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Daniels v. Bush

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

July 27, 2018

HERMAN JOSEPH DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN DENIS BUSH, SGT. K. McMORRIS, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          THOMAS E. ROGERS, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The Plaintiff, Herman Joseph Daniels, filed this action on November 6, 2017, alleging violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Plaintiff is an inmate currently housed at the Tyger River Correctional Institution (“TRCI”). Before the undersigned is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Document #19.)[1]

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on February 13, 2018. The undersigned issued an order filed February 14, 2018, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir.1975), advising the Plaintiff of the motion for summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately. On March 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion for extension to time to respond to the motion for summary judgment which was granted by order on March 22, 2018, giving Plaintiff until April 18, 2018, to file a response. Plaintiff filed a reply on April 13, 2018.

         II. DISCUSSION

         ARGUMENT OF PARTIES/ FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights when the “State Prison Guards” took his legal box and his legal papers were not returned to him for thirty-two (32) days. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that he missed a filing deadline with a Court causing his case to be dismissed. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         In the motion for summary judgment, Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim for denial of meaningful access to court because he failed to allege a specific actual injury resulting from the allegations set forth in the complaint.

         STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         As previously stated, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, or alternatively for summary judgment. As matters outside of the pleadings were submitted by the parties, the undersigned will treat this motion as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         The federal court is charged with liberally construing the complaints filed by pro se litigants, to allow them to fully develop potentially meritorious cases. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The court's function, however, is not to decide issues of fact, but to decide whether there is an issue of fact to be tried. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a federal claim, Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990), nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. If none can be shown, the motion should be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         The moving party bears the burden of showing that summary judgment is proper. Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment is proper if the non-moving party fails to establish an essential element of any cause of action upon which the non-moving party has the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. 317. Once the moving party has brought into question whether there is a genuine dispute for trial on a material element of the non-moving party's claims, the non-moving party bears the burden of coming forward with specific facts which show a genuine dispute for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). The non-moving party must come forward with enough evidence, beyond a mere scintilla, upon which the fact finder could reasonably find for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The facts and inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1011 (4th Cir. 1991). However, the non-moving party may not rely on beliefs, conjecture, speculation, or conclusory allegations to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992). The evidence relied on must meet “the substantive evidentiary standard of proof that would apply at a trial on the merits.” Mitchell v. Data General Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1316 (4th Cir. 1993).

         To show that a genuine dispute of material fact exists, a party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves). Rather, the party must present evidence supporting his or her position through “depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with ... affidavits, if any.” Id. at 322; see also Cray Communications, Inc. v. Novatel Computer Systems, Inc., 33 F.3d 390 (4th Cir. 1994); Orsi v. Kickwood, 999 F.2d 86 (4th Cir. 1993); Local Rules 7.04, 7.05, D.S.C.

         ANALYSIS ...


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