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Jackson v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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

April 28, 2017

LARRY JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 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 federal action will be dismissed on grounds of immunity and failure to state a claim.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Larry Jackson presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Saginaw Correctional Facility, though the actions about which he complains occurred while he was housed at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC). He sues the MDOC, MDOC Director Heidi E. Washington, and the following IBC Correctional Officers: (unknown) Jordan, (unknown) Lebo, and (unknown) Harrison.

         Although Plaintiff's complaint consists largely of legal conclusions and citations, Plaintiff attaches a list of facts at the end of his complaint. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.14.) According to that list of facts, on June 28, 2016, at 6:10 p.m., Defendant Jordan entered Plaintiff's cell and found four 20-ounce pop bottles filled with homemade alcohol, which were inside a trash can. Five minutes later, Plaintiff's cellmate, inmate Stanley, confessed to Jordan that the alcohol was his, not Plaintiff's. Nevertheless, Defendant Jordan issued a misconduct ticket against Plaintiff for substance abuse, a major misconduct. Mich. Dep't of Corr., Policy Directive 03.03.105, Attach. A. At about 7:40 p.m., Stanley allegedly told Defendant Harrison that he was responsible for the alcohol, but Harrison nevertheless reviewed Plaintiff on the misconduct a few minutes later, and he did not dismiss the charge. Defendants Jordan and Harrison notified Defendant Lebo of Plaintiff's status at 7:45 p.m. Five minutes later, Stanley told Defendant Lebo that the alcohol belonged to him, not to Plaintiff.

         On July 6, 2016, Hearing Officer Susan Burke found Plaintiff not guilty of the misconduct charge. Plaintiff alleges that he sent Defendant Washington “an acknowledg[]ment letter regarding this officials [sic] corrupt behavior.”

         Plaintiff alleges numerous violations of state policy, state law, federal criminal law, and civil constitutional provisions. He alleges that Defendant Washington violated her duties under Mich. Comp. Laws § 791.203 and her oath of office in failing to supervise her employees. He also alleges that her failure to take action violated Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, 18 U.S.C. §§ 241-242 (conspiracy), 18 U.S.C. § 1506 (obstruction of justice by alteration of record), and Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.505 (punishment for common-law offenses). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Jordan violated the code of ethics under Mich. Dep't of Corr., Policy Directive 02.03.107, as well as federal criminal law (18 U.S.C. § 1519 (alteration/falsification of records in federal investigations)), state criminal law (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.249 (uttering and publishing)), federal constitutional tort law under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, the state tort of defamation of character, and prison policy. He alleges that Defendants Lebo and Harrison conspired in all of the actions taken by Defendant Jordan and are likewise responsible for the same violations.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of $400, 000.00, together with the imposition of a lien on all of Defendants' assets and finances.

         Discussion

         I. Sovereign Immunity

         Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983 action against the MDOC. Regardless of the form of relief requested, the states and their departments are immune under the Eleventh Amendment from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived immunity or Congress has expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); O'Hara v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and the State of Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986). In numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth Circuit has specifically held that the MDOC is absolutely immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App'x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No. 00-1182, 2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In addition, the State of Michigan (acting through the Michigan Department of Corrections) is not a “person” who may be sued under § 1983 for money damages. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989)). Therefore, the Court dismisses the Michigan Department of Corrections.

         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); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

         A. Eighth Amendment

         Plaintiff suggests that Jordan violated his Eighth Amendment rights by falsely accusing him of misconduct, for which he could have possibly suffered the following consequences: loss or continuation of his parole; loss of his visitation rights; placement in ...


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