Clark v. Aiken Department of Public Safety et al
ORDER REGARDING AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT granting Plaintiff twenty-one (21) days from the date this order is entered to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) that corrects the deficiencies i dentified in this order. (Amended Complaint due by 3/29/2018. Add an additional 3 days only if served by mail or otherwise allowed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 6 or Fed. R. Crim. P. 45.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett on 3/8/2018. (bgoo) Modified to edit text on 3/8/2018. (bgoo)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Blake Marcell Clark,
Aiken Department of Public Safety; Terrance )
Fredrick Pattern; J. Waltower; B. Bethmann; )
C/A No. 1:18-325-JFA-PJG
AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT
The plaintiff, Blake Marcell Clark, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action against
the defendants. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A. This
matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.).
Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court finds this action is
subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the deficiencies
Factual and Procedural Background
Plaintiff indicates he is currently being held in the Edgefield County Jail.1 (Compl., ECF No.
1 at 3.) He brings this action against the defendants seeking damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for false arrest and imprisonment. (Id. at 4, 6.) He alleges that he was arrested by the defendants
on June 14, 2017 at Hahn Village. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff asserts his “rights were violated” by the
However, Plaintiff informed the court that he is now confined at the Kirkland Correctional
Institution, a state prison. (See Notice of Change of Address, ECF No. 7)
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defendants. (Id.) He further alleges that “I informed the officers that the substance believed to be
heroin by the officers was not heroin but they wouldn’t listen to me.” (Id. at 9.)
Standard of Review
Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of
the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), including 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. The Complaint has been filed 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, and is also governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the court
to review a complaint filed by a prisoner that seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity. See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2009).
Section 1915A requires, and § 1915 allows, a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that
the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than
make mere conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009);
Bell Atl. 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. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the
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complaint’s factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S.
This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints, which are held to a less
stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King
v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, the requirement of liberal
construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts
which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901
F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684 (outlining pleading requirements under Rule
8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).
The Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “ ‘is not itself a source of
substantive rights,’ but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere
conferred.’ ” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S.
137, 144 n.3 (1979)). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured
by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was
committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the
government and requires warrants be issued only upon a finding of probable cause. U.S. Const.
amend. IV. To establish a § 1983 claim for false imprisonment in violation of the Fourth
Amendment, the plaintiff must show the seizure of his person was unreasonable, i.e., he must show
he was arrested without probable cause. See Rogers v. Pendleton, 249 F.3d 279, 294 (4th Cir. 2001)
(stating that claims for false arrest and false imprisonment “are essentially claims alleging a seizure
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of the person in violation of the Fourth Amendment”); see also Brown v. Gilmore, 278 F.3d 362, 367
(4th Cir. 2002) (stating that to establish an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, the
plaintiff must show he was arrested without probable cause). Thus, there is no § 1983 claim for false
imprisonment unless the officer lacked probable cause. See Street v. Surdyka, 492 F.2d 368, 372-73
(4th Cir. 1974).
Here, Plaintiff merely alleges that the defendants violated his rights, presumably because the
defendants mistakenly believed Plaintiff was in possession of heroin. However, such conclusory
allegations are not sufficient to plausibly show that the defendants violated Plaintiff’s rights under
the Fourth Amendment. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. For instance,
Plaintiff fails to allege facts that would plausibly show the defendants arrested him without probable
cause. See Rogers, 249 F.3d at 294. Moreover, Plaintiff fails to provide any individualized facts
about the defendants to demonstrate that they were personally involved in the violation of Plaintiff’s
rights. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (providing that a plaintiff in a § 1983 action must plead that the
defendant, through his own individual actions, violated the Constitution); Wright v. Collins, 766
F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985) (“In order for an individual to be liable under § 1983, it must be
‘affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff’s
rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior has no application under this section.’ ”) (quoting
Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d, 928 (4th Cir. 1977)).2
Also, to the extent Plaintiff intended to name the Aiken Department of Public Safety as a
defendant in this matter, that defendant should be summarily dismissed because it is not a person or
corporate body that is amenable to suit. See Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694
(1978) (noting that for purposes of § 1983 a “person” includes individuals and “bodies politic and
corporate”); see, e.g., Harden v. Green, 27 F. App’x 173, 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (“The medical
department of a prison may not be sued, because it is not a person within the meaning of § 1983.”).
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Consequently, Plaintiff’s Complaint is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Plaintiff is hereby granted twenty-one (21) days from the date this order is entered (plus
three days for mail time) to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
15(a) that corrects the deficiencies identified above.3 If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint
that corrects those deficiencies, this action will be recommended for summary dismissal pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A.4
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Paige J. Gossett
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
March 8, 2018
Columbia, South Carolina
Plaintiff’s attention is directed to the important WARNING on the following page.
Any amended complaint filed by Plaintiff is also subject to further initial review by the
court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A.
In light of Plaintiff’s assertion that he is now confined in a state prison, Plaintiff is further
advised that if he has been convicted of the offenses for which he alleges the defendants wrongfully
arrested him, his claim for damages in this matter may be barred, unless and until Plaintiff can
demonstrate that his conviction or sentence has been invalidated. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477 (1994) (holding a state prisoner’s claim for damages is not cognizable under § 1983 where
success of the action would implicitly question the validity of the conviction or duration of the
sentence, unless the prisoner can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has been previously
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IMPORTANT INFORMATION . . . PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
WARNING TO PRO SE PARTY OR NONPARTY FILERS
ALL DOCUMENTS THAT YOU FILE WITH THE COURT WILL BE AVAILABLE TO
THE PUBLIC ON THE INTERNET THROUGH PACER (PUBLIC ACCESS TO COURT
ELECTRONIC RECORDS) AND THE COURT’S ELECTRONIC CASE FILING SYSTEM.
CERTAIN PERSONAL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION SHOULD NOT BE INCLUDED IN,
OR SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM, ALL DOCUMENTS BEFORE YOU SUBMIT THE
DOCUMENTS TO THE COURT FOR FILING.
Rule 5.2 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for privacy protection of electronic
or paper filings made with the court. Rule 5.2 applies to ALL documents submitted for filing,
including pleadings, exhibits to pleadings, discovery responses, and any other document submitted
by any party or nonparty for filing. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, a party or nonparty filer
should not put certain types of an individual’s personal identifying information in documents
submitted for filing to any United States District Court. If it is necessary to file a document that
already contains personal identifying information, the personal identifying information should be
“blacked out” or redacted prior to submitting the document to the Clerk of Court for filing. A
person filing any document containing their own personal identifying information waives the
protection of Rule 5.2(a) by filing the information without redaction and not under seal.
1. Personal information protected by Rule 5.2(a):
(a) Social Security and Taxpayer identification numbers. If an individual’s social security
number or a taxpayer identification number must be included in a document, the filer may include
only the last four digits of that number.
(b) Names of Minor Children. If the involvement of a minor child must be mentioned, the filer
may include only the initials of that child.
(c) Dates of Birth. If an individual’s date of birth must be included in a document, the filer may
include only the year of birth.
(d) Financial Account Numbers. If financial account numbers are relevant, the filer may include
only the last four digits of these numbers.
2. Protection of other sensitive personal information – such as driver’s license numbers and alien
registration numbers – may be sought under Rule 5.2(d) (filings made under seal) and (e) (protective
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