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Lewis v. Reddick

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 31, 2017

NA-QUAN KURT LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE AHMARD REDDICK, et al., Defendants.

          Na-Quan Kurt Lewis, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Na-Quan Kurt Lewis, a pretrial detainee at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 (D.I. 2) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(a).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was indicted on weapons charges and a warrant issued for his arrest on July 11, 2016. Plaintiff was arrested, transported to the Wilmington Police Department, and taken to a room to be interviewed by Defendant Detective Ahmard Reddick. Plaintiff advised Reddick that he did not want to talk, and Plaintiff was taken to his cell. Plaintiff was then transported to the hospital for medical treatment for an injury he sustained prior to his arrest and later taken to the HRYCI.

         Plaintiff states that Reddick was later arrested for arson and providing false statements to law enforcement after he allegedly hired someone to spray paint OMB and blow up his car for the insurance money.[1] OMB is the shortened name of the street gang, Only My Brothers. During the summer of 2016, the Delaware Department of Justice obtained a gang indictment that linked 28 men to the OMB. See http://www. delawareonline.com/story/news/crime/2016/07/21/gang-rivalry-causes-deadly-summer-wilmington/87393538/ (last visited May 18, 2017). The Complaint states that Plaintiff was named in the indictment, but he was not a gang member and, while the charges were dropped, he was later reindicted.

         A few days later, Plaintiff was arraigned and requested a speedy trial. Defendant Natalie Woloshin was appointed to represent Plaintiff in the criminal matter. Plaintiff was to receive discovery by January 7, 2017, but did not receive it until March 6 or 7, 2017. At some point in time a hearing was held, and Plaintiff advised the State court that he wished to proceed pro se because Woloshin refused to file any motions. Defendant Judge Ferris Wharton told Plaintiff that he was not competent to represent himself. Plaintiff advised Judge Wharton that he had filed a motion for a speedy trial and Judge Wharton advised him that the matter would be tried in October or November. During a court recess, Woloshin and Defendant Albert J. Roop, who is prosecuting the case, engaged in plea negotiations.

         Plaintiff alleges that a "dirty" search warrant was obtained for his brother's telephone which apparently resulted in the firearm charges against Plaintiff. (D.I. 2 at 7). He explains that Roop waited until his brother "took his plea" in the middle of February before belatedly provide discovery to Plaintiff so that Plaintiff could not timely file a motion to suppress. Plaintiff claims that a suppression hearing will result in dismissal of the charges against him. Plaintiff asks the Court to dismiss his criminal case.[2] He also seeks compensatory damages.

         SCREENING OF COMPLAINT

         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). 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).

         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)(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 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) 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 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 ...


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