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Epperson v. Graves

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 10, 2019

KEVIN S. EPPERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
T. HENLEY GRAVES, et al., Defendants.

          Kevin S. Epperson, SCI Somerset, Somerset, Pennsylvania, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CONNOLLY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Kevin S. Epperson ("Plaintiff'), a former inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, now housed at SCI Somerset, Somerset, Pennsylvania filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.l. 3) Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 6) 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 Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves ("Judge Graves") and Superior Court Judge Abigail LeGrow ("LeGrow") denied him access to the courts to challenge violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff takes exception to rulings by Judge Graves and Judge LeGrow in his criminal trial and in petitions he filed collaterally attacking his criminal conviction.

         On June 5, 2006, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware enjoined Plaintiff from filing any claims in its court without first seeking leave after Plaintiff filed what appeared to be his eighth postconviction motion since Plaintiff's direct appeal of his criminal conviction was decided in 1997. (D.1. 5-1 at 6) On November 25, 2015, Judge Graves advised Plaintiff that the Court had received his request for writ of prohibition on November 19, 2015, that it was untimely, that Plaintiff had filed 21 motions for postconviction relief plus motions to correct an illegal sentence, and that Plaintiff "long ago lost any standing to contest [his] conviction." (Id. at 8) Judge Graves ordered the New Castle County Prothonotary to docket any other motions, petitions or applications, but to not send them to Judge Graves or any other judge for consideration. (Id.)

         On April 10, 2018, the Superior Court of the State of Delaware returned filings to Plaintiff because the "Court has deemed frivolous filers and documents need permission from a judge before they can proceed." (Id. at 9-12) On May 8, 2018, Judge LeGrow advised Plaintiff that his Rule 35(a) motion would not be ruled on for reasons previously stated, and denied Plaintiffs motion to file as moot. (Id. at 16)

         On June 22, 2018, Plaintiff was advised by the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware that it had received his complaint in proceedings for extraordinary writ. (D.I. 5-1 at 3) The documents were refused for filing on the grounds that they were insufficient to invoke the Court's jurisdiction and were a blatant and inappropriate attempt to appeal the Superior Court's May 8, 2014 order denying Plaintiff's Rule 35(a) motion. (Id.)

         For relief, Plaintiff asks this Court to lift the injunction and permit him to file a Criminal Rule 35(a) petition in the State Court.

         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 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. See 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, 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; see also Wilson v. 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 an 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 Tourscher v. McCullough,184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a 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 ...


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