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Ellington v. Karkkila

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

April 28, 2017

GARY KARKKILA, et al., Defendants.



         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, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim against Defendants Masters, Schram, Brinkman, Kienitz, Bonevelle, Denman, Blough, Froberg, Immel, Bauman, Cromell, and Sprader. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendant Karkkila a/k/a Parkkila.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Erik Anthony Ellington, a state prisoner currently confined at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Corrections Officer Gary Karkkila[1], Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor R. Masters, Resident Unit Manager G. Schram, Sergeant Unknown Brinkman, Lieutenant Unknown Kienitz, Grievance Coordinator Mary Bonevelle, Sergeant J. T. Denman, Corrections Officer Unknown Blough, Corrections Officer Unknown Froberg, Assistant Deputy Warden Anthony Immel, Warden Catherine S. Bauman, Corrections Officer Unknown Cromell, and Assistant Deputy Warden Scott Sprader, all of whom were employed at the Alger Correctional Facility (LMF) during the pertinent time period.

         In his complaint (ECF No. 1), as well as in his supporting affidavit (ECF No. 9), Plaintiff alleges that he arrived at LMF on August 20, 2015. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Parkkila verbally harassed him between February 3, 2016, and February 21, 2016. On March 20, 2016, Defendant Parkkila discovered that Plaintiff had complained about him to Defendant Masters. Defendant Parkkila then wrote a major misconduct ticket on Plaintiff for having a cup of bleach in his cell. As a result of the misconduct, Plaintiff was confined to segregation. Plaintiff was released from segregation on April 16, 2016, whereupon Defendant Parkkila began harassing him again. Plaintiff complained to Defendant Masters. On April 22, 2016, Defendant Parkkila observed Plaintiff returning from his Al-Islam religious call-out with his Kufi cap on his head. Defendant Parkkila yelled at Plaintiff to remove his cap. Plaintiff explained that prison policy allowed him to wear his Kufi cap to and from religious services. Defendant Parkkila became irate and stated, “I don't give a shit about your religio[n] or what policy says, I told you to remove it.” Plaintiff told Defendant Parkkila that he was going to file a grievance and Defendant Parkkila responded, “oh yeah, well you obviously need your room shaken down for contraband.” Plaintiff filed a grievance.

         On May 2, 2016, Defendant Parkkila wrote a class II misconduct ticket on Plaintiff for having a makeshift shelf rigged up in his cell using string tied between the wall locker and the bottom bunk. Plaintiff complained to Defendants Park and Denman, asserting that he believed the misconduct was discriminatory and retaliatory. Defendants Park and Denman merely told Plaintiff to take the misconduct and the 5 days loss of privileges, and to stop writing grievances or go to segregation. On May 6, 2016, Defendants Brinkman and Schram denied Plaintiff's step II grievance appeal regarding Defendant Parkkila's refusal to allow Plaintiff to wear a Kufi cap. On May 13, 2016, Defendant Parkkila threatened to kill Plaintiff and/or to plant a knife in Plaintiff's cell. Defendant Parkkila told Plaintiff he could write all the grievances he wanted, but told him that if he wanted to play that game, Defendant Parkkila would win. Id. Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding this conduct, as well as complained about it to Defendants Brinkman, Masters, and Blough.

         On May 20, 2016, Plaintiff returned from his work assignment and found that someone had poured baby powder and water all over his legal and personal property. Plaintiff states that Defendant Parkkila was the only person who had access to his cell. On May 21, 2016, Defendant Brinkman reviewed Plaintiff's grievance regarding Defendant Parkkila. In addition, Defendant Kienitz told Plaintiff not to have his family members calling the state police to complain about prison staff. Defendant Kienitz also told Plaintiff that if he stopped writing grievances, the retaliatory harassment would stop. On May 22, 2016, Defendant Parkkila refused to let Plaintiff go to the recreation room to call his family and attorney. Plaintiff sent letters to Defendants Bauman and Immel to complain about Defendant Parkkila, but never received a response.

         Plaintiff claims that between May 12, 2016, and May 23, 2016, Defendant Bonevelle refused to give Plaintiff a step II appeal form, but finally sent Plaintiff a step II form on June 1, 2016. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Brinkman, Schram, Bauman, and Denman all denied his grievances and grievance appeals. On May 22, 2016, Defendant Blough told Defendant Schram to have Plaintiff moved to another housing unit. On May 23, 2016, Defendant Schram told Plaintiff that he was being moved to Maple Unit. Upon Plaintiff's arrival on Maple unit, officers asked Plaintiff about problems between him and Defendant Parkkila. Plaintiff believes that Defendant Parkkila made it known to Maple unit officers that Plaintiff was a target of his.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as his state law rights. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive and equitable relief.

         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); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). 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).

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant Bonevelle interfered in his ability to exhaust his administrative remedies by refusing to give him step II appeal forms in a timely manner. Plaintiff has no due process right to file a prison grievance. The courts repeatedly have held that there exists no constitutionally protected due process right to an effective prison grievance procedure. See Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 467 (1983); Walker v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 128 F. App'x 441, 445 (6th Cir. 2005); Argue v. Hofmeyer, 80 F. App'x 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2003); Young v. Gundy, 30 F. App'x 568, 569-70 (6th Cir. 2002); Carpenter v. Wilkinson, No. 99-3562, 2000 WL 190054, at *2 (6th Cir. Feb. 7, 2000); see also Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1996); Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994) (collecting cases). Michigan law does not create a liberty interest in the grievance procedure. See Olim v. Wakinekona,461 U.S. 238, 249 (1983); Keenan v. ...

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