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Seba v. Joyner

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 11, 2017

JOSEPH C. SEBA, Plaintiff,
CARLTON JOYNER, et al., Defendants.


          TERRENCE W. BOYLE United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on the Order and Memorandum and Recommendation ("Order and M&R") of United States Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers, II, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). D.E. 14. The court ADOPTS the Order and M&R. Additionally, the court allows Seba's request to amend his Complaint to add parties and claims to the lawsuit in the manner set out below.


         On February 22, 2016, plaintiff Joseph C. Seba ("Seba"), a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Central Prison Warden Carlton Joyner and three unnamed Central Prison staff members (D.E. 1). On that date, Seba also filed a motion to appoint counsel (D.E. 3). Seba seeks monetary damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of an assault by the unnamed staff members and subsequently, inadequate medical care for the injuries. Additionally, Seba claims he was transferred from Central Prison to Bertie Correctional Institution in retaliation for preparing to file his § 1983 Complaint, which caused him to lose his prison job and be separated by a greater distance from his family in violation of his First Amendment rights.[1]

         On July 26, 2016, the court conducted a frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Judge Numbers ordered that Seba's motion to appoint counsel be denied and that his claims against the unnamed Sergeant, unnamed corrections officer, and unnamed nurse in their individual capacities be allowed to proceed. See Order and M&R, D.E. 14. Judge Numbers recommended that the claims against the Defendants in their official capacities be dismissed; his claims against Warden Joyner in his individual capacity be dismissed; and his claims for declaratory and injunctive relief be dismissed as moot. See id As to Seba's claims against the unnamed defendants, Judge Numbers ordered the North Carolina Department of Public Safety ("NCDPS") to provide Seba with documentation that would assist him in identifying the unnamed defendants. Order and M&R, D.E. 14. The NCDPS complied. See Notice, D.E. 17. On October 24, 2016, Seba filed an amended complaint naming the individuals he claims violated his constitutional rights. See Am. Compl., D.E. 24.

         In the interim, Seba filed objections to Judge Numbers' Order and M&R. See Obj., D.E. 15.


         "The Federal Magistrates Act requires a district court to make a de novo determination of those portions of the magistrate judge's report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (emphasis, alteration, and quotation omitted); see 28 U.S.C. 636(b). Absent a timely objection, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Diamond, 416 F .3d at 315 (quotation omitted).

         The court has reviewed the Order and M&R, the record, and the pleadings. As explained below, the court overrules Seba's objections and adopts the findings and conclusions in the Order and M&R.

         I. Add Parties to Eighth Amendment Claim

         In response to Judge Numbers' Order and M&R, Seba filed an Amended Complaint identifying six individuals who, he claimed, violated his constitutional rights: Ramel Freeman, John Raymond, Chukwudi Amaechi, Jamela Dunbar, DeShone Joyner and Derrick Smith. Am. Compl., D.E. 24. However, in his original Complaint Seba named only three unknown defendants. See Compl., D.E. 1. The court construes Seba's identification of six individuals as defendants as a request to amend his Complaint to add three additional parties. Under Rule 15(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[a] party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within ... 21 days after serving it." For any subsequent amendment, a party must seek leave from the Court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). "The court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Id. Here, because Seba's Complaint has not yet been served on defendants, Seba may amend his Complaint to add the foregoing defendants. As no defendant has been served, the court finds no prejudice.

         II. Objections to the Order and M&R

         A. First Amendment Claim

         Seba first objects to Judge Numbers' recommendation that his First Amendment retaliation claim against Warden Joyner be dismissed. See Obj. at 1-4. Judge Numbers concluded that Seba's transfer from Central Prison did not violate his constitutional rights because an inmate has no constitutional right to choose his place of incarceration. See Meachum v, Fanno. 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976); Johnson v. Ozmint456 F.Supp.2d 688, 695 (D.S.C. 2006) (citing Ajaj v. Smith. 108 F.App'x 743, 744 (4th Cir. 2004)). Judge Numbers moreover noted that "Seba's only factual support for his retaliation claim is his conclusory allegations that the decision to transfer him from Central Prison was made in retaliation for preparing to file the instant lawsuit." Order and M&R at 8, D.E. 14. ...

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