Trammell v. James T. Vaughn Correctional Center
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 12/2/16. (sar)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
NICHOLAS KENNETH TRAMMELL,
) Civ. No. 16-738-GMS
JAMES T. VAUGHN CORRECTIONAL
The plaintiff, Nicholas Kenneth Trammell ("Trammell"), an inmate at the James T.
Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"), Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit on August 22,2016.
(D.1. 3.) He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 5.) The court proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and
Trammell takes exception to his housing assignment. He alleges that he needs income,
that the air ducts contain asbestos, the paint is peeling, he has been unable to procure cleaning
supplies, he is not provided schooling, and he is not provided daily access to the commissary.
Trammel seeks compensatory and punitive damages and dismissal of all criminal charges, among
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) (informa 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 ofAllegheny,
515 F.3d 224,229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,93 (2007). Because
Trammell 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 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)(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).
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. ]'vfayview 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 a/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
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 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's complaint is not a model of clarity. Regardless, he has named a defendant
who is immune from suit. The VCC falls under the umbrella of the Delaware Department of
Correction, an agency of the State of Delaware. The Eleventh Amendment protects states and
their agencies and departments from suit in federal court regardless of the kind of relief sought.
Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). "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)). 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). In addition, after thoroughly reviewing the complaint and applicable law, the
court draws on its judicial experience and common sense and concludes that the claims raised by
Trammell are frivolous. Therefore, the court will dismiss the complaint as frivolous and based
upon the VCC's immunity from suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (iii) and
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: (1) 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.l. 7, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15); 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.
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