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Campbell v. Bennett

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

September 23, 2019

Charles R. Campbell, Plaintiff,
Ms. Hollie S. Bennett; Dr. Karen K. Shelton; The Honorable Tony M. Jones; Ms. Catherine A. Stone; Mr. Charlton B. Hall; Ms. Emily H. Farr; Mr. Dean Grigg; Ms. Christa T. Bell; Mr. David B. Love; Board of Examiners in Pyschology; South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation; Ms. Shirley A. Vickery; South Carolina Bar; South Carolina Bar Board of Governors; Mr. M. Dawes Cooke, Jr.; Ms. Beverly A. Carroll; Dr. J. Patrick Goldsmith, Defendants.


          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge


         Plaintiff, Charles R. Campbell, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his right to due process and right to counsel arising out of his divorce proceeding. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (ECF No. 1). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the case was referred to the Magistrate Judge. The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that Plaintiff’s complaint should be summarily dismissed with prejudice and without issuance and service of process. (ECF No. 9). The Report sets forth, in detail, the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation. The Magistrate Judge required Plaintiff to file objections by June 12, 2019 (ECF No. 9), and Plaintiff timely filed his Objections in two parts (ECF No. 12, 18). Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief. (ECF No. 19). Accordingly, the Complaint is ripe for review.


         The district court is required to conduct a de novo review only of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge’s Report to which objections are made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also Carniewski v. W.Va. Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Magistrate Judge’s Report, this Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the Report. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Thus, the Court must only review those portions of the Report to which Plaintiff has made specific written objections. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005).

         “An objection is specific if it ‘enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues- factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties’ dispute.’” Dunlap v. TM Trucking of the Carolinas, LLC, No. 0:15-cv-04009-JMC, 2017 WL 6345402, at *5 n.6 (D.S.C. Dec. 12, 2017) (citing One Parcel of Real Prop. Known as 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996)). A specific objection to the Magistrate Judge’s Report thus requires more than a reassertion of arguments from the Complaint or a mere citation to legal authorities. See Workman v. Perry, No. 6:17-cv-00765-RBH, 2017 WL 4791150, at *1 (D.S.C. Oct. 23, 2017). A specific objection must “direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate’s proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).

         “Generally stated, nonspecific objections have the same effect as would a failure to object.” Staley v. Norton, No. 9:07-0288-PMD, 2007 WL 821181, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 2, 2007) (citing Howard v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)). The Court reviews portions “not objected to-including those portions to which only ‘general and conclusory’ objections have been made-for clear error.” Id. (emphasis added) (citing Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby, 718 F.2d at 200; Orpiano, 687 F.2d at 47).

         Where an objection is “nonspecific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, or merely restate[s] . . . claims, ” the Court need not conduct any further review of that objection. Field v. McMaster, 663 F.Supp.2d 449, 452 (D.S.C. 2009); see also McNeil v. S.C. Dept. of Corrections, No. 5:12-2880-MGL, 2013 WL 1102881, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 15, 2013) (finding petitioner’s objections to be without merit where the objections were “non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the Magistrate Judge’s Report, and consist[ed] of a reassertion of the arguments” made in the petition); Arbogast v. Spartanburg Cty., No. 07:11-cv-00198-GRA, 2011 WL 5827635, at *2 (D.S.C. Nov. 17, 2011) (finding that plaintiff’s objections were not specific where the objections were “general and conclusory in that they merely reassert[ed] that his conviction was wrongful.”).


         In the Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends summary dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims because they are frivolous as they lack an arguable basis in either law or fact. (ECF No. 9). Briefly, Plaintiff’s claims arise out of Plaintiff’s divorce from his ex-wife and the termination of his parental rights. In the Final Order and Decree of Divorce, Plaintiff was barred from visiting or contacting his three children. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff claims he was denied due process during the parental evaluation phase of the divorce proceedings, and as such, the family court judgment should be reversed by this Court. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff seeks damages from the Defendants and various forms of injunctive relief. (ECF No. 1).

         A. Plaintiff’s Claims Against Five Defendants Should be Dismissed Because They are Not State Actors.

         In his complaint, Plaintiff has named Ms. Hollie Bennett, guardian ad litem appointed by the family court, Dr. Karen K. Shelton, a psychologist in private practice, Ms. Catherine A Stone, social worker, Mr. Charlton B. Hall, a therapist, and Dr. J. Patrick Goldsmith, a psychologist in private practice. To be successful on a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish 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). The Magistrate Judge found that there was no indication that these Defendants performed conduct on behalf of or in the interest of the State. (ECF No. 9). As such, the Magistrate Judge concluded Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims against these Defendants should be dismissed because these Defendants are not subject to suit under that statute. (ECF No. 9).

         In his Objections, Plaintiff asserts that Bennett meets the public function test and nexus/joint action test. (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff argues Bennett meets the public function test because Bennett performed solely public functions as a protective order concerning the children’s neglect, need, or danger was never an issue in his case. (ECF No. 18). Also, Plaintiff asserts Bennett meets the requirements of the nexus/joint action test. (ECF No. 18). Although the public function test and nexus/joint function test can be used to determine whether a private party qualifies as a state actor, it has been established that guardian ad litem are not state actors. “Guardian ad litem are not state actors for purposes of § 1983, because they give their ‘undivided loyalty to the minor, not the state.” Parkell v. South Carolina, 687 F.Supp.2d 576, 587 (D.S.C. 2009); See Higdon v. Smith, 565 F. App’x 791, 793 (11th Cir. 2014); See also Meeker v. Kercher, 782 F.2d 153, 155 (10th Cir. 1986). Therefore, the Court dismisses Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant, Bennett, because Bennett is not subject to suit under § 1983.

         Similarly, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Defendant, Dr. Karen Shelton, was also not a state actor and as such, not subject to suit. Plaintiff quotes portions of Shelton’s services contract to prove that her conduct meets the public function test because she stated her work is done “for the Court.” (ECF No. 18). However, Shelton is a psychologist in private practice and was retained by the parties. (ECF No. 9). Plaintiff’s argument concerning Shelton’s status is unpersuasive. ...

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