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Allen v. Georgetown Police Department

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 10, 2017

JAMES IRA ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGETOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          James Ira Allen, Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff James Ira Allen ("Plaintiff), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights.[1] (D.I. 2) Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time he commenced this action. He is currently incarcerated at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown, Delaware. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 6) The Court proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and§1915A(a).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was arrested on February 1, 2015, for being intimate with a fourteen year-old girl. He alleges: (1) Defendants Georgetown Police Department ("Georgetown PD") Detective Bradley Cordrey ("Cordrey"), Sergeant Tyndall ("Tyndall"), and Corporal 3 Delaware State Police Troop 4 Mark Justice ("Justice") authored official police reports that contained errors regarding the race of the victim, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and supervisors Leslie A. Dick and Defendant Georgetown PD Lt. Lawrence Grose ("Grose") approved the reports; (2) a search warrant for the vehicle Plaintiff used was not filled out correctly and was overly broad, making the search and seizure unlawful and in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (3) Grose slandered and defamed Plaintiff when a newspaper published an account in which Grose said Plaintiff "may also face federal charges;"[2] (4) Defendants Georgetown PD Cpl. Wilson ("Wilson") and Tyndall took actions during their investigation that caused contamination of evidence; (5) Defendants forensic analysts Sarah Lindauer ("Lindauer") and Kevin MacMillan ("MacMillan") examined the forensic evidence but did not send it to the FBI lab in Washington, DC for proper testing; and (6) Defendants Georgetown PD, Delaware State Police Troop 4 ("State Police"), and Division of Forensic Science ("DFS") did not follow proper procedures, conducted an illegal search, did not properly handle evidence, lied on reports, and failed to properly test all the evidence collected. Also named as defendants are the Department of Safety and Homeland Security ("DSHS"), the State of Delaware (the "State"), and Wilmington, Delaware.

         Plaintiff seeks as relief the dismissal of all criminal charges, his return to Maine where he resides, and $40 million in compensatory damages.

         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 zpro 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; see also Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Or. 1989); Deutscb 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 deciding Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See Tourscherv. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state 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 a plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Majview 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." Bellsltl. Cotp. 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) (internal quotation marks omitted). 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 p. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Finally, a plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City of Shelby, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A complaint may not dismissed for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See Id. at 346.

         Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) when there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. See Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). 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 (citing 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. ...


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