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Finley v. Russell

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

March 17, 2017

EDWARD L. FINLEY, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD D. RUSSELL 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. 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, Edward L. Finley, Jr., presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF), though the actions about which he complains occurred while he was housed at the Marquette Branch Prison (MBP) and the Kinross Correctional Facility (KCF). He sues MDOC Hearing Administrator Richard D. Russell; MDOC Hearing Officer Thomas O. Mohrman; MBP Hearing Investigator R. Mohr; MBP Sergeant (unknown) James; KCF Lieutenant (unknown) Maki; KCF Correctional Officer (unknown) Zimmerman; MBP Deputy Warden Erica Huss; MBP Resident Unit Manager D. Viitala; MBP Prison Counselor and SCC (Security Classification Committee) Member R. Horrocks; and MBP SCC Member Mark H (Unknown Party).

         According to the complaint, on September 10, 2016, at 9:00 a.m., as part of a nationwide protest, a large group of prisoners at KCF walked or marched around the small prison yard at KCF. At about 9:05 a.m., the control center announced that the yard was closed and all prisoners were to return to their units. Shortly thereafter the siren sounded.

         Plaintiff alleges that he watched the proceedings from his bunk window, as prisoners continued to walk in the yard and the crowd grew larger and larger. According to Plaintiff, at about 10:00 a.m., he was on the unit base, where he saw Defendants Zimmerman and Butler watching the prisoners in the yard. A minute or two later, the siren sounded again. No count was performed after the second siren. Prisoners started leaving the unit, and neither Zimmerman nor Butler stopped them. Plaintiff states, “Once I saw that control of the facility was forfeited, I went outside and walked around the small yard so I would not get hurt, it was close to 11:00 a.m.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.) Plaintiff listened to Deputy Warden Terry Harwood speak with the block representatives in front of the control unit.

         Plaintiff denies ever encouraging, advocating, or instigating actions intended to seriously endanger the physical safety of the facility, persons, or property. However, before all prisoners left the yard, a young African-American prisoner was stabbed because he would not come outside and instead stood by the officers, who were recording on their phones which prisoners were walking. All prisoners eventually returned to their housing units and a count was taken. Prisoners waited in their cubes for count to clear, when, all of a sudden, all unit officers took off toward the control center. The emergency response team (ERT) came out of the surrounding units with their guns drawn. While one ERT team was at A-wing, taking prisoners out of their cells and cuffing them, other ERT teams surrounded other units. While an ERT team was outside H-Unit, the unit was damaged.[1] When the ERT team came into H-Unit, it gassed all prisoners without warning. Prisoners were then taken out of their units, cuffed, taken to the kitchen, and strip searched in front of other prisoners and male and female guards.

         Plaintiff was transferred to MBP, custody level V, on September 11, 2016, at approximately 3:00 a.m. Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive a ticket at that time and was never reviewed on a ticket. He also was not given notice of his higher custody level or classification to administrative segregation on the major misconduct ticket. On the morning of September 12, Plaintiff received a ticket for inciting to riot or strike or rioting or striking, which was written by Defendant Maki at KCF. Plaintiff promptly sent a kite to the MBP inspector, indicating that he had not been reviewed on the ticket. Also that day, Defendant Mohr gave Plaintiff a “Resident's personal statement and Account of Charge(s)” form to complete, and Mohr later returned to pick it up. (Id., PageID.7.) Plaintiff alleges that Mohr never interviewed Plaintiff and never provided him a copy of the investigation report. Plaintiff complains that Defendant Maki did not properly write the ticket and that Defendant James failed to review the ticket with Plaintiff.

         On September 13, Plaintiff wrote a grievance against Defendant James, alleging the falsification of information and documents, because James falsely stated that Plaintiff had reviewed the ticket. In his “resident's statement, ” Plaintiff requested that the hearing officer call Defendants Maki, James and Zimmerman, and he asked that a number of documents be provided that he claimed were relevant to his guilt or innocence. At the hearing on September 18, however, Defendant Mohrman failed to call any of Plaintiff's witnesses, saying that no further witnesses were necessary, in light of the other evidence in the record. On September 20, 2016, Plaintiff received Defendant Mohrman's misconduct finding, which Plaintiff complains lacks a citation to evidence or a basis for the finding. Mohrman sentenced Plaintiff to 30 days' loss of privileges. Plaintiff kited Defendant Mohrman that day, requesting his hearing packet.

         On September 21, 2016, Plaintiff received a separate form indicating that he had been classified to administrative segregation. He complains that Defendants Huss, Viitala, Horrocks, and Unknown Party failed to give him proper notice of reclassification and that no hearing was conducted by an administrative law judge. Defendant Huss told Plaintiff that the reclassification was made pending investigation of whether Plaintiff had committed any felony in relation to the destruction at KCF. Plaintiff sent a kite to Defendant Huss on September 27 and provided her time to respond to his claim about the failure to provide notice. Also on September 27, Plaintiff wrote a grievance on Defendant Mohr for dereliction of duty. Plaintiff received his copy of the hearing packet on September 28. Plaintiff filed a request for rehearing with Defendant Russell on September 28, and on November 23, 2016, Defendant Russell denied the appeal. On October 7, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to AMF and placed in Level V administrative segregation.

         Plaintiff complains that Defendants denied him due process in charging him, investigating him, and finding him guilty of the misconduct ticket. He also alleges that Defendants denied him due process in the reclassification process. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, together with compensatory and punitive damages.

         Discussion

         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 - ...


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