United States District Court, D. South Carolina
E. Lee Spence, Plaintiff,
Motor Vessel “Beast of Burden”; John W. Tellam; and John/Jane Does, No. 1-10, Defendants.
ORDER AND NOTICE
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.
Spence (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, is
before the court on his verified complaint in admiralty and
complaint in rem for forfeiture. Pursuant to the provisions
of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civ. Rule
73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to
review such complaints for relief and submit findings and
recommendations to the district judge.
obtained title to an Abandoned Wreckage by order of The
Honorable Sol Blatt, Jr., United States District Judge, in
C/A No. 3:12-280 (“Spence I”). See
Spence I at ECF No. 38. The Abandoned Wreckage is more
fully described in Spence I, but for ease of
reference, the undersigned refers to it as Spence I
wreckage. Plaintiff alleges defendant John W. Tellam is the
owner of the motor vessel identified as Beast of
Burden. [ECF No. 1 at ¶¶45, 49-53]. Plaintiff
advised Tellam that he owned the title to Spence I
wreckage. Plaintiff claims that Tellam and others, using
Beast of Burden, conducted salvage operations within
the area of Spence I wreckage. Id. at
¶¶ 67-68. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §1658,
Plaintiff asserts claims for plunder of a distressed vessel
and conspiracy to plunder a distressed vessel. He also
alleges common law larceny and seeks an action in rem for
forfeiture of Beast of Burden.
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of the pro se complaint. Pro se
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007), and a federal district court is charged with
liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant
to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case,
Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). In evaluating
a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are
assumed to be true. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
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 Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 for “all
civil actions”). 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; however, a
district court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims
that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174
F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999), construct the plaintiff's
legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d
411 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never
squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City
of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
even when the filing fee is paid, the court possesses the
inherent authority to ensure that a plaintiff has standing,
that federal jurisdiction exists, and that a case is not
frivolous. See Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx.
405, 406 (4th Cir. 2012); Constantine v. Rectors &
Visitors of George Mason Univ., 411 F.3d 474, 480 (4th
Cir. 2005) (noting courts have “independent obligation
to assess . . . subject-matter jurisdiction”).
Right to Criminal Prosecution of Another The first two counts
in Plaintiff's verified complaint are for alleged
violations of a criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1658.
These claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted in a civil suit. A private individual such as
Plaintiff has no right to pursue criminal charges filed
against other private or public persons or entities by way of
a civil lawsuit. Private citizens do not have a
constitutional right to, or a judicially cognizable interest
in, the prosecution or non-prosecution of another person.
Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973);
see Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 64-65, (1986)
(applying Linda R.S. v. Richard D. and collecting
Common Law Larceny
extent Plaintiff asserts a common law claim again Tellam, he
must demonstrate that the court has subject matter
jurisdiction. Plaintiff has asserted that Defendant Tellam is
a legal resident of Florida and requests over $75, 000 in
damages. However, Plaintiff must show that Tellam is a
citizen of a state other than South Carolina. The court notes
that Plaintiff submitted a proposed summons for Tellam that
contains no address. The undersigned notes that ...