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LaLone v. Thompson

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

July 2, 2019

Jesse Vernon LaLone, Plaintiff,
Sheriff Philip Thompson, et al., Defendants.



         This action has been filed by Plaintiff, pro se and in forma pauperis, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 17). Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), D.S.C., all pretrial matters in cases involving pro se litigants are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for consideration. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends granting Defendants' motion.


         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee housed at J. Reuben Long Detention Center (the “Detention Center”). (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff filed the instant case on November 30, 2018, alleging that Defendants violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when they held a hearing regarding Plaintiff's destruction of certain county property and failed to give Plaintiff proper notice or time to prepare his defense. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 11-13.) Specifically, the Complaint alleges that on December 22, 2017, “due to being placed in a lock down cell with severe mental issues, [Plaintiff broke] the porcelain sink and toilet and the window, [and] then cut [him]self. “ (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff went to the hospital for approximately five days, and he was placed on maximum security when he returned. (Id.) The Complaint alleges that on January 10, 2018, Plaintiff “was served an infraction for destruction of county property over $50 dollars, then within 30 minutes [Plaintiff] was given a hearing. Within 30 minutes after the hearing, $754.62 was taken from [Plaintiff'] jail account.” (Id. at 12.) The Complaint alleges these proceedings did not comply with prison policy, which allegedly require: (1) a hearing within 72 hours of the incident or notification of an extension in writing; and (2) 24-hour notice in advance of the hearing. (Id.) Plaintiff has attached to his Complaint his “Account Summary” for the time period of November 9, 2017 (the date he arrived at the Detention Center) through November 30, 2018. (Id. at 20.) The Account Summary shows that $754.62 dollars were deducted from Plaintiff's account on January 10, 2018 for “damage to sink, toilet and door in B2-237.” (Id.)

         The Complaint alleges that Defendant Sargent Sandra Lowe did not “notify [Plaintiff] in writing about an extension for [his] hearing and . . . gave [Plaintiff] a hearing within 30 minutes.” (Id. at 5.) The Complaint alleges that Major Johnny Johnson “gave the order to violate the facility's procedures and gave the order to violate Plaintiff's” due process rights. (Id. at 6.) The Complaint further alleges that Defendant Director Wayne Owens “was fully aware of both Defendant Johnson and Defendant Lowe's actions [and] did nothing, ” and that Defendant Sheriff Philip Thompson ignored Plaintiff's requests that he “intervene on the Defendants' actions.” (Id.)

         The Complaint alleges a § 1983 claim for violation of Plaintiff's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Dkt. No. 1 at 4.) The Complaint seeks declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. at 9.) Specifically, it asks the Court for a declaration that “the acts and omissions described herein violate his rights under the constitution and laws of the United States.” (Id. at 7.) The Complaint also seeks injunctive relief to order “all named defendants . . . to stop their further harassment of the Plaintiff.” (Id. at 15.) Finally, the Complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id.)


         A. Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

         Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe his pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. The mandated liberal construction means that only if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the complainant could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the complainant's legal arguments for him. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court “conjure up questions never squarely presented.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Dismissal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a claim should be dismissed if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a motion to dismiss, the court should “accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). However, the court “need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from the facts” nor “accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). Further, for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may rely on only the complaint's allegations and those documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference. See Simons v. Montgomery Cty. Police Officers, 762 F.2d 30, 31 (4th Cir. 1985). If matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion is treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).


         As discussed above, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his due process rights in connection with the hearing which resulted in the deduction of $754.62 from Plaintiff's inmate account. Defendants assert that this action should be dismissed because any claims brought against Defendants in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and Plaintiff has failed to state a plausible due process claim for which relief can be granted against them in their individual capacities. (Dkt. No. 17 at 2-3.) The undersigned considers these arguments, below.

         A. ...

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