Tyler v. Bogle, C. A. 4:19-2318-MGL-BM

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtBristow Merchant, United States Magistrate Judge.
PartiesLarry James Tyler, Plaintiff, v. James Bogle, Sr.; Paul M. Burch; Tony Chavis, Defendants.
Docket NumberC. A. 4:19-2318-MGL-BM
Decision Date13 September 2021

Larry James Tyler, Plaintiff,

James Bogle, Sr.; Paul M. Burch; Tony Chavis, Defendants.

C. A. No. 4:19-2318-MGL-BM

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 13, 2021


Bristow Merchant, United States Magistrate Judge.

This is a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Larry James Tyler, pro se. Plaintiff is a frequent filer of litigation in this Court and is currently detained at the Darlington County Detention Center (DCDC), where he is awaiting civil commitment proceedings pursuant to the South Carolina Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), SC Code Ann. §§ 44-48-10 through 44-48-170. See Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 2, 5; see also Tyler v. Byrd. No. 4:16-00400-MGL-BM, 2016 WL 4414834, at * 1 (D.S.C. Jul. 27, 2016), adopted by 2016 WL 4374982 (D.S.C. Aug. 16, 2016).[1]

Plaintiffs Complaint is before the Court for pre-service review. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B): In re Prison Litigation Reform Act. 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1997)[pleadings by non-prisoners should also be screened]. Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint herein pursuant to the procedural provisions of § 1915, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez. 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams. 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Haines v. Kerner. 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden. Maryland House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc); and Todd v. Baskerville. 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983). Section 1915 permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without paying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. However, to protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action "is frivolous or 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). A finding of frivolousness can be made where the complaint "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Denton v. Hernandez. 504 U.S. at 31. Hence, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke v. Williams. 490 U.S. 319.

Further, while this Court is also required to liberally construe pro se documents, holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Erickson v. Pardus. 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007Yquoting Estelle v. Gamble. 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)), 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 currently cognizable in a federal court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.. 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). Such is the case here.

Plaintiffs Allegations

Plaintiff is once again challenging his pending sexually violent predator (SVP) proceedings, arguing that the Defendants have falsely imprisoned him and denied him due process. Complaint. ECF No. 1 at 6. He alleges that on August 27, 2015, while he was still imprisoned within the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), the state multi-disciplinary team completed a Sexual Predator Referral Form and found that he satisfied the definition of a sexually violent predator (SVP), such that a review by the Prosecutor Review Committee was warranted. He asserts that the Prosecutor Review Committee found probable cause that Plaintiff had been convicted of a sexually violent offense and suffered from a mental abnormality or personality disorder and needed to be confined for long-term treatment. Thereafter, Defendant Assistant Attorney General James Bogle, Jr. allegedly filed a petition at the Darlington Courthouse pursuant to the SVPA and Defendant Judge Paul M. Burch allegedly signed an order on October 16, 2015, to designate Plaintiff an SVP under the statute. Plaintiff states that, thereafter, on October 26, 2015, he was brought before Judge Burch and ordered to undergo SVP evaluations. Although he was represented by an attorney at the hearing, Plaintiff asserts that he only met his attorney fifteen minutes before the hearing and did not know about the earlier proceedings such that he did not get an opportunity to defend himself. Plaintiff was released from SCDC and taken to the DCDC, where he has remained since October 30, 2015. See ECF Nos. 1, 1-4, 1-6.

Plaintiff complains that the multi-disciplinary team had no evidence that his four sex convictions were violent such that any finding that he is an SVP is invalid.[2] He further asserts that he was not under the SVP statute when he was convicted of his crimes. Plaintiff claims that he has been trying to address his alleged wrongful commitment in state court, but is indigent and has been unable to serve the summonses on the Defendants and has written to the South Carolina Supreme Court. He also complains that DCDC does not have facilities to allow for legal research and that the Director will not give indigent inmates a pen or pencil to do legal work. See ECF Nos. 1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-6. Plaintiff requests declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. See ECF Nos. 1 and 1-5.


