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Rogers v. Solicitors of Darlington County Court House

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 13, 2018

Garrett Rogers, Plaintiff,
Solicitors of Darlington County Court House, Defendant.


          Kaymani D. West United States Magistrate Judge

         This is a civil action filed pro se by a local detainee. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to the district court. See 28 U.S.C. §' 1915(e); 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Following initial review of his Complaint, the court notes that Plaintiff alleges that the evidence in his pending criminal case in Darlington County was not provided to him within the time allowed for provision. ECF No. 1. He asks this court to assist him in getting the evidence and sues “Solicitors of Darlington County Court House.” Plaintiff does not allege that any federal constitutional or statutory right was violated nor does he allege that he suffered any injury from the late provision of the evidence to him.

         The initial Order issued in this case informed Plaintiff of certain deficiencies in his Complaint that prevented his allegations from stating any plausible claims within this court's subject-matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 8. Plaintiff was provided an opportunity to file an amended complaint to cure the noted deficiencies and was informed that if he did not do so, the case would be recommended for dismissal without leave for further amendment. Id. at 6. Plaintiff has not filed an amended complaint and his time to do so under the initial Order has now expired.

         II. Standard of Review

         The initial review in this case has been conducted pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); Boyce v. Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).

         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute, which authorizes the 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). Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Kerr v. Marshall Univ. Bd. of Governors, 824 F.3d 62, 72 (4th Cir. 2016). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 630 n.1 (4th Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that this court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Even under the liberal construction standard, the Complaint in this case should be summarily dismissed.

         III. Discussion

         Initially, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim that is within this court's subject-matter jurisdiction because he fails to allege that his federal constitutional rights were violated by anyone or that he was injured by such violation and no diversity jurisdiction is evident from the pleading. See Price v. City of Charlotte, N.C. , 93 F.3d 1241, 1245 (4th Cir. 1996) (emphasizing the need for a showing of injury in a constitutional-violation claim); Jackson v. Labier, No. 9:07-cv-01317-RBH, 2008 WL 3992653, at * 6 (D.S.C. Aug. 25, 2008) (discussing the actual-injury requirement for an access-to-court claim).

         Second, even if the court were to construe Plaintiff's pleading as attempting to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1] no plausible claim is stated because Plaintiff does not name a person as Defendant. To state a plausible claim for relief under § 1983, an aggrieved party must sufficiently allege that he or she was injured by “the deprivation of any [of his or her] rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the [United States] Constitution and laws” by a “person” acting “under color of state law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1230 (3d ed. 2014). Additionally, in order to assert a viable § 1983 claim against any particular public official, a causal connection or affirmative link must exist between the conduct of which the plaintiff complains and the official sued. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976) (a § 1983 plaintiff must show that he suffered a specific injury as a result of specific conduct of a defendant, and an affirmative link between the injury and that conduct); Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (for an individual to be liable under § 1983, it must be affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights).

         It is settled that only “persons” may act under color of state law; therefore, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a “person.” For example, several courts have held that inanimate objects such as buildings, facilities, and grounds do not act under color of state law. See Preval v. Reno, 57 F.Supp.2d 307, 310 (E.D. Va. 1999) (“[T]he Piedmont Regional Jail is not a ‘person,' and therefore not amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”); Brooks v. Pembroke City Jail, 722 F.Supp. 1294, 1301 (E.D. N.C. 1989) (“Claims under § 1983 are directed at ‘persons' and the jail is not a person amenable to suit.”). Additionally, use of the term “staff” or the equivalent as a name for alleged defendants, without the naming of specific staff members, is not adequate to state a claim against a “person” as required in § 1983 actions. See Barnes v. Baskerville Corr. Cen. Med. Staff, No. 3:07CV195, 2008 WL 2564779 (E.D. Va. June 25, 2008). A corporation may only be sued under § 1983 if its custom or policy resulted in the deprivation of federal rights. See Price v. Corr. Medical Servs., Inc., No. 2:08-00259, 2008 WL 5377779, at *1 (S.D. W.Va. Dec. 18, 2008) (citing Austin v. Paramount Parks, Inc., 195 F.3d 715, 728 (4th Cir. 1999) for proposition that corporation may only be sued under § 1983 for policy and custom causing a deprivation of rights).

         Plaintiffs use of the generic, collective term “Solicitors of the Darlington County Courthouse” for his Defendant is the equivalent of the use of collective terminology such as “staff, ” which has been held not to name an actual person subject to liability under § 1983. The allegations in Plaintiffs Complaint fail to state plausible § 1983 claims because no correct defendant is named. As a result, the Complaint in this case is subject to dismissal for ...

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