United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
BRYAN HARWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Arnold Parson, Jr., proceeding pro se, has filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is before the
Court for consideration of the parties' objections to the
Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of United
States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West, who recommends (1)
granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff's motion
to amend his complaint and (2) dismissing Defendants'
motion for summary judgment without prejudice as moot.
See ECF Nos. 148, 152, & 153.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive
weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination
remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S.
261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review
of those portions of the R & R to which specific
objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).
Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the
Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been
filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de
novo review when a party makes only “general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a
specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews
only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
explained in the Court's prior order ruling on
Defendants' motions to dismiss, Plaintiff filed this
§ 1983 action in this federal Court effectively seeking
to challenge a state foreclosure judgment and the manner in
which it was executed by Marion County law enforcement.
See ECF No. 114. The Court determined the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred all of Plaintiff's
claims except his § 1983 excessive force claim (relating
to his handcuffing during his arrest) alleged in his Second
Amended Complaint. See Id. Thereafter, the
Magistrate Judge entered a scheduling order, and Plaintiff
filed a timely motion to amend his complaint and a proposed
Third Amended Complaint. See ECF Nos. 119 & 124.
Defendants filed responses in opposition to Plaintiff's
motion to amend, as well as a motion for summary judgment.
See ECF Nos. 127, 132, & 133. The Magistrate
Judge has entered a thorough R & R that summarizes the
allegations in Plaintiff's proposed Third Amended
Complaint and recommends granting in part and denying in part
Plaintiff's motion to amend (and dismissing the pending
motion for summary judgment without prejudice as moot).
See R & R [ECF No. 148]. Plaintiff and
Defendants have filed objections to the R & R.
See ECF Nos. 152 & 153. Plaintiff has filed a
reply to Defendants' objections. See ECF No.
objects to the Magistrate Judge's proposed finding that
amendment is futile as to all claims except his § 1983
excessive force claim relating to his alleged handcuffing.
See ECF No. 153 at pp. 1-5. However, the Court
agrees with the Magistrate Judge's thorough analysis and
conclusion that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars
Plaintiff's proposed additional claims alleged in his
Third Amended Complaint. See R & R at pp. 8-16. Yet
again, Plaintiff effectively asks the Court to nullify the
state court foreclosure judgment by allowing him to proceed
on various constitutional claims attacking the manner in
which law enforcement executed the writ of assistance on his
residence in Mullins, South Carolina. The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits such federal
action, and subject matter jurisdiction is lacking for all of
Plaintiff's claims except his § 1983 excessive force
claim (an independent claim that does not call into question
the validity of the state court foreclosure judgment or writ
of assistance, see Thana, 827 F.3d at 320-22).
Amendment as to all other claims besides Plaintiff's
§ 1983 excessive force claim is futile. See
Adbul-Mumit v. Alexandria Hyundai, LLC, 896 F.3d 278,
293 (4th Cir. 2018) (“[A] district court may deny leave
to amend when . . . the amendment would be futile.”
(internal quotation marks omitted)).
also objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
concerning two additional proposed defendants-namely, Sheriff
Mark Richardson and the Marion County Sheriff's Office
(“MCSO”). However, as correctly explained in the
R & R, the MCSO is not amenable to suit because (1) it is
not a “person” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and (2) the Eleventh Amendment bars claims
against the MCSO (a state agency). See R & R at
p. 17; see, e.g., Workman v. Metro PCS, No.
6:17-cv-01208-RBH-KFM, 2018 WL 3434305, at *2 (D.S.C. July
17, 2018) (summarily dismissing the Greenville County
Sheriff's Office for similar reasons). Similarly, the
Eleventh Amendment bars suit against Sheriff Richardson in
his official capacity. See Lawson v. Union Cty. Clerk of
Court, 828 F.3d 239, 278 (4th Cir. 2016) (“The
Eleventh Amendment bars suit against state officials in their
official capacity for damages under 42 U.S.C. §
1983.”); Cromer v. Brown, 88 F.3d 1315, 1332
(4th Cir. 1996) (recognizing South Carolina sheriffs are arms
of the state and entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity).
Regarding any individual capacity claim, Plaintiff has not
alleged Sheriff Richardson was personally involved in the
alleged excessive force, and he has not sufficiently alleged
a § 1983 supervisory liability claim. See R
& R at pp. 17-19. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge
properly recommended denying leave to amend as to these two
arguments in Defendants' objections primarily relate to
qualified immunity. See ECF No. 152. However, the
issue of qualified immunity is not yet ripe for
consideration. Rather, at this time, the Court is merely
granting Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, and
Defendants will have the opportunity to raise the affirmative
defense of qualified immunity in their answer to
Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint and in any motion to
dismiss or for summary judgment. At this stage in the
litigation, the Court has simply determined that
Plaintiff's § 1983 excessive force claim (based on
the manner of his handcuffing) is not barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Defendants ultimately may
be entitled to qualified immunity on this claim, but that
matter is premature at the amendment stage. In sum, the Court
is not reaching the issue of qualified immunity at this time.
the foregoing reasons, the Court OVERRULES
the parties' objections, ADOPTS the R
& R [ECF No. 148], GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN
PART Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint
[ECF No. 124], and DISMISSES AS MOOT AND WITHOUT
PREJUDICE Defendants' motion for summary
judgment [ECF No. 133]. The Court DIRECTS