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Benjamin v. Chavis

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

September 30, 2019

GREGORY BENJAMIN, Plaintiff,
v.
TONY CHAVIS AND JOHN SPECHT, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          THOMAS E. ROGERS, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, brings this action alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. Presently before the court are Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 56 and 62). Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, he was advised on August 12, 2019, and August 26, 2019, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.3d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), that a failure to respond to the motions could result in dismissal of his case. A response to Defendant Chavis's Motion for Summary Judgment was due by September 12, 2019, add an additional three days if served by mail, and a response to Defendant Specht's Motion for Summary Judgment by September 26, 2019, add an additional three days if served by mail. Plaintiff failed to file a response to either motion. All pretrial proceedings in this case were referred to the undersigned pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), DSC. This report and recommendation is entered for review by the district judge.

         II. RULE 41(b) DISMISSAL

         “The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure recognize that courts must have the authority to control litigation before them, and this authority includes the power to order dismissal of an action for failure to comply with court orders. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b).” Ballard v. Carlson, 882 F.2d 93, 95 (4th Cir.1989).

         The Fourth Circuit, in Davis v. Williams, 588 F.2d 69, 70 (4th Cir. 1978), recognizing that dismissal with prejudice is a harsh sanction which should not be invoked lightly, set forth four considerations in determining whether Rule 41(b) dismissal is appropriate: (1) the degree of personal responsibility on the part of the plaintiff; (2) the amount of prejudice to the defendant caused by the delay; (3) the presence or absence of a drawn out history of deliberately proceeding in a dilatory fashion; and (4) the effectiveness of sanctions less drastic than dismissal. Id. at 70.

         Subsequently, however, the Fourth Circuit noted that “the four factors ... are not a rigid four-pronged test.” Ballard, 882 F.2d at 95. “Here, we think the Magistrate's explicit warning that a recommendation of dismissal would result from failure to obey his order is a critical fact that distinguishes this case from those cited by appellant. . . . In view of the warning, the district court had little alternative to dismissal. Any other course would have placed the credibility of the court in doubt and invited abuse.” Id. at 95-96.

         In the present case, Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and, thus, is entirely responsible for his actions. It is solely through Plaintiff's neglect, and not that of an attorney, that Plaintiff has failed to respond to the Motions for Summary Judgment despite the court's warnings that a failure to do so may result in dismissal. Accordingly, the undersigned concludes that Plaintiff has abandoned his claims against Defendants.

         In the alternative, the motions for summary judgment are discussed below.

         III. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         The federal court is charged with liberally construing the complaints filed by pro s e litigants, to allow them to fully develop potentially meritorious cases. See C r u z v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The court's function, however, is not to decide issues of fact, but to decide whether there is an issue of fact to be tried. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a federal claim, Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990), nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. If none can be shown, the motion should be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         The moving party bears the burden of showing that summary judgment is proper. Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment is proper if the non-moving party fails to establish an essential element of any cause of action upon which the non-moving party has the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. 317. Once the moving party has brought into question whether there is a genuine dispute for trial on a material element of the non-moving party's claims, the non-moving party bears the burden of coming forward with specific facts which show a genuine dispute for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). The non-moving party must come forward with enough evidence, beyond a mere scintilla, upon which the fact finder could reasonably find for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The facts and inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1011 (4th Cir. 1991). However, the non-moving party may not rely on beliefs, conjecture, speculation, or conclusory allegations to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Barber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992). The evidence relied on must meet “the substantive evidentiary standard of proof that would apply at a trial on the merits.” Mitchell v. Data General Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1316 (4th Cir. 1993).

         To show that a genuine dispute of material fact exists, a party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves). Rather, the party must present evidence supporting his or her position through “depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with ... affidavits, if any.” Id. at 322; see also Cray Communications, Inc. v. Novatel Computer Systems, Inc., 33 F.3d 390 (4th Cir. 1994); Orsi v. Kickwood, 999 F.2d 86 (4th Cir. 1993); Local Rules 7.04, 7.05, D.S.C.

         IV. ...


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