United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
GORDON BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by a civilly
committed person, who is proceeding pro se and
in forma pauperis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the
United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the
case initially and to submit findings and recommendations to
the United States District Judge. After careful review, the
Magistrate Judge recommends that the Complaint (DE# 1) be
summarily dismissed, without
prejudice, and without issuance and service of process, for
the following reasons:
The Present Lawsuit
has filed a civil complaint against the State of South
Carolina, attempting to challenge his civil commitment and
the validity of his underlying criminal conviction. (DE#
In the present case, the Plaintiff's “Statement of
the Claim” consists of the following:
I am being illegally held, off of an illegal conviction that
was used for an illegal civil commitment, which was bolstered
by perjured testimony, and a violation of Art. I, sec. 22, of
the S.C. Constitution. Habeas in state court is nowhere
(§ 2254(f)) (Richland County Courthouse C.A. No.
(Id. at 3, ¶ IV). Plaintiff provides no
explanation or facts to support his conclusory allegation
that his state conviction and subsequent civil commitment are
“illegal.” For relief, Plaintiff seeks release
from detention and monetary damages for the allegedly
“illegal conviction” and “illegal
detention.” (DE# 1 at 5, ¶ IV
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, the
Magistrate Judge has carefully reviewed this pro se
prisoner complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and in
light of the following cases: Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519
(1972); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir.
is proceeding IFP, and therefore, this case is subject to
screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Such statute
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal
court without prepaying the administrative costs of
proceeding with the action. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows the court to
dismiss the case upon finding that the case is
“frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state
a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or
“seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C.
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). “A suit is
frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or
fact.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. A claim based
on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua
sponte “at any time” under 28 U.S.C.
§1915(e)(2)(B). Id. The United States Supreme
Court has explained that the statute “is designed
largely to discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial
and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits.”
Id. at 326.
failure to state a claim, “Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a
court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue
of law.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 326. The
“complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.' ”Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although
pro se complaints are liberally construed, a
plaintiff must do more than make vague and conclusory
statements to state a claim for relief. A plaintiff must
allege facts that actually state a plausible claim for
relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Court is required to liberally construe pro se
documents, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976),
holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted
by attorneys, Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5 (1980) (per
curiam). The liberal construction afforded pro se
pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the
pleadings to state a valid claim, it should do so, but a
district court may not rewrite a complaint to “conjure
up questions never squarely presented” to the court.
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278
(4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986).
The requirement of liberal construction for pro se pleadings
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. Dept. of Social Services, 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir.
addition to screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the
present Complaint is also subject to review pursuant to the
inherent authority of this Court to ensure that subject
matter jurisdiction exists and that the case is not
frivolous. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,
“constrained to exercise only the authority conferred
by Article III of the Constitution and affirmatively granted
by federal statute.” In re Bulldog Trucking,
Inc., 147 F.3d 347, 352 (4th Cir. 1998). A federal court
is required, sua sponte, to determine if a valid
basis for its jurisdiction exists, “and to dismiss the
action if no such ground appears.” Id. at 352;
see also Carter v. Ervin, No. 0:14-cv-865-TLW-PJG,
2014 WL 2468351, *3 (D.S.C. June 2, 2014) (“the court
possesses the inherent authority to ensure that …
federal jurisdiction exists”), appeal
dism'd, 585 Fed.Appx. 98 (4th Cir. 2014); Davis
v. Wilson, No. 9:13-cv-382-GRA-BHH, 2013 WL 1282024, *1
(D.S.C. Mar. 8, 2013)(same), adopted, 2013 WL
1282024 (D.S.C. March 27, 2013), affirmed, 539
Fed.Appx. 145 (4th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134
S.Ct. 940 (2014), reh'g denied, 134 S.Ct. 1371
(2014); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court
determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”).
Although the absence of subject matter jurisdiction may be
raised at any time during the case, a determination of
jurisdiction at the outset of the litigation is the most
efficient procedure. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d
648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999).
United States Supreme Court has observed that federal
district courts possess inherent authority to dismiss a
frivolous case. See Mallard v. United States District
Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989) (“Section
1915(d) ... authorizes courts to dismiss a ‘frivolous
or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they
would have power to do so even in the absence of this
statutory provision.”); Hagans v. Lavine, 415
U.S. 528, 536-537 (1974) (holding that federal district
courts may dismiss claims that are “so attenuated and
unsubstantial as to be absolutely devoid of merit”).
Consistent with such authority, the Fourth Circuit Court of
Appeals has held that complaints may be “subject to
summary dismissal pursuant to the inherent authority of the
court.” Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx. 405, 406
(4th Cir. Aug. 22, 2012); and see, e.g., Cabbill v.
United States, No. 1:14-cv-4122-JMC-PJG, 2015 WL
6905072, *5 (D.S.C. Nov. 9, 2015) (same), appeal
dismissed, 2016 WL 1085106 (4th Cir. March 21, 2016).