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Cosgrove v. Labelle

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

October 31, 2016

UNKNOWN LABELLE, et al., Defendants.



         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 Cary Cosgrove, a state inmate currently confined at the Marquette Branch Prison, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Corrections Officer Unknown Labelle, Corrections Officer Unknown McBride, Corrections Officer Unknown Hennings, Sergeant Unknown Heilstein, Corrections Officer Unknown Corkin, Corrections Officer Unknown Watson, Corrections Officer Unknown Ogle, Corrections Officer Unknown Hemmila, Corrections Officer Unknown Frion, Corrections Officer Unknown Johnston, Corrections Officer M. Schetter, and Law Librarian Jodi Feliciano.

         In Plaintiff's complaint, he alleges that on March 28, 2016, he was assaulted by his neighbor. Plaintiff was taken from his cell by Defendants Hennings, Corkin, Ogle, McBride, Watson, Hemmila, and LaBelle, who subjected Plaintiff to excessive force on the way to a suicide watch cell. Plaintiff later received a misconduct ticket which falsely claimed that he had assaulted Defendants Hennings, Corkin, Ogle, McBride, Watson, Hemmila, and LaBelle.

         On May 6, 2016, Defendant Schetter began harassing Plaintiff by threatening to tell Plaintiff's friends that he was bi-sexual. Defendant Schetter also threatened to withhold Plaintiff's food unless he yelled “I'm gay” and called Plaintiff a “faggot.” Plaintiff states that this has resulted in him being harassed by other prisoners and staff, which has caused Plaintiff to be placed on suicide watch on three separate occasions. Plaintiff states that he is suffers from depression and his bi-polar.

         On May 13, 2016, Defendant Johnston wrote a false misconduct ticket on Plaintiff for refusing to give back his food tray. Plaintiff asserts that he had previously requested to be moved away from Defendant Johnston. Plaintiff wrote a grievance on May 18, 2016. Plaintiff states that the ticket was dismissed, but that while he was awaiting a hearing, he was placed on foodloaf. On May 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a grievance on Defendant Feliciano for denying him photocopies that he needed for service in Case No. 2:16-cv-110. Plaintiff seeks damages and equitable relief.


         I. Failure to state a claim

         A 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)).

         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). ___ Plaintiff fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendants Heilstein and Frion. Government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691(1978); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009). A claimed constitutional violation must be based upon active unconstitutional behavior. Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 575-76 (6th Cir. 2008); Greene v. Barber, 310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002). The acts of one's subordinates are not enough, nor can supervisory liability be based upon the mere failure to act. Grinter, 532 F.3d at 576; Greene, 310 F.3d at 899; Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881, 888 (6th Cir. 2004). Moreover, § 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a supervisor denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based upon information contained in a grievance. See Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). “[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendants Heilstein and Frion engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, he fails to state a claim against them.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant Labelle wrote a retaliatory false misconduct ticket on him on March 28, 2016, which charged him with assault and battery on staff. Plaintiff attaches a copy of the hearing report on this misconduct to his complaint. In the hearing report, Hearing Officer Thomas O. Mohrman notes that the video of the incident showed Plaintiff face down on the bunk with several staff members on top holding him down with the shield, and that Plaintiff was struggling on the bunk with staff telling him to stop resisting. See ECF No. 1-1, PageID.12. In the “Reasons for Finding” section, Hearing Officer Mohrman states:

Assault and Battery (008) 03.03.105A (staff victim) Intention, non-consensual touching of another person done either in anger or for the purpose of abusing or injuring another; physical resistance or physical interference with an employee. The prisoner is guilty of the charge based upon the report which is consistent with the video and statements from the other staff who were present. This prisoner was in cuffs and lying face down as he said. However, he was holding his belly chains under his body. He could have ...

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