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King v. Scutt

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

March 30, 2017

JOHN KING, Plaintiff,

          Patricia T. Morris Magistrate Judge.


          DAVID M. LAWSON United States District Judge.

         John King, an inmate in the custody the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at its G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against prison officials alleging a failure to provide certain medical treatment. The Court referred this case to Magistrate Judge Charles E. Binder for pretrial management. On May 17, 2013, Judge Binder filed a report after he completed the screening required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A recommending that the Court dismiss the case on its own motion. The plaintiff filed timely objections, after obtaining an enlargement of time from the Court. On June 15, 2016, the Court entered an order appointing counsel for the plaintiff, after previously denying his motion to appoint counsel three months earlier. Counsel have been working hard on the plaintiff's behalf, and the parties report that the plaintiff has received additional medical attention. They have not been able to settle the case, however, and the Court will turn to the magistrate judge's report.

         After reviewing the objections and considering the matter afresh, the Court concludes that the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted, the magistrate judge correctly recommended that it be dismissed, and the plaintiff's objections do not address the substance of the magistrate judge's criticisms of the complaint. Therefore, the Court will adopt the report and recommendation and dismiss the complaint.


         King's complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that the prison warden and medical staff were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiff's statement of facts, in its entirety, is as follows:

I've exhausted all remedies to try too [sic] get medical care help for a skin diease [sic] which has caused the skin on my leg to rot and become very painful.
I've written numerous medical requests for medical attention. The medical staff Medical Practitioner's [sic], the Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioner's [sic] and Medical Provider's [sic] are all medically indifference [sic] to my medical condition I am suffering from.

         Compl. at 3. The plaintiff asserts that medical staff members at the prison have violated the Eighth Amendment. Ibid. For relief, the plaintiff requests “Punitive Damages, Injunctive Relief, and Compensatory Damages as well as Restraining Orders requested to get the proper medical care.” Id. at 3-4. In an attachment to the complaint, the plaintiff identifies Debra Scutt, Subrina Aiken, Laura Kinder, and Joyce Hunter as defendants. Attach. to Compl. Scutt was formerly the warden at the prison where the plaintiff is incarcerated, while Aiken (RN, Clinical Administrative Assistant), Kinder (RN), and Hunter (RN-13, Health Unit Manager) were members of the medical staff there. Ibid.

         After screening the plaintiff's case under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A, 1915(e), Judge Binder recommended that the Court dismiss King's case on its own motion for failure to state a claim. Judge Binder concluded that the plaintiff failed to allege that any particular defendant took any specific action to deprive the plaintiff of his rights. He suggested that the plaintiff's complaint is insufficient because it refers to the medical staff generally rather than to any specific defendant. And he pointed out that district courts do not have the discretion to allow a plaintiff to amend his complaint to avoid dismissal under the applicable sections. Nor may such a plaintiff cure any pleading deficiencies in his objections to a report and recommendation. Judge Binder reasoned that because the complaint fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff should not be able to proceed. Judge Binder recommended that the Court dismiss the case.

         The plaintiff filed objections within the time permitted. However, although those objections furnish a few more facts, they do not address the defects in the complaint discussed by Judge Binder. Instead, the plaintiff focuses on his efforts at exhausting his administrative remedies within the prison system, and he argues that the Court should not raise the exhaustion issue on its own as it is an affirmative defense that the defendants must plead. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007).


         Objections to a report and recommendation are reviewed de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Sixth Circuit has stated that “[o]verly general objections do not satisfy the objection requirement.” Spencer v. Bouchard, 449 F.3d 721, 725 (6th Cir. 2006). “The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995). “‘[O]bjections disput[ing] the correctness of the magistrate's recommendation but fail[ing] to specify the findings . . . believed [to be] in error' are too general.” Spencer, 449 F.3d at 725 (quoting Miller, 50 F.3d at 380). “[T]he failure to file specific objections to a magistrate's report constitutes a waiver of those objections.” Cowherd v. Million, 380 F.3d 909, 912 (6th Cir. 2004).

         In the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Congress mandated that the Court screen for colorable merit every prisoner complaint filed against a state or governmental person or entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) (“The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or ...

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