United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Twanda Marshinda Brown; Sasha Monique Darby; Cayeshia Catel Johnson; Amy Marie Palacios; Nora Ann C; Xavier Larry Goodwin; and Raymond Wright, Jr., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Lexington County, South Carolina; Gary Reinhart, in his individual capacity; Rebecca Adams, in her official and individual capacities as the Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County and in her official capacity as the Judge of the Irmo Magistrate Court; Albert John Dooley, III, in his official capacity as the Associate Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County; Bryan Koon, in his official capacity as the Lexington County Sheriff; and Robert Madsen, in his official capacity as the Circuit Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of South Carolina, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
MARGARET B. SEYMOUR SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is now before the court on Defendants' motion for
reconsideration pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54 and Fed.R.Civ.P.
59 filed on April 24, 2018, ECF No. 87, and Defendant
Lexington County's supplemental motion for
reconsideration filed on April 21, 2018, ECF No. 88.
Plaintiffs filed an opposition to Defendants' motion and
supplemental motion for reconsideration on May 3, 2018, ECF
No. 93, to which Defendants filed a reply on May 10, 2018.
ECF No. 97.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
detailed recitation of this matter's relevant factual and
procedural background can be found in the order entered on
March 29, 2018 (the “March order”), and
incorporated herein by reference. ECF No. 84. Briefly, this
case involves claims by Plaintiffs Twanda Marshinda Brown;
Sasha Monique Darby; Cayeshia Cashel Johnson; Amy Marie
Palacios; Nora Ann Corder; Xavier Larry Goodwin; and Raymond
Wright, Jr. (hereinafter collectively
“Plaintiffs”), against Defendant Lexington County
of South Carolina (hereinafter “Lexington
County”); Defendants Gary Reinhart,  Rebecca Adams,
Albert John Dooley, III,  as former or current Judges for
Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington
County and the Irmo Magistrate Court (hereinafter
“Judicial Defendants”); Defendant Bryan Koon as
the Lexington County Sheriff (hereinafter
“Koon”); and Defendant Robert Madsen as the Circuit
Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of South
Carolina (hereinafter “Madsen”) (hereinafter
collectively “Defendants”). According to
Plaintiffs, magistrate courts in Lexington County routinely
incarcerate indigent defendants who are unable to afford
magistrate court fines and fees without pre-deprivation
ability-to-pay hearings or representation by counsel.
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs allege
violation of their constitutional rights under the Fourth,
Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs seek class
certification, damages, and declaratory and injunctive relief
March order, the court declined to adopt the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 74). The court
also denied Plaintiffs' motion to certify class without
prejudice (ECF No. 21); denied Defendants' motion for
partial summary judgment as to declaratory and injunctive
relief (ECF No. 29); and denied Defendants' motion for
summary judgment on damages claim without prejudice (ECF No.
50). See March order, ECF No. 84. The court found
that there were genuine issues of material fact as to the
application of Chief Justice Beatty's Memorandum in
magistrate courts and whether the alleged conduct could not
reasonably be expected to recur. Id. at 27-28. The
court further found that there were genuine issues of
material fact as to whether Defendants are entitled to
judicial and quasi-judicial immunity. Id. at 28-29.
The court then recommitted the matter to the Magistrate Judge
for further pretrial handling. Id. at 29.
Civ. P. 54(b) provides the following:
When an action presents more than one claim for relief -
whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party
claim - or when multiple parties are involved, the court may
direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer
than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly
determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise,
any order or other decision, however designated, that
adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the
action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised
at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all
the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.
Rule 54(b), the district court retains the power to
reconsider and modify its interlocutory judgments . . . at
any time prior to final judgment when such is
warranted.” Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms,
Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514-15 (4th Cir. 2003); see also
Moses H. Cone Mem. Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460
U.S. 1, 12 (1983) (noting that “every order short of a
final decree is subject to reopening at the discretion of the
district judge”). “The Fourth Circuit has offered
little guidance on the standard for evaluating a Rule 54(b)
motion, but has held motions under Rule 54(b) are ‘not
subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for
reconsideration of a final judgment.'” Sanders
v. Lowe's Home Ctr., C/A No. 0:15-cv-02313-JMC, 2016
WL 5920840, at *2 (D.S.C. Oct. 11, 2016) (citing Am.
Canoe Ass'n, 326 F.3d at 514)); see also
Fayetteville Inv'r v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936
F.2d 1462, 1472 (4th Cir. 1991) (noting that the court found
it unnecessary to thoroughly express its views on the
interplay of Rules 54, 59, and 60). “In this regard,
district courts in the Fourth Circuit, in analyzing the
merits of a Rule 54 motion, look to the standards of motions
under Rule 59 for guidance.” Sanders, 2016 WL
59202840, at *2. “Therefore, reconsideration under Rule
54(b) is appropriate on the following grounds: (1) to follow
an intervening change in controlling law; (2) on account of
new evidence; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or
prevent manifest injustice.” Id. (citing
Beyond Sys., Inc. v. Kraft Foods, Inc., 2010 WL
3059344, at *2 (D. Md. Aug. 4, 2010) (“This three-part
test shares the same three elements as the Fourth
Circuit's test for amending an earlier judgment under
Rule 59(e), but the elements are not applied with the same
force when analyzing an [ ] interlocutory order.”)
