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Harrell v. Stirling

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

September 12, 2019

David B. Harrell, Jr., # 260004, Plaintiff,
Bryan Stirling and Martin Frink, Defendants.



         This is a civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff David Harrell is a state prisoner representing himself and proceeding in forma pauperis. Under Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review the complaint and to submit a recommendation to the United States District Judge. For the following reasons, the undersigned recommends the complaint be summarily dismissed, in part.


         Harrell is a South Carolina state prisoner. Defendant Brian Stirling is the director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Defendant Martin Frink is the warden of a prison in Mississippi.

         Until last year, Harrell was confined in a state-run prison in South Carolina. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1.) Last December, however, he was transferred to Frink's prison in Mississippi. (Id. at 5.) Harrell alleges he was transferred without any notice, hearing, or explanation. (Id. at 5, 11-12.) He further alleges he was targeted for transfer because he is black. According to Harrell, he is one of forty-eight prisoners transferred to Mississippi; forty-five are black, and only three are white. (Id. at 15.) Twenty-seven are black inmates from maximum-security prisons; none are white maximum-security prisoners. (Id.) Harrell also alleges that, by being transferred, he has been denied opportunities to participate in character-based units and to receive the benefits that come with participating in those units. (Id. at 14.) Finally, he alleges that his long-distance transfer has made it hard for people to visit him, making his transfer a “de facto elimination” of visitation rights. (Id. at 10).

         Harrell asserts he has been denied due process, equal protection, and access to the courts. (Dkt. No. 1 at 4.) He bases his claims the First, Sixth, Eighth, Tenth, Twelfth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as South Carolina law and South Carolina Department of Corrections policies. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2.) He seeks damages, an injunction, and a declaratory judgment. (Id.)


         Harrell commenced this case in June 2019 by filing his complaint along with one from another prisoner, Warren Russell. (Dkt. No. 1.) After the Court severed Russell's claims from the case (Dkt. No. 8), the undersigned issued an order notifying Harrell that portions of his complaint were subject to summary dismissal for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 12.) The undersigned provided Harrell an opportunity to amend his complaint and notified him that, if he did not cure the defects in his complaint, she would recommend it be partially summarily dismissed. (Id. at 4.)

         In lieu of changing the allegations in his complaint, Harrell has resubmitted it. (Dkt. No. 19.) Harrell has also submitted a letter saying he disagrees with the undersigned's assessment of “what claims are subject to summary Judgement.” (Dkt. No. 18 at 1.) This case is therefore ripe for initial screening.


         The granting of in forma pauperis status in a case triggers a district court's duty to “sift out claims that Congress found not to warrant extended judicial treatment.” Nagy v. FMC Butner, 376 F.3d 252, 256 (4th Cir. 2004). The Court must dismiss any cases that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Those same criteria are grounds for dismissing a case filed by a prisoner. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         As to failure to state a claim, a complaint filed in federal court “‘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)). The court need not, however, accept as true a complaint's legal conclusions. Id. When “it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations, ” Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), the complaint fails to state a claim.

         Because Harrell is pro se, the undersigned has screened the complaint liberally and considered whether it includes any potential grounds for relief. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). That does not mean, however, the Court can ignore a clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. Beaud ...

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