Initially, the undersigned is constrained to note that Plaintiffs claims for monetary damages are subject to summary dismissal based on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Heck v. Humphrey. 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the United States Supreme Court held that 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 a sentence, unless the prisoner can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has been previously invalidated. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-487. Heck bars both a claim that the plaintiff is being held past his mandatory parole release date as to his state convictions as well as his civil confinement pending assessment as an SVP. Cf. Huff v. Attorney General of Va.. No. 3:07-744, 2008 WL 4065544 (E.D.Va. Aug. 26, 2008), affd, 323 Fed.Appx. 293 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Haynesworth v. Cothran. C. A. No. 2:12-2466-CMC-BHH. 2012 WL 4753896, at *2 (D.S.C. Sep. 27, 2012) [Heck applies to civil-rights challenges to SVP orders], adopted by. 2012 WL 4753893 (Oct. 4, 2012); Wood v. Wood El. No. Civ.A. 05-1447 RBK, 2005 WL 1899335, at *4 (D.N.J. Aug.5, 2005) [rejecting a § 1983 challenge to an involuntary civil commitment because the involuntary commitment had not been invalidated as required by Heck].

Heck also acts to bar Plaintiffs claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. See Wilkinson v. Dotson. 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) ["[A] state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)—no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner's suit ...— if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration."]; Mobley v. Tompkins, 473 Fed.Appx. 337 (4th Cir. 2012) [applying Heck in a civil action seeking damages and injunctive relief relating to federal convictions] (citing Heck at 586-87; Harvey v. Horan. 278 F.3d 370, 375 (4th Cir. 2002), abrogated on other grounds by Skinner v. Switzer. 562 U.S. 521 (2011)).

Moreover, even if Plaintiff s claims are not barred by Heck, federal courts are not authorized to interfere with a State's pending criminal proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances.[3] See, e.g., Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44 (1971); Cinema Blue of Charlotte. Inc. v. Gilchrist. 887 F.2d 49, 50-53 (4th Cir. 1989). The Fourth Circuit has held that the Younger abstention doctrine applies "to noncriminal judicial proceedings when important state interests are involved." Harper v. Public Serv. Comm'n of W.Va.. 396 F.3d 348, 351 (4th Cir. 2005)[property law concerns] (citing Middlesex County Ethics Comm'n v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)). The South Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the SVPA and its procedures as a constitutionally valid exercise of the State's power to protect its citizens from sexually violent predators; In re: Luckabaueh. 568 S.E.2d 338, 348 (S.C. 2002); and the Court of Appeals of South Carolina has stated that protecting minors from sexual predators is an important state interest. See State v. Reid. 679 S.E.2d 194, 201 n. 6 (S.C.Ct.App. 2009)[discussing South Carolina's important public policy of protecting minors from harm in the context of an internet solicitation of a minor case].[4] Other circuits have also applied Younger to pending civil commitment proceedings. See Sweeney v. Bartow. 612 F.3d 571, 572 (7th Cir. 2010)["The principles of Younger are applicable to habeas petitions from pending [Wisconsin] sexually violent person commitments."]; Smith v. Plummer. 458 Fed.Appx. 642, 643 (9th Cir. 2011) [Younger doctrine extends to state civil judicial proceedings where there is an ongoing state-initiated judicial proceeding, the proceeding implicates important state interests, the federal litigant is not barred from litigating federal constitutional issues in the state proceeding, and federal court action would enjoin the proceeding or have the practical effect of doing so, Le., would interfere in a way that Younger disapproves].

In Cinema Blue of Charlotte. Inc.. the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that federal district courts should abstain from constitutional challenges to state judicial proceedings, no matter how meritorious, if the federal claims have been or could be presented in an ongoing state judicial proceeding. Id. at 52. Moreover, the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283, expressly prohibits this court from enjoining such proceedings. See Bonner v. Circuit Court of St. Louis. 526 F.2d 1331, 1336 (8th Cir. 1975) (en banc)["Congress and the federal judiciary have consistently recognized that federal courts should permit state courts...

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