Jones v. Harrington Delaware Police Department, et al
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. 17-395-RGA
HARRINGTON, DELAWARE POLICE
DEPARTMENT, et al.,
Matthew Jones, Greenwood, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.
June r ,2017
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 Harrington Police Department
and the Justice of the Peace Court No. 6, in and for Kent County, Delaware. The
matter was transferred to this Court on April 11, 2017. (D.I. 4). Jones asserts
jurisdiction by reason of a United States government defendant and a federal question.
The Court proceeds to screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Jones alleges that from September 23, 2016 to the present, long standing
enslavement, sexual slavery, forced labor, identity theft, larceny, forgery, assault,
attempted murder, rape, pedophilia, and other felonious acts were committed. (D.I. 1-1
at 2). Jones alleges the acts occurred as a result of a September 23, 2016 traffic stop
when Jones was stopped and ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt.
At the time of the traffic stop, Jones told the officer that he was kidnapped, that
he had been kidnapped all his life, and that he desperately needed medical treatment.
Jones proceeded to tell the officer about his history and advised the officer that he
would be committing a felony if he ticketed Jones. The officer disagreed, ticketed
Jones, and told Jones that he could call a mental health ambulance if Jones wished.
Jones declined. Jones mailed in his ticket and pied "not guilty." (Id. at 3). The matter
was set to be tried on February 27, 2017.
Jones alleges that he has been arrested by the Harrington Police Department on
four other occasions and has appeared in the Justice of the Peace Court No. 6. The
arrests occurred in 2005, 2009, and 2011. Jones was found guilty in two of the charges
and the other two charges were dismissed. He alleges there were also traffic incidents
and police contacts in other jurisdictions and relates his history of kidnapping, which
began in 1986 in Harrington, Delaware.
Jones complains that: (1) he has been arrested by the Harrington Police
Department, fined, hospitalized, expected to appear in court, and held to court orders by
the Police Department; and (2) he has been fined, punished, and held to court orders by
the Justice of the Peace Court. (Id. at 5). Jones alleges numerous violations of federal
criminal law, Delaware state law, and amendments of the United States Constitution.
(Id. at 6-1 O). He seeks seven billion dollars in damages and to have his actual identity
A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8) 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). 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)(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, 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 prose 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 Harrington Police Department falls under the umbrella of the City of
Harrington, Delaware. A municipality may only be held liable under§ 1983 when the
"execution of a government's policy or custom ... inflicts the injury." Andrews v. City of
Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990). While a government policy is
established by a "decisionmaker possessing final authority," a custom arises from a
"course of conduct. .. so permanent and well settled as to virtually constitute law."
Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1480 (citing Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of
New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978)). Accordingly, a plaintiff seeking to recover from a
municipality must (1) identify an allegedly unconstitutional policy or custom,
(2) demonstrate that the municipality, through its deliberate and culpable conduct, was
the "moving force" behind the injury alleged; and (3) demonstrate a direct causal link
between the municipal action and the alleged deprivation of federal rights. Board of the
County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997).
Jones has not pied that the Harrington Police Department was the "moving force"
behind any alleged constitutional violation. Absent any allegation that a custom or
policy established by the City of Harrington directly caused harm to Jones, his § 1983
claim cannot stand. Moreover, the allegations do not rise to the level of a constitutional
violation. Rather, they indicate that Jones was stopped for a traffic violation and
ticketed. The claim against the Harrington Police Department is frivolous and will be
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
In addition, the Justice of the Peace Court No. 6 is immune from suit. 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-McCol/um 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 Justice of the Peace 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). Therefore, the Court will dismiss the
claims against the Justice of the Peace Court as frivolous and based upon its immunity
from suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii).
To the extent Jones attempts to raise supplemental state claims against the
Harrington Police Department, 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).
For the above reasons, the Court will dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(8) (i) and (iii).The Court finds amendment futile.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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