United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
HOLMES BELL DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility, though
the conduct about which he complains occurred while he was
housed at the Ionia County Jail (ICJ). He sues two unknown
ICJ officials (Unknown Party #1 and Unknown Party #2).
alleges that between September 8, 2015 and November 3, 2015,
while he was incarcerated at ICJ, Defendants opened an
outgoing letter he was sending, in violation of jail policy.
(Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) He complains that an unknown
and unidentified party thereafter faxed a copy of his letter
to his parole officer. The letter subsequently was used
against Plaintiff “in a case, ” which resulted in
his current incarceration. The letter also was used to continue
his next parole consideration for 24 months. Plaintiff
asserts that, had the unknown Defendants not opened his mail
outside of his presence, as required by prison policy, he
would not now be incarcerated. For relief, he seeks
compensatory damages of $1.5 million.
Failure to state a claim
complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it
fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations
must include more than labels and conclusions.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The
court must determine whether the complaint contains
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent
to a “‘probability requirement, ' . . . it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here
the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding
that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies
to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).
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
alleges that the unknown Defendants violated his rights under
prison policy by opening his outgoing mail. Defendants'
alleged failure to comply with an administrative rule or
policy does not itself rise to the level of a constitutional
violation. Laney v. Farley, 501 F.3d 577, 581 n.2
(6th Cir. 2007); Brody v. City of Mason, 250 F.3d
432, 437 (6th Cir. 2001); Smith v. Freland, 954 F.2d
343, 347-48 (6th Cir. 1992); Barber v. City of
Salem, 953 F.2d 232, 240 (6th Cir. 1992); McVeigh v.
Bartlett, No. 94-23347, 1995 WL 236687, at *1 (6th Cir.
Apr. 21, 1995) (failure to follow policy directive does not
rise to the level of a constitutional violation because
policy directive does not create a protectible liberty
interest). Section 1983 is addressed to remedying violations
of federal law, not state law. Lugar v. Edmondson Oil
Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982); Laney, 501 F.3d
to the extent that Plaintiff seeks damages for being
convicted of a parole violation on the basis of an unlawful
search of his outgoing mail, his claim is barred by Heck
v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Claims which
challenge the revocation of parole are not cognizable under
§ 1983 until the parole revocation “has been
reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order,
declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such
determination, or called into question by a federal
court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.”
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994);
see also Schilling v. White, 58 F.3d 1081, 1086 (6th
Cir.1995). The principles espoused in Heck have been
applied to § 1983 actions like petitioner's,
challenging state parole revocation proceedings in the
absence of a previous decision by a state or federal tribunal
declaring the parole revocation invalid. See Littles v.
Board of Pardons & Paroles Div., 68 F.3d 122, 123
(5th Cir.1995) (per curiam); Lovett v. Kinkela, No.
98-3894, 1999 WL 644323, at *1 (6th Cir. Aug. 16, 1999);
Corsetti v. McGinnis, No. 95-2061, 1996 WL 543684,
at *1 (6th Cir. Sept. 24, 1996). Plaintiff has not
demonstrated the invalidity of his parole revocation by
either a state or federal habeas corpus decision. Therefore,
Plaintiff fails to present a cognizable federal claim.
to the extent that Plaintiff challenges the parole
board's decision to deny him parole and to continue his
next parole eligibility for 24 months, Plaintiff fails to
raise a claim of constitutional magnitude because he has no
liberty interest in being released on parole. There is no
constitutional or inherent right to be conditionally released
before the expiration of a prison sentence. Greenholtz v.
Inmates of Neb. Penal & Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7
(1979). Although a state may establish a parole system, it
has no duty to do so; thus, the presence of a parole system
by itself does not give rise to a constitutionally protected
liberty interest in parole release. Id. at 7, 11;
Bd. of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 373 (1987).
Rather, a liberty interest is present only if state law
entitles an inmate to release on parole. Inmates of
Orient Corr. Inst. v. Ohio State Adult Parole Auth., 929
F.2d 233, 235 (6th Cir. 1991).
Sweeton v. Brown, 27 F.3d 1162, 1164-65 (6th Cir.
1994) (en banc), the Sixth Circuit, noting “the broad
powers of the Michigan authorities to deny parole, ”
held that the Michigan system does not create a liberty
interest in parole. The Sixth Circuit reiterated the
continuing validity of Sweeton in Crump v.
Lafler, 657 F.3d 393, 404 (6th Cir. 2011). In
Crump, the court held that the adoption of specific
parole guidelines since Sweeton does not lead to the
conclusion that parole release is mandated upon reaching a
high probability of parole. See id.; see also
Carnes v. Engler, 76 F. App'x 79, 80 (6th Cir.
2003). In addition, the Sixth Circuit has rejected the
argument that the Due Process Clause is implicated when
changes to parole procedures and practices have resulted in
incarcerations that exceed the subjective expectation of the
sentencing judge. See Foster v. Booker, 595 F.3d
353, 369 (6th Cir. 2010). Finally, the Michigan Supreme Court
has recognized that there exists no liberty interest in
parole under the Michigan system. Glover v. Mich. Parole
Bd., 596 N.W.2d 598, 603-04 (Mich. 1999).
Plaintiff has served his maximum sentence, he has no
reasonable expectation of liberty. The discretionary parole
system in Michigan holds out “no more than a mere hope
that the benefit will be obtained.”
Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 11. The Michigan Parole
Board's failure or refusal to consider Plaintiff for
parole, therefore, implicates no federal right. In the