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Peterson v. Burris

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan. Southern Division

May 21, 2015

ANGEL PETERSON #240544, Plaintiff,
ROCKY BURRIS, et al., Defendants.




Plaintiff Angel Peterson, a Michigan Department of Corrections ("MDOC") prisoner proceeding pro se, filed her complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Michigan State Industries ("MSI"), Rockey Burris[1], and Millicent Warren (collectively, the "MDOC Defendants"), alleging a host of violations. [R. 1]. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), this case was referred to the undersigned for general case management, including review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and review of MDOC Defendants' motion to dismiss. [R. 31]. This Court finds the motion to dismiss to be deficient; it simply strings together boilerplate legal principles without any factual discussion or analysis. [R. 22]. However, Peterson's complaint fails to state a plausible claim upon which relief can be granted. Therefore, the Court RECOMMENDS that the complaint be DISMISSED SUA SPONTE, and that the MDOC Defendants' motion to dismiss be DENIED AS MOOT.


Peterson is an inmate at MDOC's Women Huron Valley Complex ("WHV"), Warren is the warden of WHV, and Burris is a MSI dental lab technician who supervised Peterson until she was fired from the dental lab on August 27, 2012. [R. 22, PgID 101; R. 1, PgID 3, 6]. The statement of facts in Peterson's complaint primarily focuses on her termination from the MSI dental lab after Burris wrote her three counseling memos, and the grievances and appeals that followed. [R. 1, PgID 3-9].

Peterson alleges that Burris wrote the first memo to reprimand her for arguing with a coworker even though he was on sick leave when the alleged argument occurred. [ Id., PgID 4]. Peterson acknowledges that the second counseling memo she received from Burris was valid in that she did not store a critical tool, but she faults Burris for not identifying the date or other details regarding this transgression. [ Id., PgID 6]. Burris allegedly wrote the third counseling memo because of Peterson's "bad attitude" in response to "extreme leaking" of the roof in her work area. [ Id., PgID 6-7]. She alleges that Burris at first did not allow her to perform her work in a different area to avoid the leaking roof, but that she refused to move when Burris later permitted her to move to another seat. [ Id. ]. Peterson states that she refused to move because she was in possession of a critical tool and because of her and Burris's negative working relationship. [ Id., PgID 7]. This third counseling memo provided Burris with the grounds to terminate Peterson. [ Id., PgID 7].

Peterson's statement of facts also describes an alleged incident in which "Inmate Vincincia" offered her stolen lab equipment. Peterson said that she refused to accept the equipment, prompting Vincincia to raise her hand in anger as if to strike Peterson. [R. 1, PgID 4]. Peterson claims that she reported the incident to Burris, and that he replied, "You get under people's skin." [ Id. ]

According to Peterson, she grieved and reported her alleged mistreatment and wrongful termination, but MSI's area manager and Warren failed to address any of her complaints. [ Id., PgID 7-9].

Peterson filed her complaint here on July 31, 2014, alleging claims of deliberate indifference, denial of equal protection and procedural due process, libel and slander, substantial burden on the exercise of her religion, and sexual harassment. [R. 1].[2] She seeks injunctive relief related to her employment with MSI and compensation of $1, 000, 000. [ Id., PgID 21].


The Court has an obligation to under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to screen prisoner complaints and dismiss them sua sponte when they fail to state a claim, are frivolous, seek monetary relief from immune defendants. In re Prison Litig. Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1997). When conducting this screening, the Court bears in mind that, although the federal rules only require that that a complaint contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " see Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement of the claim must be plausible.

Indeed, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Iqbal Court explained, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

The plausibility standard "does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct]." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Put another way, the complaint's allegations "must do more than create speculation or suspicion of a legally cognizable cause of action; they must show entitlement to relief." League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56).

In deciding whether a plaintiff has set forth a "plausible" claim, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations. Id.; see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, legal conclusions need not be accepted as true. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, the Court is not required to "create a claim which [the plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading." Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). Ultimately, "[d]etermining whether a complaint ...

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