United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Melodie Shuler (Shuler), proceeding pro se, filed this action
seeking damages and injunctive relief against Defendants
South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS), Sylvia
Mitchum, Traci Alter, Michele Blue, Gillum, one unknown
individual, and six unknown DSS workers (collectively,
Defendants) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is before
the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation
(Report) of the United States Magistrate Judge suggesting
Shuler's complaint be summarily dismissed with prejudice
and without issuance and service of process. The Report was
made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil
Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo
determination of those portions of the Report to which a
specific objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject,
or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court need not conduct a de novo
review, however, “when a party makes general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a
specific error in the [Magistrate Judge's] proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); see
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).
Magistrate Judge filed an order identifying deficiencies in
the complaint on May 28, 2019 (May 28 order). The Magistrate
Judge then filed the Report, incorporating the analysis of
the May 28 order, on June 28, 2019. Shuler filed her
Objections to the Report (Objections) on July 17, 2019. The
Court has reviewed the objections but holds them to be
without merit. It will enter judgment accordingly.
objects to the determination the state of South Carolina, and
DSS as an instrumentality of the state, were entitled to
sovereign immunity. She raises two arguments. First, because
South Carolina accepts federal funds, sovereign immunity is
inapplicable. Second, sovereign immunity is waived because
South Carolina has consented to similar prior suits. Neither
immunity dictates states are immune from suits seeking
damages absent consent to suit by that sovereign. Alden
v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712 (1999). “[A]
State's waivers of sovereign immunity [must] be
unequivocal.” Coll. Sav. Bank v. Fl. Prepaid
Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 680
(1999). Both of Shuler's arguments for South
Carolina's consent to this suit fail.
mere acceptance of federal funds is insufficient to
automatically waive sovereign immunity. See, e.g.,
Madison v. Virginia, 474 F.3d 118, 131 (4th Cir.
2006) (stating provision of federal funds waives sovereign
immunity only when unambiguously stated by Congress in the
provision). Shuler identifies no specific federal funding
purportedly supporting a waiver, nor any language from any
federal statute requiring waiver on the issues presented in
her suit. The general acceptance of federal funds is
insufficient to allow the Court to find a general waiver of
sovereign immunity applicable to this complaint.
Carolina has explicitly declined to waive sovereign immunity
for suits in federal court. S.C. Code Ann. §
15-78-20(e). Absent an exception to sovereign immunity, this
invocation of sovereign immunity would be dispositive. The
Court can find no support for, nor has Shuler cited to any
cases to support, previous participation by the state in a
suit concerning similar subject matter overriding an explicit
statutory assertion of sovereign immunity rights. Because
South Carolina has enacted a clear statutory assertion, the
Eleventh Amendment bars this action from proceeding.
remainder of Shuler's objections can be grouped together.
Shuler claims she is entitled to a permanent injunction under
Ex Parte Young, the individual defendants are sued
in their individual capacities making Eleventh Amendment
sovereign immunity inapplicable, and she has suffered
damages. The Court understands each of these to address the
Magistrate Judge's suggestion plaintiff failed to provide
facts plausibly supporting a claim against the individual
the objections on damages provides any new facts. The other
two are general descriptions of potential causes of action,
failing to rectify the deficiencies identified by the
Magistrate Judge and therefore are inapplicable. Objections
based on Ex Parte Young and the suit being brought
against defendants in their individual capacity are
“general . . . objections” insufficient to
trigger de novo review. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
at 47. Both objections are without merit.
presentation of facts in her damages objections likewise
fails to establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Such
a claim requires a plaintiff to allege: 1) a “violation
of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United
States, ” and 2) “the alleged deprivation was
committed by a person acting under color of state law.”
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Shuler's
alleged facts, although potentially relevant to possible
damages, fail to allege either of these two elements. The
increased miles on her vehicle and purported loss of
potential employment opportunities are inapplicable to any
potential constitutional violation. Accordingly, her
objections regarding damages allegations likewise fails.
thorough review of the Report and the record in this case
pursuant to the standard set forth above, the Court overrules
Shuler's objections, adopts the Report, and incorporates
it herein. Therefore, it is the judgment of the Court
Shuler's complaint is DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE and without issuance or service of
process. Further, because of the dismissal, Shuler's
motion to consolidate cases is DEEMED MOOT.
IS SO ORDERED.