United States District Court, D. Delaware
CHRISTOPHER H. WEST, Plaintiff,
PERRY PHELPS, et al., Defendants.
Christopher H. West, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center,
Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.
NOREIKA, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Christopher H. West (“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. 1). He appears pro se and
has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
(D.I. 7). 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).
alleges that he is classified as “seriously mentally
ill” and that the mental health RTC (i.e.,
residential treatment program) he participated in was stopped
in February 2017 as result of the VCC prison riot that
resulted in the death of a correctional officer. Plaintiff
alleges that since the uprising he has been “seriously
neglected and targeted for retaliation by staff and
security.” (D.I. 1 at 6). He alleges that when the RTC
was created, Defendants punished mentally ill inmates, like
himself, when they took away contact visits and a higher
commissary limit formerly enjoyed by them. (Id.).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have made it profitable for
Connections, the prison medical contract provider that is
overseen by McKay, to benefit by providing deficient
who is housed in solitary confinement, complains of the
conditions under which he is housed. (Id. at 7). He
alleges that he is kept in prison longer because he is
seriously mentally ill as he is deprived of meaningful
rehabilitation programs/treatment. (Id.).
seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as
compensatory and punitive damages. Defendants are sued in
their individual and official capacities.
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
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).
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 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 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.
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, assume
their veracity and 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); see also
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).