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Addison v. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

July 10, 2019

Jerome Addison, Plaintiff,
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Mark A. Keel, Director, Defendants.



         Jerome Addison (“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. Plaintiff is a state inmate in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) and is currently incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Institution. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C., the undersigned Magistrate Judge is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Judge. Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, and for the reasons below, the undersigned finds this action is subject to summary dismissal without issuance and service of process.


         The Court takes judicial notice[1] that Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for kidnapping and assault and battery with the intent to kill (“ABWIK”), after being convicted and sentenced in the Charleston County Court of General Sessions in September 1997. See State v. Addison, 525 S.E.2d 901, 902 (S.C. Ct. App. 1999), aff'd, 540 S.E.2d 449 (S.C. 2000). Plaintiff has filed numerous prior actions in this Court, including cases involving similar claims to those he now raises in this case.

         Plaintiff's handwritten Complaint is difficult to decipher. Plaintiff contends Defendants deprived him of procedural due process and falsely arrested him in violation of the United States Constitution. [Doc. 1 at 1-3.] Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested on September 7, 1997, and was incarcerated for a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for kidnapping and ABWIK. [Id. at 2.] According to Plaintiff, Defendants unlawfully restrained him and deprive him of his liberties. [Id.] Plaintiff contends Defendants “fail[ed] to disseminate report criminal act of (ABWIK) [and] kidnapping.” [Id. at 3.] Plaintiff also contends Defendants “fail[ed] to make available for public inspection procedures for redress of grievances for inmates.” [Id.] For his relief, Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief to expunge his criminal record, and compensatory and punitive damages. [Id.]


         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, Plaintiff is a prisoner under the definition in 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 Plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this Court would be charged with screening Plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to dismiss the Complaint if (1) it were frivolous, malicious, or failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (2) if it sought monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, his 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, 94 (2007). However, even under this less stringent standard, Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to summary dismissal. 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 Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). 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).


         Plaintiff filed his Complaint 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).

         Although the Court must liberally construe the pro se Complaint and Plaintiff is not required to plead facts sufficient to prove his case as an evidentiary matter in the Complaint, the Complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (explaining that a plaintiff may proceed into the litigation process only when his complaint is justified by both law and fact); cf. Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 530 (2011) (holding that plaintiff need not pin his claim for relief to precise legal theory). “A claim has ‘facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 388 (4th Cir. 2014).

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff brings suit against the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”) and its Director, Mark A. Keel, alleging violations of the United States Constitution. [Doc. 1.] This case is subject to summary dismissal based on the doctrine set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and because Defendants are immune from suit, as explained below.

         Plaintiff's Claims are Barred by Heck

         Here, the entire Complaint should be dismissed because it is frivolous. While the crux of this action appears to be a challenge to Plaintiff's custody in SCDC as unlawful, it appears that Plaintiff seeks monetary damages because of Defendants' allegedly unlawful actions. To the extent Plaintiff may be seeking release from the custody of SCDC, release from prison is not available in this civil rights action. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. at 481 (stating that “habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even though such a claim may come within the literal terms of § 1983”); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487-88 (1973) (explaining a challenge to the duration of confinement is within the core of habeas corpus). In this action, however, because Plaintiff is seeking money ...

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