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Jones v. Justice of Peace Court No. 4

United States District Court, D. Delaware

April 5, 2017

MATTHEW JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT NO. 4, Sussex County, Delaware, Defendant.

          Matthew Jones, Greenwood, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Joseph Clement Handlon, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Matthew Jones, who appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, filed this action in December 2016 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Justice of the Peace Court No. 4, Sussex County, Delaware. The matter was transferred to this Court on December 21, 2016. (D.I. 2). Jones asserts jurisdiction by reason of a federal question and alleges that his claims arise under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States. Defendant moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) prior to review and screening of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). (D.I. 6). Plaintiff opposes the motion to dismiss. (D.I. 7). Briefing on the matter is complete. The Court proceeds to screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         BACKGROUND

         Jones alleges that from September 17, 2015 to the present, long standing enslavement, malicious prosecution, fraudulent medical diagnosis, sexual slavery, forced labor, identity theft, larceny, forgery, assault, attempted murder, rape, pedophilia, and other felonious acts were committed. (D.I. 1-1 at p.2). Jones alleges the acts occurred as a result of a September 17, 2015 traffic stop when he was ticketed for using a cell phone while driving. The case was heard in the Justice of the Peace Court No. 4. When the arresting officer did not appear at Jones' trial, the case was dismissed. (Id. at p.3). The Complaint refers to a number of other traffic incidents that occurred between 2002 and 2010.

         Jones alleges numerous violations of federal criminal law, Delaware law, and amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id. at pp.6-8). He seeks two billion dollars in damages.

         DISCUSSION

         A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(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). 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 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 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), 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 U.S. 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) 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, 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).

         Plaintiff proceeds pro se and, therefore, 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. 89, 94 (2007). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may be granted 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 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, however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See Id. at 346.

         When reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court should follow a three-step process: (1) consider the elements necessary to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that are merely conclusions and therefore are not well-pleaded factual allegations; and (3) accept any well-pleaded factual allegations as true and determine whether they plausibly state a claim. See Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016); Williams v. BASF Catalysts LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014). 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         The sole defendant is the Justice of the Peace Court No. 4 in and for Sussex County, Delaware. The Eleventh Amendment protects states and their agencies and departments from suit in federal court regardless of the kind of relief sought. Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). "Absent a state's consent, the Eleventh Amendment bars a civil rights suit in federal court that names the state as a defendant." Laskaris v. Thornburgh,661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981) (citing Alabama v. Pugh,438 U.S. 781 (1978)). Delaware has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court; although Congress can abrogate a state's ...


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