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Bey v. Palmer

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

November 3, 2016

CHRISTOPHER BEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CARMEN PALMER et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          GORDON J. QUIST 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 and misjoinder.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Christopher Bey presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Alger Correctional Facility (LMF), though the actions about which he complains also occurred while he was housed at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI). Plaintiff sues MDOC Director Heidi E. Washington, RMI Warden Carmen Palmer, RMI Deputy Warden (unknown) Schooley, LMF Warden C. Bauman, and Deputy Wardens A. Immel and S. Sprader.

         Plaintiff's complaint covers two distinct sets of allegations that occurred at two different prisons. In the first set of allegations, Plaintiff complains that, while he was housed at RMI, he was kept in detention for a period of six days without due process. He specifically alleges that, following a conviction on a misconduct charge, he was sanctioned to 10 days' placement in a detention cell. Plaintiff began serving his sanction on October 27, 2015, and he should have been released from detention on November 6, 2015. Nevertheless, Plaintiff remained in detention until November 12, 2015. Plaintiff states that he asked two corrections officers to contact Defendant Schooley to ask why he was being kept in detention beyond his 10-day sanction. He also alleges that he wrote Defendant Palmer about his improper continued detention. Plaintiff argues that Defendants Palmer and Schooley deprived him of his liberty and property interests without due process by continuing his detention for the additional six days.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Palmer on November 12, 2015, complaining about his extended stay in detention. On December 16, 2015, after Plaintiff had been transferred to LMF, Plaintiff received three Time Review and Disposition Forms signed by Palmer, approving Plaintiff's forfeiture of 85 days' disciplinary credits. Plaintiff contends that Palmer's decision that Plaintiff would forfeit the disciplinary credits was not made until after Plaintiff filed his grievance, and it therefore was retaliatory.

         Plaintiff's second set of allegations concerns his treatment at LMF. Upon his arrival at LMF on November 23, 2015, Plaintiff was interviewed by Defendant Immel, who went through his file page by page. Defendant Immel saw that the file contained two requests for protection, as well as investigative reports associated with those requests. Immel asked Plaintiff if he had any enemies, and Plaintiff responded that the Almighty Vice Lords were his enemies. Defendant Immel inquired whether “the contract hit[] still exist[ed]?” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.6.) Plaintiff responded that he did not know, but that he would like to avoid all contact with gang members, especially members of the Vice Lords. Immel responded, “[T]his isn't [B]urger King . . . have it your way, you're in prison for a punishment and you're just going to have to get along with the gang bangers . . . We have a lot of (STG) gang members here.” (Id.)[1] Plaintiff was placed in a cell with prisoner Boler, only to learn that Boler was a gang member. On November 27, 2015, prisoner Boler attacked Plaintiff, causing severe injuries to Plaintiff's face and head.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Immel was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's risk of being assaulted when Immel placed Plaintiff in a cell with a known violent STG gang member, whom Immel knew to be a member of the Almighty Vice Lords Nation. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Sprader, by approving Plaintiff's placement with Boler without reviewing Plaintiff's file, was also deliberately indifferent to the risk of assault. In addition, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Washington and Bauman knew that STG members and violent prisoners pose a threat to nonviolent prisoners like Plaintiff, but they fail to segregate violent prisoners from nonviolent prisoners. Plaintiff alleges that the failure to segregate STG members constitutes deliberate indifference.

         Discussion

         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).

         A. Due Process

         In his first set of allegations, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Palmer, Washington and Schooley violated his right to due process when they allowed him to be kept in detention for an additional six days beyond his sanction period. “The Fourteenth Amendment protects an individual from deprivation of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Bazetta v. McGinnis, 430 F.3d 795, 801 (6th Cir. 2005). To establish a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process violation, a plaintiff must show that one of these interests is at stake. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005). Analysis of a procedural due process claim involves two steps: “[T]he first asks whether there exists a liberty or property interest which has been interfered with by the State; the second examines whether the procedures attendant upon that deprivation were constitutionally sufficient.” Ky. Dep't of Corr. v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460 (1989). The Supreme Court long has held that the Due Process Clause does not protect every change in the conditions of confinement having an impact on a prisoner. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976). In Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995), the Court set forth the standard for determining when a state-created right creates a federally cognizable liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause. According to the Sandin Court, a prisoner is entitled to the protections of due process only when the sanction “will inevitably affect the duration of his sentence” or when a deprivation imposes an “atypical and significant ...


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