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Clark v. Deskins

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

June 27, 2019

DOUGLAS ALLEN CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
SABRINA DESKINS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before this Court are an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs, (ECF No. 1), and a Complaint, (ECF No. 2), filed by Plaintiff Douglas Allen Clark (“Plaintiff”). By standing order entered on January 4, 2016, and filed in this case on October 25, 2018, this action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation for disposition (“PF&R”). (ECF No. 3.) Magistrate Judge Tinsley entered his PF&R on April 9, 2019, recommending that this Court dismiss the complaint and deny Plaintiff's application to proceed without prepayment of fees and costs. (ECF No. 5.)

         For the reasons explained more fully herein, this Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's objections, (ECF Nos. 6, 7), and ADOPTS the PF&R, (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff's complaint, (ECF No. 2), is DISMISSED. His application to proceed without prepayment of fees and costs, (ECF No. 1), is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this action against Defendant Sabrina Deskins (“Defendant”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See ECF No. 2.) He alleges that Defendant, the family court judge who presided over his divorce proceeding in Mingo County, West Virginia, violated his constitutional rights by not informing him of a hearing, by awarding certain property to his ex-wife, and by not recusing herself from Plaintiff's divorce proceeding because she knew his former brother-in-law. (Id.)

         Magistrate Judge Tinsley filed his PF&R on April 9, 2019. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff filed timely objections on April 25, 2019. (ECF No. 6.) On April 30, 2019, Plaintiff filed amended objections. (ECF No. 7.)[1] As such, this matter is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Review of PF&R

         Upon receipt of a PF&R, this Court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This Court “make[s] a de novo determination of those portions of the [PF&R] to which objection is made.” Id.; see Kerr v. Marshall Univ. Bd. of Governors, 824 F.3d 62, 72 (4th Cir. 2016). However, this Court is not required to review, “under a de novo or any other standard, ” the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge “when neither party objects to those findings.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). In addition, this Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party “makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a specific error in the [PF&R].” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).

         B. Proceedings In Forma Pauperis

         When an indigent litigant files an application to proceed without prepayment of fees and costs, this Court has “a duty to screen initial filings.” Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 656 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)). This Court must review the complaint and “shall dismiss the case at any time” if it determines 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). In other words, this Court “independently assess[es] the merits of in forma pauperis complaints” and dismisses “suits that have no arguable basis in law or fact.” Eriline Co., 440 F.3d at 656 (quoting Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 954 (4th Cir. 1995)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff's Objections to the PF&R's Characterization of His Claims

         Plaintiff first argues that the PF&R improperly characterizes his claims against Defendant. (See ECF No. 7 at 2, 3; ECF No. 6 at 2-4.) He explains that Defendant violated his constitutional rights by holding a hearing in his divorce proceedings without him present and depriving him of certain personal property at that hearing. (ECF No. 7 at 2; ECF No. 6 at 2-3.) The PF&R recommends that Plaintiff's claims be dismissed because, among other reasons, they amount ...


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