United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (PARTIAL SUMMARY
KAYMANI D. WEST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a civil action filed pro se by a state prison inmate.
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
William Sharpe (“Plaintiff”) is a prisoner in the
South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”)
prison system. In his Second Amended Complaint, filed in
response to this court's Order, ECF No. 30, Plaintiff
alleges that his personal property was lost by prison
personnel when he was transferred from one dorm to another at
Broad River Correctional Institution. ECF No. 30 at 5. He
alleges that among the lost personal property were
irreplaceable photographs and legal documents required for
his post-conviction relief (“PCR”) application.
Plaintiff alleges that he missed the PCR deadline as a result
of the loss and that his PCR case was dismissed. Id.
at 6. Plaintiff alleges that each Defendant had a part in the
gathering up and storage of his property, but that they
failed in their duties. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff
asserts that his First Amendment right to access to courts
and his Fourth Amendment right “to feel secure in life
liberty & property” were violated by the loss of
his property. He seeks compensatory, nominal, and punitive
damages. Id. at 4, 6.
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro se Second
Amended Complaint filed in this case. This review 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).
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). 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 that 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 this less stringent standard,
the Second Amended Complaint filed in this case is subject to
partial summary dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
claim about the loss of his personal property is not properly
before this federal court as a constitutional due-process
claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because Plaintiff has
an adequate state-court remedy for such personal property
issues under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act
(“SCTCA”). See Hudson v. Palmer, 468
U.S. 517, 533 (1984); Mora v. City of Gaithersburg,
519 F.3d 216, 230-31 (4th Cir. 2008). The United States Court
of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that a federal
district court should deny § 1983 relief if state law
provides a plaintiff with a viable post-deprivation remedy
for the loss of personal property-even if the deprivation was
caused by an employee of the state, an employee of a state
agency, or an employee of a political subdivision of a state.
Yates v. Jamison, 782 F.2d 1182, 1183-84 (4th Cir.
1986). This holding applies regardless of whether the
inmate's property loss was the result of negligence or an
intentional act of the state employee or employees.
Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. at 533 (extending the
holding of Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981) to
intentional deprivations of property); see also Bogart v.
Chapell, 396 F.3d 548, 557 n.7, 561 (4th Cir. 2005)
(South Carolina has meaningful post-deprivation remedies of
“conversion/trespass to chattels” for personal
property loss caused by county employees).
South Carolina law, Plaintiff's claims relating to lost
or destroyed personal property are cognizable under the
SCTCA. See S.C. Code Ann. §§ 15-78-10
through 15-78-220. The provisions of the SCTCA encompass both
negligent and intentional losses of property proximately
caused by a person employed by the State of South Carolina, a
state agency, or political subdivision of the state while
acting within the scope of his or her employment.
See S.C. Code § 15-78-70(a) (“This
chapter constitutes the exclusive remedy for any tort
committed by an employee of a governmental entity.”).
Plaintiff's claims relating to his personal property are
cognizable under the SCTCA because SCDC is a state agency and
employees of SCDC are covered by the Act. Plaintiff can file
a verified claim of his alleged personal property loss with
SCDC under the Act. S.C. Code § 15-78-80(a)(1) (“A
verified claim for damages under this chapter, setting forth
the circumstances which brought about the loss, the extent of
the loss, the time and place the loss occurred, the names of
all persons involved if known, and the amount of the loss
sustained may be filed . . . with the agency employing an
employee whose alleged act or omission gave rise to the claim
. . . .”). Accordingly, it is recommended that
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint be partially
dismissed to the extent that it asserts a Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim.
to the extent that Plaintiff asserts that the loss of his
property violated the Fourth Amendment, he fails to state a
plausible claim against any Defendant. It is settled that
prison inmates do not have privacy interests in personal
property stored in their cell that are protected by the
Fourth Amendment. The United States Supreme Court has held
that “[s]ince the exigencies of prison life authorize
officials indefinitely to dispossess inmates of their
possessions without specific reason, any losses that occur
while the property is in official custody are simply not
redressable by Fourth Amendment litigation.” Hudson
v. Palmer, 468 U.S. at 538-39. Additionally, this court
and other courts within the Fourth Circuit have held that the
Fourth Amendment does not provide a remedy to a prisoner
whose personal property was lost or destroyed by prison
personnel. See, e.g., Godbey v. Simmons,
No. 1:11CV704 TSE/TCB, 2014 WL 345648, at *5-6 (E.D. Va. Jan.
30, 2014), aff'd, 577 Fed.Appx. 239 (4th Cir.
2014); McClurkin v. Byer, No. CA 2:13-1507-RMG, 2013
WL 3746027, at *5 (D.S.C. July 15, 2013), aff'd,
555 Fed.Appx. 277 (4th Cir. 2014). Accordingly, it is
recommended that the district court partially dismiss
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint to the extent that
it asserts a Fourth Amendment claim.
are sufficient allegations in the Second Amended Complaint of
actual injury arising from the loss of Plaintiff's
property and of Defendants' personal involvement in the
property loss. Therefore, the Second Amended Complaint should
be served on all Defendants with directions that they respond
to the First Amendment access-to-court claim only.
because the deficiencies in Plaintiffs Second Amended
Complaint relating to the due process and Fourth Amendment
claims cannot be cured through amendment, it is recommended
that the district court partially dismiss the Second Amended
Complaint in this case with prejudice. See Brown v.
Briscoe,998 F.2d 201, 202-04 (4th Cir. 1993); see
also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. §
1915A (as soon as possible ...