Rouse v. Nessel

Decision Date06 July 2020
Docket NumberNo. 8:20-cv-00954-DCC-JDA,8:20-cv-00954-DCC-JDA
PartiesDonald Rouse, Plaintiff, v. Dana Nessel, Michelle Doerr-Tibbits, Dean Alan, Peter J. Maceroni, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Carolina

Donald Rouse ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, files this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the undersigned Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the Complaint for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint on March 6, 2020. [Doc. 1.] After conducting a review of the Complaint, the undersigned issued a Report to the assigned district judge on March 20, 2020, recommending summary dismissal on the basis that the Court lacked jurisdiction because Plaintiff had not established standing to bring this action. [Doc. 9.] By Order dated June 30, 2020, the Honorable Donald C. Coggins, Jr., declined to adopt the undersigned's Report and Recommendation, finding that "at this procedural posture, it appears Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to conclude that he may have standing to pursue this claim." [Doc. 14 at 2.] Judge Coggins recommitted the case to the undersigned for further evaluation and possible service of process, but noted that "the Magistrate Judge may wish to consider whether venue is proper in this District, whether any Defendant is entitled to judicial or other immunity, or whether the statute of limitations is applicable to any of Plaintiff's claims." [Id.]

Accordingly, having again reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the undersigned concludes that, even assuming Plaintiff has alleged facts to establish standing to pursue his claims, this action should be summarily dismissed without issuance and service of process for the reasons explained below.


This action arises from Plaintiff's claim that he was arrested in 2015 pursuant to a warrant based on a Michigan state criminal statute, MCL 750.165(1)1, (the "Michigan statute") for failure to pay child support. [Doc. 1 at 3-4.] Plaintiff files this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking to "protect and vindicate fundamental constitutional rights." [Id. at 2.] He requests prospective declaratory and injunctive relief. [Id.]

Plaintiff names four Defendants in this action: (1) Dana Nessel, the Attorney General of the State of Michigan; (2) Michelle Doerr-Tibbits, the criminal finance division officer of the Attorney General's Office for the State of Michigan; (3) Dean Alan, an Assistant Prosecutor for Macomb County, Michigan; and (4) Peter J. Maceroni, a Circuit Court Judge for Macomb County, Michigan. [Id. at 1.]

Plaintiff alleges that he has lived in South Carolina from 2003 through the present and that he lived in Tennessee from 1992 to 2003. [Id. at 3.] Plaintiff alleges he was arrested on May 29, 2015, at his home in Honea Path, South Carolina, by Sheriff Deputy Ken Smith based on a warrant issued by the State of Michigan Attorney General's Office. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges the warrant was issued in January 2008 for Tennessee and not South Carolina. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that he did not flee from Michigan and that Michigan had no authority under the Constitution to demand his arrest and return. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that he was "illegally incarcerated without proper notice, hearing, opportunity to defend or be represented by counsel and without jurisdiction." [Id.] Plaintiff alleges Michigan did not have personal jurisdiction over him and that he had no contacts with Michigan. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges he was not served in or domiciled in Michigan and that all of the paperwork from the clerk of court's office listed his address in Tennessee. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution were violated. [Id.]

Plaintiff alleges there was no probable cause to support issuance of the warrant. [Id. at 4.] Plaintiff alleges that the laws of Michigan apply only within that State and to citizens of that State. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges the warrant states that he violated the Michigan statute. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges the Michigan statute does not apply unless the individual ordered to pay child support appeared in, or received notice by personal service of, the action in which the support order was issued. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that, under the Michigan statute, prosecutors are required to show that the defendant had either appeared in court or received notice by personal service of the proceeding in which the order was issued and, where a prosecutor fails to present evidence of such, the district court abuses its discretionin binding over the defendant for trial. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges the Michigan statute is unconstitutional and is an ex post facto law. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges the warrant was based on an order of judgment entered in September 2001. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges he had no knowledge of the 2001 order of judgment for which the warrant was issued and that the order of judgment is void. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that, even if the order of judgment was valid on its face, it was issued without judicial review by a non-judicial third party in violation of Michigan law and the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that he had no knowledge that a warrant had been issued. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that in September 2019 he obtained knowledge that a clerk of court file existed and that he obtained copies of the case file. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges he contacted the two courts listed on the warrant and neither one had knowledge of the warrant. [Id. at 5.] Plaintiff alleges Defendants refused to give him the name of the person who signed the warrant or tell him which court issued the warrant. [Id.]

Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts a single count in his Complaint, alleging a violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants subjected him to the deprivation of his rights under the Constitution, in violation of due process, without notice and opportunity to be heard, and without lawful authority. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of Defendants' actions, he has suffered mental anguish, emotional distress, physical injury, and loss of revenue. [Id.] For his relief, Plaintiff asks that the Court (1) "declare the Defendants' policy violates the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution"; (2) permanently enjoin the challenged policy and its application to Plaintiff; (3) order the disclosure of any files or databasescontaining information about Plaintiff; and (4) award Plaintiff reasonable attorney fees, costs, and expenses. [Id. at 5-6.]


Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint. The Complaint is subject to review pursuant to the inherent authority of this Court to ensure that a plaintiff has standing, that subject matter jurisdiction exists, and that a case is not frivolous.2 See Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989) ("Section 1915(d) . . . authorizes courts to dismiss a 'frivolous or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they would have power to do so even in the absence of this statutory provision."); Mills v. Greenville Cty., 586 F. Supp. 2d 480, 487 (D.S.C. 2008); Cornelius v. Howell, No. 3:06-cv-3387-MBS-BM, 2007 WL 397449, at *3 (D.S.C. Jan. 8, 2007) (noting that the payment of the full filing fee does not excuse the court from determining sua sponte that there is a valid basis for jurisdiction), Report and Recommendation adopted by 2007 WL 4952430 (D.S.C. Jan. 30, 2007).

Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, his pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). However, even under this less stringent standard, the pro se Complaint is subject to summary dismissal. The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the Court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but the Court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnettv. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). 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, 390 (4th Cir. 1990).

The Court must accept all well-pled allegations and review a complaint in a light most favorable to plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). Although the Court must liberally construe the pro se Complaint and Plaintiff is not required to plead facts sufficient to prove her case as an evidentiary matter in her pleadings, the Complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (explaining that a plaintiff may proceed into the litigation process only when his complaint is justified by both law and fact). "A claim has 'facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to...

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