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Taylor v. McGhaney

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

December 6, 2019

Henry Taylor, Jr., Plaintiff,
Assistant Director D. McGhaney; Captain R. Gailard; Captain C. Kelley; Former Director Simon Major, Jr.; Current Director Anthony Dennis; Michael Stephen, Director of SCDC; Bryan Sterling Defendants.



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. No. 1.) This matter is before the Court upon the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. Nos. 36; 37; 47.) Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), D.S.C., all pretrial matters in cases involving pro se litigants are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for consideration. For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned recommends that Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment be granted (Dkt. Nos. 36; 37), Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied (Dkt. No. 47), and Plaintiff's claims be dismissed with prejudice.


         In this civil action, Plaintiff alleges he suffered various violations of his constitutional rights while housed at the Sumter Detention Center (the “Detention Center”) in Sumter, South Carolina. The record shows Plaintiff was housed at the Detention Center from November 27, 2016 through March 2, 2018.[1] (Dkt. No. 36-4 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that during his time at the Detention Center he was: (1) denied access to courts; (2) housed “in an isolation cell”; (3) confined to restraints when out of his cell; (4) denied unshackled recreation/exercise; and (5) denied phone usage and visitation. (Dkt. Nos. 1; 1-1.) Plaintiff alleges that the above actions violated his Fifth Amendment rights, Eighth Amendment rights, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id.) Plaintiff brings this action against Defendants Daryl McGhaney, the Administrative Major at the Detention Center; R. Gaillard, an alleged Captain at the Detention Center; Cynthia Kelley, the Security Captain at the Detention Center; Simon Major, Jr., the former Director of the Detention Center;[2]Anthony Dennis, the Sumter County Sheriff and current Director of the Detention Center; Michael Stephen, the alleged Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”), [3] and Bryan Sterling, the Director of SCDC.

         Plaintiff filed this action on January 30, 2018. (Dkt. No. 1.) Defendants Anthony Dennis, R Gailard, C Kelley, Simon Major, Jr, D McGhaney (the “Detention Center Defendants”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on June 6, 2019. (Dkt. No. 36.) That same day, Defendants Michael Stephan, Bryan Sterling (the “SCDC Defendants”) filed a separate Motion for Summary Judgment.[4] (Dkt. No. 37.) Plaintiff's responses to the Motions were originally due by July 8, 2019. (Dkt. No. 38.) Plaintiff failed to respond. On July 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Change of Address, stating he was located at Clarendon County Jail and had not received any information from the Court since April “pertaining to this case.” (Dkt. No. 44.) On July 31, 2019, the Court issued an Amended Roseboro Order ordering Defendants to re-serve the Motions for Summary Judgment and accompanying memos and exhibits on Plaintiff at the Clarendon County Jail. (Dkt. No. 45.) The Court instructed Defendants to file a certificate of service certifying this had been completed by August 6, 2019. The Court granted Plaintiff an extension through August 26, 2019 to respond to Defendants' Motions. The Court also reminded Plaintiff “that he is ordered to always keep the Clerk of Court advised in writing of his address changes, so as to ensure that orders or other matters that specify deadlines for Plaintiff to meet will be received by him.”[5] (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed a response to the SCDC Defendants' Motion on August 7, 2019. (Dkt. No. 47.) In his response, he also moved for summary judgment. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff also claimed he had not received “any correspondence” from the Detention Center Defendants “since February-March 2019.” (Id.) Both sets of Defendants filed replies to their Motions. (Dkt. Nos. 49; 50.) On October 18, 2019, the Court issued a Text Order noting that Defendants failed to file the certificate of service ordered in the Amended Roseboro Order and instructed Defendants to file with the Court the requisite proof of service of their Motions on Plaintiff at the Clarendon County Jail. (Dkt. No. 51.) The Court found Plaintiff could file a supplemental response brief by November 15, 2019. Defendants filed Status Reports on October 18, 2019. The SCDC Defendants stated they served their Motion on Plaintiff at the Clarendon County Jail on July 31, 2019. (Dkt. No. 52.) The Detention Center Defendants stated they served their Motion on Plaintiff at the Clarendon County Jail on October 18, 2019. (Dkt. No. 53.)

         On October 24, 2019, Plaintiff called the Court Clerk's Office and stated he would be sending an updated address to the Court. (Dkt. No. 56.) Plaintiff has not submitted a Change of Address Form, and the mailing of the Court's October 18, 2019 Text Order to Plaintiff at the Clarendon County Jail has been returned as undeliverable. (Dkt. No. 57.) The Court does not have a current address for Plaintiff at this time, despite repeated warnings to Plaintiff of the importance of keeping the Court informed in writing of his address changes. Plaintiff has failed to provide his current address, and the deadline for his response to the Detention Center Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment has passed. Accordingly, the undersigned issues a recommendation on the evidence in the record and the briefings submitted by the parties to this point.


         A. Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

         Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe her pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. The mandated liberal construction means that only if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the complainant could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the complainant's legal arguments for her. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court “conjure up questions never squarely presented.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment “shall” be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Facts are ‘material' when they might affect the outcome of the case, and a ‘genuine issue' exists when the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” The News & Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “‘the nonmoving party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in that party's favor.'” Id. (quoting Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999)); see also Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990).


