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White v. Hamby

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 20, 2019

Roy Leonard White, Plaintiff,
John Hamby; Chief Tollison; and Capt. Murray, Defendants.


          Kaymani D. West, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Roy Leonard White (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is an inmate incarcerated at Greenville County Detention Center. He filed this Complaint alleging a violation of his constitutional rights by Easley Police Detective John Hamby, Chief of Police Tollison, and Captain Murray. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the Complaint without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants “put a hold” on him while he was incarcerated at Kirkland R&E Center without checking to see if the charge was satisfied. ECF No. 1 at 5. Plaintiff claims “[t]hen upon informing the Detective He still served the warrant on me and Easley County jail employees held me illegally.” Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff 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).

         Pro se 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. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         In an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on an unreasonable seizure, “a public official cannot be charged with false arrest when he arrests a defendant pursuant to a facially valid warrant.” Porterfield v. Lott, 156 F.3d 563, 568 (4th Cir. 1998); Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem, 85 F.3d 178, 181-82 (4th Cir. 1996) (explaining when arresting official makes the arrest with a facially valid warrant it is not false arrest). Arresting officers are generally entitled to rely on a facially valid warrant in effecting an arrest because the officer's duty is not to assess guilt or innocence, but merely to serve the warrant:

A reasonable division of functions between law enforcement officers, committing magistrates, and judicial officers-all of whom may be potential defendants in a § 1983 action-is entirely consistent with “due process of law.” Given the requirements that arrest be made only on probable cause and that one detained be accorded a speedy trial, we do not think a sheriff executing an arrest warrant is required by the Constitution to investigate independently every claim of innocence, whether the claim is based on mistaken identity or a defense such as lack of requisite intent. Nor is the official charged with maintaining custody of the accused named in the warrant required by the Constitution to perform an error-free investigation of such a claim. The ultimate determination of such claims of innocence is placed in the hands of the judge and the jury.

Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145-46 (1979) (footnote omitted).

         In support of his complaint, Plaintiff submitted arrest warrant 2015A2330206104 for vehicle/possession, conceal, sell, or dispose of stolen vehicle, value $2, 000 or less (Enhancement per 3614) that was issued on July 18, 2015. ECF No. 1-2 at 4. The 2015A2330206104 arrest warrant was served on Plaintiff on July 24, 2015. Id. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to these charges on September 1, 2016, and was sentenced to five years. Id. at 5. Plaintiff also submitted arrest warrant 2015A3920400829 for Grand Larceny Over $2000, Less Than $10, 000, Enhancement 16-13-30, that was issued on July 15, 2015. Id. at 1. The 2015A3920400829 arrest warrant was served on Plaintiff on December 29, 2017. Id. On June 22, 2018, the charges associated with warrant number 2015A3920400829 were dismissed, and the bench warrant issued under the warrant was recalled on June 28, 2018. Id. at 2-3.

         The undersigned finds Plaintiff has failed to establish any basis for alleging his arrest was unlawful. Plaintiff has not provided any evidence to undermine the validity of the 2015A3920400829 arrest warrant, and his allegation that he informed the detective that he had already served time for the warrant is insufficient to challenge the warrant's facial validity. See Carter v. Baltimore Cnty., Md.,95 Fed.Appx. 471, 479 (4th Cir. 2004) (finding probable cause exists when a defendant is named in a facially valid bench warrant, and any Fourth Amendment argument arising out of the arrest is without merit even if the bench warrant later turns out to be invalid); Mann v. Township of Hamilton, Civ. No. 90-3377, 1991 WL 87586, at *2 (D.N.J. May 20, 1991) (holding a police officer who ...

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