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Thomas v. Walsh

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

June 6, 2019

Rashaad Thomas, Plaintiff,
Michael Walsh, Spencer Smith, Esq. Defendants.


          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge.

         The plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Constitutional rights (doc. 1). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C., this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in this case and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.

         The plaintiff's case was entered on the docket on May 15, 2019 (doc. 1). By order dated May 21, 2019, the undersigned informed the plaintiff that his case was not in proper form (doc. 7). On June 3, 2019, the plaintiff submitted additional documents, and the case is now in proper form for judicial screening. Having reviewed the plaintiff's complaint, the undersigned recommends it be dismissed.


         The plaintiff brings the instant action seeking damages as a result of two criminal convictions in the Spartanburg County Court of General Sessions (doc. 1). The court takes judicial notice of the plaintiff's proceedings in the General Sessions Court of Spartanburg County, as well as a pending post-conviction relief (“PCR”) action pending in the Spartanburg County Court of Common Pleas.[1] See Spartanburg County Public Index, spartanburg/publicindex/, (enter the plaintiff's name and 2016A4210104742, 2016A4210104743, 2016A4210104744) (last visited June 6, 2019). Here, the plaintiff has named as defendants Assistant Solicitor Spencer Smith, and charging officer Michael Walsh (doc. 1). The plaintiff, a state prisoner in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections currently housed at Lieber Correctional Institution, alleges that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the defendants (id. at 4). He also contends that the defendants' actions violated several South Carolina statutes: 23-17-90 (regarding illegal arrest); 17-13-50 (regarding behavior required of officers during an arrest); and 23-17-20 (defining breach of duty by an officer) (id.). Although the sequence of events is difficult to decipher from the plaintiff's pleading, he contends that at some point Asst. Sol. Smith told Off. Walsh that he lacked probable cause to arrest the plaintiff, but Off. Walsh ignored him and arrested the plaintiff on April 11, 2017 (id. at 4-5). The plaintiff contends that the arrest by Off. Walsh was made under false pretenses (id. at 14). The plaintiff also contends that Asst. Sol. Smith's decision to continue prosecuting the case against the plaintiff-after telling Walsh that there was no probable cause to make the arrest-constituted malicious prosecution (id.). For relief, the plaintiff seeks a declaration that the defendants violated his rights, $108, 768.00 in damages, additional punitive damages, a jury trial, costs, and any additional relief the court deems just (id. at 6, 14).


         The plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Further, the plaintiff is a prisoner under the definition of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), and “seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Thus, even if the plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this Court is charged with screening the plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to dismiss the complaint if (1) it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         As a pro se litigant, the plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (per curiam). 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, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         This complaint is filed 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)). A civil action under § 1983 “creates a private right of action to vindicate violations of ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 361 (2012). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (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).


         As noted above, the plaintiff filed the instant action pursuant to § 1983 and seeking damages from the defendants. For the reasons that follow, the instant matter is subject to summary dismissal.[2]

         The plaintiff's complaint is barred by Heck v. Humphrey

         With respect to the plaintiff's accusations that his rights were violated when he was arrested by Off. Walsh, as well as during the subsequent prosecution by Asst. Sol. Smith, his claims are currently barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the United States Supreme Court held that in order to recover damages for imprisonment in violation of the Constitution, the imprisonment must first be successfully challenged. The Court stated:

We hold that, in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, . . . a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim ...

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