United States District Court, D. Delaware
Cruz, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware,
Pro Se Plaintiff.
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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. (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).
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
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.