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Logan v. News

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

June 22, 2018

Jack Logan, Plaintiff,
v.
Greenville News, Eric Connors, Defendants.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge.

         The plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this civil action asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff is a non-prisoner, and he files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The complaint is subject to summary dismissal.

         Allegations

         The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his rights under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974 by slandering his name in regards to his civil and criminal records while he was a candidate (doc. 1 at 3, 5). He seeks $1, 000, 000 in damages.

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review the complaint for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. The 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). As a pro se litigant, the 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.

         Discussion

         This 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).

         At the outset, the plaintiff cites violations of The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974 as a basis for his claims. However this Act is not a law of the United States, but rather an Act of the United Kingdom (citation 1974 c. 53). Accordingly, this law has no effect in this federal court.

         In any event, the defendants in this case are not amenable to suit under § 1983 because they were not acting under color of state law. “Anyone whose conduct is ‘fairly attributable to the state' can be sued as a state actor under § 1983.” Filarsky v. Delia, 132 S.Ct. 1657, 1661 (2012). However, purely private conduct, no matter how wrongful, is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the United States Constitution. See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 936 (1983); Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir. 2001). In this case, the complaint alleges no facts to show that these defendants are state actors amenable to suit under § 1983. Accordingly, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against the defendants.

         To the extent the plaintiff relies on diversity jurisdiction, his complaint must be dismissed. Complete diversity of parties in a case means that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from the citizenship of every defendant. Cent. W.Va. Energy Co., 636 F.3d at 103. Here, it appears that the plaintiff and both defendants are domiciled in South Carolina (doc. 1 at 2). Thus, complete diversity is lacking, and this Court has no diversity jurisdiction over this action.

         The plaintiff also raises the claim of slander, which is a state law claim. As no federal jurisdiction exists as set froth above, this court lacks supplemental jurisdiction to consider the state law claim of defamation or slander. In any event, under South Carolina law, “the tort of defamation allows a plaintiff to recover for injury to his or her reputation as the result of the defendant's communications to others of a false message about the plaintiff.” Holtzscheiter v. Thomson Newspapers, Inc., 506 S.E.2d 497, 501 (S.C. 1998). Defamatory communications take two forms: libel and slander. Id. “Slander is a spoken defamation while libel is a written defamation or one accomplished by actions or conduct.” Id. To state a cause of action for defamation, a plaintiff must show that “(1) a false and defamatory statement was made; (2) the unprivileged publication was made to a third party; (3) the publisher was at fault; and (4) either actionability of the statement irrespective of special harm or the existence of special harm caused by the publication.” Erickson v. Jones St. Publishers, L.L.C., 629 S.E.2d 653, 664 (2006).

         The plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action for defamation. While he alleges that the defendants reported his civil and criminal records while he was a candidate, he fails to allege any details about the article, including the falsity of it, and why the article is actionable as defamatory, entitling him to the damages he seeks. As presented, the plaintiff's slander claim is insufficient as a matter of law, as he fails to allege facts sufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         RECO ...


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