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Sweezer v. Scutt

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

March 31, 2015

Jerome Sweezer, Plaintiff,
v.
Debra Scutt, et al., Defendants.

Michael J. Hluchaniuk, Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [44] AND CLOSING CASE

Arthur J. Tarnow, Senior United States District Judge

On May 27, 2011, Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner, brought the instant suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Coggins, Defendant King, and other defendants. On September 28, 2012, the Court entered an Order [32] dismissing the other defendants and several of Plaintiff’s claims. However, the Court ruled that Plaintiff could proceed with his First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Coggins and King, as well as his claim that Defendant Coggins violated his constitutional right of access to the courts. On October 5, 2012, the Court issued an Order [34] staying the case pending the appointment of pro bono counsel for Plaintiff. No pro bono counsel had agreed to represent Plaintiff by February 7, 2014, when the Court issued an Order Vacating Stay [37]. On October 3, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [44] on the remaining claims. Plaintiff filed a Response [45] on October 21, 2014.

On January 13, 2015, the Court issued an Order [46] granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment [44] with respect to Plaintiff’s access-to-courts claim. The Court postponed its decision on the motion with respect to Plaintiff’s retaliation claim pending the submission of supplemental briefs. Plaintiff submitted a Supplemental Brief [47] on January 30, 2015, and Defendants filed their own Supplemental Brief [49] on February 3, 2015. The parties also responded to each other’s supplemental briefs: Defendants filed their Supplemental Response [52] on February 12, 2015, and Plaintiff filed his Supplemental Response [53] on February 18, 2015.

For the reasons stated below, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment [44] is GRANTED.

Factual Background

Plaintiff is a prisoner confined by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). On August 11, 2010, Plaintiff was transferred from the Ryan Correctional Facility to the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility (JCF) in Jackson, Michigan. Plaintiff brought items of personal property to JCF, including a TV, a typewriter, a duffel bag containing personal items, and two footlockers containing other personal items and legal materials. On the day of the transfer, former defendant Richard McGill, a corrections officer, wrote a Notice of Intent to Conduct an Administrative Hearing (NOI) alleging that Plaintiff’s footlockers were contraband because they contained excess property.

The day after Plaintiff’s arrival at JCF, August 12, 2010, Plaintiff approached a corrections officer to ask why his property had not yet been returned to him. Plaintiff alleges that the corrections officer then called the property room, where Defendant Glenn King, also a corrections officer, was working. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant King said Plaintiff’s property had been sent to another facility. The same day, Defendant King wrote an NOI alleging that Plaintiff’s duffel bag contained excess property.

Plaintiff spoke with Defendant King in the property room the following day, August 13, 2010. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant King told him that his property was not there. Plaintiff claims he then informed Defendant King that he would file a grievance regarding the failure to return his property. At some point that day, Defendant King wrote an NOI alleging that Plaintiff’s typewriter was contraband because its identifying numbers had been altered.

Plaintiff was called to the property room by Defendant King the next day, August 14, 2010, and presented with his TV and duffel bag. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant King had removed the seals from his duffel bag and removed property from it, including clothing, food and drink, and a headphone extension cord. Plaintiff further claims that when he asked about the missing property, Defendant King became belligerent and ordered Plaintiff out of the property room. Later that day, Plaintiff requested a grievance form from another corrections officer, who allegedly told him that Defendant King had admitted he took Plaintiff’s property.

Two days later, August 16, 2010, a corrections officer directed Plaintiff to pack his property into his duffel bag per the instructions of Defendant Diane Burge-Coggins, then an Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor. Though Plaintiff asserted that he was not required by policy to pack his TV into the duffel bag, the officer ordered him to do so and ultimately found that his duffel bag was overpacked.

Later that day, Plaintiff asked Defendant Coggins if he could remove legal materials and some hygiene items from his footlockers (which, unlike the duffel bag, had not been returned to him). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Coggins refused, citing the finding that Plaintiff’s duffel bag was overpacked and insisting that his TV must be packed in the duffel bag. Plaintiff alleges that he told Defendant Coggins he would file a grievance against her, and that she responded that he would never receive any of his property when she was done with him.

On August 25, 2010, Defendant Coggins conducted a hearing on the NOI concerning Plaintiff’s typewriter. Defendants claim that Plaintiff agreed to the destruction of the typewriter. Plaintiff denies that he ever agreed to dispose of any of his property.

On September 2, 2010, Defendant Coggins held a hearing on the NOI concerning Plaintiff’s footlockers. She ruled that for 30 days the prison would preserve one of Plaintiff’s footlockers, along with its contents, and any property Plaintiff wished to send home. Any property that Plaintiff had not sent home or transferred to a new footlocker after 30 days would be treated as abandoned. Plaintiff alleges that on the same day, Defendant Coggins visited his cell and threw away some of his personal ...


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