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Alexander v. Vittitow

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

December 22, 2016

RUSSELL VITTITOW, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court is Plaintiff D'Andre Marquis Alexander's pro se civil rights complaint for money damages, a declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Alexander is a state prisoner at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven, Michigan. The events in question occurred at the Saginaw Correctional Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Michigan and the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Michigan. There are four defendants: Russell Vittitow, the grievance coordinator at SRF; Robert Norton, a resident unit manager at URF; Lloyd Rapelje, the warden at SRF; and Tom Finco, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

         Alexander alleges that on June 6, 2013, a correctional officer named Neitzel sexually assaulted him during a pat down at SRF. Alexander filed a grievance over the assault, but the matter was investigated, and correctional officials determined from witnesses, health care information, and a video of the shakedown that Alexander's allegation was unfounded. As a result, then, of the unfounded allegation, defendant Vittitow asked to have Alexander placed on modified-access status: Alexander could receive a grievance form only if Vittitow determined that the issue was grievable and that Alexander had tried to resolve the issue before seeking to file a grievance. After defendant Rapelje[1] granted Vittitow's request, Vittitow placed Alexander on modified-access status for ninety days. See Compl., Exs. B and C.

         A prison policy directive states that an inmate may have his access to the grievance process limited if the inmate is found guilty of misconduct for filing an unfounded grievance. See id., Ex. A. Because Alexander was not charged with writing a false grievance before he was placed on modified-access status, he filed a grievance against Vittitow and Rapelje. The grievance appears to have been submitted to prison officials in July of 2013. See id., Ex. D.

         On September 4, 2013, Vittitow charged Alexander with misconduct for interfering with the administration of rules by writing the false grievance about being sexually assaulted by Officer Neitzel. See id., Ex. I. Defendant Finco approved the filing of a misconduct ticket, and defendant Norton conducted a hearing on the charge. On September 6, 2013, Norton found Alexander guilty as charged and imposed a sanction of thirty days loss of privileges. See id., Ex. J.

         Rapelje subsequently resolved Alexander's grievance at Step II of the grievance process. He opined that Alexander was correct in stating that he should have received a misconduct ticket before being placed on modified-access status, but he noted that the misconduct ticket was written as soon as it was administratively feasible. See id., Ex. E. Rapelje's decision was upheld at the third and final step of the grievance process. See id., Ex. G.

         Alexander claims Vittitow violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process when he failed to cite him for misconduct before placing him on modified-access status. Alexander also claims that his right to due process was violated because he was not given enough time to gather documents, to present witnesses, or to compel disclosure of evidence before the hearing on the misconduct ticket.

         Alexander further alleges that Vittitow violated his rights under the First Amendment by charging him with misconduct for allegedly interfering with the administration of rules. Alexander asserts that the misconduct ticket was issued in retaliation for Alexander's protected conduct of writing a grievance against Vittitow and Rapelje for placing him on modified-access status.

         Finally, Alexander claims that some of the defendants conspired against him while other defendants failed to report or intervene with the conspiracy. Alexander alleges that the defendants' actions and inactions amounted to cruel and unusual conduct under the Eighth Amendment.


         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, federal district courts must screen a prisoner's complaint and dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir. 2010); Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1036 (6th Cir. 2001). A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).

         Although a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, " the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citations omitted). In other words, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 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." Id.


         I. ...

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