Watts v. Albano
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 11/18/14. (mas)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
KENTAE D. WATTS,
) Civ. No. 14-1007-SLR
1. Introduction. Plaintiff Kentae D. Watts ("plaintiff'), a former inmate at the
Sussex Correctional Institution ("SCI"), Georgetown, Delaware, who is now held at the
Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, proceeds pro se 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. (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)(8) 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
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)(B)(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)(B)(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 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." Iqbal, 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." Mal/eus 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
6. Discussion. Plaintiff was advised by a letter dated May 9, 2014, that his
employment with Chimes 1 was terminated effective April 30, 2014 by defendant
Jennifer Albano ("Albano") after she learned that plaintiff was involved in a violent crime
that occurred on May 1, 2014. Plaintiff alleges the termination of his employment
violated his constitutional rights and his right to be deemed innocent until proven guilty.
Plaintiff alleges that Albano terminated his employment without first learning if the
Chimes is a not-for-profit organization in Newark, Delaware, that provides a
network of services and support for families and individuals with intellectual
developmental disabilities. See http://www.chimes.org/about/index.htm (Nov. 6, 2014).
allegations that he was involved in a violent crime were true. He seeks three million
dollars in damages.
7. State actor. Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state
a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and must show that the
alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law."
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citing Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535
(1981), overruled in part on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31
(1986)). To act under "color of state law" a defendant must be "clothed with the
authority of state law." West, 487 U.S. at 49. Albano is the director of human
resources and training for Chimes, and she works for a not-for-profit organization.
She is not "clothed with the authority of state law." See Reich/ey v. Pennsylvania
Dep't of Agric., 427 F.3d 236, 244-45 (3d Cir. 2005); Biener v. Calio, 361 F.3d
206, 216-17 (3d Cir. 2004). The claim against her is legally frivolous and will be
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§ 1915(A)(b)(1 ).
8. Conclusion. For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the complaint for
as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and§ 1915A(b)(1 ). The court finds
amendment futile. A separate order shall issue.
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