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Tiggart v. Woods

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

June 2, 2015

MACK TIGGART, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY WOODS et al., Defendants.

OPINION

R. ALLAN EDGAR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 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 for failure to state a claim.

Factual Allegations

Plaintiff Mack Tiggart is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Michigan Reformatory, though the events at issue in the complaint occurred while he was incarcerated at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF). Plaintiff names the following MDOC employees as defendants: URF Warden Jeffrey Woods, Officer S. Campbell, Sergeant (Unknown) Brown, Hearing Investigator John T. Ematinger,[1] and Hearing Officer (Unknown) O’Brien.

According to the complaint, on August 6, 2013, Plaintiff was working as a cart washer for Michigan State Industries (MSI). MSI Supervisor Tom Fegan and inmate Calicut were working on the loading dock approximately 3-5 feet from the cart wash station where Plaintiff was working. Officer Campbell was walking outside the building approximately 100 feet away. Fegan called Plaintiff over to the loading dock to help load the next truck. Fegan was then called away and inmate Clark approached Plaintiff and Calicut and asked them a question. Officer Campbell then motioned for all three of them to come out of the building to where she was standing. They did so, and she took their prison IDs. She asked what each of them had said, and they each answered that they did not understand what she was talking about. She returned inmate Clark’s ID and told him he could leave. To Plaintiff and Calicut, she said that they would “read about it!” (Compl., docket #1, Page ID#2.) Later that day, she issued class I misconduct tickets against Plaintiff and Calicut for engaging in sexual misconduct. In her misconduct ticket for Plaintiff, she alleged:

While conducting a routine check of Zone 1A, I heard from approximately 20ft away prisoner Tiggart . . . state “I deffinatly [sic] take me a bite out of that sweet white ass.” This was not in jest and was to degrade and harass this officer.

(Id. at Page ID#5.)

In her misconduct ticket for Calicut, she alleged:

While doing a routine check of Zone 1A, I heard from approximately 20 ft away Calicut . . . state “damn that is a fine white ass and I’d take me a piece of that all night.” This statement was not said in jest and was meant to degrade and harass this officer.

(Id.)

Sgt. Brown reviewed the misconduct charge with Plaintiff and told him, “I hope this was worth your jo[b]!!” (Id. at Page ID#3.) She then prepared a work report terminating Plaintiff from his position.[2] Plaintiff asserts that terminating him prior to the misconduct hearing violated MSI operating procedures, which state that prisoners charged with a class I or II misconduct are to be “laid-in” pending a misconduct hearing on the charge. (Id. at Page ID#6.)

Plaintiff asked for a hearing investigator to look into the charge, and Defendant Ematinger was assigned to that role. Plaintiff recounted his version of the events to Ematinger and requested a copy of the security video to support his account. Ematinger obtained statements from Clark and Fegan, who confirmed that Officer Campbell was over 100 feet from Plaintiff’s location at the time that Campbell allegedly heard Plaintiff and Calicut’s statements, not 20 feet as she claimed in the misconduct tickets. Plaintiff contends that Ematinger did not submit a report of his findings as required by MDOC policy, which deprived Plaintiff of due process.

Hearing Officer O’Brien held a misconduct hearing, found Plaintiff guilty of the misconduct, and sanctioned him with 7 days in “toplock”[3] and 30 days of loss of privileges. Apparently, she did not consider the video evidence, and gave no reason for her failure to do so. Plaintiff claims that she was biased against him because she relied on the account of a fellow prison employee rather than considering the video evidence. In addition, she gave him the most severe sanction possible. Plaintiff requested a rehearing but his request was denied. Plaintiff then filed a petition for judicial review in the Ingham County Circuit Court. That petition was also denied. Plaintiff appealed that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which denied leave to appeal for lack of merit in the grounds presented. Plaintiff attempted to appeal that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, but the latter court required him to pay an initial partial filing fee of $35.00 in order to proceed with his appeal; Plaintiff did not pay the fee, so his appeal was dismissed.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff claims that Defendants deprived him of his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. He also claims that Defendants failed to comply with prison policies, and that Defendant ...


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