Miller v. Little et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 09/29/14. (etg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
J0 I-IN E. MILLER,
Civ. Ko. 13-388-LPS
CAPT. BURTON, et al.,
John E. Miller, James
Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, IJ ro Se Plaintiff.
Ophelia Michelle Waters, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department ofJustice, Wilmington,
Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.
STARK, U.S. District Judge:
PlaintiffJohn E. ::VElier ("Plaintiff') filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.c. § 1983 alleging
of his constitutional rights.! Plaintiff, an inmate, is housed at the J ames
Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware. Plaintiff appears pro Je and has been granted
leave to proceed informa pauperiJ. (D.I. 5) Plaintiff has filed two motions to amend, opposed by
Defendants. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the Motions
MOTIONS TO AMEND
Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (D.I. 11) alleges retaliation by Defendants in the form of a
transfer to a higher security level following his filing of grievances and a civil lawsuit against
correctional officers. Plaintiff has filed two motions to amend. The first motion to amend (D.I. 18)
seeks to add claims against C/O Christi Pierce ("Pierce") and C/O Shannon Corbett ("Corbett") for
taking Plaintiffs property, specifically legal work and a pair of sneakers. The second motion to
amend (D.I. 20) seeks to add John Doe members of the Institutional Base Classification Committee
allege retaliation by the IECC in blocking Plaintiffs return to a lower security level,
all for the purpose of teaching him a lesson for collecting evidence of wrongdoing by correctional
officers. Defendants oppose the second motion to amend on the grounds that amendment is futile.
(D.I. 21) More particularly, Defendants argue that Plaintiff does not have "legitimate statutory or
!Pursuant to 42 U.S.c. § 1983, 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. See WeJt
1). Atkim, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
constitutional entitlement" to any particular custodial classification. 2 (Id. at ~ 13)
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), a party may amcnd its pleading once as a matter of coursc
within twenty-one days after scrving it or, if tlle pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is
required, twenty-one days after service of a responsive pleading or nvcnty-one days after service of a
Rule 12(b), (c), or (f) motion, whichever is carlier. Otherwise, a party may amend its pleading only
with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leavc. Rule 15 provides that thc court
should freely give leave to amend when justice so requires.
The Third Circuit has adopted a liberal approach to the amendment of pleadings to cnsure
that "a particular claim will be decided on the merits rather than on technicalities." Dole v. An'o
Chem. Co., 921 F.2d 484,486-87 (3d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). Amendment, howevcr, is not
automatic. See Dover Steel Co., Inc. v. Hartford Ac'ddent and Indem., 151 F.R.D. 570,574 (RD. Pa. 1993).
Leave to amend should be granted absent a showing of "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive
on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deftciencies by amendments previously allowed,
undue prcjudice to the opposing party by virtuc of the allowance of the amendment, futility of
amendment, etc." FOJ71an v. DaI)iJ, 371 U.S. 178,182 (1962); See alJo Gran!). Stqflord, 226 F.3d 275,
291 (3d Cir. 2000). Futility of amendment occurs when the complaint, as amended, does not statc a
claim upon which relief can be granted. See In re Burlington Coat Fadory Su: Litig., 114 F.3d 1410,
1434 (3d Cir. 19(7). If the proposed amendment "is frivolous or advances a claim or defense that is
legally insufficient on its face, the court may deny leave to amend." HarriJon BelJerage Co. v. Dribetk
133 F.RD. 463,468 (D.NJ 1990).
2Defendants ask the Court to deny the second motion to amend or, in the alternative, to
reassert the motion to dismiss. (D.1. 21 at \Vherefore Clause) The Court docket does not indicate
that Defendants have flied a motion to dismiss in this case.
The Court will deny the motion to amend (D.I. 18) to add the claims that Plaintiffs property
and sneakers were taken by Pierce and Corbett in violation of his right to due process. A prisoner's
due process claim based on random and unauthorized deprivation of property by a state actor is not
actionable under § 1983, whether the deprivation is negligent or intentional, unless there is no
adequate post-deprivation remedy available. See Parratt 1). Tqylor, 451
othergrounds ry, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Hudson
.S. 527,542 (1981), overruled on
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). Plaintiff has
available to him the option of filing a common law claim for conversion of property. Inasmuch as
Delaware law provides an adequate remedy for Plaintiff, he cannot maintain a cause of action
pursuant to § 1983 and, therefore, amendment is futile. See Hudson, 468 U.S. at 535; Nil:holson v.
Carrol/, 390 F. Supp. 2d 429, 435 (D. DeL 2005).
The Court will grant the motion to amend (D.I. 18) to add a claim that Plaintiffs legal work
was wrongfully taken by Pierce and Corbett. Prisoners must be allowed "adequate, effective and
meaningful" access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817,822 (1977). "Many courts have
found a cause of action for violation of the right of access stated where it was alleged that prison
officials confiscated and/or destroyed legal materials." Zili(h v. Lucht, 981 F.2d 694, 695 (3d Cit.
1992) (citations omitted).
The Court will grant the second motion to amend (D.I. 20) to add a retaliation claim against
John Doe members of the IBCe. Defendants are conect that Plaintiff does not have "legitimate
statutory or c011Stitutional entitlement" to any particular custodial classification. However, in the
retaliation context, "[g]overnment actions, which standing alone, do not violate the Constitution,
may nonetheless be constitutional torts if motivated in substantial part by a de site to punish an
individual for exercise of a constitutional right." Mitchell v. Horll, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cit. 2003);
See also WilliatJlJ 1', Mryers, 165 F. App'x 201 (3d Cit. Feb. 3,2006) (inmate alleged he was fired from
his prison kitchen job in retaliation for filing grievances against his supervisor); Jefftrson v. Wolfe, 2006
WL 1947721 (\VD. Pa. July 11,2006) (denying motion to dismiss claim that inmate's right to free
speech was violated when he was fired from prison job for writing poems regarding injustice in
courts and was then issued allegedly false misconduct reports). Here, Plaintiff alleges that a transfer
to a lower security level was blocked in retaliation for Plaintiff's collection of evidence of wrong
doing by correctional officers.
For the above reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the first motion to
amend (DJ. 18) and will grant Plaintiff's second motion to amend (D.L 20). Plaintiff will be given
leave to file an amended complaint that contains the claims as set forth in the amended complaint
(D.L 11), that is, the taking of legal materials claim and the IBCC retaliation clain1.
An appropriate Order will be entered.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?