United States District Court, D. Delaware
Fatir, Daniel Rivera, Ramazan Sahin, Brenton Smith, Jacquell
Coverdale, Kenneth Yarborough, Donald Clark, Jermaine D.
Laster, Deronta Person, and Robert W. Johnson, Jr., James T.
Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware; Malachai
DeBruce, New Castle, Delaware; Antonio R. Bailey, Howard R.
Young Correctional Center, Wilmington, Delaware; Colin Simms,
Smyrna, Delaware; and Arthur Stratton, Magnolia, Delaware.
Pro Se Plaintiffs.
CONNOLLY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
were convicted and sentenced inmates housed at the James T.
Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna,
Delaware,  when they filed the Complaint as a civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a qui
tarn False Claims Act action pursuant to 18 U.S.C.
§§ 286-287 and 31 U.S.C. §§
3729-3733. (D.I. 1) Plaintiffs appear pro se
and have been granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. (D.I. 50) The Court proceeds to
review and screen the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(b) and § 1915A(a).
March 1, 2018, at 10:25 a.m., VCC correctional officers
raided the VCC B-Annex Unit, Dorms 2 and 3, and ordered the
inmates to dress and leave the dorms. (D.I. 1 at 6, ¶
V.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Chick
("Chick"),  correctional officers Enck
("Enck") and Jester ("Jester"), and
female officers Lieutenant Tilghman ("Tilghman")
and Sergeant Everett ("Everett") ushered the
inmates into the hall and ordered them to form a single file
line against one of the walls. (Id. at 7, ¶ V.)
Plaintiffs allege that Tilghman and Everett went to a desk at
the end of the hall and began monitoring a computer screen;
Enck and Jester went to a room at the opposite end of the
hall, Enck entered the room; and Jester stood at the
door's entrance while Chick remained in the hall and
stood between Tilghman and Everett and Enck and Jester.
(Id.) Plaintiffs allege that Tilghman was the
superior officer of Enck and Jester and the person who
controlled the strip search operation. (Id. at
allege they were called into the room, one at a time.
(Id. ¶ V.1.) There, Enck "caused each
[P]laintiff to strip and expose their genitals and buttocks
while handing  Jester articles of  [P]laintiff s clothing
for inspection." (Id. at ¶ V.2.) When
Plaintiffs entered the room they told Enck and Jester there
was a live camera feed that made it possible for viewing by
other Department of Correction ("DOC") staff.
(Id. at ¶ V.3.) Defendants acknowledged the
camera and ordered Plaintiffs to continue stripping.
(Id.) Plaintiffs allege that "[w]hile 50 men
were stripped naked before live camera feeds, which were also
recorded," Defendants James P. Satterfield
("Satterfield") and Lt. Barlow ("Barlow"),
both male, watched the men on computer screens in
Satterfield's office and secondary control where Barlow
worked. (Id. at ¶ 4 at Ill) Plaintiffs alleges
the entire strip search lasted approximately two hours for
both dorms. (Id. at¶¶ III; V.3.)
the search, Plaintiffs were allowed to dress and were ushered
to the common dining area located across the hall from the
area where Plaintiffs had been searched. (Id. at
¶ V.5.) Plaintiffs spoke to Tilghman regarding the strip
search, asked why she had ordered it and allowed them to be
stripped naked in front of a camera, and told her they wished
to exercise their rights to call the Prison Rape Elimination
Act ("PREA") hotline and report they were victims of
sexual abuse. (Id. at ¶¶ V.6., 7., 9.)
Tilghman responded that they did not have to because the
information had already been reported and all that would
happen is that Plaintiffs would be sent to mental health.
(Id. at ¶ V.10.) Tilghman told Plaintiffs it
was their right to speak to an outside PREA advocate, she
left the area, and returned to tell Plaintiffs she had
contacted Shift Commander Satterfield. (Id. at
¶ V.13.) Tilghman instructed Plaintiffs "not to
contact the PREA hotline because 'the matter is already
being handled.'" (Id.)
contacted the PREA hotline and "believed they were
contacting an 'outside PREA advocate' unassociated
with the DOC." (Id. at ¶ V.16.) Plaintiffs
allege they encountered Defendant Guard No. 1 Jane Doe
("Doe"), a hostile DOC employee, who initially
ordered Plaintiffs to call individually and, after two calls,
advised Plaintiffs if they continued to call she would not be
able to write any reports because she needed at least 15
minutes to write each report. (Id.) Plaintiffs
allege that Doe refused to provide her name and would not
state whether she was affiliated with the DOC as an employee.
(Id. at ¶ V.17.) After Plaintiffs made their
PREA reports, they were taken to the medical unit for a two
minute interview with nurses and a mental health staff member
employed by Connections ("Connections"), the DOC
medical contract provider. (Id. at ¶ V.18.)
Plaintiffs allege a Connections' mental health staff
member confirmed that Doe is a DOC employee. (Id. at
¶ V.2O.) Plaintiffs filed grievances regarding the
matter and allege the DOC ignored them. (Id. at
allege that PREA, 34 U.S.C. § 30302(8), "calls for
federal expenditures via grants provided to the states and
dispensed through the State Attorneys Generals" and
requires that Defendants meet "specific protocols and
standards," found at 28 C.F.R. Part 115, and audits
conducted "to assure the monies allocated are spent
according to the terms of the Act." (Id. at 4
at ¶ III.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants
"systematically and deliberately syphoned off  PREA
funding, failed to enact PREA's protocols, falsified
documents and stole  federal funds to use them for personal
or other intended use." (Id.)
Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages.
(Id. at 19-20 at ¶ VII.) Plaintiffs Amir Fatir
("Fatir") and DeBruce seek 25 percent of the
qui tam action or settlement of the False Claims Act
civil claim. (Id. at 20 at ¶ VII.)
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 Clr. 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 Plaintiffs proceed pro se, their
pleading is liberally construed and their 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 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
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 can 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).
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 Atl. 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'l Hosp., 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 LLC, 765 F.3d 306,
315 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Ashcroft 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, 574 U.S. 10 (2014). A complaint may not be
dismissed for imperfect statements of the legal theory
supporting the claim asserted. See id. at 10.
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) assume the veracity of any
well-pleaded factual allegations and then determine whether
those allegations plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief. Connelly v. Lane Const Corp., 809 F.3d 780,
787 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal citations and quotations
omitted). 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
False Claims Act
allege that Defendants Perry Phelps ("Phelps"),
Dana Metzger ("Metzger"), Jane Brady
("Brady"), Robert Coupe ("Coupe"), Carl
Danberg ("Danberg") Steven Wesley
("Wesley"), Lt. Sennett ("Sennett"),
Terrell Taylor ("Taylor"), Christopher Cessna
("Cessna"), Bruce Burton ("Burton"),
Philip Parker ("Parker"), Deputy Warden Scarborough
("Scarborough"), Senato ("Senato"),
Michael S. Jackson ("Jackson"), Joyce Talley
("Talley"), and Mike Deloy ("Deloy")
failed to comply with various provisions of PREA, 28 C.F.R.
§§ 115.31, 115.32, 115.33, 115.51, 115.53, and
115.93 and, in doing so, fraudulently claimed the monies
available from the United States government and used the
money for illegal and fraudulent purposes, all in violation
of the False Claims Act. (See D.I. 1 at Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
and DeBruce seek statutory proceeds of the qui tarn
action or settlement of the claim under 31 U.S.C. §
3730(d)(1). This section of the False Claims Act provides:
(d) Award to qui tarn plaintiff.-(1) If the Government
proceeds with an action brought by a person under subsection
(b), such person shall, subject to the second sentence of
this paragraph, receive at least 15 percent but not more than
25 percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the
claim, depending upon the extent to which the person
substantially contributed to the prosecution of the action.
Where the action is one which the court finds to be based
primarily on disclosures of specific information (other than
information provided by the person bringing the action)
relating to allegations or transactions in a criminal, civil,
or administrative hearing, in a congressional,
administrative, or Government Accounting Office report,
hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media, the
court may award such sums as it considers appropriate, but in
no case more than 10 percent of the proceeds, taking into
account the significance of the information and the role of
the person bringing the action in advancing the case to
litigation. Any payment to a person under the first or second
sentence of this paragraph shall be made from the proceeds.
Any such person shall also receive an amount for reasonable
expenses which the court finds to have been necessarily
incurred, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. All
such expenses, fees, and costs shall be awarded against the
31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(1).
3730(b) permits an individual to bring a suit on behalf of
the United States based on violations of 31 U.S.C. §
3729, which enumerates seven separate ways of making a false
claim. The Complaint does not indicate under which of the
seven subsections Plaintiffs proceed. See 31 U.S.C.
noted, the False Claims Act provides that a private
individual, known as a relator, "may bring a civil
action for a violation of section 3729 for the person and for
the United States Government... in the name of the
Government." 31 U.S.C.§ 3730(b)(1).
"[A]lthough qui tarn actions allow individual
citizens to initiate enforcement against wrongdoers who cause
injury to the public at large, the Government remains the
real party in interest in any such action." Minotti
v. Lensink, 895 F.2d 100, 104 (2d Cir. 1990). The
qui tarn relator stands in the shoes of the
government and is not acting on his own behalf. See
Stoner v. Santa Clara Cty. Office of Educ, 502 F.3d
1116, 1126 (9th Cir. 2007). Plaintiffs are not qualified to
represent the interests of the United States given that they
proceed pro se and none are licensed attorneys.
See United States ex rel. Gunn v. Shelton, 2013 WL
5980633, *2 (D. Del. Nov. 12, 2013).
and DeBruce, as relators, may not proceed pro se as
a matter of law. See Id. Therefore, Counts 1, 2, 3,
4, 5, and 21 will be dismissed as legally frivolous pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1).
Prison Rape Elimination Act
attempt to assert PREA claims based upon their
dissatisfaction with prison officials' handling of their
PREA complaints. (See D.I. 1 at Counts 1, 2, 3, 4,
5, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 21) In Counts 1 through 5 and
21, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to comply with
PREA through their actions and/or inactions. In Counts 13
through 18, Plaintiffs invoke the First, Fourth, Fifth,
Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments and allege constitutional
violations in a conclusory manner while at the same time they
allege the failure of prison officials comply with PREA.
does not provide a private right of action and, therefore,
Plaintiffs are prohibited from asserting a claim pursuant to
PREA. See Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe,536 U.S. 273, 283-85
(2002); Bowens v. Employees of the Dep't of Com,
2015 WL 803101, at *1 n.1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 26, 2015);
Washington v. Folino, 2013 WL 998013, at *4 (W.D.
Pa. Feb. 28, 2013) (violations of PREA do not create a
private cause of action); see also Henry v. CO #2