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Hawkins v. McFadden

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

September 30, 2019

James C. Hawkins, Plaintiff,
v.
Cpt. James McFadden, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Plaintiff James Hawkins (“Hawkins”), proceeding pro se, filed this action (“Complaint”) (ECF No. 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendant Cpt. Johnathan McFadden (“McFadden”)[1] used excessive force against him in violation of his constitutional rights. (ECF No. 1.) McFadden filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on February 8, 2019. (ECF No. 45.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02, the matter was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for pre-trial handling. On July 1, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 78) recommending that the court grant McFadden's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 45), but only to a certain extent.

         This review considers McFadden's Objections to the Report and Recommendation (“Objections”) filed on July 15, 2019. (ECF Nos. 81, 82.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 78), and GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART McFadden's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 45). Specifically, the court GRANTS McFadden's Motion for Summary Judgment only to the extent that any state law claims and any § 1983 claims for deliberate indifference against McFadden are dismissed. In addition, any § 1983 claims brought against McFadden in his official capacity are also dismissed. However, the court DENIES McFadden's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Hawkins' § 1983 excessive force claim against McFadden in his individual capacity.

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate Judge's factual synopsis is accurate and incorporates it by reference. This court will thus focus on the facts pertinent to the analysis of McFadden's Objections.

         On February 27, 2018, Hawkins was attacked by another inmate, inmate Jackson (“Jackson”), without provocation while sitting at a table. (ECF No. 1 at 5; ECF No. 45-4.) In response to the attack, Hawkins began to physically attack Jackson and a brawl ensued between them. (Id.) Sergeant Robia Matthews-Benjamin (“Sgt. Matthews-Benjamin”) immediately responded to the altercation and “commanded the inmates to stop, but neither responded to [her] commands.” (ECF No. 45-5 at 1 ¶ 2.) Sgt. Matthews-Benjamin tased Jackson, pulled Hawkins out of the way, and radioed for back up. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Eventually, McFadden entered the room and intervened. Hawkins alleges that “as [he] was walking away from the scene, and back to [his cell], [McFadden] grabbed [him] from behind snatching [his] uniform while [he] was still in full restraints.” (ECF No. 1-2.) Hawkins further alleges that “[McFadden] slammed [him] on the iron table, and started punching [him] in [the] head, face, ribs, back of the neck…and choked [him].” Hawkins seeks damages from McFadden in his official and individual capacities. (ECF No. 1 at 2; ECF No. 78 at 7.)

         On February 8, 2019, McFadden filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 45). Thereafter, the Magistrate Judge sent an Order on February 11, 2019, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 538 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Hawkins of the importance of such motions and the need for him to file an adequate response. (ECF No. 46.) On March, 18, 2019, Hawkins timely filed his Response in Opposition to McFadden's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 57). On July 1, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report, recommending that McFadden's Motion (ECF No. 45), be granted only to the extent that McFadden seeks dismissal of claims against him stemming from his official capacity and to the extent that Hawkins brings any state law claims or a deliberate indifference claim for medical needs. (ECF No. 78 at 16.) Otherwise, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the court deny McFadden's Motion for Summary Judgment. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Hawkins' excessive force claims should remain against McFadden in his individual capacity. (Id. at 17.)

         The Magistrate Judge reviewed the footage of the incident and determined that “genuine issues of material fact” exist as to “whether the force used by McFadden was objectively reasonable in this instance because the video does not provide conclusive evidence as to which account is accurate.” (ECF No. 78 at 13.)

         The Magistrate Judge recommended that McFadden be granted immunity under the Eleventh Amendment because McFadden, acting in his official capacity, is not a “person” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and “therefore is not subject to suit.” (ECF No. 78 at 6.) On the other hand, the Report states that McFadden is not entitled to qualified immunity in his individual capacity. (Id. at 8.) On July 15, 2019, McFadden filed timely Objections to the Report (ECF Nos. 81, 82). Hawkins did not file objections to the Report.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. “The Court is not bound by the recommendation of the magistrate judge but, instead, retains responsibility for the final determination.” Wallace v. Hous. Auth., 791 F.Supp. 137, 138 (D.S.C. 1992) (citing Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 271 (1976)). Moreover, the court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of a report and recommendation to which specific objections are made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, a magistrate judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Objections to a Report and Recommendation must specifically identify portions of the Report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). “[I]n the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note). Failure to timely file specific written objections to a Report will result in a waiver of the right to appeal from an order from the court based upon the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841 (4th Cir. 1985); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91 (4th Cir. 1984). If the plaintiff fails to properly object because the objections lack the requisite specificity, then de novo review by the court is not required.

         Additionally, pro se filed documents should be “liberally construed, ” and held to a less stringent legal standard than those complaints or proceedings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, even liberally construed, objections to a Report must specifically identify portions of the Report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In the absence of Objections to the Report by Hawkins, the court is not required to provide an explanation for adopting the recommendation in regard to granting McFadden's Motion in the context of the dismissed state law claims, any § 1983 claims for deliberate indifference, and any of the dismissed claims against McFadden in his official capacity. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Rather, “in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is not clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'” Diamond, 416 F.3d 310 at 315. The court concludes that there was no clear error as to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to dismiss state causes of actions covered by the South ...


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