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Issa v. Delaware State University

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 11, 2014

JAHI ISSA, Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE STATE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

Jahi Issa, Wilmington, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Jahi Issa ("Plaintiff") filed this action alleging discrimination and violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988, and 2000e-5, et seq., and the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.[1] He appears prose and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4) The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed as an assistant professor of history and Africana studies in the Department of History and Political Science at Delaware State University ("DSU") in Dover, Delaware. He is an African-American who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"). Plaintiff alleges that he was a tenured track professor who was considered for promotion to associate professor until he was terminated on August 17, 2012, following a paid administrative leave that began on or around March 2, 2012 after he was notified that DSU was conducting an investigation.[2]

It appears the investigation was the result of Plaintiff's participation in a March 1, 2012 student protest at DSU. Plaintiff alleges that during the protest, he was assaulted by DSU employees, taken to the Kent General Hospital for treatment and, while hospitalized, arrested by a DSU police officer. Plaintiff was taken to the Dover jail, appeared before the local magistrate, charged with four misdemeanors, and released. (D.I. 2 ¶¶ 49-58)

Prior to the time his employment was terminated, Plaintiff complained of discrimination and had filed a charge of discrimination against DSU with the EEOC on July 8, 2011. He filed a second charge of discrimination for retaliation against DSU on November 8, 2012. Plaintiff alleges Defendants engaged in discriminatory conduct based upon his race, and that he reported ongoing acts of harassment and discrimination to his superiors, but no action was taken. In addition, he alleges retaliation after he advised his superior that he was considering filing an EEOC complaint

Other than DSU, the defendants are sued in their individual and official capacities. The complaint contains nine counts. Counts I, II, V, VI, and VIII allege violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Count III alleges violations of Title Vll, [3] Count IV alleges violations of the ADA, and Counts VII and IX raise supplemental State law claims. More particularly: (1) Count I, against all Defendants, alleges violations of Plaintiffs First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to hold employment without infringement of his First Amendment right to free speech and to petition the government; (2) Count II, against Defendants Harry Williams ("Williams"), Alton Thompson ("Thompson"), Irene Chapman-Hawkins ("Chapman"), Bradley Skelcher ("Skelcher'), and Thomas Preston ("Preston"), alleges Plaintiffs State employment was terminated without due process; (3) Count Ill. against Williams, Thompson, Chapman, Skelcher, and Preston, alleges retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC; (4) Count IV, against all Defendants, alleges that Plaintiff suffers from PTSD and that he was not provided a reasonable accommodation during the summer of 2011; (5) Count V, against all Defendants, alleges false arrest and false imprisonment in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (6) Count VI, against all Defendants, alleges malicious prosecution; (7) Count VII, against all Defendants, alleges defamation under State law; (8) Count VIII, against all Defendants, alleges that DSU developed and maintained policies, practices, and/or customs that were the direct and proximate cause of the violations of Plaintiffs constitutional rights; and (9) Count IX, against Williams, Thompson, Chapman, Skelcher, Preston, and Stevenson alleges breach of contract.

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis 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). 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), 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) 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, 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). 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. When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must take three steps: "(1) identify[] the elements of the claim, (2) review[] the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) look[] at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluat[e] whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Eleventh ...


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