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Wazney v. Campbell

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

October 23, 2018

Robert William Wazney, Petitioner,
v.
James C. Campbell, Respondent.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge

         The petitioner, proceeding pro se, has filed a “Writ of Supervisory Control” which this court construes as a civil action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking relief for violations of his constitutional rights. The petitioner is a state prisoner, and files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1) and District of South Carolina Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         BACKGROUND

         The petitioner filed this action on September 24, 2018. He is currently incarcerated at the South Carolina Department of Corrections' Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina. By order filed on September 27, 2018, the petitioner was advised that his case was not in proper form and was given instructions on how to bring it into proper form so that this court could conduct initial review. The petitioner has complied with the court's order (docs. 1-6, 10).

         RULE 60 MOTION

         The petitioner moves pursuant to Rule 60(a) to correct an error in the caption of the court's September 27, 2018 order (doc. 12-3). The petitioner asserts that James C. Campbell, Clerk of Court[1], should have been listed as the respondent, as he designated in his initial pleading he entitled “Writ of Supervisory Control” (doc. 1). The undersigned had considered this initial claim as one against the state, but the petitioner makes clear that he intends to sue James C. Campbell, Clerk of Court, in his individual and official capacity. Accordingly, the petitioner's motion is GRANTED such that the caption of the September 27, 2018 will be modified to reflect the respondent as James C. Campbell and that all other documents filed in this case will likewise be so captioned.

         ALLEGATIONS

         The petitioner names Campbell as the sole respondent in this action and identifies him as the Clerk of Court (Id.). The petitioner indicates that he sues Campbell in his official and individual capacities (Id. at 1). The petitioner alleges that the “Sumter County Family Court has dismissed No. 2015-DR-43-0046 which is intertwined with my misconviction, and other collateral cases, where its Clerk, JAMES C. CAMPBELL committed unreasonable actions involving reckless indifference with a pattern of abuse that resulted in a violation of [his] rights” (Id.). He further alleges that Campbell “has repeatedly breached [his] duty to perform the ministerial act of accepting technically sufficient papers which are pertinent to issues in the cases and interposed substantial fees as a barrier to access to courts, affecting the law of the cases, denying my opportunity to be heard, frustrating my claims, preventing my challenge of conviction, affecting my substantial rights, causing injury and harm to me” (Id. at 1). He claims the respondent's actions have deprived the [state] court of information and, as such, the [state] court has not ruled on many issues. As relief, he seeks monetary damages; an order holding in abeyance the state court proceeding; a change of venue, or to have the Clerk removed, or both; and to vacate the lower court judgment (Id. at 1-2).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The petitioner 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 respondent who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A 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).

         As a pro se litigant, the petitioner'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). However, even under this less stringent standard, the pro se pleading remains subject to summary dismissal. 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 Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the petitioner 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. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. 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.

         DISCUSSION

         The instant action is subject to dismissal due to the petitioner's failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. As previously set forth, the petitioner named Campbell as the sole respondent and identifies him as the Clerk of Court. County clerks of court are part of the State of South Carolina's unified judicial system. See S.C. Const. Article V, § 24; §§ 14-1-40, 14-17-10, South Carolina Code of Laws (as amended). It is well settled that clerks of court and other court support personnel are entitled to immunity similar to judges when performing their quasi-judicial duties. See Jarvis v. Chasanow, 448 Fed. App'x.406 (4th Cir. 2011); Stevens v. Spartanburg Cty. Prob., Parole, and Pardon Servs., C/A No. 6:09-795-HMH-WMC, 2010 WL 678953, at *7 (D.S.C. Feb. 23, 2010). Absolute judicial immunity extends to persons other than judges when performance of judicial acts or activities as official judicial aides are involved and is referred to as quasi-judicial immunity. See Abebe v. Propes, C.A. No. 0:11-1215-MBS-PJG, 2011 WL 2581385, *3 (D.S.C. June 3, 2011) (collecting cases), ...


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