United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
OPINION & ORDER
M. Herlong, Jr. Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation
of United States Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald, made in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
73.02 of the District of South Carolina. Deon Jermaine
Burgess (“Burgess”), proceeding pro se, brings
this action alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Defendants Brendall K. Mathis (“Mathis”), William
Reece (“Reece”), Edgar V. Guthro
(“Guthro”), and Regina L. Nowak
“Defendants”), filed a motion for summary
judgment and a motion to stay discovery. Burgess also filed a
motion for summary judgment. In his Report and
Recommendation, Magistrate Judge McDonald recommends granting
Defendants' motion for summary judgment, denying
Burgess' motion for summary judgment, and dismissing
Defendants' motion to stay discovery as moot.
Factual and Procedural History
amended complaint, Burgess alleges claims under § 1983
for malicious arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of
process, negligent supervision, and false imprisonment
against Defendants based on his 2016 state arrest for
distribution of crack cocaine. (Am. Compl. 3, ECF No. 17.) On
June 1, 2015, Burgess sold a quantity of crack cocaine to a
confidential informant, and the transaction was captured by
police audio and video equipment provided to the informant by
Spartanburg City Police Department. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J.
Attach. 2 (Mathis Aff. ¶¶ 5-8), ECF No. 45-2.) On
August 4, 2015, a warrant was issued for Burgess' arrest
for distribution of crack cocaine. (Id. Attach. 5
(Warrant), ECF No. 45-5.) Upon learning of the warrant,
Burgess turned himself in on February 15, 2016. (R&R 2,
ECF No. 61.) Burgess was indicted for distribution of crack
cocaine on August 19, 2016, in the Spartanburg County, South
Carolina Court of General Sessions. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J.
Attach. 6 (Indictment), ECF No. 45-6.) According to the
prosecutor's notation on the indictment form, the charges
against Burgess were eventually dismissed nolle prosequi
because the confidential informant could not be located to
serve as a witness at trial. (Id. Attach. 6
(Indictment), ECF No. 45-6.)
filed this complaint on December 11, 2017. (Compl., ECF No.
1.) Burgess filed an amended complaint on March 20, 2018.
(Am. Compl., ECF No. 17.) Defendants filed a motion for
summary judgment on August 29, 2018. (Defs.' Mot. Summ.
J., ECF No. 51.) On September 24, 2018, Burgess filed his
response, as well as a motion to compel discovery and a
motion for summary judgment. (Resp. Opp'n Defs.' Mot.
Summ. J., ECF No. 48; Mot. Compel, ECF No. 50; Burgess Mot.
Summ. J., ECF No. 51.) On October 9, 2018, Defendants filed
their reply and response in opposition to Burgess' motion
to compel and motion for summary judgment. (Reply, ECF No.
59.) Defendants also filed a motion to stay discovery on
October 9, 2018. (Mot. Stay, ECF No. 60.) The magistrate
judge issued the Order and Report and Recommendation on
October 16, 2018. (R&R, ECF No. 61.)
magistrate judge denied Burgess' motion to compel.
(Id. 7, ECF No. 61.) Further, the magistrate judge
recommends granting Defendants' motion for summary
judgment and denying Burgess' motion for summary judgment
because probable cause existed to issue the warrant for
Burgess' arrest. (Id. 4-5, ECF No. 61.) The
magistrate judge further recommends finding that qualified
immunity shields all Defendants from any potential liability
because Burgess has not shown that his constitutional rights
were violated. (Id. 7, ECF No. 61.) Finally, he
recommends dismissing Defendants' motion to stay
discovery as moot. (Id., ECF No. 61.)
Discussion of the Law
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate only “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). In deciding whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is
to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn
in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes
over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary
will not be counted.” Id. at 248.
litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material
fact through mere speculation or the building of one
inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769
F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). “[W]here the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary
judgment is appropriate.” Monahan v. Cty. of
Chesterfield, Va., 95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “[T]he
mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Ballenger v. N.C. Agric. Extension
Serv., 815 F.2d 1001, 1005 (4th Cir. 1987) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
to the Report and Recommendation must be specific. Failure to
file specific objections constitutes a waiver of a
party's right to further judicial review, including
appellate review, if the recommendation is accepted by the
district judge. See United States v. Schronce, 727
F.2d 91, 94 & n.4 (4th Cir. 1984). In the absence of
specific objections to the Report and Recommendation
of the magistrate judge, this court is not required to give
any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See
Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Upon
review, the court finds that many of Burgess' objections
are non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of
the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, or
merely restate his claims. However, the court was able to
glean two specific objections. Burgess objects (1) to the
magistrate judge's finding that probable cause existed to
support the warrant for Burgess' arrest and (2) to the
magistrate judge's analysis of a claim for false arrest
instead of malicious arrest. (Objs. ¶¶ 2, 4, ECF
Burgess asserts that the magistrate judge did not consider
his entire argument regarding the lack of probable cause to
support Burgess' arrest. (Id. ¶ 2, ECF No.
64.) Probable cause is determined by a
Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 230 (1983).
“The probable-cause inquiry turns on two factors:
‘the suspect's conduct as known to the officer, and
the contours of the offense thought to be committed by that
conduct.'” Smith v. Munday, 848 F.3d 248,
253 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting Graham v. Gagnon, 831
F.3d 176, 184 (4th Cir. 2016)). “A court should only
consider the information the officers had at the time they
sought the warrant.” Id. Burgess alleges that
procedural discrepancies involving “rule 6 proper
protocols” and police documentation forms prevent
finding that probable cause existed to support the warrant.
(Objs. ¶ 2, ECF No. 64.) However, when Mathis sought the
arrest warrant, he possessed video evidence of Burgess
selling an “off-white rock like substance”
purported to be crack cocaine to a confidential informant,
and the substance field tested positive for cocaine base.
(Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Attach. 2 (Mathis Aff. ¶¶
5-8), ECF No. 45-2.) Thus, Mathis had probable cause to seek
Burgess' arrest warrant under the totality of the
Burgess asserts that the magistrate judge mistakenly analyzed
his claim for malicious arrest as a claim for false arrest.
(Id. ¶ 4, ECF No. 64.) To the extent that
malicious arrest is a viable cause of action in South
Carolina, this is a distinction without significance because
a claim for malicious arrest, like false arrest, requires a
showing of a lack of probable cause. Campbell v.
O'Bryan, 43 S.C.L. 204, 206 (S.C. Ct. App. L. 1856)
(requiring a showing of malice and lack of probable cause to
sustain an action for malicious arrest). As discussed above,
there was probable cause to support ...