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Robinson v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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

March 31, 2017

DARRYL A. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

          OPINION DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS - THREE STRIKES

          GORDON J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Darryl A. Robinson, a prisoner incarcerated at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility (MTU), filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Because Plaintiff has filed at least three lawsuits that were dismissed as frivolous, malicious or for failure to state a claim, he is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The Court will order Plaintiff to pay the $400.00 civil action filing fee applicable to those not permitted to proceed in forma pauperis within twenty-eight (28) days of this opinion and accompanying order. If Plaintiff fails to do so, the Court will order that his action be dismissed without prejudice. Even if the case is dismissed, Plaintiff will be responsible for payment of the $400.00 filing fee in accordance with In re Alea, 286 F.3d 378, 380-81 (6th Cir. 2002).

         Discussion

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), which was enacted on April 26, 1996, amended the procedural rules governing a prisoner's request for the privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis. As the Sixth Circuit has stated, the PLRA was “aimed at the skyrocketing numbers of claims filed by prisoners - many of which are meritless - and the corresponding burden those filings have placed on the federal courts.” Hampton v. Hobbs, 106 F.3d 1281, 1286 (6th Cir. 1997). For that reason, Congress put into place economic incentives to prompt a prisoner to “stop and think” before filing a complaint. Id. For example, a prisoner is liable for the civil action filing fee, and if the prisoner qualifies to proceed in forma pauperis, the prisoner may pay the fee through partial payments as outlined in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The constitutionality of the fee requirements of the PLRA has been upheld by the Sixth Circuit. Id. at 1288.

         In addition, another provision reinforces the “stop and think” aspect of the PLRA by preventing a prisoner from proceeding in forma pauperis when the prisoner repeatedly files meritless lawsuits. Known as the “three-strikes” rule, the provision states:

In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under [the section governing proceedings in forma pauperis] if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The statutory restriction “[i]n no event, ” found in § 1915(g), is express and unequivocal. The statute does allow an exception for a prisoner who is “under imminent danger of serious physical injury.” The Sixth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of the three-strikes rule against arguments that it violates equal protection, the right of access to the courts, and due process, and that it constitutes a bill of attainder and is ex post facto legislation. Wilson v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 604-06 (6th Cir. 1998); accord Pointer v. Wilkinson, 502 F.3d 369, 377 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Wilson, 148 F.3d at 604-06); Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1178-82 (9th Cir. 1999); Rivera v. Allin, 144 F.3d 719, 723-26 (11th Cir. 1998); Carson v. Johnson, 112 F.3d 818, 821-22 (5th Cir. 1997).

         Plaintiff has been an active litigant in the federal courts in Michigan, having filed over sixty civil actions in this Court alone. The Court has dismissed more than three of Plaintiff's lawsuits on grounds that they were frivolous, malicious, or failed to state a claim. See Robinson v. Lesatz et al., No. 2:05-cv-217 (W.D. Mich. Nov. 7, 2005); Robinson v. Luoma, No. 2:05-cv-218 (W.D. Mich. Nov. 7, 2005); Robinson v. Kutchie et al., No. 2:05-cv-211 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 28, 2005); Robinson v. Snow et al., No. 2:05-cv-212 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 28, 2005); Robinson v. Etelamaki et al., No. 2:05-cv-200 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 4, 2005); Robinson v. Caruso et al., No. 2:05-cv-191 (W.D. Mich. Sept. 21, 2005); Robinson v. Meni et al., No. 2:05-cv-192 (W.D. Mich. Sept. 19, 2005); and Robinson v. Etelamaki, No. 2:05-cv-194 (W.D. Mich. Sept. 19, 2005). In addition, Plaintiff has been denied leave to proceed in forma pauperis under the three-strikes rule in more than thirty previous actions filed in this Court.

         Moreover, Plaintiff's action does not fall under the exception for an inmate under “imminent danger of serious physical injury.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The Sixth Circuit set forth the following general requirements for a claim of imminent danger:

In order to allege sufficiently imminent danger, we have held that “the threat or prison condition must be real and proximate and the danger of serious physical injury must exist at the time the complaint is filed.” Rittner v. Kinder, 290 F.App'x 796, 797 (6th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Thus a prisoner's assertion that he or she faced danger in the past is insufficient to invoke the exception.” Id. at 797-98; see also [Taylor v. First Med. Mgmt., 508 F.App'x 488, 492 (6th Cir. 2012)] (“Allegations of past dangers are insufficient to invoke the exception.”); Percival v. Gerth, 443 F.App'x 944, 946 (6th Cir. 2011) (“Assertions of past danger will not satisfy the ‘imminent danger' exception.”); cf. [Pointer v. Wilkinson, 502 F.3d 369, 371 n.1 (6th Cir. 2007)] (implying that past danger is insufficient for the imminent-danger exception).
In addition to a temporal requirement, we have explained that the allegations must be sufficient to allow a court to draw reasonable inferences that the danger exists. To that end, “district courts may deny a prisoner leave to proceed pursuant to § 1915(g) when the prisoner's claims of imminent danger are conclusory or ridiculous, or are clearly baseless (i.e. are fantastic or delusional and rise to the level of irrational or wholly incredible).” Rittner, 290 F.App'x at 798 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Taylor, 508 F.App'x at 492 (“Allegations that are conclusory, ridiculous, or clearly baseless are also insufficient for purposes of the imminent-danger exception.”).

Vandiver v. Prison Health Services, Inc., 727 F.3d 580, 585 (6th Cir. 2013). A prisoner's claim of imminent danger is subject to the same notice pleading requirement as that which applies to prisoner complaints. Id. Consequently, a prisoner must allege facts in the complaint from which the Court could reasonably conclude that the prisoner was under an existing danger at the time he filed his complaint, but the prisoner need not affirmatively prove those allegations. Id.

         In the instant case, Plaintiff sues only the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), which is immune from suit. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986). In addition, Plaintiff's allegations lack specificity about the nature of the harm he faces. Plaintiff alleges that a lieutenant and officers came to his cell and told him that he was going to segregation. He asserts that he is in imminent danger because he has a SPON (Special Problem Offender Notice), see Mich. Dep't of Corr., Policy Directive 03.03.110, related to an employee at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility (LRF). Plaintiff appears to suggest that his transfer to MTU and placement in segregation put him in imminent danger from all MDOC officers, because of the SPON, and he seeks transfer back to LRF and expungement of all misconducts since he received the notice of intent to classify him to segregation. Nothing about Plaintiff's allegations suggests that he is in imminent danger of serious physical injury. His allegations of imminent danger are wholly speculative, and he utterly fails to indicate what serious physical injury he is at risk of incurring.

         In light of the foregoing, § 1915(g) prohibits Plaintiff from proceeding in forma pauperis in this action. Plaintiff has twenty-eight (28) days from the date of entry of this order to pay the entire civil action filing fee, which is $400.00. When Plaintiff pays his filing fee, the Court will screen his complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). If Plaintiff fails to pay the filing fee within the 28-day period, ...


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