United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
Nathaniel S. Harris, Plaintiff,
Chindar Ryant, Jeffrey S. Campbell, and Spartanburg City Police Department, Defendants.
TIMOTHY M. CAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed
this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil
Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to a magistrate
judge for pretrial handling. Before the court is the
magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation
(“Report”), recommending that the court dismiss
this case. (ECF No. 14). Plaintiff was advised of his right
to file objections to the Report. Id. at 11.
Plaintiff subsequently filed objections to the Report. (ECF
the magistrate judge's report noted several
insufficiencies in Plaintiff's Complaint, the court found
it prudent to allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his
Complaint. (ECF No. 19). Plaintiff was warned that failure to
file an Amended Complaint by January 2, 2019, would result in
the court ruling on the pending Report. Id. On
December 17, 2018, the Clerk's office mailed Plaintiff a
copy of the Report, a copy of the Order allowing Plaintiff to
amend his Complaint, and a blank Complaint form. (ECF No.
21). Because Plaintiff has failed to file an Amended
Complaint correcting the insufficiencies of his Complaint,
the court will now rule on the Report and objections.
recommendations set forth in the Report have no presumptive
weight, and this court remains responsible for making a final
determination in this matter. See Mathews v. Weber,
423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making
a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to
which a specific objection is made, and the court may accept,
reject, 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). However, the court
need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only
“general and conclusory objections that do not direct
the court to a specific error in the magistrate's
proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of a timely filed, specific objection, the magistrate
judge's conclusions are reviewed only for clear error.
See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co.,
416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, this court is charged with
construing his pleadings liberally in order to allow for the
development of a potentially meritorious case. See Hughes
v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (internal citations
omitted); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th
Cir. 1978). However, this does not mean that the court can
ignore the Plaintiff's failure to allege facts that set
forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district
court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901
F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).
was arrested pursuant to a warrant on November 6, 2014, for
alleged actions related to an incident on November 1, 2014.
(ECF No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff contends that Defendant Officer
Chindar Ryant lacked probable cause when he applied for the
arrest warrant because the warrant was based “solely on
the uncorroborated word of the proven unreliable alleged
victim.” Id. Based on these facts, as to
Defendant Ryant, Plaintiff has alleged claims of malicious
arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and false
imprisonment. Id. at 4-6. Furthermore, Plaintiff
contends that Defendant Supervisory Sergeant Jeffrey S.
Campbell “committed negligent supervision” in
approving the warrant application. Id. Plaintiff
alleges that he has suffered monetary damages, loss of job
opportunities and earning potential, and undue stress because
of this incident. Id. As a result, Plaintiff seeks
compensatory damages in the amount of $675.00 as to each
allegation, and punitive damages in the amount of $675.00 as
to each allegation, for a total damages claim of $6750.00.
Id. at 6.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Report, the magistrate judge determined that the Spartanburg
City Police Department is not a proper defendant under §
1983. (ECF No. 14 at 9). In his objections, Plaintiff stated
that he “would like to voluntarily release Spartanburg
City Police Department as a defendant.” (ECF No. 16 at
1). Accordingly, all claims against Spartanburg City Police
Department are dismissed without prejudice.
the magistrate judge determined that the claims against
Defendant Campbell should be dismissed because there is no
supervisory liability under the doctrine of respondeat
superior in § 1983 cases. (ECF No. 14 at 7). Plaintiff
objects to this finding, stating that Defendant Campbell was
Defendant Ryant's direct supervisor at the time of the
arrest and that he “should have trained [Ryant] well
enough to know that you cannot base your decision to arrest
someone solely off the uncorroborated information” of
an unreliable witness. (ECF. No. 16). However,
Plaintiff's objection does not address the fact that by
law, there is no respondeat superior theory of liability.
See, e.g. Cook v. James, 100 Fed. App'x 178, 181
(4th Cir. 2004) ((“It is well-settled that respondeat
superior generally is inapplicable to §1983
lawsuits.”) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978))); Vinnedge v.
Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (stating that
the doctrine of respondeat superior has no application under
§ 1983). Accordingly, the court agrees with the
magistrate judge that Plaintiff's claim against Defendant
Campbell are subject to dismissal.
magistrate judge further determined that that all claims
against Defendant Ryant should be dismissed because Plaintiff
has failed to set forth facts sufficient to support
cognizable claims for relief. (ECF No. 14 at 5-8).
Plaintiff's objections to the Report largely reiterate
his claims. However, Plaintiff has made the following
specific objections to the Report: (1) that the magistrate
judge incorrectly considered false arrest and malicious
arrest as the same claim; (2) that the arrest warrant was
insufficient; and (3) that the magistrate judge erred in
recommending dismissal of his malicious prosecution claim
because Defendant Ryant had malice in initiating the charge
against Plaintiff. (ECF No. 16). Additionally, in his
objections, Plaintiff asserts that the state court charges
were terminated in his favor on September 4, 2015
“because of lack of evidence/unable to prove at
trial.” Id. The court overrules each of these
objections for the reasons stated below.
contends that false arrest and malicious arrest are separate
“crimes” that carry different burdens of proof,
and that, therefore the magistrate judge erred in considering
these claims together. (ECF No. 16). First, the court notes that
these claims are for torts that carry the potential for civil
liability, not crimes. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S.
384, 388-89 (2007). Second, the court recognizes that a claim
for “malicious arrest” may be a viable cause of
action in South Carolina. See, e.g., Caldwell v.
Bennett, 22 S.C. 1 (S.C. 1884); Campbell v.
O'Bryan, 43 S.C.L. 204 (S.C. Ct. App. 1856);
Ford v. Kelsey, 38 S.C.L. 365 (S.C. Ct. App. 1851).
Such cause of action, like a claim of false arrest, requires
lack of probable cause. Hogg v. Pinckney, 16 S.C.
387, 393 (S.C. 1882) (“[I]t is equally as necessary in
actions for malicious arrest as in actions for criminal
prosecutions, for the plaintiff to allege and prove the want
of probable cause.”). To the extent that South Carolina
still recognizes a claim for malicious arrest, it is likely
treated the same as claims for malicious prosecution.
Id. at 394 (noting that according to the rules at
the time, malicious arrest claims were “governed by the
same principles as malicious prosecutions”). Therefore,
if the magistrate judge erred in conflating Plaintiff's
claims for false arrest and malicious arrest, the error is
harmless since the magistrate judge also addressed, at
length, Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim.
Plaintiff contends that his arrest warrant was insufficient.
(ECF No. 1 at 5, 16). To the extent that Plaintiff is
attempting to challenge the facial validity of his arrest
warrant, Plaintiff has failed to show that Defendant Ryant
either deliberately or with “reckless disregard for the
truth, made false statements” to obtain the arrest
warrant. See Miller v. Prince George's Cty., MD,
475 F.3d 621, 627 (4th Cir. 2007). Such reckless disregard
can be established “by evidence that an officer acted
with a high degree of awareness of a statement's probable
falsity, that is, when viewing all the evidence, the
[officer] must have serious doubts as to the truth of his
statements or had obvious reasons to doubt the accuracy of
the information he reported.” Id. (citations
if the officer was negligent or made an innocent mistake in
seeking an arrest warrant, such action does not provide a