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Rouse v. Matteucci

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

December 21, 2016

ARTHUR JOSEPH ROUSE, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL MATTEUCCI 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. 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. § 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 claims against Defendants Bensley and Washington will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Matteucci will be dismissed because they are barred by the doctrine of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Plaintiff's requests for preliminary injunctive relief relating to the Grand Traverse County jail, for release on bond, and for the appointment of counsel are denied.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Arthur Joseph Rouse is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Cooper Street Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan. Plaintiff is serving a sentence of 5 to 7½ years following his conditional plea of guilty, in Grand Traverse County Circuit Court, to a charge of maintaining a house for purposes of prostitution in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.452. Plaintiff was sentenced as a prior felony offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.10. Plaintiff's status as a prior felony offender served to enhance his sentence under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines; nonetheless, the trial court still departed upward when it imposed Plaintiff's minimum 5 year sentence.

         Plaintiff's “house of prostitution” was his auto-repair business:

[Plaintiff] invited persons to stay at his autorepair business which served as [his] residence and business. He allowed several young men to reside at his business/residence and to pay their rent and other expenses in exchange for sexual favors [for Plaintiff]. Two women also came to the residence on isolated incidents and were paid for sex by [Plaintiff]. It is undisputed that none of the individuals were prostitutes prior to them coming to the business/residence, and that they did not initially come to the business for the purposes of prostitution; further, it is undisputed that none of the individuals traded sex for money with anyone other than [Plaintiff], and that none of the individual engaged in prostitution outside of servicing [Plaintiff]-nor did they continue with prostitution after leaving [Plaintiff].

(Def./Appellant's Delayed Appl. For Leave to Appeal, ECF Nos. 1-1, 1-2, PageID.161.)

         Between May and November 2015, the prosecutor struggled to find the right crime(s) with which to charge Plaintiff. An understanding of the progression of charges filed against Plaintiff is helpful to an understanding of his claims. Plaintiff was initially charged with three counts of misdemeanor soliciting and accosting for purposes of prostitution.[1] (Compl. Misdemeanor, ECF No. 1, PageID.38, 39.) The charges related to three males who had provided sexual favors to Plaintiff in exchange for rent, expenses, or cash. (Id.) The prosecutor dismissed those charges in favor of two felony counts of pandering.[2] (Compl. Felony, ECF No. 1, PageID.42, 43.) Prior to October of 2014, however, that statute was limited to inducing a female to become a prostitute and the persons with respect to whom Plaintiff had been charged were male. Apparently, because the enticement or procuring may have predated the October 2014 amendment, the prosecution could have been barred by the Ex Post Facto Clause. Accordingly, they were dismissed.

         The prosecutor then attempted to proceed on a charge of gross indecency between two men based on the same conduct, but established Supreme Court precedent precluded that approach. Instead, the prosecutor identified two females who had provided sexual favors to Plaintiff in exchange for benefits, and charged Plaintiff with pandering with respect to those women. The case was bound over to circuit court on those charges. The prosecutor then added a charge for maintaining a house of prostitution.[3] (Am. Felony Information, ECF No. 1, PageID.79, 80.) The case went back to the district court for a preliminary examination. The district court bound him over to the circuit court on the new charge. Plaintiff entered a plea of guilty on the charge of maintaining a house of prostitution conditioned on his ability to challenge the bindover on appeal. Any remaining charges were dismissed.

         Plaintiff concedes that his conduct with respect to the individuals at his shop falls within the prohibition of misdemeanor soliciting and accosting. He argues, however, that his conduct does not fall within the felonies of pandering or maintaining a house of prostitution because those crimes require a third person. According to Plaintiff, pandering is something a pimp or madam might do, not something a prostitute's customer might do. Similarly, Plaintiff argues that one does not maintain a house of prostitution when one simply pays for prostitutes in one's own house. At least with respect to maintaining a house of prostitution, the state courts did not agree. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave because Plaintiff's position lacked merit. People v. Rouse, No. 333701 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 24, 2016). The Michigan Supreme Court also denied leave to appeal. People v. Rouse, __ N.W.2d __, 2016 WL 6436581 (Mich. 2016).

