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Black v. Palmer

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

November 10, 2016

TODD R. BLACK, Plaintiff,
CARMEN D. PALMER 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 Todd R. Black presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Oaks Correctional Facility, though the actions about which he complains occurred while he was housed at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI). He sues the following RMI officials: Warden Carmen D. Palmer; Deputy Wardens Sam Schooley and Gregory Schipper; Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor (ARUS) C. Prince; Sergeant J. Miller; and Grievance Coordinator K. Miller.

         Plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint[1] that, on March 8, 2015, he asked to be taken into protective custody because he owed $100.00 in gambling debts to other prisoners, but had no funds to pay them. He believed that he was in danger of being injured or killed for failing to pay. Plaintiff was placed in segregation during the pendency of an investigation. He complains that, under MDOC policy, he should only have had to stay in segregation for seven business days, at which time the investigation should have been complete. However, Defendant Price did not conduct the investigation until March 28, 2015.

         Plaintiff allegedly spoke to the resident unit manager and the inspector, and they told him to file a grievance. Plaintiff filed a grievance, demanding $100.00 per day for his extended placement in segregation. Defendant Schooley reviewed the grievance at Step I of the grievance process. Schooley concluded that the facility had violated policy by exceeding the time limit for investigation. Schooley noted in the grievance response that measures had been taken to prevent such delays from occurring in the future. (Attach. to Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.30.)

         Following their investigation, Defendants Schooley and Skipper concluded that Plaintiff's allegations that certain identified prisoners had threatened to stab him could not be substantiated. They stated in their report that, while Plaintiff undoubtedly owed the money, they were not persuaded that Plaintiff was at physical risk that would warrant transfer. They noted that they had searched the cells of the other prisoners for contraband and weapons. (Attach. to Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) As a result of Defendants' investigation and conclusions, Plaintiff was transferred back to Level IV, general population. (Id.)

         On March 30, 2015, when Plaintiff was being transferred out of segregation, he was issued a misconduct ticket. While Plaintiff does not specify in his complaint the nature of the ticket, he attaches the misconduct hearing report, as well as the charging document. (See Attach. to Compl., ECF No.1, PageID.26, 40.) From those documents, it appears that Plaintiff was charged with a Class I misconduct for threatening behavior. The charge indicates that Plaintiff initially disobeyed a direct order to leave segregation. He subsequently agreed to leave, indicating that he would go back to general population and “swing on someone, ” in order to get transferred. (Id., PageID.40.) Plaintiff apparently responded to the ticket by saying that he was not guilty because he had stopped taking his psychiatric medications and says things he did not mean to say. According to the misconduct report, Plaintiff intended to say that “he was going out to take his lickens.” (Id., PageID.26.) The hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty of the charged misconduct on April 9, 2015, and Plaintiff was sanctioned to ten days' detention, from April 9 to April 19, 2015. (Id.)

         Plaintiff contends that Defendants violated his right to due process when they failed to comply with prison policy by taking too long to investigate his request for protective custody. He arguably implies but does not expressly allege that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by returning him to the general population. Finally, he appears to complain that he should not have been convicted of the misconduct ticket or any other misconduct ticket. He alleges that Defendant Palmer is responsible for the problems, because she is in charge of the prison and sets the operational and segregation procedures. He also contends that Defendants Schooley and Skipper are responsible, as they are in charge of security classification placement. In addition, he suggests that Defendant ARUS Prince is liable, because he is the counselor for the segregation unit and that Defendant Sgt. J. Miller is liable, because he makes sure that things are moving safely. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant K. Miller, as grievance coordinator, is responsible for grievances that are filed.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks $100.00 per day for the extra days spent in segregation beyond those authorized by policy. He also seeks to have expunged all misconduct tickets incurred between March 8, 2015 and October 2016, together with transfer to a Level-I facility.


         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 ยง 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under ...

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