Spady v. Lord et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 2/5/2016. (cna)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
MARVIN D. SPADY,
) Civ. No. 15-992-SLR
DETECTIVE TIMOTHY LORD, et aI.,
1. Introduction. Plaintiff Marvin D. Spady ("plaintiff'), a pretrial detainee at the
James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, 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. 1 (0.1. 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 a/so 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
1When 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
Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 93 (2007). 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. 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. 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 and 1915A, the court must grant plaintiff leave to
amend his complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson
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 Atl. 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.
6. Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court
reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the
elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that, because
they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and
(3) when there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780,787 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal citations and
quotations omitted). 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.
7. Allegations in the Complaint. On May 6,2014, plaintiff was indicted and
charged with drug dealing, conspiracy second degree, possession of marijuana, and
possession of drug paraphernalia. Plaintiff was arrested at the Traveler Inn Motel on
May 16, 2014, when defendants Dwight Young ("Young"), patrolman Maloney
("Maloney"), and patrolman O'Hern ("O'Hern) served a search warrant obtained by
defendant Timothy Lord ("Lord"). Plaintiff is currently incarcerated awaiting trial in the
Superior Court in and for Kent County, Delaware.
8. Plaintiff's trial has been continued a number of times. Plaintiff alleges a
violation of his right to a speedy trial. He filed a motion to dismiss the criminal charges
against him due to the violation of his right to a speedy trial, but the motion was denied.
See State v. Spady, 2015 WL 6438751 (Del. Super. Oct. 12, 2015) Ultimately, the trial
was set to begin on October 7,2015, but plaintiff alleges it did not take place when
defendant attorney general Gregory Babowal ("Babolwal") did not prosecute or proceed
to trial due to an order entered that day.
9. Plaintiff alleges violations of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to a
speedy trial. He claims that Babowal delayed in bringing him to trial and that the delay
occurred because Lord and Babowal did not disclose confidential informants. In turn,
plaintiff alleges, this resulted in the suppression of evidence, the State failed to
prosecute, and a new trial date was set. The complaint contains no allegations to
explain how Maloney, Young, or O'Hern's actions allegedly affected plaintiff's right to a
10. Some of the criminal charges against plaintiff were dismissed, and a new
trial date was set for November 2, 2015. Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on October
27,2015. 2 Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for illegal detention.
2The filing date is calculated pursuant to the prison mailbox rule. See Houston v.
Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988), Bums v. Morton, 134 F.3d 109, 112 (3d Cir. 1998); Gibbs v.
Decker, 234 F. Supp. 2d 458, 463 (D. Del. 2002).
11. Discussion. Plaintiff's speedy trial claim is not cognizable under § 1983. A
civil rights action is a proper remedy for a prisoner who claims that his conditions of
confinement violate the Constitution, but who is not challenging the fact or length of his
custody. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973). See also Boykin v. Siena
House Gaudenzia Program, 464 F. Supp. 2d 416,424 (M.D. Pa. 2006) ("... it is
well-settled that prisoners cannot use § 1983 to challenge the fact or duration of their
confinement or to seek immediate or speedier release") (citing Preiser, 411 U.S. at
499). Here, plaintiff complains of the duration of his custody. Moreover, plaintiff cannot
recover damages stemming from his challenged imprisonment until he can show that
any conviction and sentence he may receive as a result of his challenged incarceration
has been invalidated or overturned via state court appeals or a petition for writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477,
12. Additionally, the abstention doctrine as defined in Younger v. Harris, 401
U.S. 37 (1971), provides that federal courts are not to interfere with pending state
criminal proceedings. Notably, plaintiff has adequate state court remedies to seek
expediency in the pending criminal case against him in Kent County. Plaintiff's remedy
for a speedy trial violation lies within the Delaware criminal case, "not ... a separate
private civil cause of action for pursuing sanctions." Rockwell v. Adams, 2014 WL
2779009, at *4 (S.D.W. Va. June 19, 2014) (prisoner's civil action based on speedy trial
violation dismissed); see Moore v. DeYoung, 515 F.2d 437,441 (3d Cir. 1975) (speedy
trial violations addressed in court where criminal case pending).
13. With regard to 8abowal, the claims are legally frivolous. 8abowal has
absolute prosecutorial immunity based on the manner in which he handled, or failed to
handle, plaintiff's case in court. See Imbler v. Pactman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976) ("[I]n
initiating a prosecution and in presenting the State's case, the prosecutor is immune
from a civil suit for damages under § 1983."); Santos v. New Jersey, 393 F. App'x 893,
894 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (unpublished) ("[E]ven if[plaintiff] could show that the
alleged delays in his case were based on administrative rather than judicial considerations
of the prosecutor, the doctrine of absolute immunity would apply." (citing Van de Kamp
v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 344 (2009)).
14. Conclusion. For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the action as
legally frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8)(i) and § 1915(A)(b)(1). The court
finds amendment futile. A separate order shall issue.
UNITED STA ES DISTRICT JUDGE
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