Newman v. Newman et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 5/6/2022. (nms)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
SHANTELL D. NEWMAN,
TONI NEWMAN, et al.,
: Civil Action No. 22-169-RGA
Shantell D. Newman, Wilmington, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.
May 6, 2022
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/s/ Richard G. Andrews
ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge:
Plaintiff Shantell Newman appears pro se and has been granted leave to
proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4). She filed this case on February 7, 2022, and
asserts jurisdiction on the grounds that the Morocco Peace Treaty of 1787 may have
been violated. (D.I. 2 at 3). The civil cover sheet refers to the Freedom of Information
Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552. (D.I. 2-1). The Court proceeds to screen the Complaint pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
The following facts are taken from the Complaint and assumed to be true for
purposes of screening the Complaint. See Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Servs., Inc., 542
F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). Plaintiff refers to the 1994 death of her grandmother, Vera
Mae Newman, as the occurrence date. Plaintiff explains that she was left her
grandmother’s house and wants “a [disclosure].” (D.I. 2 at 5). Plaintiff wants the
“original of documents proving [her] grandmother who only loved [Plaintiff] and put
[Plaintiff] before her own children would leave [Plaintiff] with no home. We know the
corporation of America may take this property because they may have had a birth
certificate leaving the straw man in charge of [Plaintiff’s] family rightful property under”
42 U.S.C. § 1983, 12 U.S.C. § 1431, 42 U.S.C. § 408, and 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692f and
1692g. (Id. at 5-6) (spellings changed). Plaintiff “would like to request all records and
unclaimed property, lands, wills” according to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C.
§ 552. (Id. at 6). For relief she seeks her family’s genealogical records under FOIA and
$1,000,000 in damages. (Id. at 6-7).
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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) 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 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 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, her
pleading is liberally construed and her 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.
A complaint is not automatically frivolous because it fails to state a claim. See
Dooley v. Wetzel, 957 F.3d. 366, 374 (3d Cir. 2020). “Rather, a claim is frivolous only
where it depends ‘on an “indisputably meritless legal theory” or a “clearly baseless” or
“fantastic or delusional” factual scenario.’” Id.
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). 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 her complaint unless
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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 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 of Shelby, 574 U.S. 10 (2014). A complaint may not
dismissed, however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim
asserted. See id. at 11.
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, assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane
Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780,787 (3d Cir. 2016). 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 sense.” Id.
Defendants are Toni Newman, who is not otherwise identified, and Thomas
Town, Maryland. To the extent Plaintiff raises claims under § 1983, the claims are timebarred. For purposes of the statute of limitations, § 1983 claims are characterized as
personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275 (1985). In Delaware,
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§ 1983 claims are subject to a two-year limitations period. See 10 Del. C. § 8119;
Johnson v. Cullen, 925 F. Supp. 244, 248 (D. Del. 1996). Section 1983 claims accrue
“when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action is
based.” Sameric Corp. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998).
The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense that generally must be raised
by the defendant, and it is waived if not properly raised. See Benak ex rel. Alliance
Premier Growth Fund v. Alliance Capital Mgmt. L.P., 435 F.3d 396, 400 n.14 (3d Cir.
2006); Fassett v. Delta Kappa Epsilon, 807 F.2d 1150, 1167 (3d Cir. 1986). “Although
the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, sua sponte dismissal is appropriate
when ‘the defense is obvious from the face of the complaint and no further factual
record is required to be developed.’” Davis v. Gauby, 408 F. App’x 524, 526 (3d Cir.
2010) (quoting Fogle v. Pierson, 435 F.3d 1252, 1258 (10th Cir. 2006)). Accordingly a
court may dismiss a time-barred complaint sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. §
The Complaint alleges wrongful acts occurred in 1994 upon the death of
Plaintiff’s grandmother. Plaintiff did not commence this action until February 7, 2022. It
is evident from the face of the Complaint that all § 1983 claims are barred by the twoyear limitation period.
In addition, neither Defendant can be sued under § 1983. There is no indication
Newman is a state actor, and only individuals can be sued under § 1983, so there is no
claim against Thomas Town either.
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It is far from clear if Plaintiff raises claims under the other statutes named in the
complaint. While Plaintiff speaks to FOIA, it does not appear that she has sought
records under FOIA. Rather, she would like to obtain records under FOIA and perhaps
seeks the Court’s assistance in that regard. And she cannot use FOIA to obtain records
from an individual or a municipality in Maryland.
The other statutes are referred to without sufficient facts to raise any viable
claims. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 689 (stating that a complaint will not suffice if it “offers
[merely] ‘labels and conclusions’ “ or “ ‘naked assertion [s]’ devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement’ ”) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Indeed, merely reciting a
statute, an element of a cause of action, or making a bare conclusory statement is
insufficient to state a claim. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 689.
Finally, after thoroughly reviewing the Complaint and applicable law, this Court
draws on its judicial experience and common sense and finds that the claims are
frivolous. Therefore, the Complaint will be dismissed.
For the above reasons, the Court will dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) as frivolous and time-barred. The Court finds
An appropriate Order will be entered.
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