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Burgess v. Mathis

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

October 16, 2018

Deon Jermaine Burgess, Plaintiff,
v.
Brendall K. Mathis, William Reece, Edgar V. Guthro, and Reginald L. Nowak, Defendants.

          ORDER AND REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge

         The plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking monetary damages. 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 Section 1983 and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The defendants moved for summary judgment on August 29, 2018 (doc. 45). By order pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the plaintiff was advised of the motion for summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the defendants' motion (doc. 46). After the grant of an extension, the plaintiff filed a response in opposition on September 24th (doc. 48). On that same date, the plaintiff filed his own motion for summary judgment (doc. 51), along with a motion to compel certain discovery (doc. 50). The defendants thereafter filed a reply[1] (doc. 59) to the plaintiff's response in opposition to their motion for summary judgment. On October 9th, the defendants filed a motion for a protective order staying all discovery until ruling on their summary judgment motion (doc. 60).

         ALLEGATIONS

         The plaintiff alleges that he was unlawfully arrested by Officer Mathis, formerly of the Spartanburg City Police Department.[2] He states that on February 15, 2016, he learned that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, and he turned himself in at the Spartanburg County Detention Center. He claims that Officer Mathis “erroneously applied for the facially deficient warrants when the so-called informant/C.I. can't be presumed to be reliable, when the officers themselves can't even keep in contact with him for trail purposes” (doc. 1 at 7). He names Officers Reece, Guthro, and Nowak as Officer Mathis' supervisors (doc. 17), alleging that they were “derelict in [their] duty” to properly train or monitor Officer Mathis (doc. 1 at 7). He alleges that Officer Mathis and his supervisors failed to follow proper procedure, stating that this “Title 3" investigation was unauthorized with no “547 forms” and that the “missing links” in his “chain of custody” amount to a “Rule 6 violation” (id.).

         Officer Mathis denies the allegations and provides his affidavit along with copies of the incident report, warrant, and indictment (docs. 45-2 through 45-6). These documents reflect that Officer Mathis used a confidential informant to make an undercover purchase of crack cocaine from the plaintiff on June 1, 2015. The transaction was captured on video, and a still picture purportedly of the plaintiff from the video is provided (doc. 45-3). A warrant was issued against the plaintiff on August 4, 2015, and the Spartanburg County Grand Jury issued an indictment for distribution of crack cocaine against him on August 19, 2016 (docs. 45-5, 45-6). The indictment also contains a handwritten notation from the prosecutor dated November 14, 2016: “Nolle Pros. Unavailable witness. Investigator is no longer in contact with informant” (doc. 45-6 at 1).

         In the plaintiff's response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, as well as in support of his own motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff renews his allegation that his arrest was made without probable cause. He argues that he was not the original drug dealer target of the investigation, the confidential informant did not follow instructions, and the handling of the drug evidence was suspect (docs. 48, 51).

         APPLICABLE LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Motion to Compel

          The plaintiff has filed a motion to compel the defendants to provide certain discovery (doc. 50). This motion follows the plaintiff's earlier motion for discovery, which was denied by order dated July 20th (docs. 39, 40). In that order, the plaintiff was directed to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which require the parties to engage in discovery with each other and without interaction from the court unless necessary. The plaintiff has again failed to comply with the discovery rules, as he has failed to serve his discovery requests now at issue on counsel for the defendants. Moreover, as argued by the defendants, he has failed to comply with Local Civil Rule 37.01(B) (D.S.C.), Motions to Compel Discovery, which requires that “[t]he relevant discovery requests and responses, if any, shall be filed [with a motion to compel] as supporting documentation.” See Cuyler v. Dep't of Army, C.A. No. 3:08-3261-CMC-JRM, 2009 WL 1749604, at *2 (D.S.C. June 22, 2009) (denying motion to compel where the plaintiff did not file the required supporting documentation). Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion to compel is denied.

         Summary Judgment Standard

          Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 states, as to a party who has moved for summary judgment: “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As to the first of these determinations, a fact is deemed “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the district court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings; rather, he must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. at 324. Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Id. at 248. “Only ...


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