Bridgeforth v. New Castle County Police Department et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 1/29/13. (mdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
OTIS MICHAEL BRIDGEFORTH,
NEW CASTLE COUNTY POLICE
DEPARTMENT, et aI.,
) Civ. Action No. 13-062-GMS
The plaintiff, Otis Michael Bridgeforth ("Bridgeforth"), filed this lawsuit on January 9,
2013, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (0.1.4.) He appears pro se and was granted pennission to
proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (0.1.6.) The court now proceeds to
review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
Bridgeforth alleges that the defendants have used racial slurs against him and that he is
the victim of habitual retaliation and harassment by the defendants all in violation of his Eighth
Amendment rights. More particularly, Bridgeforth alleges that on January 7,2013, the mayor's
council held a meeting wherein it was agreed to kill, retaliate, and habitually harass Bridgeforth.
Bridgeforth alleges that later he became alanned and offended when either he, or a witness,
received a threatening voicemaiI.Thenextday.January8.2013.Bridgeforth received a notice of
warrant for his arrest, attached as an exhibit to the complaint. l The notice of warrant for arrest is
dated January 7,2013.
'Bridgeforth refers to this as a "mysterious letter."
Bridgeforth states that when he received the notice of the warrant for arrest he connected
it to the voicemail.Bridgeforth appears to allege that the foregoing is in retaliation "based upon
a 2010 unlawful Sussex County fugitive warrant returned with no jurisdiction by the NCCPD"
(i.e., New Castle County Police Department). (See D.l. 4.)
Bridgeforth seeks compensatory damages and the termination of the city officers
involved. In addition, Bridgeforth filed a temporary restraining order. (D.l. 1.) While not clear,
it appears that he wishes the court to intervene and protect him from harm.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
This court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and
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). 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. Phillips v. County ofAllegheny, 515 F .3d 224, 229 (3d
Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Bridgeforth 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), 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).
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 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 of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the court must grant Bridgeforth 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 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." 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 Bridgeforth has a "plausible
claim for relief.,,2 Id at 211. In other words, the complaint must do more than allege
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
Bridgeforth'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, 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)).
Bridgeforth filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging retaliation. 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).
"Retaliation for the exercise of constitutionally protected rights is itself a violation of
rights secured by the Constitution actionable under § 1983." White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103,
111-12 (3d Cir. 1990). Proof of a retaliation claim requires a demonstration that Bridgeforth:
(1) engaged in protected activity; (2) was subjected to adverse actions by a state actor; and (3) the
protected activity was a substantial motivating factor in the state actor's decision to take adverse
action. Carter v. McGrady, 292 F.3d 152, 158 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Mt. Healthy Bd. ofEduc. v.
Doyle, 429 U.S. 274,287 (1977); see also Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220 (3d Cir. 2000) (a
factfinder could conclude that retaliatory placement in administrative confinement would "deter a
person of ordinary firmness from exercising his First Amendment rights" (citations omitted)).
The allegations in the complaint do not rise to the level of a retaliation claim.
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.
Moreover, the complaint does not speak to personal involvement by any of the named
defendants. Finally, the allegations are conclusory, somewhat delusional, and, in this court's
experience, do not state a plausible claim for relief. Therefore, the court will dismiss the
complaint as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the complaint as frivolous pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Amendment is futile. The court will deny as moot the motion for a
temporary restraining order. (0.1. 1.)
An appropriate order will be entered.
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