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Anderson v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 23, 2019

TYRONE WAYNE ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, et al, Defendants.

          Tyrone Wayne Anderson, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Tyrone Wayne Anderson ('plaintiff'), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("JTVCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1](D.I. 3) He appears prose and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5) He 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 his constitutional rights were violated when he was transferred from the JTVCC to the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution ("HRYCI") in Wilmington, Delaware, on February 2, 2017, following the JTVCC prison uprising that resulted in the death of correctional officer Lt Steven Floyd. At the time, Defendant David Pierce ("Pierce") was the JTVCC warden. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Delaware Department of Correction's ("DOC”) Perry Phelps ("Phelps") ordered the transfer of some JTVCC inmates to the HRYCI in order to make room so that inmates who had been housed in the JTVCC C Building, where the uprising occurred, could be housed elsewhere.

         At the time, Defendant Steven Wesley ("Wesley") was the HRYCI warden. (D.I. 3 at 7) When Plaintiff arrived at the HRYCI, he was housed in "inmate confinement" or "the hole, " and he remained there until March 3, 2017. Plaintiff alleges he had done nothing wrong and had no write-ups. However, while housed in "the hole, " Plaintiff alleges that he was repeatedly cuffed during bars and window checks, fed "under portion and mistreated, " and that the guards spoke to him as if he had participated in the prison uprising. (D.I. 3 at 6) Plaintiff alleges that he was denied mental health attention and there was a continued lack of medical and mental health care - although he also alleges that every day a nurse made rounds to see if he was stable. (Id) He further alleges there was a non-responsive and ineffective grievance system for medical and other grievances. (Id.) At some point, Plaintiff returned to the JTVCC. He was housed there when he commenced this action on December 28, 2018. (D.I. 3)

         For relief, Plaintiff wants Defendant DOC to be held accountable.

         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." hall 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 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 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). Although "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 Asbcroft 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.

         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. 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. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing ...


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