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Daniels v. Investigator Timothy Wade Compton

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

February 14, 2019

Gregory Daniels, Plaintiff,
v.
Investigator Timothy Wade Compton, Solicitor John Jepertinger, and Detective George Clark, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs motion to reopen this case (Dkt. No. 20) and motion for civil judgment (Dkt. No. 21). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiffs motion to reopen the case, denies the motion for civil judgment, and dismisses Plaintiffs claims with prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner at Lee Correctional Institution, brought suit for violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants committed perjury while testifying at his 2010 state trial and 2015 post-conviction relief hearings. Plaintiff sought monetary damages for lost wages, legal fees, "name slandering," false imprisonment, and pain and suffering. (Dkt. No. 1)

         On December 13, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Proper Form Order notifying Plaintiff that his case was subject to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 unless he brought the case into proper order by completing a summons form and a Form USM-285 by January 6, 2019 (a deadline of twenty-one days plus three days for service by mail). (Dkt. No. 8.) The time for compliance passed without a response from Plaintiff. On January 14, 2019, eight days after the deadline, the Court dismissed the case pursuant to Rule 41. (Dkt. No. 14.) On January 14, 2019, judgment was entered. (Dkt. No. 16.) Also on January 14, 2019 (Dkt. No. 18-1 at 2)[1], Plaintiff filed a reply to the Proper Form Order. The reply described the alleged instances of perjury and requested that the Magistrate Judge impose a "civil judgment" of "five years imprisonment and/or $250, 000 fine." (Dkt. No. 18 at 5.) On January 18, 2019 (Dkt. No. 19-2 at 2), Plaintiff filed the summons and Form USM-285 that had been requested in the Proper Form Order. (Dkt. No. 19, No. 19-1.) On February 5, 2019 (Dkt. No. 20-1 at 2), Plaintiff moved to reopen the case on the basis that an April 2018 riot resulted in Plaintiff being placed on lockdown status and caused "delays in mailroom movement." (Dkt. No. 20 at 2.)

         II. Legal Standard and Discussion

         Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the Court to relieve a party from a judgment for "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect" or "any other reason that justifies relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1) and (6). The motion for relief "must be made within a reasonable time," including "no more than a year after the entry of judgment or order" if the grounds for relief are "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). Plaintiff moved to reopen the case twenty-two days after entry of judgment and the Court finds his alleged inability to engage in timely prison mailroom procedure due to a lockdown out of his control persuasive. The Court, therefore, grants Plaintiffs motion to reopen the case.

         In reviewing Plaintiffs claims on their merits, the Court finds they are subject to dismissal. Trial witnesses sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 have "absolute immunity with respect to any claim based on the witness' testimony." Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 367 (2012) (citing Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 332-33 (1983)) (emphasis in original). Plaintiffs motion for civil judgment, seeking that Defendants be sentenced to five years' imprisonment and subject money damages, is a recitation of the allegations and arguments previously given in Plaintiffs reply to the Proper Form Order.[2] As a result, Plaintiffs claims against Defendants are dismissed with prejudice.

         III. Conclusion

         For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs motion to reopen the case (Dkt. No. 20) is GRANTED, Plaintiffs motion for civil judgment (Dkt. No. 21) is DENIED, and Plaintiffs claims (Dkt. No. 1) are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE and without issuance and service of process.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

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Notes:

[1] See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988) (prisoner's filing is filed at the moment of delivery to prison authorities for forwarding ...


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