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Parson v. Miles

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

June 21, 2019

Arnold Parson Jr., Plaintiff,
Darren Miles, Supervisor Judy Barker, Officer Jack McCaskill, Officer Mitchell McCaskill, Officer Charlie Watson, Officer Dewayne Rogers, Officer Jeff Gause, Officer Samantha Jackson, Officer Johnathan Edwards, Officer Robert Page, Officer Michael Latu, Officer Dale Sylvester, Officer Tracey Causey, and Officer Greg Pike, Defendants.


          R. Bryan Harwell, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Arnold Parson Jr., proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the above-captioned Defendants. The matter is before the Court for consideration of the parties' objections to the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West, who recommends granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint.[1] See ECF No. 189.

         Legal Standard

          The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R & R to which specific objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

         The Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).


         Plaintiff filed this § 1983 action alleging Defendants violated his constitutional rights when executing a writ of assistance and removing him from his foreclosed property in Mullins, South Carolina, on November 2, 2015. The Court previously granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's motion to amend and permitting the filing of his Third Amended Complaint. See ECF No. 159 (order); ECF No. 161 (Third Am. Compl.). As explained in that prior order (ECF No. 159), Plaintiff's sole remaining claim is his § 1983 excessive force claim relating to his allegedly excessively tight handcuffing during his arrest.[2]

         Defendants have now filed a motion to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (2), and (6).[3] See ECF No. 166. The Magistrate Judge recommends granting the motion as to Plaintiff's official capacity claims and denying it as to his individual capacity claims. See R & R [ECF No. 189]. Plaintiff and Defendants have both filed objections to the R & R. See ECF Nos. 192 & 194. Plaintiff has filed a response to Defendants' objections. See ECF No. 196.

         I. Plaintiff's Objections

         Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that Defendants are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as to the official capacity claims.[4] See Pl.'s Objs. [ECF No. 194]; R & R at pp. 3-4.

         “[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983, ” Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989), as “Eleventh Amendment[5] immunity protects the States, their agencies, and officials from suit in federal court.” Allen v. Cooper, 895 F.3d 337, 347 (4th Cir. 2018). “This jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought.” Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984).[6]

         Here, the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff's claims for declaratory relief and monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities because they are state officials, i.e., agents/employees of the Marion County Sheriff's Department. See generally Gulledge v. Smart, 878 F.2d 379, 1989 WL 69302, at *2 (4th Cir. 1989) (“In South Carolina a sheriff, and his deputies, are state actors. A suit against them in federal court in their official capacities is therefore barred by the [E]leventh [A]mendment.” (internal citation omitted)); Brown v. Middleton, 362 Fed.Appx. 340, 346 n.8 (4th Cir. 2010) (same); Edwards v. Lexington Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 688 S.E.2d 125, 127 n.1 (S.C. 2010) (“[U]nder South Carolina law, the sheriff and sheriff's deputies are State, not county, employees.”). The Court will overrule Plaintiff's objections and dismiss his official capacity claims without prejudice.[7]

         II. Defendants' Objections

         Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that they are not entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiff's individual capacity claims. See Defs.' Objs. [ECF No. 192]; R & R at pp. 4-5. Defendants assert the Magistrate Judge failed to consider two cases from the Eastern District of Virginia[8] that-according to Defendants-“undeniably” hold “Plaintiff's alleged right to be free from excessively ...

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