(citing Am. Canoe Ass'n, 326 F.3d at 514)).
Defendants' motion for reconsideration
seek reconsideration on two grounds. ECF No. 87-1. First,
Defendants assert that the court overlooked Defendants'
motion for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims
for declaratory and injunctive relief (ECF No. 29).
Id. at 5-8. Defendants note that “the basis
for the motion was that the claims of all but one Plaintiff
were moot and no longer involved live cases or controversies,
and the claims of that one remaining Plaintiff [Goodwin], who
still had (and has) a criminal action pending against him are
barred by the principles of Younger v. Harris, 401
U.S. 37 (1971).” ECF No. 87-1 at 1. Defendants argue
that “there can be no question that if a bench warrant
is issued for his arrest, Mr. Goodwin either previously has
had, or would eventually have an adequate opportunity to
raise some, if not all, of his current challenges in the
context of the state proceedings, and he would have an army
of lawyers to help him if his current counsel were to appear
in any such proceedings.” ECF No. 29-1 at 7.
Defendants argue that the court did not address or consider
the additional evidence submitted by Defendants in their
reply to Plaintiffs' objections to the Report and
Recommendation. ECF No. 87-1 at 8. Defendants assert that
they attached to their reply detailed revisions to forms and
procedures by the South Carolina Court Administration, which
were formalized by orders signed by Chief Justice Beatty. ECF
No. 87-1 at 8. The additional evidence submitted by
Defendants included a Memorandum by the South Carolina Court
Administration outlining the procedures discussed at the
Mandatory Program meeting on November 1, 2017, regarding the
sentencing of unrepresented defendants to imprisonment. ECF
No. 82-1 at 2. It also included a “Checklist for
Magistrates and Municipal Judges” signed by Chief
Justice Beatty, along with changes to forms for use by
Magistrates and Municipal Judges. ECF No. 82-1 at 10-22.
Defendants further assert that “at the annual mandatory
program for summary court judges on November 1, 2017, the
office of court administration set forth the practical
requirements of the Chief Justice's Memorandum in
considerable detail.” ECF No. 87-1 (citing ECF No.
82-1, Court Administration Memorandum, dated Mar.
14, 2018)). Defendants note that Chief Justice Beatty on
February 23, 2018, also “signed two administrative
orders further implementing those procedures, and
promulgating a total of seven new or revised forms intended
to ensure that imprisonment does not occur unless the
[defendants are] ‘informed of their right to counsel,
and if indigent, their right to court-appointed counsel prior
to proceeding with trial.”' ECF No. 87-1 at 9.
Defendants argue that together these changes “are all
directed toward insuring that no one is incarcerated for
summary-court-level offenses in the absence of being informed
of the right to counsel in a meaningful manner.” ECF
No. 87-1 at 9-10.
argue that even “if such noncompliance still persists,
which seems unlikely in view of the extensiveness of the
state judicial system's efforts, Plaintiffs' counsel
would be able to identify it without the need for discovery
from Defendants.” Id. As such, Defendants
argue that “if Plaintiff's counsel, in opposition
to the present motion, cannot point to any cases in Lexington
County in which the problem persists, then Plaintiffs'
claims for prospective relief should be dismissed based on
mootness resulting from the remedial action of the Chief
Justice and the South Carolina Court Administration.”
Id. at 11.
Defendants' Supplemental Motion for
Lexington County and Madsen separately request that this
court reconsider the March order on several grounds. ECF No.
88-1. First, Defendant Lexington County requests that the
court clarify that Defendant Madsen should be dismissed from
the case. Id. at 1. In support thereof, Defendant
Lexington County contends that “the Magistrate Judge
noted that ‘the parties do not dispute that [public
defender] Madsen is an agent of Lexington County.'”
Id. “Because Plaintiffs have asserted the same
causes of action against Lexington County and Madsen, the
claims against Madsen are duplicative, and the undersigned
recommends Madsen be dismissed from the case.”
Id. at 1 (citing ECF No. 74 at 20). Second,
Defendant Lexington County argues that “the damages
claims against Lexington County were barred for the following
reasons other than the immunity grounds: (1) all of
Plaintiffs' damages claims are barred by the principles
set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)
and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (2) as a matter of
law Lexington County could not have created the policies
alleged by Plaintiffs to exist with regard to matters
occurring in the adjudicated cases of individuals; and (3)
Plaintiffs' damages claims against Lexington County based
on underfunding of the public defender system are ...