United States District Court, D. South Carolina
ORDER AND NOTICE
V. HODGES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Santa McCray (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and
in forma pauperis, filed this complaint against the
defendants alleging violations of his constitutional and
statutory rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e)
(D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such
complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations
to the district judge.
Factual and Procedural Background
is an inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution
(“Lieber”) and brings this action against a
number of Lieber and South Carolina Department of Corrections
(“SCDC”) employees in both their individual and
official capacities. Plaintiff alleges the defendants
impermissibly burdened the free exercise of his religion by
preventing him from gathering with other Wiccans and denying
him access to necessary essential oils from April 2018 to
February 2019. [ECF No. 1 at 6-13]. Plaintiff also alleges
the defendants denied him recreation and access to the courts
during this time, failed to maintain adequate staffing
levels, and placed him in a cell with an inmate with
shingles. Id. at 16-25. Plaintiff further asserts
the defendants conspired to violate his rights, acted with
racial animus, and retaliated against him. See Id.
at 7-26. Plaintiff requests monetary damages. Id. at
Standard of Review
filed his complaint 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. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous
or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d
1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with
liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant
to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In
evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's
allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of
N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated
liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that
if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a
valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should
do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction
does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in
the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently
cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir.
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the court must
liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States
Supreme Court has made it clear a plaintiff must do more than
make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677‒78 (2009); Bell
Atlantic 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, and the reviewing court need only accept as true the
complaint's factual allegations, not its legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678‒79.
state a plausible claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. §
1983,  an aggrieved party must sufficiently
allege he was injured by “the deprivation of any [of
his or her] rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
[United States] Constitution and laws” by a
“person” acting “under color of state
law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see
generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1230 (3d ed.
2014). Plaintiff fails to support his claim with any facts,
let alone sufficient facts to state a plausible § 1983
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Eleventh Amendment provides, “[t]he Judicial power of
the United States shall not be construed to extend to any
suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of
the United States by Citizens of another State, or by
Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const.
amend. XI. The United States Supreme Court has long held the
Eleventh Amendment also precludes suits against a state by
one of its own citizens. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415
U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). This immunity extends not only to
suits against a state per se, but also to suits against
agents and instrumentalities of the state. Cash v.
Granville Cnty. Bd. of Ed., 242 F.3d 219, 222 (4th Cir.
the defendants in this case are employees of the state, while
acting in their official capacities, they are considered an
arm of the state and not a “person” within the
meaning § 1983. See Pennington v. Kershaw Cnty.,
S.C., No. 3:12-1509-JFA-SVH, 2013 WL 2423120, at *4
(D.S.C. June 4, 2013) (citing S.C. Code Ann. § 4-1-10
and applying the Eleventh Amendment to a county as “a
political subdivision of the State”); Chisolm v.
Cannon, C/A No. 4:02-3473-RBH, 2006 WL 361375, at *5-6
(D.S.C. Feb. 15, 2006) (finding Charleston County Detention
Center entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as an arm of
the state); Cone v. Nettles, 417 S.E.2d 523, 525
(S.C. 1992) (employees of a county Sheriff are state
officials); s ...