United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
J. QUIST, UNITED STATES 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.
Vincent Ongori, a state prisoner currently confined at the
Chippewa County Jail, filed this pro se civil rights
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants
City of Midland and City Attorney James O. Branson, III. In
his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on July 23, 2015,
Defendant Branson discriminated against Plaintiff on the
basis of his race in relation to a traffic violation. On
September 23, 2015, Defendant Branson authored an email which
defamed Plaintiff and destroyed his reputation. Plaintiff
further claims that between July 23, 2015, and September 25,
2015, Defendant Branson colluded with Midland police and
other agencies to falsely institute perjury charges against
Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Branson fabricated
evidence against him through coercion and intimidation of
witnesses. Plaintiff seeks damages and equitable relief.
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
the Court notes that Plaintiff's complaint consists
entirely of conclusory assertions that his rights were
violated, and is unsupported by specific factual allegations.
Conclusory allegations of unconstitutional conduct without
specific factual allegations fail to state a claim under
§ 1983. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678-69 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007).
a municipality, such as the City of Midland, may only be
liable under § 1983 when its policy or custom causes the
injury, regardless of the form of relief sought by the
plaintiff. Los Angeles Cnty. v. Humphries, 131 S.Ct.
447, 453-54 (2010) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1974)). In a municipal
liability claim, the finding of a policy or custom is the
initial determination to be made. Doe v. Claiborne
Cnty., 103 F.3d 495, 509 (6th Cir. 1996). The policy or
custom must be the moving force behind the constitutional
injury, and a plaintiff must identify the policy, connect the
policy to the governmental entity and show that the
particular injury was incurred because of the execution of
that policy. Turner v. City of Taylor, 412 F.3d 629,
639 (6th Cir. 2005); Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802,
815 (6th Cir. 2003); Doe, 103 F.3d at 508-509. It is
the court's task to identify the officials or
governmental bodies which speak with final policymaking
authority for the local government in a particular area or on
a particular issue. McMillian v. Monroe Cnty., 520
U.S. 781, 784-85 (1997).
claim against the City fails at this first step because he
does not identify a policy or custom. A “policy”
includes a “policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or
decision officially adopted and promulgated” by the
sheriff. Monell, 436 U.S. at 690. Plaintiff has not
asserted that there is an official policy. Nor has Plaintiff
identified a custom. The Sixth Circuit has explained that a
. . . for the purposes of Monell liability must be
so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or
usage with the force of law. In turn, the notion of
“law” includes deeply embedded traditional ways
of carrying out state policy. It must reflect a course of
action deliberately chosen from among various alternatives.
In short, a “custom” is a “legal
institution” not memorialized by written law.
Claiborne Cnty., 103 F.3d at 507 (citations and
plaintiff fails to allege that a policy or custom existed,
dismissal of the action for failure to state a claim is
appropriate. Rayford v. City of Toledo, No. 86-3260,
1987 WL 36283, at *1 (6th Cir. Feb. 2, 1987); see also
Bilder v. City of Akron, No. 92-4310, 1993 WL 394595, at
*2 (6th Cir. Oct. 6, 1993) (affirming dismissal of §
1983 action because the plaintiff's allegation of a
policy or custom was conclusory). Therefore, the Court will