         Plaintiff is suing Detective Michael Matteucci and Sheriff Tom Bensley of the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department and MDOC Director Heidi Washington.[4] Each Defendant is sued in his or her personal and official capacity. Plaintiff is suing Defendant Bensley because the Grand Traverse County jail[5] is overcrowded, does not have a departmental grievance procedure, does not have a law library, denies adequate medical and dental care, denies access to telephones, and denies access to personal hygiene items. Plaintiff also sues Defendant Bensley for failing to adequately train and supervise Defendant Matteucci “under the doctrine of supervisory liability.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.18.)

         Plaintiff sues Defendant Matteucci his role in the investigation and prosecution of Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Matteucci signed “a search warrant affidavit to search the Plaintiff's automotive shop without probable cause that evidence of a crime would be seized.” (Id., PageID.6.) Defendant Matteucci “signed every one of the unconstitutional charges . . . .” (Id., PageID.7.) Plaintiff contends the charges of pandering violated the Ex Post Facto Clause;[6] the charges of gross indecency violated Supreme Court precedent, and the charge for maintaining a house of prostitution was nonsensical because it was Plaintiff's house and Plaintiff was the only customer. (Id., PageID.13.) Defendant Matteucci filed a false complaint against Plaintiff alleging that Plaintiff committed criminal sexual conduct with McClure. (Id.) Defendant Matteucci entrapped Plaintiff; conspired to manipulate the jury pool by delaying McClure's arrest; lied in the police report; and conspired to revoke and forfeit Plaintiff's bond[7] with the use of false information.

         According to Plaintiff, Defendant Matteucci also withheld exculpatory evidence, obstructed justice by conspiring with witnesses, conspired to effect the forfeiture of Plaintiff's $10, 000 bond with perjured testimony, and conspired with witnesses McClure and Thompson (two of Plaintiff's tenant prostitutes) to bring false charges. (Id.) Defendant Matteucci recorded Plaintiff secretly without Plaintiff's permission and tried to use the recording against Plaintiff. (Id., PageID.10.) Defendant Matteucci confiscated items that were not on the search warrant and never returned them. (Id., PageID.11.) Defendant Matteucci attempted to influence witnesses. (Id., PageID.12.) Defendant Matteucci told witnesses that they did not have to speak to Plaintiff's attorneys or private investigator.

         Plaintiff names MDOC Director Heidi Washington as a Defendant, but makes no specific allegations against her. With respect to the MDOC generally, however, Plaintiff alleges that he was blocked from using the prison law library at times, or at least denied “extra time.” (Id., PageID.18.) He was also denied the ability to make copies and sufficient time to conduct research. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the mailroom rejected a legal book sent to him by an MDOC approved vendor. (Id.) Plaintiff also contends he was retaliated against after he requested extra time in the library. The retaliation took many forms, including misconduct reports, periodic shakedowns, loss of callouts to the law library, and verbal confrontations. (Id.)

         Plaintiff makes additional allegations with regard to his counsel, other county officials, and state appellate court personnel, but does not sue them as Defendants. He purports to bring his claims on behalf of the entire class of persons who have been harmed by conditions at the Grand Traverse County Jail. He specifically mentions wrongs committed against other persons who resided in Plaintiff's shop.

         Plaintiff seeks different types of relief. He seeks immediate and permanent injunctive relief to stop unconstitutional conditions of confinement in the Grand Traverse County Jail. Plaintiff contends that because of the wrongs committed by Defendant Matteucci, Plaintiff is being illegally detained. (Id., PageID.15.) He seeks millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages for his improper detention. He also requests release on bond pending this Court's review of his case and the return of the bond money that was forfeited.

