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Thomas v. Marion County Detention Center

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 7, 2019

James Thomas, Plaintiff,
v.
Marion County Detention Center, Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT

          PAIGE J. GOSSET UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, James Thomas, a self-represented state pretrial detainee, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A. 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 indicates he is detained in the Marion County Detention Center on an attempted murder charge. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff indicates that jail officials placed him in lock-up because of his murder charge, in which Plaintiff is confined to his cell alone for twenty-three hours every day. (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff was placed in lock-up in July 2018 and remains there. (Id. at 5.) But, other inmates with murder or attempted murder charges have been placed in the general population, which comes with more privileges. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff claims the solitary confinementlike conditions of his confinement violate his right to due process, are discriminatory, and are cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at 4.) He seeks relief for these constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and asks the court to order the defendant to take him out of lock-up. (Id. at 6.)

         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 pursuant to the procedural provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), including 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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, and is also governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the court to review a complaint filed by a prisoner that seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2009). Section 1915A requires, and § 1915 allows, a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is frivolous, 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); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements to state a claim. 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 Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “ ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.' ” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). 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).

         However, the Complaint fails to name a person that is amenable to suit pursuant to § 1983 because the Marion County Detention Center is an inanimate facility. It is well-settled that only “persons” may act under color of state law; therefore, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a “person.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (noting that for purposes of § 1983 a “person” includes individuals and “bodies politic and corporate”). Courts have held that inanimate objects such as buildings, facilities, and grounds are not “persons” and do not act under color of state law. See Nelson v. Lexington Cty. Det. Ctr., C/A No. 8:10-2988-JMC, 2011 WL 2066551, at *1 (D.S.C. May 26, 2011) (finding that the plaintiff failed to establish that the Lexington County Detention Center, “as a building and not a person, is amenable to suit under § 1983”); see also Brooks v. Pembroke City Jail, 722 F.Supp. 1294, 1301 (E.D. N.C. 1989) (“Claims under § 1983 are directed at ‘persons' and the jail is not a person amenable to suit.”). Because the Marion County Detention Center is not an individual or corporate body amenable to suit under § 1983, the court finds Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1]

         Consequently, Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) 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] If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint ...


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