Mills v. Greenville County, C.A. No. 0:08-69-PMD-BM.

Decision Date15 April 2008
Docket NumberC.A. No. 0:08-69-PMD-BM.
Citation586 F.Supp.2d 480
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
PartiesGeorge Ann MILLS (for John L. Mills) and John L. Mills, Plaintiffs, v. GREENVILLE COUNTY; Greenville City; Solicator Robert (Bob) Aerial; Ass. Solicator Howard Steinberg; Det. Wes Smith; Det. Antonio Bailey; Sherriff Steve Loftis; Capt. Jackie Kellet w/ lab; Wilbur Bruce/City of Greenville; Att. Patrick Mangrum, Defendants.

John L. Mills, Bishopville, SC, pro se.

George Ann Mills, Blythewood, SC, pro se.

ORDER

PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge to dismiss the Plaintiffs' above-captioned case without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. The record contains a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of a United States Magistrate Judge which was made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).1 A dissatisfied party may object, in writing, to an R & R within ten days after being served with a copy of that report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). On February 25, 2008, Plaintiff filed timely objections2 in response to the R & R.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff John L. Mills ("Plaintiff" or "Mills") is an inmate with the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC") serving a sentence of imprisonment for armed robbery at Lee Correctional Institution ("LCI"). Plaintiff and his mother, Plaintiff George Ann Mills, are proceeding pro se. On January 8, 2008, Plaintiffs filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The "Statement of Claim" portion of Plaintiffs complaint reveals that this civil rights action arises out of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs allege that Mills was "framed" for armed robbery and murder arising out of an incident in March 2005 in which 13-year old Ernest Henry Whitaker was shot and killed during an alleged robbery of the child's parents.3 Plaintiff was convicted by a jury in March 2006 for armed robbery. Plaintiffs allege that Mills was "framed" because he is black, he had a prior criminal record, and was in the area when the incident occurred.4 Plaintiffs further allege that the public defender ineffectively represented Mills and seek damages "for what they did to my son, also my family" (Compl. at 5) in the amount of $25,000,000.00. (Docket Entry 3.)

United States Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant filed an R & R on February 13, 2008, recommending that this Court dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. Following the Magistrate Judge's R & R, Plaintiff filed two motions before the court, a "Motion to Go Forward" and "Motion to Remove Plaintiff George Ann Mills," which have been incorporated and reviewed as objections to the R & R.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendations

Magistrate Judges are empowered by statute to preside over pretrial matters on appointment by a district judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. Where, as here, a Magistrate Judge is "assigned without consent of the parties to hear a pretrial matter dispositive of a claim or defense of a party or a prisoner petition challenging the conditions of confinement ... [t]he magistrate judge shall enter into the record a recommendation for disposition of the matter." Fed. R.Civ.P. 72(b). The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 269, 96 S.Ct. 549, 46 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976).

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), a District Court evaluating a Magistrate Judge's recommendation is permitted to adopt those portions of the recommendation to which no "specific, written objection" is made, as long as those sections are not clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L.Ed.2d 435 (1985). However, where a party makes a specific, written objection within ten days of being served with a copy of the report,5 the district court is required to make a de novo determination regarding those parts of the report, 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 has reviewed the entire record, the R & R, and Plaintiffs objections. The Magistrate Judge fairly and accurately summarized the facts in this case and this Court incorporates the R & R's recitation of the facts by specific reference.

ANALYSIS
I. Standing of Plaintiff George Ann Mills

Plaintiff's first objection/motion, the "Motion to remove George Ann Mills," is granted. In his R & R, the Magistrate Judge found co-plaintiff George Ann Mills, proceeding pro se, did not have standing to bring an action on her son's behalf. (R & R at 4.) While Plaintiffs are pro se litigants and their pleadings are afforded liberal construction, the Magistrate Judge correctly found that George Ann Mills lacked the appropriate standing to bring an action on behalf of her son. Even if George Ann Mills filled the role of guardian ad litem or "next friend" pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c), she must obtain legal counsel to bring her son's claims before this Court. Furthermore, there is no indication that Mills cannot proceed for himself, since he is named as a co-plaintiff, signed the complaint, submitted his own motion to proceed in forma pauperis, and has now filed a lengthy narrative in response to the R & R. Therefore, Plaintiff Mills's "Motion to Remove Plaintiff George Ann Mills," timely filed on February 25, 2008, appropriately dismisses George Ann Mills as a party plaintiff, and the motion is thereby granted.

II. Abstention Under Younger

In his Complaint, Plaintiff John L. Mills requests that this court re-open and reinvestigate the armed robbery and murder investigations at issue, thereby seeking to have Mills's convictions and/or charges dismissed. (Compl. at 5). However, Plaintiff is represented by Appellate Defender Kathrine H. Hudgins, Esquire and has a direct criminal appeal of his armed robbery conviction pending in the South Carolina Court of Appeals. See Attachment 2 at pp. 1-11 (state court record). According to Plaintiff's own motion/objection entitled "Motion to Go Forward", filed February 25, 2008, Plaintiff admittedly states that "Both Arm Robbery and Murder case is in appeal court." (Obj. At 25).6

As held by the Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, a federal court should not equitably interfere with state criminal proceedings except in the most narrow and extraordinary of circumstances. 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971); see also Gilliam v. Foster, 75 F.3d 881, 903 (4th Cir.1996). As such, a federal court may not award injunctive relief that would affect pending state criminal proceedings, absent extraordinary circumstances. The Fourth Circuit has, from Younger and its progeny, set forth the following test to determine when abstention is appropriate: "(1) there are ongoing state judicial proceedings; (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims in state proceedings." Martin Marietta Corp. v. Maryland Comm'n on Human Relations, 38 F.3d 1392, 1396 (4th Cir.1994); Cinema Blue of Charlotte, Inc. v. Gilchrist, 887 F.2d 49, 52 (4th Cir.1989); see also Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 608, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975) (holding that Younger abstention must apply until state appellate judicial remedies are exhausted). The Fourth Circuit has also expounded that "ordinarily a pending state prosecution provides the accused a fair and sufficient opportunity for vindication of federal constitutional rights." Gilliam, 75 F.3d at 903.

In this case, Plaintiff not only has the right to appeal, but has exercised that right in the South Carolina Court of Appeals, by appealing his armed robbery conviction. In his objections to the R & R, Plaintiff generally states that his allegations demonstrate extraordinary circumstances to allow intervention by the this court. However, Plaintiffs bare assertion of having been framed does not demonstrate extraordinary circumstances which would permit this court to interfere with Plaintiffs appeal. Plaintiff has adequate opportunity to raise his federal constitutional claims before the state appellate court. Accordingly, this Court shall refrain from proceeding with Plaintiff Mills's § 1983 claim.

III. Heck v. Humphrey on Invalidating Convictions

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of $25,000,000.00, based on the defendants' "framing" him. (Docket Entry 3.) The Supreme Court has held that in order to recover damages for imprisonment in violation of the constitution, the imprisonment must first successfully be challenged. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994) (holding that a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.). A prisoner's damages claim that would "necessarily require [him] to prove the unlawfulness of his conviction or confinement" cannot be brought under § 1983. Id. Because a claim for damages that does not bear a relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983, Plaintiff may not recover monetary damages until the imprisonment is first successfully challenged.

Most importantly, the Supreme Court held in Heck that "when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff(s) would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or...

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