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Collins v. Steellmen

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 17, 2017

HARRY T. COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
KARREN STEELLMEN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Harry T. Collins ("Collins"), appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4.) Collins commenced action on August 28, 2017 alleging race discrimination. (D.I. 2.) The court proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Collins alleges that jurisdiction is proper based upon a federal question due to "administration, segregation, too much prejudice going on in Wilmington Housing Authority ("WHA")." (D.I. 2 at 3.) Collins alleges that the WHA receives federal subsidized monies for the WHA program.

         Collins has lived in WHA property for three years. He alleges that since his arrival he has put up with nothing but abuse from the tenants and staff. Collins, who is white, alleges that the racial breakdown in his building is 98 percent Black, one percent White, and one percent Hispanic. Collins complains that only one White person and one Hispanic person work for the WHA.

         Collins further complains that a tenant who lives on his floor has been stealing from him, but he cannot prove it. He has asked administration to check the cameras and has been given the run around, and he was told that he could not be helped if he did not know the exact time and day. He has also sought assistance from the police. Collins alleges that "all these people are Black and they just keep brushing [him] off, " and in the meantime the girl keeps stealing his things. (Id. at 5.) Collins alleges that if there were Whites living in his building and working for the WHA he would not have this problem and it would have been taken care of a long time ago. Collins alleges that if you are White and poor you do not stand a chance against the welfare system because everything is run by Black people.

         Collins seeks injunctive relief in the form of a federal investigation, criminal charges brought against the alleged thief, and the firing of WHA employees.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 Collins 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 at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989).

         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 Collins 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).

         A 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.

         Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and lqbal, 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. 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.

         IV. ...


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