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Wells v. Wallace

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

October 31, 2019

Wayne Wells, Jr., #314139, Petitioner,
v.
Terrie Wallace, Respondent.

          ORDER

          JOSEPH F. ANDERSON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Wayne Wells (“Petitioner”), a pro se state prisoner, filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1). On July 18, 2019, Warden Terrie Wallace (“Respondent”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment along with a return to the petition and memorandum of law in support. (ECF Nos. 13 & 14). The court advised Petitioner of the summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond via an order issued pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975) on the following day. (ECF No. 15). Petitioner filed a response on August 13, 2019, to which Respondent filed a reply on August 20, 2019. (ECF Nos. 17 & 18). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), this matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge.

         The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that this court should grant Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss the petition with prejudice. (ECF No. 19). 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 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 Judge, 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). Thus, the court must only review those portions of the Report to which Petitioner has made a specific written objection. 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'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).

         Petitioner was advised of his right to object to the Report, which was entered on the docket on August 29, 2019. (ECF No. 19). Petitioner filed objections to the Report on September 16, 2019[2] (“Objections”). (ECF No. 22). Respondent replied to the Objections on October 4, 2019. (ECF No. 24). Petitioner also submitted what appears to be a second response or “sur-reply” to the motion for summary judgment after the Report was issued. (ECF No. 21). As sur-replies are not authorized by this court's Local Rules and this submission is otherwise untimely, this submission will not be considered. Additionally, Respondent argues that Petitioner's Objections are untimely as they were due by September 15, 2019. Despite this contention, Respondent will suffer no prejudice by this court's review of these objections as they were only submitted one day after the deadline and they do not ultimately affect the outcome below.[3] Petitioner also filed a “Response to Reply to Objections to the Report and Recommendation.” (ECF No. 25). Because a response to replies to Reports and Recommendations are not authorized by the Local Rules, this document will not be considered.[4] Thus, this matter is ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute of material fact is “genuine” if sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). All inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, but he “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Although this court incorporates the factual background discussed in the Report, a brief recitation of the relevant facts is necessary to properly address Petitioner's Objections. Petitioner was indicted for second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and he went to trial in November 2010. The victim testified that when she first met Petitioner, she told him she was eighteen. The next time they met, however, he asked her if she was fifteen, as one of her friends had told him that. She admitted that was her real age; a couple of hours later, they had sex. Over the summer, they had sex several more times. Each time, he came over to her house after midnight, climbing through her bedroom window.

         Petitioner testified in his defense. He told the jury the victim said she was eighteen and never told him anything different. He did not know she actually was fifteen until her stepfather found him in the house and confronted him. Had Petitioner known her true age, he would not have had a sexual relationship with her. As he had done in his opening statement, Petitioner's trial counsel argued ...


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