Hamilton v. Superior Court
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 1 COMPLAINT. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 12/11/2012. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
JAMES ROBERT HAMILTON,
Civ. No. 12-1313-RGA
SUPERIOR COURT STATE OF
James Robert Hamilton, Wilmington, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.
Plaintiff James Robert Hamilton filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He
appears prose and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis (D.I. 5). The
Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Plaintiff names as a defendant the Superior Court of the State of Delaware. He
alleges that he was wrongfully convicted in April 1996 and his civil rights were violated
by reason of race.
This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis
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). The Court
must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most
favorable to a prose plaintiff. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229
(3d Cir. 2008). 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), 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.
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant
to§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6)
motions. See Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). 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, 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).
A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atlantic 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."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 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 the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Fowler, 578 F.3d at
211. In other words, the complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to
relief; rather, it must "show" such an entitlement with its facts. /d. 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. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
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 v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
The Superior Court is immune from suit. The Eleventh Amendment of the United
States Constitution protects an unconsenting state or state agency from a suit brought in
federal court by one of its own citizens, regardless of the relief sought. See Seminole
Tribe ofF/a. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44,54 (1996); PennhurstState Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). Hence, as a
state entity, the Superior Court is entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.
See Benn v. First Judicial Dist. of Pa., 426 F.3d 233, 239-40 (3d Cir. 2005) (concluding
that Pennsylvania's First Judicial District is a state entity entitled to Eleventh Amendment
In addition, to the extent that the claims are raised pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
they are time-barred. For purposes of the statute of limitations, § 1983 claims are
characterized as personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275 (1983). In
Delaware,§ 1983 claims are subject to a two-year limitations period. See 19 Del. C.§
8119; Johnson v. Cullen, 925 F.Supp. 244,248 (D. Del. 1996). Section 1983 claims
accrue "when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action
is based." Sameric Corp. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998).
Plaintiffs claim accrued in 1996 yet he did not file his complaint until2012.
The claims against Defendant have no arguable basis in law or in fact. The
Complaint will be dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Amendment of the Complaint is futile.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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