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Cruz v. Jurden

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 13, 2019

ELADIO CRUZ, Plaintiff,
v.
HONORABLE JAN JURDEN, et al., Defendants.

          Eladio Cruz, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Eladio Cruz ("Plaintiff'), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.I. 2, 8) He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 6) Plaintiff also requests counsel. (D.I. 4) 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 that on August 6, 1991, the Delaware Superior Court violated his Fourteenth Amendment Right to due process by misleading him - in writing, on his direct commitment status sheet and sentencing order - into believing that he was eligible for parole. (D.I. 2, 8) Named as Defendants are the Honorable Jan R. Jurden ("Judge Jurden") and VCC Warden Dana Metzger ("Metzger"). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.

         The Court takes judicial notice that on February 19, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the September 15, 2015 Superior Court order that dismissed a complaint Plaintiff filed against Judge Jurden. See Cruz v. Jurden, 2016 WL 690691 pel. Feb. 19, 2016). Plaintiff sought compensatory damages from Judge Jurden because "the Superior Court had 'misled' him into believing that he was eligible for parole." Id. at *1. The Delaware Supreme Court stated that it had previously affirmed the Superior Court's denial of Plaintiffs motion to correct his sentence to have a parole eligibility date set, see Cruz v. State, 2015 WL 4510713 pel. July 21, 2015), and, therefore, Plaintiffs claim was barred by the law of the case. See Id.

         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 Or. 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. Vardus, 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 p. 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 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 Tourscherv. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state 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 a 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 complaint may be dismissed only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell'Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). Though "detailed factual allegations" are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Davis v. Abington Mem'lHosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Williams v. BASF Catalysts LL, C, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Ashcrofi v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Finally, 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 for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See Id. at 346.

         Under 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. See Connelly v. Fane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). Elements are sufficiendy alleged when die facts in die complaint "show" diat die plaintiff is entided to relief. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whedier a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task diat requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         IV. ...


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