United States District Court, D. Delaware
plaintiff, Juan Restrepo ("Restrepo"), an inmate at
the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"),
Smyrna, Delaware, appears pro se and was granted
permission to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4.)
Restrepo filed this lawsuit alleging violations of his civil
rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 2.) The
court proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b)(1).
alleges that he was housed in SHU/solitary maximum security
confinement at the VCC from 2010 through 2016 and that he has
been diagnosed as severely mentally ill. Restrepo alleges
that his condition exponentially worsened during the years he
spent in solitary confinement, and he has multiple scars from
complaints refers to occurrences in 2011, 2013, and
2016. In 2016, when Restrepo was no longer
housed in solitary confinement, he was placed in a double
cell. Restrepo told the staff that he could not function with
another person in the cell. As a result, was punished and
placed in isolation confinement (i.e., the hole)
during June and July 2016.
October 2016, the staff again forced Restrepo to house in a
double cell. The same day, he had a major breakdown and
attempted suicide. Restrepo alleges that the staff harassed
him at the hospital and when he was on suicide watch in the
infirmary. Restrepo alleges that mental health psychologist
advised VCC administration that Restrepo needed a single
cell, not a double cell. However, staff again forced Restrepo
into a double cell and refused him access to psychologists.
Restrepo was double celled for one week. It appears that he
was then single celled and again double celled.
alleges that Commissioner Perry Phelps ("Phelps"),
in his position as the former VCC warden and now as
Commissioner, has overseen the implementation of policies and
procedures that harmed him. Restrepo alleges that his rights
are being violated due to a defective mental health program
and he is not receiving property treatment. Restrepo has
submitted numerous grievances, all to no avail. He seeks
compensatory damages and declaratory relief.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 pauper
is 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); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007).
Because Restrepo 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) 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 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
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 Restrepo 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); BellAtl. 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, 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.