Trammell v. Delaware State Police Troop #5
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 12/2/2016. (jcs)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
NICHOLAS KENNETH TRAMMELL,
) Civ. No. 16-737-GMS
DELAWARE STATE POLICE
The plaintiff, Nicholas Kenneth Trammell ("Trammell"), an inmate at the James T.
Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit on August 22,2016. (DJ.3.)
He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28
U.S.c. § 1915. (DJ.5.) The court proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(a).
Trammell invokes a number of state and federal statutes, including 42 U.S.c. § 1983.
Trammell alleges that on April 29,2011, he was ticketed with leaving the scene of an accident.
He was arrested and several items were seized. Trammell is incarcerated and claims he is being
deprived of his property. The sole defendant is Delaware State Police Troop #5 ("State Police").
Trammell seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as a permit to carry a concealed
weapon, and a record deal, among other requests.
II. 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 v. County ofA lleghe ny,
515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because
Trammell proceeds pro .'Ie, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers." Erickmn 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) and § 1915A(b)(l), 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) 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 of28 U.S.c. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the court
must grant Trammell 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 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 ofShelby, _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
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 detennine whether they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane Canst. 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
Trammell has named a defendant who is immune from suit. "Absent a state's consent,
the eleventh amendment bars a civil rights suit in federal court that names the state as a
defendant." Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981 ) (citing Alabama v. Pugh,
438 U.S. 781 (1978)). In addition, the State of 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). Further, a state agency, such as the Delaware State Police,
"is not a person" subject to claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Will v. Mich. Dep't ofState
u.s. 58, 71
(1989). Therefore, the court will dismiss the complaint as the named
defendant is immune from suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) and § 1915A(b)(2).
In addition, the claim is time-barred. In Delaware, § 1983 claims are subject to a two
year limitations period. See 10 Del. C. § 8119; Johnson v. Cullen, 925 F. Supp. 244,248 (D.
Del. 1996). The alleged wrongful act occurred in 2011, yet Trammell did not commence this
action until 2016. It is clear from the face of the complaint that the claim is time-barred.
"[W]here the statute of limitations defense is obvious from the face of the complaint and no
development of the factual record is required to determine whether dismissal is appropriate, sua
sponte dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is permissible." Davis v. Gauby, 408 F. App'x 524,
526 (3d Cir. 2010) (unpublished) (quoting Fogle v. Pierson, 435 F.3d 1252, 1258 (10 th Cir.
Finally, to the extent Trammell attempts to raise supplemental state claims, because the
complaint fails to state federal claims, the court declines to exercise jurisdiction over any
supplemental state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367; De Asencio v. Tyson Foods, Inc" 342 F.3d
301,309 (3d Cir. 2003).
The court will: (l) dismiss the complaint as legally frivolous and based upon the
defendant's immunity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (iii) and § 1915A(b)(1), (2);
(2) dismiss all pending motions as moot (D.1. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13); and (3) decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. In light of the nature of Trammell's
claims, the court finds that amendment would be futile. See Alston v, Parker, 363 F.3d 229 (3d
Cir. 2004); Grayson, 293 F.3d at 111; Borelli v, City ofReading, 532 F.2d 950,951-52 (3d Cir.
An appropriate order will be entered.
_ __ _
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?