United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge
plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis, brings this civil defamation action (doc. 1).
Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), D.S.C., this magistrate
judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in this
case and submit findings and recommendations to the district
plaintiff filed this case against the defendants on February
21, 2019 (doc. 1). Having reviewed the plaintiff's
complaint, the undersigned recommends it be dismissed.
complaint concerns an alleged defamatory article published
about the plaintiff following his arrest on December 3, 2015
(doc. 1). As an initial matter, the undersigned takes
judicial notice of the plaintiff's prior defamation
actions against news stations owned by the
defendants. See Strickland v. WJTV
Mississippi's First News Station, et al., C/A No.
8:19-cv-00322-MGL (D.S.C.) (report and recommendation
recommending summary dismissal pending); Strickland v.
WCMH NBC 4i News Station, et al., C/A No.
8:19-cv-00323-MGL (D.S.C.) (report and recommendation
recommending summary dismissal pending); Strickland v.
WJTV Mississippi's First, et al., C/A No. 7:18-cv-
02436-MGL, docs. 15; 18 (D.S.C. 2018) (dismissing the
plaintiff's claims with prejudice); Strickland v.
WCMH NBC 4i, et al., C/A No. 7:18-cv-02435-MGL, docs.
14; 17 (D.S.C. 2018) (dismissing the plaintiff's claims
with prejudice); Strickland v WSPA TV News 7, et
al., C/A No. 7:17-cv-03256-MGL, 2018 WL 1431366 (D.S.C.
Mar. 22, 2018); Strickland v. WJTV Mississippi's
First, et al., C/A No. 7:17-cv-03258-AMQ, 2018 WL
1994234 (D.S.C. Apr. 27, 2018); Strickland v. WCMH NBC
4i, et al., C/A No. 7:17-cv-03257-AMQ, 2018 WL 1994172
(D.S.C. Apr. 27, 2018). As in the prior cases, here the
plaintiff alleges that a defamatory report was published
about him and his arrest on December 3, 2015 (doc. 1 at 6-7).
Although unclear how it relates to the defendants, the
plaintiff alleges that there was material on Facebook,
Twitter, and Empty Net Sports about him (id. at 6).
He contends that the material published about his arrest on
December 3, 2015, was wrong-as well as completely made up
(id. at 6-7). The plaintiff also alleges that the
facts reported in the story were identical to the arrest
report that the plaintiff contends was also untruthful
(id. at 6). The plaintiff contends that the report
was still searchable on the computer as of August 18, 2018
(id. at 7).
plaintiff alleges that the defendants are responsible for the
actions of the news stations they own, namely WJTV, WCMH, and
WSPA (id. at 7). The plaintiff also contends that he
is unable to eat and that the publication of the story
affects his ability to work because his prior arrest keeps
coming up (id. at 7-8). For his relief the plaintiff
requests monetary damages in the amount of $4.95 million
dollars because of the defamation caused by the articles
published by news stations owned by the defendants
(id. at 9).
plaintiff 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
defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Further, the plaintiff is a prisoner
under the definition of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), and
“seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a). Thus, even if the plaintiff had prepaid the full
filing fee, this Court is charged with screening the
plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to
dismiss the complaint if (1) it is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
pro se litigant, the plaintiff'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 (2007) (per
curiam). 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, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).
noted above, the plaintiff filed the instant civil action
seeking damages from the defendants for publishing an alleged
defamatory story about the plaintiff. For the reasons that
follow, the instant matter is subject to summary dismissal.
plaintiff's complaint is barred by claim
instant matter, the plaintiff seeks to re-litigate a
defamation claim that has already been adjudicated and
decided adversely to him by the court. Under the doctrine of
claim preclusion-or res judicata-a final judgment on
the merits of an action bars the parties from re-litigating
the issues that were or could have been raised in the prior
action. See Pueschel v. United States, 369 F.3d 345,
354 (4th Cir. 2004). In order for res judicata to
apply, there must have been (1) a final judgment on the
merits in a prior suit; (2) the identity of the cause of
action in both suits; and (3) the same parties or their
privies in the two suits. Id. at 354-55 (citing
Nash Cty Bd. of Educ. v. Biltmore Co., 640 F.2d 484,
486 (4th Cir. 1981)); see Orca Yachts L.L.C. v. Mollicam,
Inc., 287 F.3d 316, 318 (4th Cir. 2002) (noting that
claim preclusion applies when there has been a valid and
final judgment-even if the matter was not actually litigated
(quoting In re Varat Enters., Inc., 81 F.3d 1310,
1315 (4th Cir. 1996)). In evaluating whether the same cause
of action is brought in both suits, the court ascertains
whether the claim in the new litigation “arises out of
the same transaction or series of transactions as the claim
resolved by the prior judgment.” Pittston Co. v.
United States, 199 F.3d 694, 704 (4th Cir. 1999)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Harnett v.
Billman, 800 F.2d 1308, 1313 (4th Cir. 1986)). Here, the
plaintiff sues the defendants regarding a story published about
the plaintiff's December 3, 2015, arrest (doc. 1). The
plaintiff has already litigated this claim, and it was
dismissed (twice with prejudice). See Strickland v. WJTV
Mississippi's First, et al., C/A No.
7:18-cv-02436-MGL, docs. 15; 18 (dismissed with prejudice);
Strickland v. WCMH NBC 4i, et al., C/A No.
7:18-cv-02435-MGL, docs. 14; 17 (dismissing the
plaintiff's claims with prejudice); Strickland v WSPA
TV News 7, et al., 2018 WL 1431366; Strickland v.
WJTV Mississippi's First, et al., 2018 WL 1994234;
Strickland v. WCMH NBC 4i, et al., 2018 WL 1994172;
see also Strickland v. WJTV Mississippi's First News
Station, et al., C/A No. 8:19-cv-00322-MGL, doc. 8
(D.S.C. Feb. 13, 2019) (report and recommendation recognizing
that the plaintiff's claims are barred by claim
preclusion); Strickland v. WCMH NBC 4i News Station, et
al., C/A No. 8:19-cv-00323-MGL, doc. 8 (D.S.C. Feb. 13,
2019) (report and recommendation recognizing that the
plaintiff's claims are barred by claim preclusion).
Accordingly, the plaintiff's claims against the
defendants are barred in the present matter.
plaintiff's complaint fails to state a ...