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Murphy v. Myrtle Beach Police Department

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

March 12, 2019

Kim Murphy, Plaintiff,
v.
Myrtle Beach Police Department, Task Force, Defendant.

          ORDER AND NOTICE

          Shiva V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.

         Kim Murphy (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint against Myrtle Beach Police Department alleging a violation of his constitutional rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges a search warrant was issued for Room 1057 at Compass Cove Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on January 15, 2019. [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Plaintiff claims Myrtle Beach police officers rammed the door and took him down although he had his hands up to surrender. Id. Plaintiff contends the officers used excessive force, leaving him with a pinched nerve and pain in his right arm, hand, and foot. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. Id.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff filed his complaint 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. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

         Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (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). In this case, Plaintiff names Myrtle Beach Police Department/Task Force as the sole defendant. However, this defendant is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983. A police department or task force is a group of officers or buildings that is not considered a legal entity subject to suit. See Harden v. Green, 27 Fed.Appx. 173, 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (finding that the medical department of a prison is not a person pursuant to § 1983); see also Post v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 750 F.Supp. 1131 (S.D. Fla. 1990) (dismissing city police department as improper defendant in § 1983 action because not “person” under the statute); Shelby v. City of Atlanta, 578 F.Supp. 1368, 1370 (N.D.Ga. 1984) (dismissing police department as party defendant because it was merely a vehicle through which city government fulfills policing functions). Accordingly, Plaintiffs complaint is subject to summary dismissal.

         NOTICE CONCERNING AMENDMENT

         Plaintiff may attempt to correct the defects in his complaint by filing an amended complaint by March 26, 2019, along with any appropriate service documents. Plaintiff is reminded that an amended complaint replaces the original complaint and should be complete in itself. See Young v. City of Mount Ranier,238 F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2001) (“As a general rule, an amended pleading ordinarily supersedes the original and renders it of no legal effect.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If Plaintiff files an amended complaint, the undersigned will conduct screening of the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. ...


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