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Robinson v. Genesee County Sheriff's Department

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

June 2, 2017



          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge

         On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff Aaron Robinson filed a complaint which alleged that Defendants Genesee County Sheriff's Department, Sergeant Gerald Park, Deputy Ryan Rainwater, Deputy F/N/U Hoover, and ten other John Does repeatedly beat and otherwise mistreated Robinson while he was confined in the Genesee County Jail. ECF No. 1. Defendant Rainwater was served on December 16, 2016. In response to the complaint, Rainwater filed a motion for a more definite statement, ECF No. 6, seeking additional information regarding “which Defendant allegedly committed what tort and when.” Id. at 4. On January 16, 2017, the Genesee County Sheriff's Department appeared for the purpose of filing a motion to dismiss, arguing that a sheriff's department is not an independent legal entity that is amenable to suit under Michigan law. ECF No. 14. On January 30, 2017, Robinson filed a motion to substitute Genesee County for the Sheriff's Department as a Defendant, acknowledging that the Sheriff's Department should not have been named as a Defendant.

         Around the same time, Robinson filed a motion to extend the deadline to serve the remaining Defendants. ECF No. 15. Six days after that motion was filed, the Court granted a thirty day extension of the deadline, to February 24, 2017. ECF No. 16. On February 13, 2017, Rainwater filed a motion to vacate the Court's order extending the service deadline. ECF No. 23. The next day, Robinson filed a second motion to extend the service deadline. ECF No. 25. Robinson also filed a motion to amend his complaint. ECF No. 26. Finally, on February 22, 2017, the Genesee County Sheriff's Department filed a motion to quash a subpoena which Robinson sent to the Department.

         On March 24, 2017, the Court issued an opinion and order addressing the pending motions. ECF No. 36. The Court dismissed the Genesee County Sheriff's Department, but directed Robinson to file an amended complaint which provided a more definite statement and added Genesee County as a Defendant. The Court further found that Robinson's attempt to join several new parties (and ten “John Does”) was unavailing because the statute of limitations had run and the joinder, if and when it occurred, would not relate back to the date the original complaint was filed. The Court also found that Robinson had demonstrated good cause for his delay in serving the unserved Defendants. Thus, the Court granted Robinson a second, thirty-day extension of time for service. The Court ordered Robinson to file an amended complaint which provided a more definite statement and included the appropriate Defendants on or before April 7, 2017.

         On April 7, 2017, Robinson filed a motion for an extension of time to file the amended complaint. ECF No. 37. In the motion, