United States District Court, D. Delaware
DALLAS H. DRUMMOND, JR. Plaintiff,
GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.
The plaintiff, Dallas H. Drummond, Jr. ("Drummond"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"), Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 3.) He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 7.) On November 18, 2014, the court reviewed, screened, and dismissed the original complaint. ( See D.I. 12, 13.) Drummond was given leave to amend the false disciplinary report/due process claim. Drummond filed an amended complaint (D.I. 14) on December 10, 2014, followed by a motion to amend the complaint (D.I. 15) on December 16, 2014 and, thereafter, the court dismissed the amended complaint. (D.I. 17.) Drummond was given one final opportunity to amend the false disciplinary report/due process claim. The third amended complaint was filed on March 19, 2015. (D.I. 18.)
The caption of the third amended complaint incorrectly lists the State of Delaware as the plaintiff and Drummond as the defendant. To the extent that Drummond intended to name the State of Delaware as a defendant, it is immune from suit. The third amended complaint alleges that based upon Drummond's "so-called past history", he was found guilty of a disciplinary infraction without any physical or circumstantial evidence and that there were violations of the Delaware Department of Correction Code of Conduct due to the staffs failure to submit true, accurate and appropriate reports in a timely fashion. In addition, the third amended complaint alleges that Drummond is subject to discrimination because he has not had any job offers, job positions, or opportunities for prison employment. Drummond seeks a transfer to a different correctional facility.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 Cir. 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 a 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. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Drummond 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 v. Pardus, 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)(i) and § 1915A(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; 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. 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 Drummond 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 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 sofa 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 Cir. 2011)). The last step is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
A. False Disciplinary Report
Drummond alleges that the staff issued a false disciplinary report that resulted in a finding of guilt without any physical or circumstantial evidence. The filing of false disciplinary charges does not constitute a claim under § 1983 so long as certain procedural requirements are satisfied such as holding a hearing and proving the inmate opportunity to rebut the charges. Crosby v. Piazza, 465 F.Appx. 168, 172 (3d Cir. 2012) (unpublished) (citing Smith v. Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641, 653-54 (3d Cir. 2002))
Similar to the second amended complaint, the third amended complaint does not indicate who allegedly violated Drummond's rights. Drummond was given an opportunity to amend, but failed to correct his pleading defects. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (The court may curtail or deny a request for leave to amend where there is "repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed" and there would be "futility of amendment."). ...