         Defendants present several arguments in support of their Motions for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. Nos. 36-1; 37-1.) They argue, inter alia, that: (1) Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity to the extent he sues Defendants in their official capacity; and (2) Plaintiff has failed to establish a violation of his constitutional rights. In support of their motion, the Detention Center Defendants have submitted affidavits from Defendants Kelley and McGhaney, as well as Chanae Lumpkin and John Shirah, both Lieutenants with the Detention Center. (Dkt. Nos. 36-2 through 36-5.) The SCDC Defendants have submitted an affidavit from Blake Taylor, the Division Director for SCDC.[6] (Dkt. No. 37-2.) The undersigned will address Plaintiff's claims in turn.

         A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         Defendants assert that to the extent Plaintiff brings claims against them in their official capacities, they are immune from such claims under the Eleventh Amendment. (Dkt. Nos. 36-1 at 6; 37-1 at 3.) The Eleventh Amendment provides that “the judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.” U.S. Constitution, Am. 11. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101-02 (1984) (holding that the Eleventh Amendment bars suits against a state filed by its own citizens).

         In enacting 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Congress did not intend to override the doctrine of States' sovereign immunity found in the Eleventh Amendment. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66-67 (1989) (“Section 1983 provides a federal forum to remedy many deprivations of civil liberties, but it does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy against a State for alleged deprivations of civil liberties. The Eleventh Amendment bars such suits . . .”).[7]Sovereign immunity protects the State itself, as well as its agencies, divisions, departments, officials, and other “arms of the State.” Will, 491 U.S. at 70; see also Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997). Eleventh Amendment immunity also protects state officials acting in their official capacity. Will, 491 U.S. at 71 (explaining that a suit against a state official in his official capacity is “no different from a suit against the State itself.”); see also Cromer v. Brown, 88 F.3d 1315, 1332 (4th Cir. 1996); Jones v. SCDC, No. 5:12-cv-03554-RBH-KDW, 2013 WL 3880175, *4 (D.S.C. July 26, 2013).

         The Sumter Detention Center is administered by, and under the control of, the Sheriff of Sumter County. See Williams v. Dorchester Cty. Det. Ctr., 987 F.Supp.2d 690, 695 (D.S.C. 2013) (finding that Dorchester County Detention Center is controlled by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, and thus a state agency). The Sheriff's Office is considered a state agency for the purposes of Plaintiff's claims. See Gulledge v. Smart, 691 F.Supp. 947, 954-55 (D.S.C. 1988) (explaining that a Sheriff's Office is considered a state agency in South Carolina). In addition, “[t]he SCDC is an arm of the State of South Carolina, and is therefore immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment.” McFadden v. Stirling, No. 2:15-cv-4144-JMC-MGB, 2016 WL 11220472, at *3 (D.S.C. Feb. 23, 2016), adopted by, 2017 WL 4875575 (D.S.C. Oct. 30, 2017). Accordingly, to the extent Defendants are sued in their official capacities, they are immune from suit. See LaLone v. Thompson, No. 2:18-cv-03232-HMH-MGB, 2019 WL 3326243, at *3 (D.S.C. July 2, 2019), adopted by, 22019 WL 3323059 (D.S.C. July 24, 2019) (finding employees of county detention center are state officials “entitled to the protection of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment”); see also Hutto v. S.C. Retirement Sys., 773 F.3d 536, 549 (4th Cir. 2014) (“State officials sued in their official capacities for . . . money damages have the same sovereign immunity accorded to the State.”); Cash v. Thomas, No. 6:12-cv-1278-MGL, 2013 WL 3804375, at *7 (D.S.C. July 19, 2013) (“It is well settled, both in South Carolina and federal law, that a Sheriff in South Carolina is an arm of the State and not a County employee and therefore is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity in his or her official capacity from suit in Federal Court”); Jamison v. Bamberg, No. 0:11-cv-2245-DCN-PJG, 2012 WL 7656426, *3 (D.S.C. Nov. 28, 2012) (“the Detention Center defendants [sued in their official capacities] are entitled to sovereign immunity”), adopted by, 2013 WL 819193 (D.S.C. Mar. 5, 2013)

         Based on the foregoing, the undersigned recommends that Defendants may only be sued in their individual capacities and analyzes Plaintiff's claims, below.

         B. Access to Courts

         1. Evidence

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants “deprived [him] of [his] right to have access to a law library, ” and that he lacked “adequate assistance from persons trained in the law.” (Dkt. No. 1 at 4.) According to Plaintiff, Defendants knew this deprivation “hurt[]” Plaintiff's “case” because Plaintiff cannot “study and prepare for any case, civil or criminal.” (Id. at 6.) He later alleges that the Detention Center “does give what is needed in order to handle legal work, such as stamps, paper, and envelopes.” (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2.) He alleges that “pretrial detainees are charged for legal information, copies, and that can't be constitutional.” (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff also alleges that he had court-appointed counsel throughout the time period at issue. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2.) Plaintiff further states that “a law firm” represents him in “a disability case, ” and that he has “legal representation” in a “class action law suit.” (Id. at 2-3.)

         The Detention Center Defendants have submitted affidavits from Defendants McGhaney and Kelley, and Lieutenant Lumpkin on this issue. McGhaney avers that at the time Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee, “an inmate could complete a request for legal research and forward it to the correctional officer ...

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