United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Bristow Marchant United States Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Willie Johnson, proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. At the time Plaintiff filed this action he was
an inmate at the Kirkland Correctional Institution (KCI),
part of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).
It appears, however, that he is currently incarcerated at the
Broad River Correctional Institution (BRCI) of the
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant
to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and
§ 1915 A. the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA),
Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), and in light of
the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504
U.S. 25 (1992), Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319
(1989), Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972),
Nasim v. Warden, Maryland House of Corr., 64 F.3d
951 (4th Cir. 1995), and Todd v. Baskerville, 712
F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983). 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), and a federal district court is charged with liberally
construing a Em se complaint to allow for the development of
a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)); Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980).
even when considered pursuant to this liberal standard, for
the reasons set forth hereinbelow this case is subject to
summary dismissal. 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 (2009)
[outlining pleading requirements under the Federal Rules of
order entered February 11, 2019, Plaintiff was given notice
of pleading deficiencies and he was given an opportunity to
amend his complaint. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff then filed an
Amended Complaint in which he generally reiterates his same
claims, adds claims concerning incidents that occurred after
the filing of this lawsuit, and further adds various other
vague complaints which are discussed below.
Plaintiff requests that the Court "enforce" the
ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in Frew
v. Hawkins, 540 U.S. 431, 440 (2004). Based on this, he
appears to be seeking reinstatement of the so-called
Nelson consent decree, which concerned prison
conditions at SCDC and was entered in Plyler v.
Leeke, No. 82-876, 1986 WL 84459 (D.S.C. Mar. 26, 1986),
aff'd in part and dismissed in part. Plyler v.
Leeke, 804 F.2d 1251 (4th Cir. Nov. 12, 1986) [Table].
The original representative for the class in Civil Action No.
82-876 was Gary Wayne Nelson, but Harry Plyler became the
class representative upon Nelson's release from the SCDC.
See Plyler v. Evatt, 846 F.2d 208 (4th Cir. 1988).
However, the Nelson consent decree was terminated on
June 4, 1996, pursuant to the defendants' motion under
the PLRA, and the termination of the consent decree was
thereafter affirmed on November 14, 1996, by the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Plyler
v. Moore, 100 F.3d 365 (4th Cir. 1996). This court lacks
the authority or jurisdiction to enforce a prison consent
decree that has previously been terminated. See Hines v.
Anderson, No. 03-2010, 2003 WL 22952185, * 1 (8th Cir.
2003) [court recognized that once motion to terminate consent
decree was granted, inmates lost right to enforce the terms
of consent decree]; Ward v. Ozmint No. 09-1594, 2010
WL 4638622 (D.S.C. Oct. 10, 2018). adopted by 2010
WL 4637991(D.S.C. Nov. 8, 2010).
contrary to Plaintiffs argument, the decision in
Frew does not dictate that this Court must reinstate
or enforce the Nelson consent decree. In
Frew the Supreme Court found that the Eleventh
Amendment did not bar the enforcement of a state's
obligations under a valid consent decree that had been
entered into in federal court. See Frew, 540 U.S. at
438; Hawkins v. Commissioner, NH Dept. of Health and
Human Servs., No. 99-cv-143-JD, 2007 WL 1456214 (D.N.H.
May 16, 2007)[noting that the Court in Frew was
"presented with the issue of whether the Eleventh
Amendment precludes enforcement of a consent decree by a
federal court against state officials*' and that the
"decision did not reach the standard of review
applicable to enforcement actions."]. Here, there is not
a current, valid consent decree to enforce. See, e.g.,
Porter v. Graves, No. 77-3045, 2015 WL 6807826
(D.Kan. Nov. 5, 2015)[denying motions to intervene in a
closed case for purposes of ordering or enforcing consent
decrees which were issued more than nineteen years
the doctrine of res judicata precludes this Court from
reopening or reinstating the Nelson consent decree. Res
judicata bars litigation of all claims or defenses that were
available to the parties in the previous litigation,
regardless of whether they were asserted or determined in the
prior proceeding. See Brown v. Felsen, 442 U.S. 127,
131 (1979)["Res judicata thus encourages reliance on
judicial decisions, bars vexatious litigation, and frees the
courts to resolve other disputes."]; Meekins v.
