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Myles v. Michigan Department of Corrections

United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Southern Division

January 7, 2015

CHARLES EDWARD MYLES, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

OPINION

ROBERT J. JONKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff’s pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff’s allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed because Defendant is immune from suit and Plaintiff fails to state a claim.

Factual Allegations

Plaintiff Charles Edward Myles is incarcerated by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility. Defendant is identified as a “department” called “Michigan Dep’t. of Correction & Superiors.” (Compl., docket #1, Page ID##2, 3.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has been interpreting its policies and state law regarding parole eligibility incorrectly, specifically MDOC Policy Directive 06.05.104 and Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 791.234(3), 791.244(1). Plaintiff’s MDOC profile indicates that he was sentenced in April 1993 to serve 25 to 50 years of imprisonment for two counts of assault with intent to commit murder. See http://mdocweb.state.mi.us/OTIS2/otis2profile.aspx?mdocNumber=179541 (visited Dec. 12, 2014). In 1985, he was convicted of manslaughter; he served his sentence for that conviction and was discharged in 1990. Id. Plaintiff claims that he is eligible for parole consideration in 2015, but Defendant has calculated that he is eligible for parole no sooner than September 7, 2017.

Attached to the complaint is a letter from Plaintiff to the Chair of the Michigan Parole Board, Thomas P. Combs, in which Plaintiff complains that the parole board is interpreting Mich. Comp. Laws § 791.234 incorrectly, “putting him in a new category that shut[]s the door on any possibility of parole.” (Letter to Thomas Combs, docket #1-1, Page ID#7.) In response, the Michigan Parole Board sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that he was sentenced as a “habitual long indeterminate, ” meaning that his minimum sentence is ten years or longer. (Letter from Michigan Parole Bd., docket #1-1, Page ID#8.) Also, because he was sentenced as a habitual offender, the sentencing court imposed a “‘calendar minimum’ date of September 7, 2017.” (Id.) The calendar minimum date overrides any disciplinary credits accrued while in prison that might have made him eligible for an earlier release date. (Id.) Per MDOC Policy Directive 03.01.201, a prisoner is not eligible for parole at any time prior to the calendar minimum date without the approval of the sentencing judge. (Id.)

Plaintiff subsequently filed a prisoner grievance complaining that the parole board was incorrectly interpreting MDOC policy and state law regarding parole eligibility and parole interviews. (4/22/2014 Grievance, docket #1-1, Page ID#9.) His grievance was denied on the basis that the September 7, 2017 parole eligibility date was calculated correctly. (Step I Grievance Response, docket #1-1, Page ID#10.) Plaintiff appealed that decision, and in response he received a detailed summary of his sentences and the basis for calculating the earliest possible release date of September 7, 2017. (Step II Grievance Response, docket #1-1, Page ID#18.) He appealed that response to Step III and to the Office of Legal Affairs, but his appeal was denied because he does not have a right to parole; release on parole is discretionary with the parole board. (Letter from Office of Legal Affairs, docket #1-1, Page ID#29.)

Plaintiff contends that Defendant violated Plaintiff’s rights under the Fourteenth and Eight Amendments to the Constitution, including his rights to due process and to equal protection. As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that Defendant has violated his rights and conspired to harass Plaintiff “by interpreting [Policy Directive] 06.05.104, [Mich. Comp. Laws §] 791.234. (3) and violat[ing] the way [the] parole board conduct[s] interviews.” (Compl., Page ID#5.) He also seeks an order requiring that certain unidentified inaccurate information be expunged from his prison file. Finally, he seeks compensatory damages.

Discussion

I. Immunity

Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983 action against the Michigan Department of Corrections. Regardless of the form of relief requested, the states and their departments are immune under the Eleventh Amendment from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived immunity or Congress has expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); O’Hara v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and the State of Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986). In numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth Circuit has specifically held that the MDOC is absolutely immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App’x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No. 00-1182, 2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In addition, the State of Michigan (acting through the MDOC) is not a “person” who may be sued under § 1983 for money damages. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989)). Therefore, Plaintiff’s action against Defendant MDOC must be dismissed.

II. Failure to state a claim

Even if immunity did not bar Plaintiff’s action, it would be subject to dismissal because it does not state a claim. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

A. State Law

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant has not complied with prison policies or state law concerning parole eligibility. Claims under § 1983 can only be brought for “deprivation of rights secured by the constitution and laws of the United States.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982). Section 1983 does not provide redress for a violation of a state law. Pyles v. Raisor, 60 F.3d 1211, 1215 (6th Cir. 1995); Sweeton v. Brown, 27 F.3d 1162, 1166 (6th Cir. 1994). Plaintiff’s assertion that Defendant is violating state law therefore fails to state a claim under § 1983. Similarly, Defendant’s alleged failure ...


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