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Harris v. Rock Hill Municipal Court

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

January 17, 2019

Brandy Vernon Harris, Plaintiff,
v.
Rock Hill Municipal Court; Britney May; Andres Maldonado; Christopher Price; Cameron Kirby; Sean Sercu; William Watson; Brandon Avidon; Antoine Logan; Jane Molda; Peter Lenzi; Paula Brown, Defendants.

          ORDER REGARDING AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Brandy Vernon Harris, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action against the defendants. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court finds this action is subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff claims the defendants acted under color of law and deprived her of a constitutional right, apparently on January 9, 2017. The defendants are identified as either “officers of South Carolina, ” “Judges Government Official of South Carolina, ” or a prosecutor. Plaintiff seeks damages based on “deliberate indifference.” As to some of the defendants, Plaintiff seeks to state a “constitutional Bivens action.” The Complaint provides no other details about the claims being raised on the named defendants.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. This 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).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff 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

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints, which are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, 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 of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         The court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal because Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Complaint generally alleges that the defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights, and as to some defendants, appears to seek relief pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unkown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). In Bivens, the United States Supreme Court established a remedy for plaintiffs alleging certain constitutional violations by federal officials to obtain monetary damages in suits against federal officials in their individual capacities. Id. But here, Plaintiff does not appear to name a federal official.

         To the extent Plaintiff seeks to raise a claim that a state or local government official violated her constitutional rights, such a claim may be more properly brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         But here, Plaintiff fails to allege any facts about the named defendants that would show that they had any involvement in a violation of Plaintiff's right. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (providing that a plaintiff in a § 1983 action must plead that the defendant, through his own individual actions, violated the Constitution); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985) (“In order for an individual to be liable under § 1983, it must be ‘affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior has no application under this section.' ”) (quoting Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977)). Because Plaintiff does not explain how the named defendants were involved in the purported violation of Plaintiff's rights, Plaintiff fails to meet the federal pleading standards. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (requiring that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (stating Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, but it requires more than a plain accusation that the defendant unlawfully harmed the plaintiff, devoid of factual support).[1]

         Consequently, Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff is hereby granted twenty-one (21) days from the date this order is entered (plus three days for mail time) to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) that corrects the deficiencies identified above.[2] In a contemporaneously issued order, the court has also provided Plaintiff with instructions to bring this case into proper form for initial review and the issuance and service of process. If ...


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