Luca v. Morgan et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 11/4/14. (mas)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
PHILIP MORGAN, et al.,
) Civ. No. 14-889-SLR
1. Introduction. Plaintiff Ray Luca ("plaintiff"), an inmate at the Howard R.
Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware, proceeds prose and has been
granted in forma pauperis status. He filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claiming violations of his constitutional rights .1 (D. I. 1)
· 2. Standard of Review. A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua
sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§ 1915A(b) if
"the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief."
Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in
forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress
from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with
respect to prison conditions). 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
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).
v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 93 (2007). Because plaintiff proceeds prose, 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
3. 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)(8)(i) and
§ 1915A(b)(1 ), 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).
4. The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim
pursuant to§ 1915(e)(2)(8)(ii) and§ 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used
when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscherv. 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)(8)). 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 and 1915A, 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).
5. A complaint may be dismissed only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations
in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a
court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief."
Bell At/. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). Though "detailed factual
allegations" are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide "labels and
conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Davis v.
Abington Mem'I Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555). In addition, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Williams v. BASF Catalysts
LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
6. To determine whether a complaint meets the pleading standard as set forth in
Twombly and Iqbal, the court must: (1) outline the elements a plaintiff must plead to a
state a claim for relief; (2) peel away those allegations that are no more than
conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) look for well-pied
factual allegations, assume their veracity, and then "determine whether they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement to relief." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012)
(internal citations omitted) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; Argueta v. United States
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 643 F.3d 60, 73 (3d Cir. 2011 )). The last step
is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
7. Allegations in the Complaint. On March 18, 2014, plaintiff was ordered to
undergo a strip search. Plaintiff alleges that, before he could comply with the order,
defendants Jay Lee ("Lee") and King Ayala ("Ayala") used excessive force when Lee
maced plaintiff and then, with Ayala, beat plaintiff. Plaintiff was taken to a cell, and the
quick response team forced plaintiff to the ground and defendants "proceeded to open
his anus." A female officer was present during the strip search. Also named as a
defendant is Warden Philip Morgan ("Morgan").
8. Discussion. It appears that plaintiff named Morgan as a defendant based
upon his supervisory position. The Third Circuit has reiterated that a § 1983 claim
cannot be premised upon a theory of respondeat superior and that, in order to establish
liability for deprivation of a constitutional right, a party must show personal involvement
by each defendant. Brito v. United States Dep't of Justice, 392 F. App'x 11, 14 (3d Cir.
2010) (unpublished) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677; Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1998)). Here, no allegations are directed towards Morgan,
Therefore, Morgan will be dismissed as a defendant pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and§ 1915A(b)(1).
9. Conclusion. For the above reasons, the claims against Morgan will be
dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and§ 1915A(b)(1).
Plaintiff will be allowed to proceed against Lee and Ayala.
Date: November_±_, 2014
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