Jones v. Kent County Superior Court, Delaware
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding 3 Complaint. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 6/1/2017. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
: Civil Action No. 17-394-RGA
KENT COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT,
Matthew Jones, Greenwood, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.
Plaintiff Matthew Jones, who appears pro se and has been granted leave to
proceed in forma pauperis, filed this action in March 2017 in the United States District
Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Superior Court of the State of
Delaware in and for Kent County. The matter was transferred to this Court on April 10,
2017. (D.I. 4). Jones asserts jurisdiction by reason of a United States government
defendant, a federal question, and federal diversity. (D.I. 1-1 at 2). The Court proceeds
to screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Jones alleges that on January 31, 2017, after his mother called Recovery
Innovations and the Delaware State Police arrived at their home, he was taken for a
psychiatric evaluation. He was arrested and held at the Seaford Nanticoke Hospital for
over 12 hours and transported to Recovery Innovations. Jones alleges that the
Nanticoke Hospital could find no reason to hold him when the hold expired, but
Recovery Innovations (who diagnosed Jones as schizophrenic) said a hold had been
placed by the Delaware State Police. Jones has filed a separate lawsuit against
Recovery Innovations, Civ. A. No. 17-396-RGA (D. Del. Apr. 11, 2017).
Jones was held at Recovery Innovations for approximately 24 hours and
transferred to Dover Behavioral Health where he was held involuntarily until February
22, 2017. Two court hearings were held at the Kent County Superior Court during this
time. Jones was unable to attend the hearings. He states that an order was entered for
him to continue treatment for schizophrenia, take medication, and see a psychiatrist.
Jones states that there "are no doctors or court personnel locally" and that "all are
represented by identity thieves who normally do not age" and "many have shabby,
unbelievable names." (D.I. 1-1 at 3).
Jones alleges numerous violations of federal criminal law, Delaware State law,
and amendments of the United States Constitution. (Id. at 4-7). He seeks two billion
dollars in damages.
A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(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. Famig/io, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir.
2013); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions). 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 of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d
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), 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)(B)(ii) 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)(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, 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.
Plaintiff proceeds pro se and, therefore, 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. 89, 94 (2007).
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 At/. 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'I 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.
2016); Williams v. 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).
The sole defendant is the Superior Court in and for Kent County, 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 ). 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 BrooksMcCo/lum v. Delaware, 213 F. App'x 92, 94 (3d Cir. 2007).
Following the reasoning of the Third Circuit in Benn v. First Judicial Dist. of Pa.,
the Court concludes that the Superior Court is a state entity and, thus, immune from
suit. Benn, 426 F.3d 233, 239-40 (3d Cir. 2005) (concluding that Pennsylvania's First
Judicial District is a state entity entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity). In addition,
dismissal is proper because Defendant is not a person for purposes of§ 1983. See Will
v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Calhoun v. Young, 288 F.
App'x 47 (3d Cir. 2008). Finally, after thoroughly reviewing the Complaint and
applicable law, the Court draws on its judicial experience and common sense and finds
that the claims raised by Jones are frivolous. Therefore, the Court will dismiss the
Complaint as frivolous and based upon the Superior Court's immunity from suit
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii).
For the above reasons, the Court will dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) (i) and (iii). The Court finds amendment futile.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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