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Hunt v. Wilkins

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

September 7, 2018

Alteric Hunt, Plaintiff,
v.
Bruce Wilkins, Chance Dooley, and Deucy Collins Edwards, Defendants.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge

         The plaintiff, a pretrial detainee, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court for review of the plaintiff's amended complaint (doc. 15). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.

         BACKGROUND AND ALLEGATIONS

         The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Cherokee County Detention Center (“CCDC”) in Gaffney, South Carolina (doc. 15 at 2). He filed this civil rights action on August 8, 2018, naming as defendants Officer Bruce Wilkins (Officer Wilkins), Officer Chance Dooley (Officer Dooley), and Judge Duecy Collins Edwards (Judge Edwards) (doc. 1). The undersigned issued an order on August 23, 2018, informing the plaintiff that his original complaint contained deficiencies and was subject to dismissal as it failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (doc. 12). The order advised the plaintiff that he could attempt to correct the defects in his complaint by filing an amended complaint along with the proper service documents (Id. at 7). The plaintiff was also advised that if he failed to cure the identified deficiencies in his complaint, the court would recommend to the district court that the case be dismissed with prejudice and without leave for further amendment (Id. at 8).

         On August 30, 2018, the plaintiff complied with the court's order and filed an amended complaint along with service documents (doc. 15). In the amended complaint, the plaintiff alleges that Officer Wilkins arrested him on April 22, 2018 for “first offense shoplifting” and then used his discretion to enhance the plaintiff's charge (Id. at 5). He also alleges that Judge Edwards enhanced his charge and did not give him a “P.R. bond” (Id. at 6). The plaintiff does not deny that he committed the shoplifting offense, however, he challenges the alleged enhancement of this charge by Officer Wilkins and Judge Edwards.

         The plaintiff alleges that Officer Dooley sent him to lock-up based on false information which resulted in his being sent to “D-Dorm” where he claims to have been housed in unsanitary conditions (Id. at 5). Specifically, he claims that he was bitten by ants and had to sleep on the floor near a toilet. He further claims that the sink did not work in the cell, requiring him to drink water from a faucet in the supply closet. The plaintiff also states that Officer Wilkins and Officer Dooley are racists (Id. at 6). The plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the district 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).

         As a pro se litigant, the plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570.

         DISCUSSION

         This complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979)). A civil action under § 1983 “creates a private right of action to vindicate violations of ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1501(2012). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         Upon review, it is clear that the amended complaint is essentially a duplicate of the plaintiff's original complaint. The plaintiff names the same parties as defendants and asserts primarily the same claims[1] without curing the deficiencies identified in the court's previous order. As such, for the reasons that follow, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be given.

         Judicial Immunity

         The plaintiff alleges that Judge Edwards enhanced his first offense charge for shoplifting and failed to let him sign a “P.R.” bond (Id. at 6). Upon review, it is apparent that the plaintiff's claims against Judge Edwards are based upon the performance of his judicial duties with respect to the state court case. The doctrine of absolute immunity for acts taken by a judge in connection with his or her judicial authority and responsibility is well-established and widely-recognized. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 12 (1991) (judges are immune from civil suit for actions taken in their judicial capacity, unless “taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction”); Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985) (absolute immunity “is an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability”); Stumpv. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978) (“A judge is absolutely ...


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