Bridgeforth v. Justice of the Peace Court 13 et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 09/16/2014. (mas)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRlCT COURT
FOR THE DISTRlCT OF DELAWARE
OTIS MICHAEL BRIDGEFORTH,
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT 13
and JUDGE BA W A,
) Civ. Action No. 14-S84-GMS
The plaintiff, Otis Michael Bridgeforth ("Bridgeforth"), filed this lawsuit alleging race,
color, sex, and religious discrimination. 1 (D.!.2.) He appears pro se and was granted permission
to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.L 4.) The court proceeds to
review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.c. § 1915(e)(2).
Bridgeforth alleges that on April2S, 2014, he filed a lawsuit against Kyle Riley in the
Justice of the Peace Court ofthe State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County, Court No. 13.
Bridgeforth alleges that during the course of the proceedings, he suffered unduly and
unreasonable violations of his constitutional rights when he was not afforded a fair and impartial
hearing, when the court ruled against him and denied a no filing fee application. Bridgeforth
seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.
'Bridgeforth does not reference a particularly statute, but it appears the claim is brought
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).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 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 of28 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 Hasp., 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." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at
678. When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must take three steps:
"( 1) identifY the elements of the claim, (2) review the complaint to strike conclusory
allegations, and then (3) look at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluat[e]
whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus
v. George, 641 F.3d 560,563 (3d Cir. 2011). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in
the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.
Bridgeforth has sued the Justice of the Peace Court 13 and Judge Bawa. Both are
immune from suit. Plaintiff's claims against the Justice of the Peace Court 13 are barred by the
State's Eleventh Amendment immunity. See MCI Telecom. Corp. v. Bell Atl. ofPa., 271 F.3d
491, 503 (3d Cir. 2001). The Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution protects a
nonconsenting 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. & Hasp. v. Halderman, 465
U.S. 89 (1984); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). Delaware has not waived its immunity
from suit in federal court; 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) (unpublished). In addition, dismissal is appropriate because the
foregoing defendant is not a person for purposes of § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep 't ofState
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71(1989); Calhoun v. Young, 288 F. App'x 47 (3d Cir. 2008) (unpublished).
Similarly, Judge Bawa is immune from suit. "A judicial officer in the performance of his
duties has absolute immunity from suit and will not be liable for his judicial acts." Capogrosso
v. The Supreme Court ofNew Jersey, 588 F.3d 180,184 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The complaint contains no allegations that Judge Bawa acted outside the scope of his
judicial capacity or in the absence of his jurisdiction. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11
(1991). Bridgeforth's complaint is that he was not granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
Accordingly ,the complaint will be dismissed based upon the immunity of the defendants
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).
F or the above reasons, the court will dismiss the complaint as the defendants are immune
from suit pursuant to 28 U.S.c. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Amendment of the complaint would be
futile. See Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229 (3d Cir. 2004); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293
F.3d 103, 111 (3d Cir. 2002); Borelli v. City ofReading, 532 F.2d 950, 951-52 (3d Cir.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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