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Greene v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 3, 2017

MAJOR BRENNAN, et al., Defendants.

          Jermaine Greene, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.



         Plaintiff Jermaine Greene, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] 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. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§1915A(a).


         Plaintiff commenced this action by filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, construed by the Court as a complaint requesting injunctive relief. (D.I. 1). Named defendants include Major Brennan, Deputy Warden Parker, Sgt. Bailey, and the State of Delaware. A supporting memo filed by Plaintiff indicates that his wishes this matter to proceed as a class action. (D.I. 1-1 at p.1).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was held hostage by unknown inmates on February 1, 2017 during the hostage crisis at VCC that resulted in the death of a correctional officer. He was trapped in C-Building for several hours and then released with a few other hostages. He was taken by Department of Correction staff to be checked by medical staff and then taken to a secluded area, placed in a visiting enclosure and surrounded by "CERT" (i.e., Correctional Emergency Response Team) members, several staff members, and a lieutenant.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was beaten on the order of an unnamed lieutenant for approximately two or three minutes while his hands were secured firmly behind his back by zip ties. (D.l. 1 at p.2). Plaintiff was kicked in the head, ribs, stomach, and his shoulders and legs were stomped on. (Id.) He was left on the floor in severe pain for five to six hours. In the early morning Plaintiff was taken to VCC's receiving room. There, he was fingerprinted and interviewed by DOC internal affairs, a homicide detective, and a federal agent.

         Following the interview, Plaintiff was immediately transferred to VCC's super maximum security housing unit. Plaintiff complains that, contrary to DOC policy, he was not furnished with any form of infraction, notice, and/or hearing regarding his transfer to SHU. Plaintiff alleges that since his transfer to SHU, he has been subjected to an extremely aggressive level of punitive system and restrictions, as follows: he has been "stripped" of all his recreation, privileges and hygienic entitlements; he receives half portions of food and is deprived of commissary food that has resulted in his loss of 18 to 20 pounds; and his personal property (including legal materials) was confiscated and has not been returned.[2] (See D.I. 1-1 at p.2). Plaintiff complains that other inmates who were held hostage have received all their property, as well as their recreation and privileges, and have been placed in a higher privilege level of security. He alleges that out of 120 inmates, only 13 to 15 were discriminatory chosen and placed in punitive segregation.

         A March 18, 2017 memo, from the Office of Treatment Services for maximum housing unit #18, advises Plaintiff that the Ad Seg & Max Review Committee reviewed his status, effective February 23, 2017. (D.I. 1 at p.10). He was made a privilege level 1, and his housing recommendation is 18. (Id.). Privilege level 1 allows for one phone call per month, one visit per month, and bi-weekly commissary visits with a limit of $10 for hygiene/writing items only. (Id.). Those who are not in punitive segregation are allowed to spend $35 or $45 at the commissary and this allows them to buy food, clothing and all types of hygiene products. Plaintiff alleges that he is being punished because he is subjected to a progressive disciplinary quality of life system that is reserved for disciplinary inmates or inmates who have violated an institutional rule.[3](D.I. 1-1 at p.1). Plaintiff acknowledges that he was placed in the QOL system following the hostage crisis. (Id.) He alleges that Defendants have neither asserted, nor shown, any security needs for the unequal privileges or any lack of available resources that provide a regulatory justification for their conduct. (Id. at p.2).

         Plaintiff alleges that: (1) Parker (at the time the acting VCC warden) is responsible for policy, rules, and regulations that govern all segregation; (2) Bailey, the sergeant of the property room, is responsible for delivering inmates their personal property; and (3) all Defendants have the responsibility to treat Plaintiff equally to all other inmates. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief for Defendants to return his personal property and treat him equally to other similarly situated inmates from C-Building.


         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); Erlckson v. Partus, 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." Erlckson 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." Neltzke 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). 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. ยงยง 1915 and 1915A, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to ...

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