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Dunbar v. White

United States District Court, District of Delaware

March 13, 2015

MICHAEL R. DUNBAR, Plaintiff,
v.
MARSHA J. WHITE, et al, Defendants.

Michael R. Dunbar, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

STARK, U.S. District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Michael R, Dunbar ("Plaintiff), an inmate at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C, § 1983. He also raises supplemental State tort claims. Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 9) The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b) and § 1915A(a). (See D.I. 1)

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allegations concern his underlying criminal convictions.[1] A criminal matter was scheduled for January 2007. Plaintiff contends that he wanted to go to trial and show that he had turned himself in for questioning. However, he signed a document that waived his preliminary hearing; he alleges that he was mislead into signing the document. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Public Defender Dean DelCollo ("DelCollo") was not present to protect his rights at the hearing. Plaintiff appealed the matter, and alleges that the case was never heard by the Delaware Supreme Court.

There was a special hearing with Defendants Deputy Attorneys General Marsha J, White ("White") and Cari VanDyke ("VanDyke"), as well as Public Defenders DelCollo and Tyler K.

O'Connell ("O'Connell"). An August 21, 2008 letter indicated that Plaintiff was "now competent to stand trial." During this time, Plaintiff was in the Delaware Psychiatric Center ("DPC"). Plaintiff entered into a plea agreement but questions why it took so long to offer him a plea, why he continued under doctors' care when he wanted to proceed to trial, and why bail was not set. Plaintiff remained in the DPC and was not sentenced until December 2009. Plaintiff contends that Defendants held the indictment over his head to ensure his cooperation. He alleges that Defendants lacked proof in his case and takes exception to his convictions and sentences. He seeks compensatory damages for the time he has served and asks the Court to review his plea agreement.

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Or. 2013); see also 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 Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). 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 (citations 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)® and § 1915A(b)(1), 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; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see, e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison officials took an 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)(1) 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) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). 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 Hasp,, 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).

A complaint may be dismissed only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). Though "detailed factual allegations" are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Davis v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In addition, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Williams v. BASF Catalysts LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

To determine whether a complaint meets the pleading standard as set forth in Twombly and Iqbal, the Court must; (1) outline the elements a plaintiff must plead to a state a claim for relief; (2) peel away those allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) look for well-pled factual allegations, assume their veracity, and then "determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) (internal citations omitted) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; Argueta v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 643 F.3d 60, 73 (3d ...


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