United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRISTOW MARCHANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Larry James Tyler, pro
se. He is a frequent filer of litigation in this Court and is
currently detained at the Darlington County Detention Center,
where he is awaiting civil commitment proceedings pursuant to
the South Carolina Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), SC
Code Ann. §§ 44-48-10 through 44-48-170. See
Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 5-6: see also Tyler v. Byrd,
No. 4:16-00400-MGL-BM. 2016 WL 4414834, at * 1 (D.S.C. Jul.
27, 2016), adopted by 2016 WL 4374982 (D.S.C. Aug.
Complaint is before the Court for pre-service review. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); In re Prison Litigation
Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir.1997)[pleadings
by non-prisoners should also be screened]. Under established
local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review
has been made of the pro se complaint herein pursuant to the
procedural provisions of § 1915 and in light of the
following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S.
25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989);
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v.
Warden. Maryland House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th
Cir.1995) (en banc); and Todd v. Baskerville, 712
F.2d 70 (4th Cir.1983). Section 1915 permits an indigent
litigant to commence an action in federal court without
paying the administrative costs of proceeding with the
lawsuit. However, to protect against possible abuses of this
privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the
case upon a finding that the action "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.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). A finding of frivolousness can be made
where the complaint "lacks an arguable basis either in
law or in fact." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S.
at 31. Hence, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319.
while this Court is also required to liberally construe pro
se documents, holding them to a less stringent standard than
those drafted by attorneys, Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007)(quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976)), 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
currently cognizable in a federal court. Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th
Cir.1990). Such is the case here.
is once again challenging his pending sexually violent
predator (SVP) proceedings, arguing that Defendants violated
his Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. ECF No. 1
at 2, 5-8. He claims that on October 12, 2015, the state held
an adversarial hearing (at which he was not present) to
determine whether he should be classified as an SVP and
evaluated for civil commitment. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant
Assistant Attorney General James Bogle, Jr. incorrectly told
the state court that Plaintiff was a career criminal and had
three prior sex crime convictions that were considered
violent under the SVPA. Id. at 6-7. Plaintiff
alleges that another adversarial hearing, at which he was
present and represented by Defendant James K. Falk, was held
on October 26, 2015. Plaintiff claims he did not receive
twenty-four hour prior notice of the hearing, he met with
Falk only ten to fifteen minutes before the hearing, and Falk
did nothing to defend him against the allegedly false
accusations. He further contends that Falk will not respond
to his request for a transcript of the hearing and is
"in with the prosecutor to make [Plaintiff] and S.V.P.
using all the lies against [Plaintiff]." Id. at
7-8. Plaintiff requests declaratory, injunctive, and monetary
relief. Id. at 9-10.
the undersigned is constrained to note that Plaintiffs claims
for monetary damages are subject to summary dismissal based
on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Heck
v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the
United States Supreme Court held that a state prisoner's
claim for damages is not cognizable under § 1983 where
success of the action would implicitly question the validity
of the conviction or duration of a sentence, unless the
prisoner can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has
been previously invalidated. Heck, 512 U.S. at
486-487. Heck bars both a claim that the plaintiff
was being held past his mandatory parole release date as to
his state convictions as well as his civil confinement
pending assessment as a SVP. Cf. Huff v.
Attorney General of Va., No. 3:07cv744, 2008 WL 4065544
(E.D.Va. Aug. 26, 2008), aff'd, 323 Fed.Appx.
293 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Haynesworth v.
Cothran, C/A No. 2:12-2466-CMC-BHH, 2012 WL 4753896, at
*2 (D.S.C. Sep.27, 2012) [Heck applies to
civil-rights challenges to SVP orders], adopted by,
2012 WL 4753893 (Oct. 4.2012); Wood v. Wood El, No.
Civ.A. 05-1447 RBK, 2005 WL 1899335, at *4 (D.N.J. Aug.5,
2005) [rejecting a § 1983 challenge to an involuntary
civil commitment because the involuntary commitment had not
been invalidated as required by Heck].
also acts to bar Plaintiffs claims for injunctive and
declaratory relief. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544
U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) ["[A] state prisoner's §
1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter
the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter
the target of the prisoner's suit ...-If success
in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity
of confinement or its duration."]; Mobley v.
Tompkins, 473 Fed.Appx. 337 (4th Cir. 2012) [applying
Heck in a civil action seeking damages and
injunctive relief relating to federal convictions] (citing
Heck at 586-87; Harvey v. Horan, 278 F.3d
370, 375 (4th Cir. 2002), abrogated on other grounds by
Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521 (2011)).
even if Plaintiff s claims are not barred by Heck,
federal courts are not authorized to interfere with a
State's pending criminal proceedings absent extraordinary
circumstances. See. e.g., Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37.44 (1971): Cinema Blue of
Charlotte, Inc. v. Gilchrist, 887 F.2d 49, 50-53 (4th
Cir. 1989). The Fourth Circuit has held that the
Younger abstention doctrine applies "to
noncriminal judicial proceedings when important state
interests are involved." Harper v. Public Serv.
