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Morant v. Dodson

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

October 21, 2019

Cornelius Rodriguez Morant, #1499, Plaintiff,
v.
Ronald L. Dodson, Jr., Bryan Keith Griffin, Vanessa Moyer, and James C. Campbell, Defendants.

          ORDER AND NOTICE

          SHIVA V. HODGES COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Cornelius Rodriguez Morant (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sumter County Sheriff's Officer Ronald L. Dodson, Jr. (“Officer”), Sumter County Magistrate Bryan Keith Griffin (“Magistrate”), bond agent Vanessa Moyer (“Bond Agent”), and Sumter County Clerk of Court James C. Campbell (“Clerk”) (collectively “Defendants”), alleging violations of his civil and constitutional rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center. [ECF No. 1 at 2, 4]. Plaintiff alleges that on July 15, 2019, Bond Agent, an Ohio bail bond agent, traveled to Blythewood, South Carolina with two accomplices, entered onto private property, tased and killed his dog, broke into his house, held a gun to his wife's head, and demanded she reveal his location. Id. at 4. He claims his wife contacted law enforcement officials, who subsequently arrested Bond Agent and her two accomplices, after they had fled the scene. Id. He states his wife suffered a heart attack as a result of the incident. Id. at 5, 7. Plaintiff states the Richland County Sheriff's Office arrested him at his home on August 2, 2019, based on an outstanding warrant from Ohio, as well as detainers from Sumter County. Id. at 4.

         Plaintiff alleges that on August 8, 2019, Officer executed a warrant based on Bond Agent's representation that Plaintiff was a fugitive fleeing from justice in Ohio without conducting a full investigation to determine whether probable cause supported the issuance of the warrant. Id. at 4, 7. Plaintiff claims Magistrate signed off on the warrant for his arrest without probable cause. Id. He maintains Clerk issued the warrant without probable cause. Id.

         Plaintiff sues Defendants in their individual and official capacities, alleging they acted under color of law to deprive him of his Constitutional rights. Id. at 2-3, 5, 6, 7. He requests the court set aside the arrest warrant, perform an administrative search to determine whether Bond Agent violated any laws, and award him $10, 000 in legal fees, $1, 500 per week in lost wages, $50 per day for use in the commissary, $10, 000 for the trespass on his property, and $1, 000 for each day he is detained. Id. at 7.

         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).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). 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). 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. 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).

         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). Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States Supreme Court has made it clear a plaintiff must do more than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677‒78 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face, and the reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678‒79.

         B. Analysis

         1. Younger Abstention

         In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the Supreme Court held a federal court should not equitably interfere with state criminal proceedings “except in the most narrow and extraordinary of circumstances.” Gilliam v. Foster, 75 F.3d 881, 903 (4th Cir. 1996). “[C]ourts of equity . . . should not act to restrain a criminal prosecution, when the moving party has an adequate remedy at law and will not suffer irreparable injury if denied equitable relief.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 43-44. Thus, “the normal ...


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