Judicial Notice of Court Records and Factual Information Posted on Governmental Websites — Standards for Review of Pro Se Pleadings

From Chisolm v. McElvogue, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40377 (D.S.C. Mar. 16, 2011):

Plaintiff, Donsurvi Chisolm (Plaintiff), proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee in Berkeley County's Hill Finklea Detention Center (HFDC) in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.***

As Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court is required to liberally construe his pleadings, holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). Even under this less stringent standard, however, a a pro se complaint is subject to sum-mary dismissal. 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 district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).***

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that he has been denied access to the courts in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because HFDC inmates do not have a law library or access to legal materials. *** While Plaintiff alleges that he is "a a pro se defendant with no stand by counsel" (ECF No. 1, p. 3), state court records indicate that Plaintiff is represented by attorney Patricia Ann Kennedy of the Berkeley County Public Defender's Office, on his charges of murder (case No. M325223, indictment no. 2010GS0801425); ABIK (case no. M331243, indictment no. 2010GS0801424); and possession of firearm during the commission of violent crime (case no. M331244, indictment no. 2010GS0801426). See Berkeley County Ninth Judicial Circuit Public Index website, http://courts.berkeleycountysc.gov/publicindex/PISearch.aspx?CourtType=G (last visited March 11, 2011).

[Footnote] 4. The Court may take judicial notice of court records and factual infor-mation located in postings on government websites. See Colonial Penn Ins. Co. v. Coil, 887 F.2d 1236, 1239 (4th Cir. 1989)("We note that '[t]he most frequent use of judicial notice is in noticing the content of court records.'"). See also McCormick v. Wright, No. 2:10-cv-00033-RBH-RSC, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13799 at *6-7 n. 5(D. S.C. Jan. 15, 2010) adopted by, dismissed without prejudice by McCormick v. Wright, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13726 (D.S.C., Feb. 17, 2010); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Consolidated Litigation, No. 05-4182, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86538 at *2 (E.D. La. Sept. 8, 2008)(collecting cases indicating that federal courts may take judicial notice of governmental websites, including court records); Williams v. Long, 585 F. Supp. 2d 679, 686-88 & n. 4 (D. Md. 2008)(collecting cases indicating that postings on government websites are inherently authentic or self-authenticating). According to the HFDC website, Plaintiff was booked on June 16, 2010, on charges of murder (bond not set); ABIK ($150,000 bond); and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime ($50,000 bond). Plaintiff is also being held on a Driving Under Suspension bench warrant (bond not set) and a Dorchester County "hold" (bond not set). See http://www.berkeleycountysc.gov/dept/sheriff/suspects/inmates.aspx (last visited March 11, 2011).

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