United Transp. Union, 946 F.2d 1054, 1057 (4th Cir.
1991)["The preclusive affect of a prior judgment extends
beyond claims or defenses actually presented in previous
litigation, for '[n]ot only does res judicata bar claims
that were raised and fully litigated, it prevents litigation
of all grounds for, or defenses to, recovery that were
previously available to the parties, regardless of whether
they were asserted or determined in the prior
also alleges claims in his Amended Complaint about prison
conditions at SCDC institutions other than the facilities at
which he was housed (for example, Plaintiff complains
extensively about alleged incidents, including a riot, at the
Lee Correctional Institution) and claims pertaining to other
inmates. However, such claims must be dismissed, as Plaintiff
may not assert claims on behalf of other inmates. See
Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1 (1972); see also
Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Americans United for
Separation of Church & State, 454 U.S. 464, 482
(1982); Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99 (1968)[a
district court, when determining whether a plaintiff has
standing to sue, must focus on the status of the party who
has filed the complaint, such that the merits of the case are
irrelevant]; Lake Carriers Ass'n v. MacMullan,
406 U.S. 498, 506 (1972); Hummer v. Dalton, 657 F.2d
621, 625-626 (4th Cir. 1981)[a prisoner cannot act as a
"knight-errant" for others]. Cf. Oxendine v.
Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975)[a prose
prisoner cannot be an advocate for others in a class action].
also alleges that Defendant Bryan P. Stirling, the Director
of the SCDC, has violated his civil rights and SCDC
procedures by accepting him as a inmate without having the
proper commitment papers. This is a challenge to the fact or
duration of Plaintiff s confinement, which may not be brought
in a § 1983 action. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477, 481(1994)[stating that "habeas corpus is the
exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact
or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or
speedier release, even though such a claim may come within
the literal terms of § 1983"]; Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487-88 (1973)[attacking the
length of duration of confinement is within the core of
habeas corpus]. Additionally, to the extent that Plaintiff is
seeking monetary damages that implicitly question the
validity of his conviction, such a claim is also barred by
Heck, as Plaintiff has not alleged that his
conviction has been previously invalidated. Heck,
512 U.S. at 486-487. Moreover, any violation of a policy of
the SCDC does not constitute a violation of Plaintiff s
constitutional rights, and is therefore not assertable in a
§ 1983 action. See Keeler v. Pea, 782 F.Supp.
42, 44 (D.S.C. 1992); cf. Johnson v. S.C. Dep't of
Corrs., No. 06-2062, 2007 WL 904826, at * 12 (D.S.C.
Mar. 21, 2007)[The plaintiffs allegation that defendants did
not "follow their own policies or procedures, standing
alone, does not amount to a constitutional
violation."](citing Riccio v. County of Fairfax,
Virginia, 907 F.2d 1459, 1469 (4th Cir. 1990)[if state
law grants more procedural rights than the Constitution
requires, a state's failure to abide by that law is not a
federal due process issue]).
the undersigned is constrained to note that Plaintiff
previously unsuccessfully tried to raise an issue relating to
his commitment papers in a prior lawsuit. As this Court
previously noted in Johnson v. Ozmint, 567 F.Supp.2d
806 (D.S.C. 2008):
[T]he court concludes Plaintiffs claim cannot proceed because
there is simply no evidence, other than Plaintiffs say-so,
that he is being improperly detained. The record contains a
copy of Plaintiff s commitment order, which indicates
Plaintiff was "committed to jail 10-03-84," and it
states that Plaintiff is "confined under the
jurisdiction and control of the South Carolina Department of
Corrections for a period of his life." The order is
dated April 18, 1985, and although it does not contain the
handwritten signature of the judge, it is signed as "s/
T.L. Hughston, Jr." ...