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Evans v. Richardson

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

October 9, 2019

Reginald Evans, Plaintiff,
Carolina Richardson, Treasurer for Sumter County, South Carolina; Sumter County, South Carolina; Yolanda Jefferson, Agent of Sumter County, South Carolina; and Kristi Fisher Curtis, Defendants.


          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge


         Reginald Evans (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this second complaint claiming a violation of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the case was referred to a Magistrate Judge for review. The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that Plaintiff's second complaint should be dismissed without prejudice such that he can bring his claims in the appropriate jurisdiction. (ECF No. 94).


         The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, a district court is only required to conduct a de novo review of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which an objection is made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Carniewski v. W. Virginia Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report of the Magistrate, this Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983).


         This case has a long history before this Court as it was originally filed on September 23, 2016. (ECF No. 1). The Magistrate Judge's Report thoroughly and accurately recites the factual and procedural background giving rise to this action in detail. (ECF No. 94). Currently before the Court for review is Plaintiff's second amended complaint. (ECF No. 89). Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights by taking property belonging to his mother's estate in an unlawful tax sale. (ECF No. 1). The Magistrate Judge recommends dismissing Plaintiff's second amended complaint without prejudice. (ECF No. 94).

         A. This Court Lacks Jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Claims

         Despite a Fourth Circuit ruling that the Tax Injunction Act bars this Court from considering Plaintiff's claims (ECF No. 34), Plaintiff continues to seek relief in this court for Defendants' alleged unlawful tax sale of property within his mother's estate. (ECF No.1, 41, 89). Although Plaintiff has been granted leave to amend his complaint twice, he still has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted because the Court still lacks jurisdiction over his claims. “The district courts shall not enjoin, suspend or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain, speedy, and efficient remedy may be had in the court of such State.” 28 U.S.C. § 1341. As the Magistrate Judge points out, Plaintiff does have an adequate remedy in state court. However, Plaintiff disagrees.

         In his Objections, Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge incorrectly concluded that his claims are barred by the Tax Injunction Act because his claims were for constitutional violations. (ECF No. 97). While Plaintiff is correct that he has brought this cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the substance of Plaintiff's claim concerns an “unlawful tax sale, ” and therefore, is governed by the Tax Injunction Act. (ECF No. 97). In Lawyer v. Hilton Head Public Service Dist. No. 1, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Tax Injunction Act and the comity doctrine precluded the district court from exercising jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 when those claims involved alleged unauthorized collections of real and personal property taxes. Lawyer v. Hilton Head Public Service Dist. No. 1, 220 F.3d 298 (4th Cir. 2000).

         Additionally, Plaintiff argues he does not have an available state remedy because he was denied leave to proceed in forma pauperis in state court. (ECF No. 97). Plaintiff's inability to get into to state court does not automatically warrant review by the federal court. If the Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims, the Court's hands are tied. Therefore, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims without prejudice such that he can seek relief for his claims in the appropriate court.

         B. Plaintiff's Claims against Defendant, Jefferson, are Dismissed

         Plaintiff has named Yolanda Jefferson as a Defendant; however, Plaintiff fails to explain how Defendant Jefferson is an agent of Sumter County such that she can be sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983. In the Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Jefferson because the Magistrate Judge finds Defendant Jefferson is not a person acting under the color of state law for the purposes of §1983. (ECF No. 94). In his Objections, Plaintiff argues that “Jefferson can be construed as a state actor in this action” because Defendant Jefferson was entangled with Defendant Richardson and Sumter County. Plaintiff's example of Defendant Jefferson's entanglement is that Defendant Jefferson made statements to Plaintiff “on how closely she worked with and know[s] Sumter County officials and she was going to take the property.” (ECF No. 97).

         However, Plaintiff's example still fails to establish how Defendant Jefferson's conduct can be attributed to the state. In Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., the Supreme Court held that “the conduct that allegedly caused the deprivation of a federal right must be fairly attributable to the State” before an action can be considered to be state action. Lugar v. Edmundson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 2753 (1982). The Court established a two-part test for determining when person's action can be considered state action. “First the deprivation must be caused by the exercise of some right or privilege created by the state or by a rule of conduct imposed by the State or by a person for whom the State is responsible…Second, the party charged with the deprivation must be a person who may fairly be said to be a state actor. This may be because he is a state official, because he has acted together with or has obtained significant aid from state officials, or because his conduct is otherwise chargeable to the State.” Id. In his Complaint and Objections, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate how Defendant Jefferson or her conduct fits into any of the categories set forth in the two-part test. (ECF No. 89, 97). Assuming Defendant Jefferson made the statements alleged in Plaintiff's Objections, these statements do not rise to the level of conduct contemplated by the Supreme Court in Lugar to allow suit under ยง 1983. Additionally, Plaintiff argues that ...

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