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Taylor v. Al Cannon Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

May 29, 2019

Dion Orlando Taylor, Plaintiff,
Al Cannon Sheriff's Department; Al Cannon Detention Center; Stephanie Singleton, Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Dion Orlando Taylor, a self-represented state pretrial detainee, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A. 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, an inmate in the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County, South Carolina, indicates he brings this action for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq.; and defamation. (ECF No. 1 at 5.) The body of the Complaint is difficult to understand, but Plaintiff appears to claim that because he “didn't sit on a stool on lockup” he was not fed for two days and was deprived showers, blankets, a mattress, and an Islamic diet for twelve days. (Id. at 8-9.) He claims his pre-existing mental illness made this situation worse. (Id. at 9.) He appears to separately claim that he has faced threats from other inmates because “officers and staff” told inmates and jail staff what Plaintiff's criminal charges were, called him a homosexual, and commented on his “private parts.” (Id. at 6, 12.) As to Defendant Stephanie Singleton, the “legal liaison” at the jail, Plaintiff claims she impeded his access to the courts by not providing requisite legal information and case law to Plaintiff. (Id. at 7.) He seeks to be able to freely practice his religion and monetary damages for the various violations. (Id. at 9.)

         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 pursuant to the procedural provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), including 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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, and is also governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the court to review a complaint filed by a prisoner that seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2009). Section 1915A requires, and § 1915 allows, a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is frivolous, 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); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

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

         Plaintiff raises claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “ ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.' ” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (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).

         Plaintiff also raises claims pursuant to RLUIPA, which provides that “no government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise” of a person detained in a jail or pretrial detention facility “unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a).

         Two of the named defendants in this action-Al Cannon Sheriff's Department and Al Cannon Detention Center-are not “persons” amenable to suit under § 1983 because they are not individuals, political bodies, or corporate entities. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (noting that for purposes of § 1983 a “person” includes individuals and “bodies politic and corporate”); see, e.g., Harden v. Green, 27 Fed.Appx. 173, 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (“The medical department of a prison may not be sued, because it is not a person within the meaning of § 1983.”); Brooks v. Pembroke City Jail, 722 F.Supp. 1294, 1301 (E.D. N.C. 1989) (“Claims under § 1983 are directed at ‘persons' and the jail is not a person amenable to suit.”); Nelson v. Lexington Cty. Det. Ctr., C/A No. 8:10-2988-JMC, 2011 WL 2066551, at *1 (D.S.C. May 26, 2011) (finding that the plaintiff failed to establish that the Lexington County Detention Center, “as a building and not a person, is amenable to suit under § 1983”). Similarly, these defendants are not a properly named “government” amenable to suit under RLUIPA. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-5(4)(A). Thus, Defendants Al Cannon Sheriff's Department and Al Cannon Detention Center are subject to summary dismissal.

         To the extent Plaintiff intended to name the Charleston County Sheriff in his official capacity, the Eleventh Amendment would bar Plaintiff's federal damages claims because the Sheriff is an arm of the State of South Carolina. See Gulledge v. Smart, 691 F.Supp. 947, 954-55 (D.S.C. 1988) (concluding that sheriffs and deputy sheriffs are agents of the state and cannot be sued in their official capacities), aff'd, 878 F.2d 379 (4th Cir. 1989) (table); see also Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712-13 (1999); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996); Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890); and Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 285-86 (2011) (providing that RLUIPA claims against states are barred by sovereign immunity). Similarly, Plaintiff may not initiate a state tort claim against a state entity in federal court. See e.g. Gaskins v. South Carolina, C/A No. 8:15-4456-JMC-JDA, 2016 WL 8677201, at *3 (D.S.C. Jan. 8, 2016) (observing that a claim sought to be filed initially in federal court under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act “is not permitted in this federal court because of the Eleventh Amendment”), adopted by 2016 WL 3207855 (D.S.C. June 10, 2016); cf. Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613, 622 (2002) (holding that a State that voluntarily invokes the jurisdiction ...

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