United States District Court, D. Delaware
Matthew Jones, Greenwood, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.
Andrews, U.S. District Judge.
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 29,
2016. (DJ. 3). Jones asserts jurisdiction by reason of a
United States government defendant and a federal question.
Jones' original Complaint was dismissed and, he was given
leave to amend. (D.I. 4, 5). An Amended Complaint was filed
on May 17, 2017. (D.I. 6). The Court proceeds to screen the
Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
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).
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).
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).
well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and
conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007). 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.
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, assume
their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give
rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane Const
Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal
citations and quotations omitted). Elements are sufficiently
alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that
the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679 (quoting 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.
original Complaint, the sole defendant was the Family Court
of Delaware in and for Sussex County. It was dismissed by
reason of its Eleventh Amendment immunity. Jones was given
leave to amend because the original Complaint contained some
allegations that could give rise to a claim against
individuals. However, upon amendment, Jones did not name any
individual defendants and, instead, named the Sussex
Correctional Institution as the sole defendant.
to the Family Court, the SCI is immune from suit. The SCI
falls under the umbrella of the Delaware Department of
Correction, an agency of the State of 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 sovereign immunity, it did not do so through the
enactment of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Brooks-McCollum
v. Delaware, 213 F.App'x 92, 94 (3d Cir. 2007). In
addition, dismissal is proper because the SCI is not a person
for purposes of § 1983. See Will v. Michigan
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71(1989);
Calhoun v. Young, 288 F.App'x 47 (3d Cir. 2008).
the Court will dismiss the Amended Complaint based upon the
SCI's immunity from suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Again, since it appears plausible that
Jones may be able to articulate a claim against alternate