report. (ECF No. 28-1). After the
Report was mailed to Plaintiff, Plaintiff filed a second
Motion to Amend his Complaint, seeking to withdraw his claim
for false arrest. (ECF No. 30). Plaintiff then filed
objections to the Report (ECF No. 31). Defendants responded
to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend (ECF No. 33), and
Plaintiff replied (ECF No. 36).
recommendations set forth in the Report have no presumptive
weight, and this court remains responsible for making a final
determination in this matter. See Mathews v. Weber,
423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making
a de novo determination of those portions of the
Report to which a specific objection is made, and the court
may accept, reject, 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). However, the
court need not conduct a de novo review when a party
makes only “general and conclusory objections that do
not direct the court to a specific error in the
magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed,
specific objection, the magistrate judge's conclusions
are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v.
Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315
(4th Cir. 2005).
alleges that on March 15, 2016, Defendants initiated a
traffic stop on a vehicle in which he was a passenger. (ECF
No. 1 at 4). At the time of the traffic stop, the driver and
Plaintiff were leaving 713 Lanyon Lane, in Spartanburg, South
Carolina. Id. Plaintiff contends that Defendants did
not witness him committing a crime and that he had no active
warrants for his arrest. Id. Plaintiff further
asserts that Defendants were in an unmarked pickup truck,
which Plaintiff claims to be “not standard
procedure” for conducting traffic stops. Id.
at 5. Plaintiff alleges that he was “profil[ed]”
and “targeted” by Defendants, because they
recognized him. Id.
Defendants conducted the traffic stop, they discovered that
the driver's license was suspended. (ECF No. 1-1).
According to the incident report, which Plaintiff attached to
his Complaint, the driver exited the vehicle when asked and
consented to a search of the vehicle. Id. However,
Plaintiff states that Defendant Williams then made Plaintiff
step out of the vehicle and searched him without permission
and without a search warrant. (ECF No. 1 at 5). As a result
of this search, Defendant Williams recovered “a small
amount of drugs” and $5, 683 in cash from
Plaintiff's pockets. Id. According to Plaintiff,
Defendant Horton “tricked [him] into signing [his]
money over in a forfeiture” because Plaintiff was
stressed and under duress at the time he signed the money
over. Id. Plaintiff further asserts that he
erroneously believed that he was signing a Miranda waiver,
not a property seizure form. Id. Plaintiff contends
that he was subsequently arrested. Id. Finally,
Plaintiff notes that the state dismissed the charges from the
traffic stop on March 14, 2017. Id. at 10.
instant action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants'
actions violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights
based on “profiling, wrongful arrest, and unreasonable
searches.” Id. at 7. As a remedy, Plaintiff
seeks $700, 000 in damages for the violations, loss of time
with his family, and emotional distress. Id. He also
requests that all of his legal costs be paid for by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim should not be granted unless it
appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts
which would support his claim and entitle him to relief.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss,
the court should “accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations and should view the complaint in a light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v.
Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). However, the
court “need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from
the facts” nor “accept as true unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.”
E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd.
P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). While
“a plaintiff is not required to plead facts that
constitute a prima facie case in order to survive a motion to
dismiss . . ., factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190
(4th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).
a plaintiff's complaint only needs to include “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
Additionally, when “evaluating a civil rights complaint
for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6),
” the court must be “especially solicitous of the
wrongs alleged.” Harrison v. U.S. Postal
Serv., 840 F.2d 1149, 1152 (4th Cir. 1988) (internal
citations omitted). Furthermore, when the plaintiff proceeds
pro se, the court is charged with liberally construing the
factual allegations of the complaint in order to allow
potentially meritorious claims to go forward. See
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Still, this
requirement of liberal construction does not mean that this
court may ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege
facts that set forth a cognizable claim for relief.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387,
391 (4th Cir. 1990).
magistrate judge provided a thorough report addressing the
sufficiency of Plaintiff's claims and recommended that
this court grant the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF
No. 28). Plaintiff filed timely objections to this Report.
(ECF No. 31). The vast majority of Plaintiff's objections
simply restate his claims or object generally to the
magistrate judge's determinations on issues of law
without providing a specific basis for why Plaintiff objects.
However, Plaintiff has made the following specific
objections: (1) that the magistrate judge did not address the
fact that Defendants were dressed in plain clothes and
driving an unmarked vehicle when they conducted the traffic
stop; (2) that Plaintiff objects to the magistrate
judge's determination that “an officer's
knowledge can reinforce reasonable suspicion” because
Plaintiff believes that to be “profiling”; (3)
that Plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge's
determination on reasonable suspicion because Plaintiff does
not believe that Defendants could have reasonable suspicion
to conduct a traffic stop without more than just seeing him
leave a residence with another person; and (4) that the
magistrate judge incorrectly stated that the driver had given
voluntary consent for the officers to search the vehicle.
(ECF No. 31). The court finds these objections to be without
merit, and, accordingly overrules them.
while Plaintiff is correct that the magistrate judge did not
directly address his concern that Defendants were in
plain clothes and in an unmarked car, these facts do not
entitle Plaintiff to any sort of relief because they did not
constitute a constitutional violation. Plaintiff contends
that it is improper procedure for investigators who are not
patrol officers to conduct traffic stops in plain clothes and
unmarked cars. (ECF No. 1 at 5). However, officers often
conduct investigative Terry stops in plain clothes
and unmarked vehicles. See e.g. United States v.
Lender, 985 F.2d 151, 153 (4th Cir. 1993) (where one
officer from the police department and one officer from the
North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, both in
plain clothes and in an unmarked car, suspecting drug
activity, conducted ...