DiMatteo v. McDonough
MEMORANDUM -Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 11/4/2015.(aah)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
DEBORAH K. DIMATTEO,
) Civ. No.15-644-SLR
1. Introduction. Plaintiff Deborah K. DiMatteo ("plaintiff'') proceeds prose and
has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. She filed this lawsuit on July 27,
2015, alleging her rights were violated when she was sentenced by defendant
Commissioner McDonough. (D.I. 2)
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) 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). 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, her pleading is liberally construed and
her 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), 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).
4. 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. 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 of 28
U.S.C. § 1915, the court must grant plaintiff leave to amend her 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). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has
substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City of Shelby, _U.S._, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347
(2014). A complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect statements of the legal
theory supporting the claim asserted. See id. at 346. 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.
6. Discussion. Plaintiff alleges that McDonough sentenced her to incarceration
because plaintiff missed a court date. Plaintiff explains that she was in the hospital and
had her release papers. The papers were in plaintiffs purse and the purse was in the
possession of the Capitol Police. Plaintiff alleges that McDonough would not allow court
personnel to collect the papers from her purse. Plaintiff alleges she suffered mental
stress and seeks compensatory damages.
7. McDonough is a judicial officer and, based upon the allegations, 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 of
New Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). The
complaint does not allege McDonough 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).
8. Conclusion. For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the complaint
based upon defendant's immunity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). The court
finds amendment futile. A separate order shall issue.
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