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Blakney v. Pate

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

September 10, 2019

Larry Blakney, Plaintiff,
v.
Officer B. Pate, Defendant.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge.

         The plaintiff, a pretrial detainee 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 complaint was entered on the docket on August 15, 2019 (doc. 1). By order filed August 16, 2019, the plaintiff was given a specific time frame in which to bring his case into proper form for judicial screening (doc. 7). The plaintiff complied with the Court's Order, bringing his case into proper form. Nevertheless, as set forth below, the plaintiff's complaint is subject to summary dismissal.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee in the Darlington County Detention Center (“DCDC”) (doc. 1 at 1). He alleges that the defendant, Off. Pate, violated his constitutional rights when he “deprived” the plaintiff of $997.00 that was in his possession when he was arrested (id. at 3). The plaintiff alleges that Off. Pate wrongfully took the plaintiff's money even though he was arrested on a warrant that had “nothing to do with money” (id. At 4). He contends that the DCDC has the incident on camera and that the footage shows Off. Pate walking away with the plaintiff's money (id. at 5).

         For injuries, the plaintiff contends that he has suffered loss of property/money as well as humiliation and mental anguish (doc. 1-2 at 2). For relief, the plaintiff seeks a declaration that Off. Pate violated his rights, an injunction requiring the plaintiff's money be returned to him, along with compensatory and punitive damages (doc. 1-4).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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).

         DISCUSSION

         The plaintiff filed the instant action pursuant to § 1983, seeking damages from the defendants. For the reasons that follow, the instant matter is subject to summary dismissal. As noted above, the plaintiff alleges that Off. Pate violated his constitutional rights when he “deprived” the plaintiff of $997.00, even though the plaintiff was arrested on a warrant that had “nothing to do with money” (doc. 1 at 3-4). He contends that DCDC video surveillance shows Off. Pate counting the plaintiff's money before leaving with it (id. at 5). The United States Supreme Court has explicitly recognized that deprivations of an inmate's personal property do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Mora v. City of Gaithersburg, 519 F.3d 216, 230-31 (4th Cir. 2008) (holding that deprivations of personal property by corrections officials are not constitutional violations so long as there are post-deprivation remedies). South Carolina has such remedial procedures in place. See S.C. Code Ann. § 15-78-10 et seq. As such, the plaintiff cannot pursue his deprivation of property claim in this court.

         RECOMMENDATION

         The undersigned is of the opinion that the plaintiff cannot cure the defects identified above by amending his complaint. See Goode v. Cent. Va. Legal Aid Soc'y, 807 F.3d 619, 623 (4th Cir. 2015). As noted in more detail above, because the plaintiff can seek return of his property through the state court, the deprivation of his property does not give rise to a constitutional deprivation. Thus, the undersigned recommends that the court decline to automatically give the plaintiff leave to amend his complaint. Accordingly, based upon the foregoing, the Court recommends that the District Court dismiss ...


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