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Dorian Cephas v. Scarborough

United States District Court, D. Delaware

April 25, 2019


          Vernon Ernest Dorian Cephas, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.



         Plaintiff Vernon Ernest Dorian Cephas, 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. 7). The Court screened and reviewed the original complaint (D.I. 3, 9) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(a), dismissed several claims and gave Plaintiff leave to amend. (See D.I. 11, 12). The Court will screen and review Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and address his motion for reconsideration. (D.I. 19, 20).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts as set forth in the original complaint are thoroughly described in the Court's October 2, 2018 Memorandum Opinion. (See D.I. 11). Plaintiff complains of actions taken when he was both an unsentenced detainee and a sentenced inmate at the JTVCC.[2] Count Ones and Four of the Amended Complaint (D.I. 19) allege deliberate indifference to medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments;[3] Count Two alleges retaliation in violation of the First Amendment; and Count Three alleges denial of the right to due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Upon screening of the original complaint the Court dismissed Defendants Connections Community Support Programs, Inc. ("Connections"), Physician Assistant Deadra Parker ("Parker"), Marc Richman ("Richman"), Deputy Warden Parker ("Warden Parker"), Captain Bruce Burton ("Burton"), Lt. Tony Benson ("Benson"), Lt. Stevenson ("Stevenson"), and Warden Dana Metzger ("Metzger"). It also dismissed Count One as frivolous and Count Three as frivolous and for failure to state claims.

         Plaintiff was allowed to proceed against Deputy Warden Scarborough ("Scarborough"), R.N. Tyler Bohanan ("Bohanan"), and R.N. Amy Malkin ("Malkin") on the retaliation claim. In addition, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed against Dr. Adrian Harewood ("Dr. Harewood") on a medical needs claim he raised in an amendment (D.I. 9) and that is now found at Count Four of the Amended Complaint (D.I. 19).

         When the Court screened the original Complaint, Plaintiff was given leave to amend a medical needs claim for refusing to treat his blood pressure condition and high cholesterol as alleged in the Amendment at D.I. 9, and the Count Three retaliation claim against Warden Metzger. He was not given leave to amend any other claims.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, he moves for reconsideration of the denial of his request for counsel. (D.I. 20).


         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); 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. 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) 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. 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 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.3dlO3, H4(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 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 Const 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)). ...

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