Wilson v. Braham, C/A No. 6:15-4835-MGL-TER

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtThomas E. Rogers, III United States Magistrate Judge
PartiesIrvin Jefferson Wilson, aka Irvin Jefferson Wilson # 158202 Plaintiff, v. Officer Braham, Benjamin Cothran, Michael Onell, Officer Collier, Officer Munoz, Charles Cothran, Sheriff Steve Loftis, Police Officer, Greenville Law Enforcement, State of South Carolina E. Powers Price, Esquire, Alex Stalvey, Esquire, Allen Wilson, Attorney General, State of SC W. Walter Wilkins, Solicitor, Mark Moyer, Assistant Solicitor, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Knox White, Mayor, Greenville, S.C., Darren Vaughn, Edward Irick, Officer Harvell, Kitty Hyatt, S. Brown, Wayne Shepardson, Foreman, Grand Jury, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Greenville, South Carolina,; Defendants.
Docket NumberC/A No. 6:15-4835-MGL-TER
Decision Date29 February 2016

Irvin Jefferson Wilson,
aka Irvin Jefferson Wilson # 158202 Plaintiff,
v.
Officer Braham, Benjamin Cothran, Michael Onell, Officer Collier,
Officer Munoz, Charles Cothran, Sheriff Steve Loftis, Police Officer, Greenville Law
Enforcement, State of South Carolina E. Powers Price, Esquire,
Alex Stalvey, Esquire, Allen Wilson, Attorney General, State of SC
W. Walter Wilkins, Solicitor, Mark Moyer, Assistant Solicitor,
Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Knox White, Mayor, Greenville, S.C.,
Darren Vaughn, Edward Irick, Officer Harvell, Kitty Hyatt,
S. Brown, Wayne Shepardson, Foreman, Grand Jury, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit,
Greenville, South Carolina,; Defendants.

C/A No. 6:15-4835-MGL-TER

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA

February 29, 2016


REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

This is a civil action filed pro se by the Plaintiff related to certain criminal charges in the state court system. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1), and District of South Carolina Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases

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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 review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal).

BACKGROUND

Irvin Jefferson Wilson ("Plaintiff") has filed a lengthy pleading covering events dating back to 2014, all of which appear to arise out of, or be related to an April 24, 2014 arrest for petit larceny and a July 30, 2014 arrest, and subsequent October 2015 conviction for possession of burglary tools. It appears that on April 24, 2014, Plaintiff was arrested for petit or simple larceny, with an enhancement pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §16-1-57.1(Case Number 2014A232060098) See https://www2.greenvillecounty.org/SCJD /PublicIndex/CaseDetails.aspx?County=23&CourtAgency=23206&Casenum=2014A2320600998&CaseType=C. The case was transferred from the City of Greenville Municipal Court to General Sessions Court in May of 2014. See https://www2.greenvillecounty.org/SCJD/ PublicIndex/CaseDetails.aspx?County=23&CourtAgency=23001&Casenum=2014A2320600998&CaseType=C. A true bill of the indictment was filed on June 30, 2015. Id. (Indictment No. 2014-GS-23-5690). Plaintiff was also arrested on July 30, 2014 on a charge of possession of burglary tools/making implements capable of being used in a crime. See https://www2.greenvillecounty.org/SCJD/

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PublicIndex/CaseDetails.aspx?County=23&CourtAgency=23001&Casenum=2014A2320601800&CaseType=C. The case was transferred from the City of Greenville Municipal Court to General Sessions Court in August of 2014. A true bill of the indictment was filed on June 30, 2015. Id. (Case No. 2014A2320601800, Indictment No. 2014_GS-23-8401). Plaintiff was found guilty as to the possession of burglary tools charge on October 15, 2015, and sentenced to 442 days. The next day, on October 16, 2015 , Plaintiff's petit larceny charge was dismissed for reasons of prosecutorial discretion. See https://www2.greenvillecounty.org/SCJD/PublicIndex/CaseDetails.aspx?County=23&CourtAgency=23001&Casenum=2014A2320600998&CaseType=C. In his complaint, Plaintiff names as defendants a number of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys with whom he has had contact as a result of the arrests and prosecution noted above. Plaintiff alleges inter alia, unlawful detention, false arrest and false imprisonment as to the two charges. Plaintiff further alleges deficiencies in his indictments. He names as additional defendants the grand jury foreman during the time at which his indictments were true billed, and the Mayor of Greenville, South Carolina. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

INITIAL REVIEW

Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint.2 This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Such pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, id.; Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the

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development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555.56 (2007)). 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. Dept of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 for all civil actions). 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 the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999), construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir. 1993), or conjure up questions never squarely presented to the to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

Moreover, even when the filing fee is paid, the court possesses the inherent authority to ensure that a plaintiff has standing, that federal jurisdiction exists, and that a case is not frivolous. See Ross v. Baron, No. 12-1272, 2012 WL 3590914, at *1 (4th Cir. Aug. 22, 2012); see also Mallard v. United States Dist. Court for S. Dist. of Iowa, 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.).

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DISCUSSION

This action is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a private cause of action for constitutional violations by persons acting under color of state law. Section 1983 " '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, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3, 99 S.Ct. 2689, 61 L.Ed.2d 433 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under § 1983 allows "a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief." City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707, 119 S.Ct. 1624, 143 L.Ed.2d 882 (1999).

Section 1983 provides, in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress ...

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under § 1983, a Plaintiff must prove two elements: (1) that the Defendant "deprived [the Plaintiff] of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States;" and (2) that the defendant "deprived [the Plaintiff] of this constitutional right under color of [State] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage." Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir.2001) (third alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). As an initial matter, a number of the Defendants named by Plaintiff are entitled to immunity from suit.

The Defendants W. Walter Wilkins, and Mark Moyer have prosecutorial immunity from suit. In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976), the United States

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Supreme Court held that prosecutors, when acting within the scope of their duties, have absolute immunity from damages liability under § 1983 for alleged civil rights violations committed in the course of proceedings that are "intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process." Plaintiff alleges that Defendant assistant solicitor Mark Moyer signed his indictment and that he had the discretion to decide whether to charge Plaintiff with a criminal offense. Doc. 1 at 11, 19. The law is well established that the decision whether to prosecute or not to prosecute is protected from suit by prosecutorial immunity. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128. Similarly, the allegations against Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Defendant Wilkins relate to Plaintiff's assertion that Defendant Wilkins should have "file[d] a motion for a no bill by the state grand jury" and "failed to train and supervise his subordinates" in relation to the charges brought against Plaintiff in the criminal case. Docket at 1 at 18. All of the Plaintiff's allegations relate to the judicial phase of the criminal process, invoking prosecutorial immunity. See Anderson v. Miller, 2008 WL 5100845, at *5 (D.S.C. 2008).

Similarly, Attorney General Alan Wilson is also subject to dismissal. See Title 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In South Carolina, the South Carolina Attorney General is the chief prosecuting officer of the State of South Carolina. See S.C.Code Ann., S.C. CONST Art. V, § 24 (1995). The South Carolina Attorney General and the South Carolina Assistant Attorney Generals have absolute immunity from personal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because they are entitled to prosecutorial immunity for activities intimately associated with the judicial phase of the...

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