Tue v. State of Delaware et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 7/25/13. (mdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
JONATHAN THEA TUE,
Civ. No. 13-1054-RGA
STATE OF DELAWARE and NEW
Jonathan Thea Tue, Wilmington, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.
Plaintiff Jonathan Thea Tue filed this action alleging discrimination by reason of
race, color, and sex. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. (0.1. 4). The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Plaintiff is in the military. He alleges that false charges were brought against
him, and he was incarcerated for four months and then released, without there being a
trial, because he was not guilty. "[T]his cost [him] a big part of his life ... and [it] is
importantto [him] and [his] career in the military. (0.1.2, 'IT 11.). Although it is not 100%
clear, it appears likely that the "false charges" were brought in Delaware state court in
New Castle County.
This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma
pauperis actions, including ones that are frivolous, 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 pro se 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).
Pursuant to 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(e)(2)(B), 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.
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. 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 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. Id. 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." 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. (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).
While not clear (since Plaintiff's complaint appears to cite Delaware law as the
basis for filing suit), it could be that Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. 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). Plaintiff does not do
The State of Delaware, a named defendant, 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 Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984).
The State has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court, and although Congress
can abrogate a state's sovereign immunity, it did not do so through the enactment of 42
U.S.C. § 1983. See Brooks-McCollum v. Delaware, 213 F. App'x 92,94 (3d Cir. 2007).
Therefore, the Court will dismiss the claims against the State of Delaware pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) as it is immune from suit.
Plaintiff has named New Castle County as a defendant. A plaintiff seeking to
recover from a municipality under § 1983 must (1) identify an allegedly unconstitutional
policy or custom, (2) demonstrate that the municipality, through its deliberate and
culpable conduct, was the "moving force" behind the injury alleged; and (3) demonstrate
a direct causal link between the municipal action and the alleged deprivation of federal
rights. Board of the Cnty. Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397,404 (1997).
Plaintiff has not pled that New Castle County was the "moving force" behind any
alleged constitutional violation. Indeed, the Complaint contains no allegations against
New Castle County other than to name it as a defendant. Absent any allegation that a
custom or policy established by New Castle County directly caused harm to Plaintiff, his
§ 1983 claim cannot stand. However, since it is not inconceivable that Plaintiff may be
able to articulate a claim against it (or, more plausibly, name alternative defendants), he
will be given an opportunity to amend his pleading. See O'Dell v. United States Gov't,
256 F. App'x 444 (3d Cir. 2007) (leave to amend is proper where the plaintiff's claims
do not appear "patently meritless and beyond all hope of redemption").
For the above reasons, the complaint will be dismissed based upon the State of
Delaware's immunity from suit and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8)(ii) and (iii). Plaintiff will be given leave to
amend the complaint.
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?