Dickerson v. Charleston Police Department, City of et al

Filing 39

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS recommending that the District Court dismiss the Amended Complaint in this case as to defendants Holmes and Charleston County Magistrate Court Administration without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. Objections to R&R due by 11/1/2010. Signed by Magistrate Judge Shiva V Hodges on 10/14/2010. (Attachments: # 1 Notice)(mcot, )

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-SVH Dickerson v. Charleston Police Department, City of et al Doc. 39 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA Is m a il Dickerson, # 15434, Plaintiff, vs. C ity of Charleston Police Department; Officer Sgt. L. Reed; Officer B. W a n a m a k e r; Officer Galluccio; Officer R ic c io ; Officer Ambrose; K9-SPO, O f f ic e r Pitchford; K9-SPO, Officer O 'D e ll; K9-SPO, Officer D.C. W a s h in g to n ; Officer T.J. Dalinsky; Victim Jamar Byas; Bobby Warthaw, cod e f e n d a n t; Valentino Hayward, cod e f e n d a n t; CPD Detective Osborne; C P D Detective/Investigator Kosarko; M a g is tra te Mary Brown Holmes; and C h a rle s to n County Magistrate Court A d m in is tra tio n , Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C /A No.: 1:10-1625-TLW-SVH REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION Plaintiff, Ismail Dickerson ("Plaintiff"), a local detention center inmate, is p ro c e e d in g in this matter pro se. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1) and Local Civ. R. 7 3 .0 2 (B )(2 )(e ) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review all pretrial matters in s u c h cases and to submit findings and recommendations to the district court. See 28 U .S .C . 1915(e); 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should r e v ie w prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal). Dockets.Justia.com I. F a c tu a l and Procedural History P la in tif f raises claims of Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations a g a in s t numerous Charleston County law enforcement officers and officials in both the o rig in a l Complaint [Entry #1] and in the Amended Complaint [Entry #20], which is the s u b je c t matter of this Report and Recommendation. The original Complaint was served o n several of the originally named defendants and they have filed an Answer through c o u n s e l [Entry #16]. By way of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to add four a d d itio n a l defendants and additional factual allegations. With regard to the two Charleston law enforcement officers named in the A m e n d e d Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, along with the originally named defendants, th e y were involved in the planning of and events surrounding his arrest and incarceration in violation of his federal constitutional rights. With respect to Magistrate Holmes and th e Charleston County Magistrate Court named in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff c la im s that an unreasonably high bond was set and that search warrants were improperly is su e d against his property. The Amended Complaint contains potentially viable claims a g a in s t the law-enforcement officers, but not against the judge and court. Accordingly, th e Amended Complaint should be partially dismissed as to the judge and court. II. A. D is c u s s io n S ta n d a rd of Review U n d e r established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been m a d e of Plaintiff's pro se Complaint filed in this case. This review has been conducted 2 pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915, 1915A, and the Prison L it i g a tio n Reform Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. H e r n a n d e z , 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 32425 (1989); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc); and Todd v. B a sk e r v ille , 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983). Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by a tto rn e ys . Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). The court is charged w ith 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 (2007); Hughes v. Rowe, 4 4 9 U.S. 5, 910 (1980); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a court is evaluating a p r o se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N. Y., 5 2 9 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction d o e s not mean that this court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts w h ic h set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal court. Weller v. Dep't of Social S e r v s ., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). Even under this less stringent standard, however, th e Amended Complaint filed in this case is subject to partial summary dismissal under th e provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B). B. A n a l ys i s T o the extent Plaintiff seeks relief from Charleston County Magistrate Judge H o lm e s , his suit is barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity. The Fourth Circuit has p re v io u s ly addressed the doctrine of absolute immunity for judges as follows: 3 The absolute immunity from suit for alleged deprivation of rights enjoyed b y judges is matchless in its protection of judicial power. It shields judges e v e n against allegations of malice or corruption. . . . The rule is tolerated, n o t because corrupt or malicious judges should be immune from suit, but o n ly because it is recognized that judicial officers in whom discretion is e n tru s te d must be able to exercise discretion vigorously and effectively, w ith o u t apprehension that they will be subjected to burdensome and v e x a tio u s litigation. M c C r a y v. Maryland, 456 F.2d 1, 3 (4th Cir. 1972) (citations omitted), overruled on other g r o u n d s , Pink v. Lester, 52 F.3d 73, 77 (4th Cir. 1995). The doctrine of absolute immunity for acts taken by a judge in connection with his o r her judicial authority and responsibility is well established and widely recognized. See M ir e le s v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991) (judges are immune from civil suit for actions t a k e n in their judicial capacity, unless "taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction"); S tu m p v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978) ("A judge is absolutely immune from lia b ility for his judicial acts even if his exercise of authority is flawed by the commission o f grave procedural errors."); Pressly v. Gregory, 831 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987) (a s u it by South Carolina inmate against two Virginia magistrates); Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U .S . 511, 526 (1985 ) (absolute immunity "is an immunity from suit rather than a mere d e f e n s e to liability"). Magistrate Holmes' decisions regarding the amount of a criminal b o n d and whether or not to issue a search warrant are clearly part of her judicial functions a s a member of the State of South Carolina's judiciary. Plaintiff asserts no allegations a g a in s t Magistrate Holmes involving activities that fall outside of the performance of her 4 judicial duties. Thus, the Amended Complaint fails to state any viable federal civil claim a g a in s t her and she should be dismissed from the case. T h e Charleston County Magistrate Court and its administration 1 are likewise p r o te c te d from suit by the Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment forbids a f e d e ra l court from rendering a judgment against an unconsenting state in favor of a citizen o f that state. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U. S. 651, 663 (1974). Although this language does n o t explicitly prohibit a citizen of a state from suing his own state in federal court, the S u p re m e Court in Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U. S. 1 (1890), held that the purposes of the E le v e n th Amendment (i.e. protection of a state treasury) would not be served if a state c o u ld be sued by its citizens in federal court. The Eleventh Amendment also bars this c o u rt from granting injunctive relief against the state or its agencies. See Alabama v. P u g h , 438 U.S. 781 (1978); Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 58 (1996) (" th e relief sought by plaintiff suing a State is irrelevant to the question whether the suit is b a rre d by the Eleventh Amendment"). State agencies and state instrumentalities, such as t h e Charleston County Magistrate Court, share this immunity when they are the alter e g o s of the state. See Regents of the University of California v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 To the extent that Plaintiff intended to name the administration as being a separate e n tity from the court, the Amended Complaint would still be subject to summary dismissal b e c a u s e an administration is not a "person" who can "act under color of state law." Use of th e term "staff" or the equivalent as a name for alleged defendants, without the naming of s p e c if ic staff members, is not adequate to state a claim against a "person" as required in 1 9 8 3 actions. See Barnes v. Baskerville Corr. Cen. Med. Staff, No. 3:07CV195, 2008 WL 2 5 6 4 7 7 9 (E.D. Va. June 25, 2008). 5 1 (1997). Thus, the Charleston County Magistrate Court should also be summarily d is m is s e d from the instant action. III. R e c o m m e n d a tio n Accordingly, it is recommended that the District Court dismiss the Amended C o m p l a in t in this case as to defendants Holmes and Charleston County Magistrate Court A d m in is tra tio n without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. IT IS SO RECOMMENDED. O c to b e r 14, 2010 F lo re n c e , South Carolina S h iv a V. Hodges U n ite d States Magistrate Judge T h e parties are directed to note the important information in the attached "Notice of Right to File Objections to Report and Recommendation." 6

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