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Nelson v. Jones

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

July 31, 2018

D'Angelo Montez Nelson, Plaintiff,
Ms. Jones, RHU Unit Manager; and Warden Dunlap, Kershaw Correctional Institution, Defendants.


          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff D'Angelo Montez Nelson, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the two above-captioned Defendants, who have filed a motion for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 1 & 31. The matter is now before the Court for consideration of the parties' objections to the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker, who recommends denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment.[1] See ECF Nos. 45, 47, 48, & 51.

         Legal Standards

         I. Review of the R & R

         The 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.P. 72(b).

         The 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).

         II. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md., 789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 413, but the Court “cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015).

         Moreover, “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “A dispute of material fact is ‘genuine' if sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party.” Seastrunk v. United States, 25 F.Supp.3d 812, 814 (D.S.C. 2014). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         At the summary judgment stage, “the moving party must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Once the moving party has met his burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with some evidence beyond the mere allegations contained in the pleadings to show that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992) (internal citation omitted). Summary judgment is not warranted unless, “from the totality of the evidence, including pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and affidavits, the [C]ourt believes no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Whiteman v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 729 F.3d 381, 385 (4th Cir. 2013); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).


         Plaintiff has filed a § 1983 complaint seeking injunctive and monetary relief, alleging he was deprived of out-of-cell exercise and recreation “while housed in the segregated unit known as [the] Restricted Housing Unit (R.H.U.)” at the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”). See Complaint [ECF No. 1]. Liberally construing Plaintiff's complaint and attachments, the alleged events involve two different prisons: Perry Correctional Insitution and Kershaw Correctional Institution. Plaintiff names two defendants: “Ms. Jones, RHU Unit Manager” and “Warden Dunlap, Kershaw Correctional Institution” (collectively, “Defendants”). Compl. at p. 1. Defendants have answered and moved for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 19 & 31. The Magistrate Judge recommends denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing as moot Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief. See R & R at pp. 1, 9. Defendants have filed objections to the R & R, and Plaintiff has filed two responses to the R & R.[2] See ECF Nos. 47, 48, & 51.

         I. Plaintiff's Official Capacity Claims

         Initially, the Court notes Plaintiff sues Defendants-who are SCDC employees-for monetary damages in both their individual and official capacities. See Compl. at pp. 2-3. Although neither the Magistrate Judge nor Defendants address the official capacity claims, the Court notes these claims are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) because “[t]he Eleventh Amendment bars suit against state officials in their official capacity for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Lawson v. Union Cty. Clerk of Court, 828 F.3d 239, 278 (4th Cir. 2016); see 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) (providing that in a proceeding in forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief” (emphasis added)); see, e.g., Major v. Ruth, 5:16-cv-03605-MGL-KDW, 2016 WL 7974110, at *3 (D.S.C. Dec. 28, 2016), adopted by, 2017 WL 345155 (D.S.C. Jan. 24, 2017) ...

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