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Naisha v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 12, 2018

DANA METZGER, et al., Defendants.

          Vanessa L. Naisha, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.



         Plaintiff Vanessa L. Naisha, 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. 1). She appears pro se and has paid the filing fee. She requests counsel. (D.I. 7). The Court screens and reviews the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a).


         Plaintiff, a transgender who identifies as a woman, is housed in the Residential Treatment Center at JTVCC. On February 7, 2018, correctional officers announced a shakedown was taking place and ordered Plaintiff and another inmate to leave their cell and to go into the shower. (D.I. 1 at 2). While there, Sgt. Jones instructed Plaintiff to "strip out" because Jones was conducting a strip search. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff replied that she is not comfortable undressing in the presence of a male officer. (Id.). Jones told Plaintiff he would contact Defendant Lt. Keshaw Travies, a female, about the issue. (Id.).

         About ten minutes later, Defendant Officer Arabia arrived at the shower, and instructed Plaintiff to cuff up because she would either be going to the hole or forced by male officers to strip. (Id.). Plaintiff undressed, and Arabia conducted a visual inspection. (Id.). Minutes later another correctional officer told Plaintiff to file a complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Plaintiff alleges that Travies was in the area at the time and in a position to correct Arabia but, instead, Travies ratified and condoned his actions. (Id. at 8). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Warden Dana Metzger violated her constitutional rights by not having a policy in place to protect transgender inmates from being stripped by male officers. (Id.).

         When searching Plaintiffs cell, correctional officers discovered a razor blade in one of Plaintiff's sneakers which they confiscated. (Id. at 4). They also confiscated a soda bottle that contained juice. (Id.). Plaintiff was advised that she would be receiving a disciplinary ticket for having contraband. (Id. at 5). Later that evening, Travies served Plaintiff with two disciplinary reports. (Id. at 6). Plaintiff entered a guilty plea to one report and pled not guilty to the other one. (Id.). Travies returned Plaintiff's sneakers and at the same time stated, "don't be filing PREAs with my officers." (Id.).

         On February 9, 2018, Defendant Lt. Burman found Plaintiff guilty of the infractions without calling Plaintiff's witness, allowing her to confront her accuser, allowing counsel, and without proof. (Id.) Plaintiff told Burman she wished to appeal, but when the appeal papers were not given to her she wrote the appeal on regular paper and mailed it via in-house mail to the appeal office. (Id.). Plaintiff was sanctioned 30 days loss of all privileges for one disciplinary report and 31 days loss of all privileges for the other report. (D.I. 1 at 12, 16). Plaintiff submitted grievances and was told that the matter had been referred to the PREA office for investigation.

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants' actions violated her constitutional rights. She seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.


         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). 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. Partus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, her pleading is liberally construed and her complaint, "however in artfully 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) 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).

         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. 999). 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 Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d103, 114(3dCir. 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 be dismissed, ...

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