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Seabrooke v. Pickens County Law Enforcement Center

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 29, 2018

Michael L. Seabrooke, Plaintiff,
v.
Pickens County Law Enforcement Center, Pickens County Solicitor's Office, Pickens County Jail, Rita Burgess, K. Leopard, Charles Way, Baker Cleveland, Defendants.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND ORDER

          KEVIN F. MCDONALD GREENVILLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the court for a review of the plaintiff's amended complaint (doc. 20). The plaintiff, Michael L. Seabrooke, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Pickens County jail and alleges violations of his constitutional rights (doc. 20 at 2). Pursuant to the provisions of Section 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d)(D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.

         Procedural Background

         The plaintiff filed his initial complaint here on April 18, 2018. The undersigned issued an Order on April 24, 2018, directing the plaintiff to bring his case into proper form by (1) paying the filing fee or returning an in forma pauperis application; (2) completing and returning a summons for each named defendant; (3) completing and returning service forms for each defendant; and (4) completing and returning a more detailed complaint. The necessary forms were provided by the court (doc. 6). On May 9, 2018, the plaintiff returned the IFP application and a single summons naming two defendants (docs. 9, 10). On May 16, 2018, the undersigned issued another Order, directing the plaintiff to respond regarding whom he intended to name as defendants (doc. 12). The plaintiff responded on May 23, 2018, that he also intended to name two other defendants (doc. 15). On June 8, 2018, the court issued an Order advising that the plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted and was subject to dismissal. The plaintiff was given an opportunity to file an amended complaint to cure the identified deficiencies, along with all appropriate service documents (doc. 17). On June 20, 2018, the plaintiff filed his amended complaint but did not file any service documents for all of the defendants he identified (doc. 20).

         Allegations

         In the amended complaint, the plaintiff names as defendants the Pickens County Law Enforcement Center (“PCLEC”), the Pickens County Solicitor's Office, the Pickens County Jail, Investigator Rita Burgess with the Pickens County Sheriff's Department, [1] Lt. K. Leopard at the Pickens County Jail, Dr. Charles Way at the Pickens County Jail, and Baker Cleveland who he indicates is a solicitor in the Pickens County Solicitor's Office. He sues each defendant in their official capacity (Id. at 1-3).

         Liberally construed, the plaintiff's amended complaint raises claims regarding the investigation and prosecution of criminal charges against him, and his confinement in the Pickens County Jail from October 2017 to the present. As to the Jail, the plaintiff alleges that under the authority of Lt. Leopard, he was denied access to legal material and video evidence pertaining to his case; that a lynch mob controlled the jail; that he was made to sleep on the floor; that black mold was not removed; that he was denied medical treatment; and that his grievances went unprocessed. (doc. 20-1 at 1-2). As to the PCLEC, he alleges that Inv. Burgess “used double jeopardy on my warnts (sic), denied 911 calls, Body cameras which are evidence in violation of his constitutional rights, state and federal laws. ” (Id. at 1-2). As for the Solicitor's Office and prosecutor Cleveland, the plaintiff alleges they “denied me evidence, harassed me, went against a court order and used prosecutor misconduct” in violation of his constitutional rights, state, and federal laws. (Id. at 1). Finally, as to Dr. Way, the plaintiff generally states that “Dr. Way did refuse to give me medical treatment” (doc. 20-1 at 2). The plaintiff seeks monetary damages for stress, anxiety, sleep depravation, and pain and suffering (doc. 20-1 at 3).

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d)(D.S.C.), this magistrate judge 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). 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). In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         The amended complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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).

         Dismissal of PCLEC, the Jail, and the Solicitor's Office

         The amended complaint names as defendants the PCLEC, the Jail, and the Solicitor's Office. However, there are no specific allegations raised against these entities, but rather certain individuals within them. In any event, none of these named defendants is a “person” subject to suit under § 1983. It is well settled that only “persons” may act under color of state law, so a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a “person.” Sheriffs' Departments and other such offices, as well as groups of people, are not persons subject to suit for purposes § 1983. See Harden v. Green, 27 Fed.Appx. 173, 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (finding that the medical department of a prison is not a person pursuant to § 1983); Nelson v. Lexington Cnty. Det. Ctr., C/A No. 8:10-2988-JMC, 2011 WL 2066551, at *1 (D.S.C. May 26, 2011) (finding that a detention center, as a building, is not amenable to suit under § 1983 and that Food Service Supervisors was a group of people not subject to suit); see also Post v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 750 F.Supp. 1131, 1133 (S.D. Fla. 1990) (dismissing city police department as improper defendant in § 1983 action because not “person” under the statute). Accordingly, as the PCLEC, the Jail, and the Solicitor's Office are not subject to suit under § 1983 and should be dismissed.

         Eleventh ...


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