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Davis v. Gallagher

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

December 22, 2016

CHRIS DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES GALLAGHER et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Janet T. Neff United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, who is represented by counsel, paid the full filing fee. 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, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against Defendant Miller for failure to state a claim. The Court also will dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment and procedural due process claims against Defendant Gallagher. The Court will serve the remainder of the complaint against Defendant Gallagher.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Chris Davis presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI). He sues RMI Correctional Officer James Gallagher and RMI Inspector (unknown) Miller.

         On March 11, 2015, Defendant Gallagher called out to Plaintiff, saying, “Hey, Bubba, where are you going?” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.2.) Plaintiff did not realize he was being addressed, as that was not his name. Gallagher then called to Plaintiff again, this time calling him “Boy” and stating that he was giving a direct order. (Id.) Plaintiff responded that he was going to work in the quartermaster's area and that his name was not “Bubba.” (Id.) Plaintiff advised Gallagher that he intended to file a grievance about Gallagher's racial slurs. Gallagher then warned Plaintiff, stating, “[N]ext time I call you, you better acknowledge me, or I will put your ass in the hole boy!” (Id., PageID.3.)

         Later that day, as Plaintiff was leaving the lunch room, Defendant Gallagher called out to Plaintiff, “Hey, Bubba, what's that in your hand?” Plaintiff again complained about the racial slurs. Defendant Gallagher searched Plaintiff, found nothing, but placed Plaintiff in handcuffs. After Plaintiff was handcuffed, Defendant Gallagher claimed to have found drugs in Plaintiff's pocket. Gallagher wrote a misconduct ticket and took Plaintiff to segregation. Petitioner subsequently was tested for drugs in his system, and the tests came back negative.

         On March 20, 2015, Plaintiff reported for a hearing on the misconduct charge, but he was advised that the hearing was adjourned. Plaintiff was not told the reason for the adjournment or when the hearing would be reconvened. On April 9, 2015, Defendant Miller met with Plaintiff and advised him that he would only be let out of segregation if he told Miller which inmates or staff members were supplying him with drugs. Miller threatened, “[w]e are going to make you suffer in ways you can't imagine. (Id., PageID.4.) Plaintiff advised Miller that he had no drugs on his person and that the misconduct ticket was false. Shortly thereafter, Miller increased Plaintiff's security level from Level II to Level IV.[1]

         Plaintiff never received a hearing on the misconduct ticket and was never found guilty of a misconduct charge. Instead, the prison turned over the matter to the Ionia County prosecutor. On September 7, 2016, Plaintiff was found not guilty of the heroin charges.

         Plaintiff contends that his placement in segregation and his increase in security classification violated the Eighth Amendment. In addition, he contends that Defendant Gallagher's actions in writing a false misconduct ticket and in planting the heroin violated Plaintiff's right to substantive due process. Plaintiff also alleges that, in transferring Plaintiff to a higher security level without a hearing, Defendant Miller deprived him of his liberty without due process. Plaintiff further asserts that Defendant Gallaher retaliated against him by either planting heroin on him or falsely claiming that Plaintiff had heroin, because Plaintiff threatened to file a grievance about the racial slurs. He argues that Defendant Miller retaliated against him for refusing to provide information about drug dealing in the prison. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Gallagher maliciously prosecuted him for threatening to file a grievance.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. 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); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because ยง 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action ...


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