United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.
Olandio Ray Workman, a state pretrial detainee proceeding pro
se, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the four above-captioned defendants. The matter is
before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's
objections to the two separate Reports and Recommendations
(“R & Rs”) of United States Magistrate Judge
Kevin F. McDonald, who recommends summarily dismissing two of
the defendants and staying this action as to the other two
defendants. See ECF Nos. 36, 44, 47, &
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive
weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination
remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S.
261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review
of those portions of the R & R to which specific
objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or 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); Fed. R. Civ. 72(b).
Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the
Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been
filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de
novo review when a party makes only “general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a
specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews
only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
presently detained at the Greenville County Detention Center
on state charges,  filed an amended complaint alleging his cell
phone was traced without a warrant and naming four
defendants-Metro PCS Mobile Phone Company (“Metro
PCS”), Mr. Richardson (the registered agent for Metro
PCS), the Greenville County Sheriff's Office
(“GCSO”), and Mr. Lewis (the sheriff of
Greenville County). See ECF No. 31. Plaintiff seeks
monetary damages as relief. See Id. at p. 8. Upon
reviewing the amended complaint, the Magistrate Judge sent
Plaintiff special interrogatories asking him, “Were you
arrested and imprisoned due to Mr. Richardson of Metro PCS
Mobile aiding Mr. Lewis of the Greenville County
Sheriff's Office to locate you by tracing your cell
phone?”, and Plaintiff answered in the affirmative and
listed the charges. See ECF Nos. 38 & 41.
the Magistrate Judge issued two separate R & Rs, one
recommending summarily dismissing Defendants Metro PCS and
the GCSO and the other recommending staying this action as to
Defendants Richardson and Lewis. See ECF Nos. 36
& 47. Plaintiff filed objections to both R & Rs.
See ECF Nos. 44 & 51.
First R & R - Defendants Metro PCS & the
Magistrate Judge recommends summarily dismissing Defendants
Metro PCS and the GCSO because they are not
“persons”as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See ECF No. 36 at pp. 4-5 (first R & R).
Although Plaintiff has filed objections to the first R &
R, see ECF No. 44, he does not specifically object
to this conclusion. The Court reiterates that absent a
specific objection, it need only review the R & R for
clear error. See Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315;
Camby, 718 F.2d at 199-200. Regarding the GCSO, the
Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that this defendant is
not a person withing the meaning of § 1983. See,
e.g., Workman v. Perry, No. 6:17-cv-00765-RBH,
2017 WL 4791150, at *2 (D.S.C. Oct. 23, 2017) (summarily
dismissing defendants who were not “persons”
within the meaning of § 1983); Shadoan v. Florence
Cty. Det. Ctr. Med. Dep't, 2013 WL 6408347, at *2
(D.S.C. Dec. 6, 2013) (“[U]se of the term
‘staff,' ‘department,' or the equivalent
as a name for alleged defendants, is not adequate to state a
claim against a ‘person' as required in § 1983
actions. . . . [G]roups of people are not amenable to suit
under § 1983[.]”). Moreover, a “federal
court lacks jurisdiction to hear a cause of action against a
South Carolina Sheriff's Department, as such a suit is
barred by state immunity.” Stewart v. Beaufort
Cty., 481 F.Supp.2d 483, 492 (D.S.C. 2007).
Plaintiff's claims against the GCSO are tantamount to a
suit against the State of South Carolina, and “[a]s
such, an action against South Carolina will not lie in this
court without South Carolina's express waiver of Eleventh
Amendment immunity.” Id.; see, e.g.,
Workman v. Cooper, No. 6:08-cv-03429-HFF, 2009 WL
690664, at *3 (D.S.C. Mar. 16, 2009) (“As an agency of
the state, the Greenville County Sheriff's Office is
immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment to the United
States Constitution which divests this court of jurisdiction
to entertain a suit brought against the State of South
Carolina or its integral parts.”).
Metro PCS, the Court notes this defendant appears to be a
private company, and the Fourth Circuit has held “a
private corporation is liable under § 1983 [but] only
when an official policy or custom of the corporation causes
the alleged deprivation of federal rights.” Austin
v. Paramount Parks, Inc., 195 F.3d 715, 728 (4th Cir.
1999); see also Powell v. Shopco Laurel Co., 678
F.2d 504, 506 (4th Cir. 1982) (concluding the holding in
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658
(1978))-“that a municipal corporation cannot be saddled
with section 1983 liability via respondeat superior
alone”-is “equally applicable to the liability of
private corporations”). Here, Plaintiff has not alleged
an official policy or custom of Metro PCS caused his
purported constitutional injuries, and Metro PCS is not
liable under § 1983 merely as an employer. See,
e.g., Tellez v. Spartanburg Reg'l, No.
4:18-cv-00720-RBH-TER, 2018 WL 1939504, at *3 (D.S.C. Mar.
19, 2018), adopted by, 2018 WL 1933706 (D.S.C. Apr.
24, 2018) (summarily dismissing a private corporation for
similar reasons). Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted against Metro PCS. The
Court will adopt as modified the first R & R and
summarily dismiss Defendants Metro PCS and the GCSO from this
Second R & R - Defendants Richardson & Lewis
Magistrate Judge recommends abstaining pursuant to
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and staying
this action as to Defendants Richardson and Lewis because
Plaintiff is involved in ongoing state criminal proceedings
and seeks monetary damages in this § 1983 action.
See ECF No. 47. Although Plaintiff objects to this
conclusion,  the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge
that Younger abstention is appropriate because (1)
Plaintiff is involved in ongoing state criminal proceedings
(2) that implicate important state interests, and because (3)
he has an adequate opportunity to raise his federal claims in
the state proceedings. See Sprint Commc'ns, Inc. v.
Jacobs, 134 S.Ct. 584 (2013) (addressing the appropriate
grounds for Younger abstention); Robinson v.
Thomas, 855 F.3d 278, 285 (4th Cir. 2017) (summarizing
the three Younger criteria). By alleging Defendants
Richardson and Lewis violated his Fourth Amendment rights by
tracing his cell phone without a warrant, Plaintiff is
effectively asking this Court to intervene in a pending state
criminal matter. Plaintiff also has not made a showing of
“extraordinary circumstances” justifying federal
interference with the state proceedings. See
Robinson, 855 F.3d at 286 (“A federal court may
disregard Younger's mandate to abstain from
interfering with ongoing state proceedings only where
‘extraordinary circumstances' exist that present
the possibility of irreparable harm.”). Moreover, the
Court notes a stay (rather than outright dismissal) is
appropriate in light of binding precedent. See Nivens v.
Gilchrist, 444 F.3d 237, 248 (4th Cir. 2006)
(“State criminal proceedings do not, however, allow for
claims of money damages by criminal defendants-such a claim
is simply not available. Therefore, a ‘District Court
has no discretion to dismiss rather than to stay claims for
monetary relief that cannot be redressed in the state
proceeding.'” (quoting Deakins v.
Monaghan, 484 U.S. 193, 202 (1988))).
the Court notes Plaintiff has sued Defendant Lewis for
monetary damages in both his individual and official
capacity, see ECF No. 31 at pp. 3 & 8, and the
Eleventh Amendment bars the official capacity claim. See
Lawson v. Union Cty. Clerk of Court, 828 F.3d 239, 278
(4th Cir. 2016) (“The Eleventh Amendment bars suit
against state officials in their official capacity for
damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”); Cromer v.
Brown, 88 F.3d 1315, 1332 (4th Cir. 1996) (recognizing
South Carolina sheriffs are arms of the state and entitled to