Stevenson v. Pierce et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 4/19/2017. (ceg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
: Civ. No. 17-020-RGA
DAVID PIERCE, et aI.,
Anthony Stevenson, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware,
Pro Se Plaintiff.
April t , 2017
Plaintiff Anthony Stevenson, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional
Center in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. He appears pro se and has
been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (0.1. 5). The Court proceeds to
review and screen the Complaint (0.1. 3) and its amendment (0.1. 10) pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(a).
On October 12, 2015, Plaintiff asked his work supervisor for permission to leave
so that he could go to the hospital to receive an insulin injection. His supervisor
refused, and Plaintiff submitted a grievance. The grievance was denied. Plaintiff
appealed. A December 18, 2015 decision on appeal determined to release Plaintiff
from work during the scheduled time for administration of the medication. The decision
was upheld by Bureau Chief Marc Richman.
On December 22, 2015, Plaintiff was informed by a correctional officer that
Defendant Warden David Pierce had called the building to take Plaintiff's work pass
from him. Later, Plaintiff discovered that it was Defendant Major Jeffrey Carrothers
who had called the building and given the orders to take Plaintiff's work pass and
terminate Plaintiff from his job in the garment shop "because he was unwilling to
authorize [Plaintiff's] leaving the shop to receive [his] insulin shot and for not having a
G.E.D." (0.1. 3 at p.5).
Plaintiff submitted a grievance on December 27, 2015, complaining of
Carrothers' actions. It was returned as unprocessed, advising Plaintiff that he could be
hired or fired with no reasons given. Plaintiff submitted two additional grievances and
was told the same thing. A third party who inquired on Plaintiffs behalf was told that
Plaintiff was terminated from a position in the kitchen after finding contraband from the
kitchen in Plaintiffs cell and that the incident complicated reinstating Plaintiff to his
position in the garment shop. Plaintiff states that he was found guilty in the contraband
matter, appealed, and the finding of guilt was "overturned/reversed with no further
actions taken." Plaintiff alleges that he was the victim of willful and intentional disability
discrimination on the part of Carrothers, Delaware Correctional Industries, Mark
Pariseau, Edward Bowers, and the Delaware Department of Correction.
SCREENING OF COMPLAINT
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 of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. 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
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)(8)(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 U.S. at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774
(3d Cir. 1989).
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant
to § 1915(e)(2)(8)(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).
Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may be granted only if, accepting the
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a
claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).
"Though 'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a complaint must do more than
simply provide 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action.'" Davis v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In addition, 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 reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court should follow a three-step
process: (1) consider the elements necessary to state a claim; (2) identify allegations
that are merely conclusions and therefore are not well-pleaded factual allegations; and
(3) accept any well-pleaded factual allegations as true and determine whether they
plausibly state a claim. See Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir.
BASF Catalysts LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014). 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." Ashcroft V. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 679 (2009).
42 U.S.C. § 1983. When 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
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The
Complaint contains no allegations against Scarborough, Pariseau, and Bowers. "A[n
individual government] defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement
in the alleged wrongdoing; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of
respondeat superior. Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of
personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence." Rode
845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988).
In addition, it appears that Pierce has been named as a defendant based upon
his supervisory position. While he is mentioned, the allegations against him do not rise
to the level of a constitutional violation. See Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d
Cir. 2005) (individual government defendant in a civil rights action must have personal
involvement in the alleged wrongdoing; liability cannot be predicated solely on the
operation of respondeat superior.). Accordingly, Pierce, Scarborough, Pariseau, and
80wers will be dismissed as defendants as the claim against them are legally frivolous
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1). Plaintiff will be allowed to
proceed with his § 1983 retaliation claim against Carrothers.
Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiff attempts to raise an ADA claim
against Carrothers as well as the DOC and Delaware Correctional Industries. Title \I of
the ADA provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such
disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services,
programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such
entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12132(1).
In order to establish a violation under Title II, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1)
that he is a qualified individual; (2) with a disability; and (3) that he was denied the
opportunity to participate in or benefit from the services, programs, or activities of a
public entity, or was otherwise subject to discrimination by that entity; (4) by reason of
his disability. Bowers v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 475 F.3d 524, 553 n.32 (3d
Cir. 2007). Individual defendants are not public entities within the meaning of Title II of
the ADA and therefore, are not subject to suit. See Emerson v. Thiel Coli., 296 F.3d
184, 189 (3d Cir. 2002) (individuals are not subject to liability under "Titles I or II of the
ADA, which prohibit discrimination by employers and public entities respectively.").
Therefore, the Court will dismiss the ADA claim against Carrothers as legally frivolous
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1). Plaintiff will be allowed to
proceed with his Title II ADA claim against the DOC and Delaware Correctional
Request for Counsel. Plaintiff requests counsel on the grounds that he does
not have the ability to present his case, he is unskilled in the law, the issues are
complex, the case may turn on credibility determinations, expert witnesses will be
necessary, he cannot afford and obtain counsel on his own behalf, counsel would serve
the best interest of justice, and he has limited education. (D.1. 8). A pro se litigant
proceeding in forma pauperis has no constitutional or statutory right to representation
by counsel. 1 See Brightwell v. Lehman, 637 F.3d 187, 192 (3d Cir. 2011); Tabron v.
Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir. 1993). However, representation by counsel may be
appropriate under certain circumstances, after a finding that a plaintiff's claim has
arguable merit in fact and law. Tabron, 6 F.3d at 155.
After passing this threshold inquiry, the court should consider a number of
factors when assessing a request for counsel, including:
(1) the plaintiff's ability to present his or her own case;
(2) the difficulty of the particular legal issues; (3) the degree
to which factual investigation will be necessary and the ability
of the plaintiff to pursue investigation; (4) the plaintiff's capacity
to retain counsel on his own behalf; (5) the extent to which a
case is likely to turn on credibility determinations; and
1See Mallard v. United States Dist. Court for the S. Dist. of Iowa, 490 U.S. 296
(1989) (§ 1915(d) (now § 1915(e)(1» does not authorize a federal court to require an
unwilling attorney to represent an indigent civil litigant, the operative word in the statute
(6) whether the case will require testimony from expert witnesses.
Id. at 155-57; accord Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 499 (3d Cir. 2002).
Assuming, solely for the purpose of deciding this motion, that Plaintiff's claims
have merit in fact and law, several of the Tabron factors militate against granting his
request for counsel. To date, Plaintiff's filings indicate that he possesses the ability to
adequately pursue his claims. In addition, Defendants have not yet been served with
process. Upon consideration of the record, the Court is not persuaded that
representation by an attorney is warranted at this time. The Court can address the
issue at a later date should counsel become necessary. Therefore, the motion will be
For the above reasons, the Court will: (1) deny the request for counsel without
prejudice to renew (0.1. 8); (2) dismiss all claims against David Pierce, James
Scarborough, Mark Pariseau, and Edward 80wers as legally frivolous pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2}(8)(i) and 1915A(b)(1); (3) dismiss the ADA claim against Jeffrey
Carrothers as legally frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(8)(i) and
1915A(b)(1); and (4) allow Plaintiff to proceed with the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 retaliation
claim against Jeffrey Carrothers and the Title II ADA claim against the Delaware
Department of Correction and Delaware Correctional Industries.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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