Flowers v. Brady et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER DISMISSING CASE as frivolous (copy to pltf.) (CASE CLOSED). Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 10/24/12. (dzb, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
GEARL T. FLOWERS,
) Civ. No. 12-722-SLR
M. JANE BRADY and
thisJ~ay of October, 2012, having screened the case pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and§ 1915A;
IT IS ORDERED that the complaint is dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§ 1915A(b)(1), for the reasons that follow:
1. Background. Plaintiff Gearl T. Flowers ("plaintiff'), an inmate at the Howard
R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware, filed this complaint pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. 1 He proceeds prose and has been granted leave to proceed without
prepayment of fees.
2. Standard of Review. This court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable
time, certain in forma pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to
state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
See 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
When bringing a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege that some person has
deprived him of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted
under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
(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
prose 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 prose, 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 (citations omitted).
3. 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 at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmi/1, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir.
1989); see, e.g., 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).
4. 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. Tourscherv. 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 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).
5. A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and
conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell At/. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544 (2007). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to
"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere
conclusory statements." /d. at 678. When determining whether dismissal is
appropriate, the court conducts a two-part analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578
F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the factual and legal elements of a claim are
separated. /d. The court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true,
but may disregard any legal conclusions. /d. at 21 0-11. Second, the court must
determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that plaintiff
has a "plausible claim for relief." 2 /d. at 211. In other words, the complaint must do
more than allege plaintiffs entitlement to relief; rather it must "show" such an
entitlement with its facts. /d. "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to
infer more than a mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged- but it has
not shown- that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
A claim is facially plausible when its factual content allows the court to draw a
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The plausibility standard "asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." /d. "Where a
complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops
short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief."' /d.
6. Discussion. Defendant Judge M. Jane Brady ("Judge Brady") presided over
plaintiff's criminal trial. Plaintiff takes exception to Judge Brady's handling of the case.
He contends that she should have disqualified herself due to her bias and prejudice.
Defendant Raymond Armstrong ("Armstrong") was plaintiff's court appointed attorney.
Plaintiff names him as a defendant for reimbursement of the salary Armstrong earned
in representing plaintiff because he provided plaintiff a "disservice as a legal counselor''
in his representation of plaintiff. (D. I. 2)
7. Judicial immunity. Judge Brady has judicial immunity. Judges are
protected by absolute immunity for all judicial acts except those made in the clear
absence of jurisdiction. "Few doctrines were more solidly established at common law
than the immunity of judges from liability for damages for acts within their judicial
jurisdiction." C/eavingerv. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 199 (1985); Capogrosso v. The
Supreme Court of New Jersey, 588 F .3d 180, 185 (3d Cir. 2009). Judicial immunity
provides complete immunity from suit, not merely from an ultimate assessment of
damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991). A judge is entitled to immunity even
where "the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his
authority; rather he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the 'clear
absence of all jurisdiction."' Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349,356-67 (1978).
the allegations against Judge Brady relate to her acts as a judge. Moreover, the
complaint does not set forth any facts alleging that Judge Brady acted in the absence of
8. The claim against Judge Brady has no arguable basis in law or in fact and is
dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8) and§ 1915(A)(b)(1).
9. Public defender. Plaintiff named as a defendant Assistant Public Defender
Armstrong. Public defenders do not act under color of state law when performing a
lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in criminal proceedings. Polk
County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981). Hence, the claim against him fails as a matter
of law. Inasmuch as the claim against Armstrong has no arguable basis in law or in
fact, it will be dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§
10. Conclusion. For the above reasons, the complaint is dismissed as frivolous
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8) and§ 1915A(b)(1). Amendment of the
complaint is futile. The clerk of court is directed to close the case.
S DISTRICT JUDGE
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