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Lancaster v. Ruane

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

June 18, 2018

Shannon Miles Lancaster, Plaintiff,
James Ruane, Defendant.


          Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, 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. On October 20, 2017, and October 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed two Motions to Amend his Complaint. (ECF Nos. 14, 15). The magistrate judge granted Plaintiff's Motions to Amend. (ECF No. 16). On November 13, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF No. 21). 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 Defendant's motion. (ECF No. 22). Plaintiff subsequently filed a third Motion to Amend his Complaint (ECF No. 25) and filed a Response in Opposition to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 20). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 34). The magistrate judge granted Plaintiff's third Motion to Amend, noting that based on Plaintiff's amendments, the court would “treat the Complaint as filed against Defendant only in his individual capacity.” (ECF No. 36). Defendant then filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 38) and a Reply to Plaintiff's Response in Opposition of the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 40).

         Before the court is the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 42), recommending that the court grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 21). Plaintiff was advised of his right to file objections to the Report. (ECF No. 42-1). After the Report had been mailed to Plaintiff, Plaintiff filed a fourth Motion to Amend his Complaint.[1](ECF No. 44). Plaintiff subsequently filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 45) and later supplemented those objections (ECF No. 47). Defendant filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion to Amend. (ECF No. 48). On May 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed a fifth Motion to Amend his Complaint.[2] (ECF No. 51). Defendant responded, opposing the amendments (ECF No. 56), and Plaintiff replied to Defendant's response. (ECF No. 58). Finally, on May 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Copies stating that he has lost his copy of the Complaint due to a “shakedown” of the prison and needs another copy. (ECF No. 54).

         The 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).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on April 11, 2016, Defendant, a narcotics investigator, along with an informant, contacted Plaintiff and asked him to get drugs for Defendant and the informant. (ECF No. 1 at 4). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant and the informant told Plaintiff that if he got them the drugs, they could get Plaintiff a job with their construction business. Id. Plaintiff claims that Defendant then met with Plaintiff and conducted a controlled buy “without using the informant at the scene, ” by personally giving Plaintiff $650 in exchange for drugs.” Id. Plaintiff states that Defendant's actions were wrongful because “no one authorized” Defendant to make the controlled buy. Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff further asserted that Defendant's actions amounted to a “4th Amendment Violation by virtue of 14th Amendment.” Id. Plaintiff later clarified this, stating that Defendant caused “a deprivation of the Plaintiff's 14th Amendment right of due process of law from which flowed an illegal invasion of a constitutionally protected 4th Amendment right to privacy.” (ECF No. 28-1 at 3). In relation to the violation of due process, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated South Carolina law, specifically South Carolina Code Sections 17-30-20 through 17-30-145, in not obtaining authorization from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”), the Attorney General, or a judge before conducting a controlled buy. (ECF No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff, therefore, asserts that he was “illegally arrested” on April 20, 2016.” Id. at 8. Plaintiff notes that all charges based on the controlled buy were nolle prossed on March 14, 2017.[3] Id. at 12.


         Under 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).

         Therefore, 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).


         The magistrate judge provided a thorough report that addressed the sufficiency of Plaintiff's claims and recommended that this court grant the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 42). Plaintiff filed timely objections to this Report, (ECF No. 45), and later supplemented those objections, (ECF No. 47). 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.[4] However, the court does find that Plaintiff has made the following specific objections to the Report: (1) that the magistrate judge failed to address Plaintiff's claims for invasion of privacy and unreasonable search; (2) that the magistrate judge erred in not ruling on Defendant's alleged violation of various policies when determining whether or not Plaintiff alleged a sufficient claim for violation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) that the magistrate judge erred in ruling that Plaintiff's claims were frivolous due to the claims hinging on a meritless false arrest claim;[5] and (4) that the magistrate judge erred in not addressing Plaintiff's request for production. These specific objections are discussed below.

         A. Invasion of Right of Privacy and Unreasonable Search

         Plaintiff states that the magistrate judge did not rule on his Fourth Amendment claims for an unreasonable search that invaded his right of privacy. (ECF No. 47 at 3). The magistrate judge did discuss the Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims within the context of his claim for false arrest. (ECF No. 42 at 9 - 11). However, to the extent that Plaintiff's Complaint and objections can also be liberally construed as asserting a claim for unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment regarding the ...

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