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Jones v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 13, 2018

QUENTIN T. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
D. METZGER, et al, Defendants.

          Quentin T. Jones, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE:

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Quentin T. Jones ("Plaintiff'), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.I. 3) He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5) The Court proceeds to review and screen the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b) and § 1915A(a).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights were violated from September 2017 through January 2018. Plaintiff was housed with inmate Terrence Teagle ("Teagle"), who is known to set up other inmates by placing contraband in their cells or with their personal belongings. On November 11, 2017, Plaintiff submitted an affidavit to Defendant Internal Affairs Office[2] advising it that he had been informed by other inmates to watch himself because a specific group of inmates were conspiring to set him up so that Plaintiffs employment as an inmate barber would be terminated. Plaintiff also informed multiple Department of Correction ("DOC") personnel of the issues.

         On November 27, 2017, Teagle and inmate Anthony Abbatiello ("Abbatiello") secretly placed a shank in Plaintiffs left shoe. Afterwards Plaintiff was strip searched and correctional officers discovered the shank. Plaintiff was "served a disciplinary referral" and told that he might be terminated from his job pending the referral. A disciplinary hearing was held on November 28, 2017, and Plaintiff was found "not guilty" based upon Plaintiffs prior statements regarding the behavior of Teagle and Abbatiello. Plaintiff was removed from the cell with Teagle and assigned to a new cell on the same tier.

         On November 29, 2017, Abbatiello told Plaintiff that Teagle would "pop open" Plaintiffs locker box and read through Plaintiffs criminal case documents while Plaintiff was away from the tier at work. Plaintiff spoke to the correctional officer on duty, who submitted an email on the matter. In December 2017 and January 2018, Plaintiff saw that some documents had been tampered with. Also during this time, Plaintiff was told by Teagle that Abbatiello stole Plaintiffs criminal case paperwork and submitted a hand-written letter to the Sussex County Superior Court, Prothonotary's Office, Judge, and/or prosecutor of Plaintiffs case in the hopes of receiving a benefit from the State for fabrication of testimony against Plaintiff. In December 2017, Plaintiff became aware that Teagle indicated that he was going to speak to the Governor's Task Force in Dover, Delaware, about past events at the prison in exchange for Teagle's early release from prison. Plaintiff submitted several grievances complaining about the actions that were being taken by the other inmates.

         Plaintiff alleges that because the DOC and its staff did not take adequate steps to remedy the issues, Teagle and Abbatiello had a physical altercation on January 14, 2018, which ultimately resulted in Teagle's transfer to another correctional facility. He alleges that the DOC and its staff are using inmates to seek out information regarding other inmates in exchange for job opportunities at the VCC. Plaintiff alleges that this conduct is very detrimental because it jeopardizes the lives of inmates and staff.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks a transfer to the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown, Delaware, or an assignment to a single cell on a different tier at the VCC where he can continue working on his criminal conviction case.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         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 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. See 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, 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) 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; see also Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); 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 deciding Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See 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 ...


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