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Collins v. Dallas County

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 9, 2019

GREGORY LEE COLLINS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS, Defendants.

          Gregory Lee Collins, Jr., Bear, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Gregory Lee Collins, Jr., proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. He commenced this action on October 10, 2018, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, complaining of violations of his right to due process and equal protection in the Texas State Courts during divorce and child custody proceedings. (D.I. 2). The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that the Family District Courts of Dallas County, Texas "fraudulently rendered default judgment and separation from his 5-month-old son. [He] has suffered from an undue financial burden of $2, 200.00 in monthly child and medical support and a custom possession order that only allows for visitation with his only son at his former marital property for approximately 7 days per year. He was denied any distribution of equity in the marital property which he helped purchase and renovate." (D.I. 2 at 1-2). Plaintiff complains of actions taken by personnel in the Dallas County Domestic Relations Office and also complains that his mother is denied visitation with her only grandchild. (Id. at 2-3).

         Plaintiff alleges violations of his constitutional rights under the United States Constitution and the Delaware Constitution. He seeks declaratory relief; asks the Court to set aside the Final Decree of Divorce entered in No. DF-16-06957-V; compensatory damages; injunctive relief to preclude enforcement of the divorce decree; and issuance of an order granting him temporary custody of the minor child, temporary child and medical support, and temporary spousal support.

         SCREENING OF COMPLAINT

         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). 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 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 v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94.

         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 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) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscherv. 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. §1915, 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.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 be dismissed, however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See Id. at 346.

         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, assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). 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.

         DISCUSSION

         The Court has an independent obligation to address issues of subject matter jurisdiction. See Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood,592 F.3d 412, 418 (3d Cir. 2010). ("Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and when there is a question as to our authority to hear a dispute, 'it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve such doubts, one way or the other, before proceeding to a disposition on the merits.'"). Here, Plaintiff states this is a "Civil Rights matter" involving constitutional violations. However, it is readily apparent that Plaintiff is attacking orders finding against him in the Texas State Courts during divorce, child custody, and support proceedings, and that he seeks review and rejection of those decisions. The claims fall under the purview of the Ro ...


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