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Gaddy v. U.S. District Court Columbia

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 19, 2018

Calvin Lyndale Gaddy, #323551, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. District Court Columbia; S.C. Attorney General's Office; Clerk of Court Jeff Hammond; Mrs. Jacquelyn D. Austin; South Carolina State Attorney General, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge.

         Calvin Lyndale Gaddy (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff is a state inmate incarcerated at Kershaw Correctional Institution. He files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons below, the undersigned recommends summary dismissal of this action as the case is frivolous and further recommends the action be deemed a “strike” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

         BACKGROUND

         The allegations in the Complaint are difficult to decipher. However, liberally construed, the Complaint appears to allege that Defendants' actions individually and collectively constitute obstruction of justice, bias, prejudice, fraud, and vindictiveness, all in deprivation of Plaintiff's civil rights, including, among others, false imprisonment and violations of due process. [Doc. 1. at 1-3.] According to Plaintiff, Defendants have violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by committing fraud, by engaging in erroneous judicial procedures, and by obstructing justice, all of which have prejudiced Plaintiff and resulted in an “illegal” sentence. [Id. at 5.] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he was never convicted by a “Legal Grand Jury in General Session by presiding Judge” in violation of S.C. Code § 14-9-210. [Id.] As such, Plaintiff contends, his felony conviction and sentence in the Lancaster County Court of General Sessions is unlawful due to the absence of a properly documented indictment issued by a grand jury and because their was no presiding judge present on August 2, 2007. [Id. at 5-6.] Instead, because there was no properly impaneled grand jury, the State of South Carolina printed false grand jury information. [Id. at 6.]

         Following his conviction and sentence, Plaintiff filed a federal habeas corpus petition.[1] [Id.] However, in the habeas action, the magistrate judge relied on the State and failed to properly perform her job. [Id.] Plaintiff has attempted numerous times to dispute the indictment issue noted above—i.e., the fact that no grand jury was in session on his August 2007 case and the lack of impanelment documentation signed by a judge. [Id. at 7.] For his relief, Plaintiff seeks $250, 000 in damages and relief from “imminent damage found of fraud upon courts.” [Id.] Plaintiff attached to his Complaint 128 additional pages of documents, in which Plaintiff presents a “memorandum of law, ” annotated copies of various state and federal court records and orders in his prior cases, newspaper articles, and South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) documents, including inmate grievance forms and responses. [See Docs. 1-1 and 1-2.]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) DSC, 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, Plaintiff's Complaint is 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).

         Although the Court must liberally construe the pro se Complaint and Plaintiff is not required to plead facts sufficient to prove his case as an evidentiary matter in the Complaint, the Complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (explaining that a plaintiff may proceed into the litigation process only when his complaint is justified by both law and fact); cf. Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521 (2011) (holding that plaintiff need not pin his claim for relief to precise legal theory).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint 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, 566 U.S. 356, 361 (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 also has asserted claims in his Complaint pursuant to Bivens, in which the Supreme Court established a direct cause of action under the Constitution of the United States against federal officials for the violation of federal constitutional rights. 403 U.S. at 389. A Bivens claim is analogous to a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; however, federal officials cannot be sued under § 1983 because they do not act under color of state law. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 808 (1982). Case law involving a § 1983 claim is applicable in a Bivens action and vice versa. See Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 499 (1978); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985); Turner v. Dammon, 848 F.2d 440, 443-44 (4th Cir.1988). To establish a claim under Bivens, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) the defendant deprived the plaintiff of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States and (2) the defendant did so under color of federal law. See Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir. 2001) (setting forth requirements for a § 1983 claim); see also Bivens, 403 U.S. at 389 (“In [a previous case], we reserved the question whether violation of [the Constitution] by a federal agent acting under color of his authority gives rise to a cause of action for damages consequent upon his unconstitutional conduct. Today we hold that it does.”). A Bivens claim, like a civil rights action filed pursuant to § 1983, “‘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)).

         As noted, although the Court must liberally construe the pro se Complaint and Plaintiff is not required to prove his case as an evidentiary matter in the Complaint, Plaintiff's Complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. 544); see also Francis, 588 F.3d at 193. “A claim has ‘facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 388 (4th Cir. 2014).

         Here, the entire Complaint should be dismissed because it is frivolous. The crux of this action appears to be a challenge to Plaintiff's custody in the SCDC as unlawful. To the extent Plaintiff may be seeking release from SCDC, release from prison is not available in this civil rights action.[2]See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994) (stating that “habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even though such a claim may come within the literal terms of § 1983"); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487-88 (1973) (attacking the length of duration of confinement is within the core of habeas corpus). And, to the extent Plaintiff is seeking damages or injunctive relief ...


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