United States District Court, D. Delaware
ALBERT J. SMITH, Plaintiff,
THIRTY-NINE EMPLOYEES OF THE JAMES T. VAUGHN CORRECTIONAL CENTER, et al., Defendants.
Albert J. Smith, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.
LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.
Plaintiff Albert J. Smith ("Plaintiff'), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff is incarcerated at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5) The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A.
Plaintiff received an infraction for having a cell phone in his cell and was sanctioned to forty-five days in isolation, from September 16, 2011 to October 30, 2011. He complains of his conditions of confinement during that time. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.
III. LEGAL STANDARDS
This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) ( in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007); Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (internal quotation marks omitted).
An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § 1915A(b)(l), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 327-28; see also Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison officials took inmate's pen and refused to give it back).
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(l) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).
A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the Court conducts a two-part analysis. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the factual and legal elements of a claim are separated. See id. The Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. See id. at 210-11. The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Second, the Court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211. In other words, the complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief; rather, it must "show" such an entitlement with its facts. Id. A claim is facially plausible when its factual content allows the Court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
Plaintiff complains of condition of confinement from September 16, 2011 to October 30, 2011. ( See D.I. 3 at 7) For purposes of the statute of limitations, § 1983 claims are characterized as personal injury actions, see Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275 (1983), and in Delaware, § 1983 claims are subject to a two-year limitations period, see Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, § 8119; Johnson v. Cullen, 925 F.Supp. 244, 248 (D. Del. 1996). Section 1983 claims accrue "when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action is based." Sameric Corp. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998). In the instant case, that date was no later than October 30, 2011, Plaintiff's last day in isolation.
The statute commenced to run on October 31, 2011, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a)(l)(A) (exclude the day of the event that triggers the period), and expired two years later, on October 30, 2013 ( id. at 6(a)(l)(C) (include the last day of the period, unless it is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday). See, e.g., Monkelis v. Mobay Chem., 827 F.2d 937, 938 (3d Cir. 1987) ("[T]he statute of limitations expires on the anniversary date of the event, ...