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Shuler v. State

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

May 31, 2019

Melodie Shuler, Plaintiff,
State of South Carolina; Sheriff Leroy Ravenell; Captain Antonia Turkvant; Laquetta Sumpter; Samuel Daily; Derrick Dash; Diane Goodstein; Winnifa B. Clark, Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Melodie Shuler, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action. The Complaint has been filed 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

         This matter arises out of a domestic violence incident in Orangeburg County in which Plaintiff claims that she and her minor children were abused by her ex-husband, but Plaintiff was criminally charged by the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office. (Compl., ECF No. 3 at 5.) Plaintiff claims that throughout her criminal prosecution, various government actors, including the Sheriff's Office, judges, and court officials, withheld or deprived Plaintiff of documents and information necessary for her defense against the criminal charges.

         Plaintiff claims that on January 12, 2016, Magistrate Samuel Daily refused to provide Plaintiff with the name of the court, which prevented Plaintiff from writing a caption for her motion for discovery. (Id. ¶ 80-1, ECF No. 3 at 14.) However, the next day, the clerk of court, LaQuetta Sumpter, told Plaintiff that the case was in the Orangeburg County Magistrate's Court, and Plaintiff was able to put a caption on her motion. (Id.) Plaintiff also claims that during her bond hearing, the magistrate refused to provide Plaintiff with a copy of “any information provided during the bond hearing, ” including the caption of the case and Plaintiff's “release status.” (Id. ¶ 80-2.) Plaintiff indicates that she was informed that the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office had that information on file. (Id.) Plaintiff attempted to file the motion for discovery in magistrate's court but it was rejected and Plaintiff was told to file the motion with the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office, which she did on January 15, 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 80-3, 80-4.)

         On January 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to shorten the response time to her discovery request in magistrate's court. (Id. ¶ 80-8, ECF No 3 at 15.) At some point, Magistrate Daily indicated to Plaintiff that he would not rule on Plaintiff's motion until the scheduled trial date, February 10, 2016. (Id.) On January 29, 2016, Plaintiff requested “a copy of the recordings” of an unspecified civil case from the Orangeburg County Magistrate's Court but was told by an unspecified person that she must make the request in writing. (Id. ¶ 80-9, ECF No. 3 at 16.)

         Captain Antonia Turkvant of the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office informed Plaintiff on January 29, 2016 that she would not provide Plaintiff a copy of the 911 call from the alleged victim in Plaintiff's criminal matter. (Id. ¶ 80-11.) On February 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to sanction and a motion for bill of particulars based on the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office's refusal to provide Plaintiff with material pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and South Carolina Rule of Criminal Procedure 5. (Id. ¶¶ 80-12, 80-13.) In the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff claimed that the thirty-two page fax sent to her by the Sheriff's Office was not sufficient. (Id. ¶ 80-12.)

         On February 11, 2016, Magistrate Daily denied Plaintiff's request to receive a copy of her criminal case file and the file of an unspecified civil case. (Id. ¶ 80-16.) Plaintiff filed requests for those files again on February 24, 2016, but she never received copies of the files. (Id. ¶ 80-17.)

         On March 4, 2016, Plaintiff requested a copy of the “recordings of the jury striking” from the same court for an unspecified case but Sumpter told Plaintiff that she had to make the request through Magistrate Daily. (Id. ¶ 80-10, ECF No. 3 at 16.) On March 21, Magistrate Derrick Dash held a hearing and ruled that Plaintiff could not have a copy of the jury selection list. (Id. ¶ 80-25, ECF No. 3 at 19.) Also in that hearing, Magistrate Dash told Plaintiff that an unspecified higher court issued a writ of mandamus that, presumably, directed that Plaintiff be given a copy of the jury selection list. (Id. ¶¶ 80-25, 80-27.) In a telephone conversation with Magistrate Dash on April 5, 2016, Plaintiff informed Dash that “no orders were issued by the higher court in regards to the Writ of Mandamus” but Dash did not believe Plaintiff, became belligerent with Plaintiff, and threatened to call the police for Plaintiff's “telephone misuse.” (Id. ¶ 80-27.)

         On April 6, 2016, Magistrate Dash issued a show cause order because Plaintiff did not appear in court on the day of her trial. (Id. ¶ 80-29.) Plaintiff claims that Magistrate Dash knew Plaintiff did not intentionally miss the trial and did not have the financial ability to pay the fine. (Id.) However, Plaintiff also alleges the court system lacks jurisdiction to demand she travel to South Carolina for court proceedings. (Id. ¶ 143, ECF No. 3 at 37.)

         Plaintiff further claims that from April 2016 to November 2016, State Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein refused to schedule a hearing date for Plaintiff's appeal of her criminal conviction[1]because Judge Goodstein claimed that Plaintiff never filed an appeal or a motion for a new trial. (Id. ¶ 80-39, ECF No. 3 at 27.) Additionally, Plaintiff claims Judge Goodstein called Child Protective Services to report her concern for Plaintiff's children because Plaintiff “made no sense” in what she said to the court. (Id.) Plaintiff claims Judge Goodstein eventually remanded the case to magistrate's court for resentencing after the clerk's office of the magistrate's court admitted to not mailing the final order, which prevented Plaintiff's ability to appeal. (Id.) However, the magistrate court refused to schedule a new sentencing hearing. (Id.) Plaintiff also claims the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Winnifa B. Clark, “refused to follow procedural rules” by refusing to file Plaintiff's appeal and requests for appointment of counsel based on Plaintiff's failure to pay the filing fees. (Id. ¶ 80-40.)

         On August 20, 2018, Plaintiff stood in the clerk's office of an Orangeburg County court building and criticized Magistrate Dash's ruling in front of Dash and Sumpter. (Id. ¶ 142, ECF No. 3 at 37.) Plaintiff claims Magistrate Dash accused Plaintiff of committing a criminal offense, ordered Sumpter to call the police, and “chased” Plaintiff out of the building. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed this action alleging violations of her constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985; violations of the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) S.C. Code Ann. §§ 30-4-10 et seq.; and state tort claims against the defendants, seeking damages.[2] Plaintiff also raises forty-one separate claims of legal error by the magistrate's court and sheriff's office in Plaintiff's criminal proceeding. (Id. ¶ 95, ECF No. 3 at 21-27.) The issues raise, among other things, questions of whether the magistrate's court properly ruled on Plaintiff's pretrial motions; whether the court had jurisdiction; whether the magistrate erred by denying Plaintiff's motion to recuse; whether Plaintiff was denied Brady material; whether the magistrate erred in denying Plaintiff's post-trial motions; whether Plaintiff was denied the right to a speedy trial and a jury trial; and whether evidence was properly admitted. (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims the refusal by Defendants Ravenell, Turkvant, Daily, Dash, and Sumpter to provide Plaintiff with information and documents related to Plaintiff's criminal case violated FOIA; the First Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. (Id. ¶¶ 78-80, 93-94; ECF No. 3 at 13-21.) Plaintiff also claims that Defendants Dash and Sumpter retaliated against Plaintiff and violated her First Amendment rights by attempting to arrest her for criticizing Dash in the clerk's office of the courthouse. (Id. ¶¶ 142-43, ECF No. 3 at 37.) Additionally, Plaintiff claims Defendants Daily, Dash, and Sumpter have demonstrated bias in the court proceedings and racial animus against Plaintiff because she is African American. (Id. ¶ 145, ECF No. 3 at 39.) Further, Plaintiff claims Defendants Goodstein and Clark violated Plaintiff's right to due process. (Id. ¶ 95-39, ECF No. 3 at 27.)

         II. ...

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