         Discussion

         I. Request for class certification

         Plaintiff purports to act on behalf of others with respect to the conditions at the Grand Traverse County jail. He titles his complaint as a “Class Action Complaint” and he complains of particular practices (for example, mattress sharing) that it appears others have suffered while he has not. The Court construes Plaintiff's allegations as a request for class certification.

         For a case to proceed as a class action, the court must be satisfied on a number of grounds, including the adequacy of class representation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(4). It is well established that pro se litigants are inappropriate representatives of the interests of others. See Garrison v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 333 F. App'x 914, 919 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975)); see also Dodson v. Wilkinson, 304 F. App'x 434, 438 (6th Cir. 2008); Ziegler v. Michigan, 59 F. App'x 622, 624 (6th Cir. 2003); Palasty v. Hawk, 15 F. App'x 197, 200 (6th Cir. 2001); Howard v. Dougan, No. 99-2232, 2000 WL 876770, at *1 (6th Cir. June 23, 2000). Because Plaintiff is an incarcerated pro se litigant, the Court finds that he is not an appropriate representative of a class. Therefore, the Court will deny Plaintiffs' request for class certification.

         To the extent Plaintiff seeks to represent the interests of other prisoners in some other way, he is not permitted to do so. Plaintiff lacks standing to assert the constitutional rights of others. Newsom v Norris, 888 F.2d 371, 381 (6th Cir. 1989); Raines v. Goedde, No. 92-3120, 1992 WL 188120, at *2 (6th Cir. Aug. 6, 1992); see also Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975) (a plaintiff must “assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties”).

         Moreover, as a layman, Plaintiff may only represent himself with respect to his individual claims, and may not act on behalf of other prisoners (or his sister). See O'Malley v. Brierley, 477 F.2d 785 (3d Cir. 1973); Lutz v. LaVelle, 809 F.Supp. 323, 325 (M.D. Pa. 1991); Snead v. Kirkland, 462 F.Supp. 914, 918 (E.D. Pa. 1978). A party in federal court must proceed either through a licensed attorney or on his or her own behalf. 28 U.S.C. § 1654; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a) (“Every pleading, written motion, and other paper shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's individual name, or, if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall be signed by the party”). No pro se plaintiff may sign pleadings on behalf of another plaintiff. Johns v. Cnty. of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997) (“While a non-attorney may appear pro se on his own behalf, ‘[h]e has no authority to appear as an attorney for others than himself.'”).

         For these reasons, any claims Plaintiff purports to bring for violations of the rights of any person other than himself are properly dismissed.

         II. Request for preliminary injunctive relief

         Plaintiff asks the Court to grant a preliminary injunction against the Grand Traverse County jail ordering them to stop “double matting” and to immediately provide access to online legal research. The issuance of preliminary injunctive relief is committed to the discretion of the district court. See Ne. Ohio Coal. v. Blackwell, 467 F.3d 999, 1009 (6th Cir. 2006); Nader v. Blackwell, 230 F.3d 833, 834 (6th Cir. 2000). In exercising that discretion, a court must consider whether plaintiff has established the following elements: (1) a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) the likelihood of irreparable injury if the preliminary injunction does not issue; (3) the absence of harm to other parties; and (4) the protection of the public interest by issuance of the injunction. Id. These factors are not prerequisites to the grant or denial of injunctive relief, but factors that must be “carefully balanced” by the district court in exercising its equitable powers. Frisch's Rest., Inc. v. Shoney's, Inc., 759 F.2d 1261, 1263 (6th Cir. 1985); see also Ne. Ohio Coal, 467 F.3d at 1009. Moreover, where a prison inmate seeks an order enjoining state prison officials, the court is required to proceed with the utmost care and must recognize the unique nature of the prison setting. See Glover v. Johnson, 855 F.2d 277, 284 (6th Cir. 1988); Kendrick v. Bland, 740 F.2d 432 at 438 n.3, (6th Cir. 1984). The ...


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