Comm'n of W.Va., 396 F.3d 348, 351 (4th
Cir. 2005)[property law concerns] (citing Middlesex
County Ethics Comm'n v. Garden State Bar
Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)). The South
Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the SVPA and its procedures
as a constitutionally valid exercise of the State's power
to protect its citizens from sexually violent predators;
In re: Luckabaugh, 568 S.E.2d 338, 348 (S.C. 2002);
and the Court of Appeals of South Carolina has stated that
protecting minors from sexual predators is an important state
interest. See State v. Reid, 679 S.E.2d 194, 201 n.
6 (S.C.Ct.App. 2009)[discussing South Carolina's
important public policy of protecting minors from harm in the
context of an internet solicitation of a minor case]. Other
circuits have also applied Younger to pending civil
commitment proceedings. See Sweeney v. Bartow, 612
F.3d 571, 572 (7th Cir. 2010)["The principles of
Younger are applicable to habeas petitions from
pending [Wisconsin] sexually violent person
commitments."]; Smith v. Plummer, 458 Fed.Appx.
642, 643 (9th Cir. 2011)[Younger doctrine extends to
state civil judicial proceedings where there is an ongoing
state-initiated judicial proceeding, the proceeding
implicates important state interests, the federal litigant is
not barred from litigating federal constitutional issues in
the state proceeding, and federal court action would enjoin
the proceeding or have the practical effect of doing so, Le.,
would interfere in a way that Younger disapproves].
Cinema Blue of Charlotte. Inc., the United States
Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that federal
district courts should abstain from constitutional challenges
to state judicial proceedings, no matter how meritorious, if
the federal claims have been or could be presented in an
ongoing state judicial proceeding. Id. at 52.
Moreover, the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283,
expressly prohibits this court from enjoining such
proceedings. See Bonner v. Circuit Court of St.
Louis, 526 F.2d 1331, 1336 (8th Cir. 1975) (en
banc)["Congress and the federal judiciary have
consistently recognized that federal courts should permit
state courts to try state cases, and that, where
constitutional issues arise, state court judges are fully
competent to handle them subject to Supreme Court
review."]; cf District of Columbia Court of Appeals
v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476 (1983)[federal courts
cannot review state court proceeding in appellate sense];
Gurley v. Superior Court of Mecklenburg Cnty., 411
F.2d 586.587-88 & nn.2-4 (4th Cir. 1969)[federal courts
may not issue writs of mandamus against state courts].
argues that he has exhausted his available state remedies
such that he may proceed in federal court based on letters he
has written to the judge presiding over his SVP proceedings
and to the Supreme Court of South Carolina (see ECF No. 1-2)
informing them of the alleged errors as to the classification
of his prior offenses, but they have ignored his letters and
he has not been allowed to file his motions and letters as
part of the SVP proceedings. However, Plaintiff has not
alleged that all of his SVP proceedings have been completed.
After the probable cause determination by a state civil judge
and evaluation by professional specialists, § 44-48-80,
the detained person has the opportunity to challenge "at
trial" any unfavorable results of the evaluation before
a state civil judge. S.C.Code Ann. § 44'48-90. Here,
it does not appear that the evaluation by the professional
specialist(s) or the trial have been completed.
the SVP proceedings have been completed, Plaintiff has not
alleged that he appealed any commitment. If a civilly
committed person does not prevail at the trial level, the
State of South Carolina provides appellate judicial review of
all findings made by the civil trial judge under the SVPA.
The appellate review of the Court of Common Pleas' final
civil commitment determination is generally conducted by the
South Carolina Court of Appeals, White v. State, 649
S.E.2d 172 (S.C.Ct.App. 2007); although this review may also
be conducted by the Supreme Court of South Carolina upon
certification from the South Carolina Court of Appeals. See
Care & Treatment of Beaver v. State, 642 S.E.2d
578, 579, 580 n. 2 (S.C. 2007); Rule 204(b), SCACR. Plaintiff
has not alleged that he received an adverse result at trial
and has not alleged or that he has unsuccessfully appealed
any adverse result at trial to the South Carolina Court of
Appeals. Because Plaintiff has not proceeded through the
statutory mechanism of South Carolina's SVPA, he has not
exhausted his state court remedies. See Michau v. Joan W.
Warden. 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office,
Civil Action No. 2:11-0286-RMG-BM, 2011 WL 4943631, *2
(D.S.C. Oct. 17, 2011) ["Plaintiffs avenue of appeal of
this determination is in state court and not in this
Court."]; see also Jordan v. McMaster, No.
8:09-0051-CMC-BHH, 2010 WL 419928, *3 (D.S.C. Jan. 29,
2010)["Therefore, as Petitioner cannot establish cause
and prejudice for his failure to exhaust his state court
remedies, consideration of the merits of this petition is
to the extent Plaintiff is requesting release from custody,
such relief may only be obtained in a habeas action, not in a
§ 1983 case. See Preiser v. Rodriguez,
411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973)[complaint or petition challenging
the fact or duration of confinement should be construed and
processed as a habeas corpus petition, while a complaint or
petition challenging the conditions of confinement should be
construed and processed as a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983]. In Heck, the Fourth Court reiterated
that release from prison is not a remedy available under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Heck, 512 U.S. at 481 [stating that
"habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state
prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his
confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even
though such a claim may come within the literal terms of