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Knox v. Cauthen

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

May 28, 2019

Tito Knox, Plaintiff,
Maxwell B. Cauthen; Sergio Sanchez, Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Tito Knox, proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. 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 files this action against a United States Attorney and a medical doctor on a standard civil complaint form for pro se litigants, but the information provided by Plaintiff is incoherent. Plaintiff claims he was tried on unspecified charges on June 22, 2007, and instead of returning to court forty days later for a hearing, United States Attorney Maxwell B. Cauthen “overlooked” Plaintiff's constitutional rights. (Compll, ECF No. 1 at 5.) Plaintiff also claims a medical doctor, Sergio Sanchez, gave him “mind-altering drugs” after Sanchez found “no mental illness.” (Id.) Plaintiff claims this violated his civil liberties. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that had he received the hearing, he would have been free, because he only needed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there “was no violence.” (Id.) Plaintiff cites to 18 U.S.C. § 4243 (hospitalization of a person found not guilty only by reason of insanity) and seeks damages.

         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. 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. This statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action “is frivolous or 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).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements. 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

         In accordance with the court's duty to liberally construe pro se pleadings, the court construes this action as seeking damages for violation of Plaintiff's civil rights by a federal prosecutor and a medical doctor. Because Plaintiff is suing at least one federal officer, the court construes this action as seeking relief pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unkown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). In Bivens, the United States Supreme Court established a remedy for plaintiffs alleging certain constitutional violations by federal officials to obtain monetary damages in suits against federal officials in their individual capacities. Id.; see also Randall v. United States, 95 F.3d 339, 345 (4th Cir. 1996) (“Any remedy under Bivens is against federal officials individually, not the federal government.”).

         The Supreme Court recently emphasized the limited scope and availability of Bivens actions. See Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843, 1857 (2017) (noting that the United States Supreme Court has extended Bivens only in limited circumstances, and cautioning that a Bivens remedy will not be available if there are “special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress”) (quoting Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 18 (1980)); see also Attkisson v. Holder, (4th Cir. 2019) (discussing and applying Ziglar); see also Tun-Cos v. Perrotte, No. 18-1451 (4th Cir. Apr. 26, 2019) (Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations for actions of immigration officials not covered by Bivens).

         However, Plaintiff fails to allege a recognizable constitutional violation by claiming that Cauthen “overlooked” his constitutional rights or did not call him for a hearing, or that Sanchez provided him “mind-altering drugs.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (requiring that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (stating Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, but it requires more than a plain accusation that the defendant unlawfully harmed the plaintiff, devoid of factual support). Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because he fails to allege any facts that would plausibly show the named defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Evans v. Chalmers, 703 F.3d 636, 647 (4th Cir. 2012) (“[C]onstitutional torts . . . require a demonstration of both but-for and proximate causation.”); see also Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 344 n.7 (1986).

         To the extent Plaintiff seeks damages against Cauthen for civil rights violations arising form Plaintiff's federal criminal matter, and to the extent such violations are cognizable under Bivens in light of Ziglar, Cauthen would be immune from suit for decisions related to Plaintiff's prosecution. See generally Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976); Lyles v. Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 377 (4th Cir. 1996) (explaining “the Imbler Court specified that absolute immunity protects prosecutors' decisions ‘whether and when to prosecute' ”); but see See Allen v. Lowder, ...

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