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Barnette v. Faile

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

May 16, 2019

Samuel Lamont Barnette, Plaintiff,
Barry Faile, Jason Broughton, and William J. Nowicki, Esq., Defendants.



         Samuel Lamont Barnette (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) 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.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff is a state inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution. [See ECF No. 1 at 2]. However, at the time relevant to his complaint, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at Lancaster County Detention Center. Id. at 5. Plaintiff brings this § 1983 action against: Barry Faile (“Faile”), the Lancaster County Sheriff; Jason Broughton (“Broughton”), a Lancaster County Detention Center shift supervisor; and William J. Nowicki, Esq. (“Nowicki”), Plaintiff's attorney. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges he broke into Broughton's house on April 26, 2018, and, on May 2, 2018, was placed in the Lancaster County Detention Center, where Broughton is a shift supervisor. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff states he and Broughton were ordered to stay separated, but Broughton entered his housing pod several times in October and November 2018 to do wall pipe counts and escort the nurse. Id. at 8. Plaintiff alleges on these occasions Broughton stared at him, squinted his eyes, and “made mad faces” at him. Id. at 9. Plaintiff also alleges Broughton informed other inmates that Plaintiff had broken into his house. Id. Plaintiff asserts Broughton's actions violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff alleges Faile failed to protect him by denying his requests to be transferred to a different facility. Id. at 5, 9, 11.

         Plaintiff alleges ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment because Nowicki did not act after Plaintiff told him he feared Broughton and needed a mental evaluation. Id. at 6.

         Plaintiff asserts these alleged constitutional violations resulted in great mental distress and his requests for mental health care were ignored by “the county officers, ” his attorney, and the detention center. Id. at 8, 10. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for his mental and emotional distress. Id. at 10.

         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

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States Supreme Court has made it clear a plaintiff must do more than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677‒78 (2009); Bell Atlantic 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 ...

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