Thornton v. McMahon et al

Filing 11

MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 1/11/13. (dzb, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELA WARE RAYMOND E. THORNTON, Plaintiff, v. MICHAEL MCMAHON, et aI., Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) Civ. Action No. ) ) ) ) 12~ 1171-GMS MEMORANDUM I. INTRODUCTION The plaintiff, Raymond E. Thornton ("Thornton"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"), Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 1 (D.I. 3.) He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.1. 6.) The court now proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A. Also pending is Thornton's request for counsel. (D.I. 5.) II. BACKGROUND Thornton alleges that he was sent to the Security Housing Unit ("SHU") at the Sussex Correctional Institution ("SCI"), Georgetown, Delaware, for filing a grievance against SCI staff. He was then transferred to the VCC. He complains that prison officials did not correct the unlawful transfer. He also makes complaints about the classification process. (D.I. 3.) Thornton lWhen 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). seeks a transfer to a different correctional facility. Thornton raised these claims in a case currently pending in this court, Thornton v. West, Civ. No. 11-1024-GMS. III. 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 (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 apro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County ofAllegheny, 515 F.3d 224,229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,93 (2007). Because Thornton 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 v. Pardus, 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 at 327­ 28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 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). 2 "A separate standard for maliciousness is not as well established." Abdul-Akbar v. Department o/Corr., 910 F. Supp. 986 (D. DeL,I995), aff'd, III F.3d 125 (3d Cir.) (table decision), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 852 (1997). A court that considers whether an action is malicious must, in accordance with the definition of the term "malicious," engage in a sUbjective inquiry into the litigant's motivations at the time of the filing of the lawsuit to determine whether the action is an attempt to vex, injure, or harass the defendant. Deutsch, 67 F.3d at 1086. Other circuits have offered more objective instances of malicious claims. For example, a complaint is malicious when it "duplicates allegations of another [ ] federal lawsuit by the same plaintiff." Pittman v. Moore, 980 F.2d 994, 995 (5th Cir. 1993). A district court may dismiss a complaint as malicious if it threatens violence or contains disrespectful references to the court. Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305 (D.C. Cir. 1981). Additionally, a district court may dismiss a complaint as malicious if it is plainly abusive of the judicial process or merely repeats pending or previously litigated claims. Crisafi, 655 F.2d at 1309; Van Meter v. Morgan, 518 F.2d 366 (8th Cir. 1975); Duhart v. Carlson, 469 F.2d 471 (10th Cir. 1972); see also Banks v. Gillie, 2004 WL 5807334 (E.D. La. Feb. 25,2004) (duplicative and repetitive complaints are considered malicious for purposes of § 1915); McGill v. Juanita Kraft Postal Serv., 2003 WL 21355439, at *2 (N.D. Tx. June 6, 2003) (complaint is malicious when it "'duplicates allegations of another pending federal lawsuit by the same plaintiff or when it raises claims arising out of a common nucleus of operative facts that could have been brought in the prior litigation") (quotations omitted). 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 3 12(b)(6) motions. 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 of28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the court must grant Thornton 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 well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. 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." Id 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. Id. The court must accept all of the complaint'S well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Id at 210-11. Second, the court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that Thornton has a "plausible claim for relief."2 Id at 21 L In other words, the complaint must do more than allege Thornton's entitlement to relief; rather it must "show" such an entitlement with its facts. Id. "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than a mere possibility of misconduct, 2A 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." Id. "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. ,,, Id. 4 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». IV. DISCUSSION Last year, Thornton filed a nearly identical lawsuit against the defendants in Civ. No. II­ 1024-GMS. Thornton was allowed to proceed with many of his claims and the case remains pending. After reviewing the allegations in the present case and the allegations in Civ. No. II­ 1024-GMS, the court finds the current action is malicious as that term is defined in the context of § 1915. It is obvious in reading both complaints that they contain many ofthe same allegations that fall within the same time-frame as in the present complaint. The instant complaint falls squarely within the definition of maliciousness. It duplicates allegations of another pending federal lawsuit that Thornton filed. Additionally, any claims newly raised in the present complaint arise out of a common nucleus of operative facts that could have been brought in the prior litigation in Civ. No. 11-1024-GMS. Because Thornton has filed a repetitive lawsuit, the complaint will be dismissed as malicious pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b)(1). V. CONCLUSION For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the complaint as malicious pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b)(1). Amendment of the complaint would be futile. See Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229 (3d Cir. 2004); Grayson v. Mayview State Hasp., 293 F.3d 5 103, 111 (3d Cir. 2002); Borelli v. City ofReading, 532 F.2d 950,951-52 (3d Cir. 1976). An appropriate order will be entered. ~~ f( ,2012 Wilmington, Delaware 6

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