Guilfoil v. Weinstein
MEMORANDUM Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 5/18/2017. (lmm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
DALE A. GUILFOIL,
) Civ. Action No. 17-171-GMS
The plaintiff, Dale A. Guilfoil ("Guilfoil"), an inmate at the Sussex Correctional
Institution, Georgetown, Delaware, filed this lawsuit on February 9, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 1 (D.I. 1.) He appears prose and was granted
permission to proceed informapauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.1. 5.) The court
proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and
The defendant Michael Weinstein ("Weinstein") is a Delaware State trooper who arrested
Guilfoil. On February 18, 2015, Weinstein testified at a suppression hearing held during the
course of the criminal case brought against Guilfoil. Guilfoil alleges that Weinstein's testimony
indicates that Weinstein did not have probable cause to arrest Guilfoil. Guilfoil alleges that
Weinstein violated his constitutional rights. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
When bringing a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege that
of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation a
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
L' ~ L.·i)
DI 0 I f\ I I'. '··~·
The court takes judicial notice of the following: On April 1, 2015, the Superior Court of
the State of Delaware in and for Kent County ("Superior Court") denied the motion to suppress
filed in Guilfoil's criminal case, State v. Guilfoil, l.D. No. 1407004778 (Del. Super. Apr. 1,
2015), and found that "the evidence was sufficient to establish that the officer had probable cause
to believe [Guilfoil] was driving under the influence." On June 8, 2015, following a jury trial,
Guilfoil was convicted of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Guilfoil v. State, 135 A.3d 78, 2016 WL 943760 (Del. 2016) (table). Guilfoil appealed and, on
March 11, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court. Id.
at 2016 WL 943760, at *7. On January 10, 2017, Guilfoil filed a civil lawsuit in the Superior
Court against Weinstein and the Delaware State Police pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the
Americans with Disabilities act, raising almost identical claims as those raised in the instant
complaint. Guilfoil v. Weinstein, C.A. No. Kl 7C-01-006 JJC (Del. Super.) at BL-1. The
complaint was dismissed on January 30, 2017, as factually frivolous, legally frivolous, malicious,
and plainly appearing from the face of the complaint there was no entitlement to relief. Id. at
BL-4. Guilfoil did not appeal dismissal of the case. He commenced this action on February 9,
ST AND ARD OF REVIEW
A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions
of28 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
The date is calculated pursuant to the mailbox rule. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266
(1988); Burns v. Morton, 134 F.3d 109, 112 (3d Cir. 1998); Gibbs v. Decker, 234 F. Supp. 2d
458, 463 (D. Del. 2002).
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 prose plaintiff. Phillips v. County ofAllegheny,
515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 55 l U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Guilfoil
proceeds prose, 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§ l 915A(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 32728; 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 § l 9 l 5A(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 l 915A, the court
must grant Guilfoil 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).
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 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 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 "contextspecific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
Claim Preclusion/Res Judicata
Claim preclusion, formerly referred to as res judicata, bars a claim litigated between the
same parties or their privies in earlier litigation where the claim arises from the same set of facts
as a claim adjudicated on the merits in the earlier litigation. Blunt v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist.,
767 F.3d 247, 277 (3d Cir. 2014). Resjudicata bars not only claims that were brought in the
previous action, but also claims that could have been brought. Id. (citations omitted). "A claim
extinguished by res judicata includes all rights of the plaintiff to remedies against the defendant
with respect to all or any part of the transaction, or series of connected transactions, out of which
the action arose." Id. (citations omitted). Claim preclusion gives dispositive effect to a prior
judgment if a particular issue, although not litigated, could have been raised in the earlier
proceeding. Claim preclusion requires: (1) a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit
involving; (2) the same parties or their privities [sic]; and (3) a subsequent suit based on the same
cause of action." Id. at 276 (citations omitted).
It is clear from a review of the instant complaint and that filed in the Superior Court that
the complaint at bar is brought against the same defendant and is clearly based upon the same
transactions and occurrences at the center of the complaint Guilfoil filed in the Superior Court.
Accordingly, the court will dismiss the instant complaint as legally frivolous pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and§ 1915A(b)(l) as barred under the principles of claim preclusion
or res judicata.
Heck v. Humphrey
To the extent that Guilfoil attempts to challenge his conviction and/or sentence, his sole
federal remedy for challenging the fact or duration of his confinement is by way of habeas
corpus. Freiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973); see also Torrence v. Thompson, 435 F. App'x
56 (3d Cir. 2011) (unpublished). Furthermore, a plaintiff cannot recover under § 1983 for
alleged wrongful incarceration unless he proves that the conviction or sentence has been reversed
on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to
make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus. See Heckv. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994).
In Heck, the Supreme Court held that where success in a § 1983 action would implicitly
call into question the validity of conviction or duration of sentence, the plaintiff must first
achieve favorable termination of his available state or federal habeas remedies to challenge the
underlying conviction or sentence. Considering Heck and summarizing the interplay between
habeas and § 1983 claims, the Supreme Court explains that, "a state prisoner's § 1983 action is
barred (absent prior invalidation) - no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no
matter the target of the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison
proceedings) - if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of the
confinement or its duration." Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005).
Here, Guilfoil' s has not alleged or proven that his conviction or sentence was reversed or
invalidated as provided by Heck, and the court takes judicial notice that his conviction was
affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court. See Guilfoil v. State, 135 A.3d 78, 2016 WL 943760
(Del. 2016) (table). To the extent Guilfoil seeks damages for his current incarceration, his claim
rests on an inarguable legal conclusion and is frivolous. Therefore, the court will dismiss the
complaint as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and§ 1915A(b)(l).
For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the complaint as legally frivolous pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 1915A(b)(l). The court finds amendment futile.
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?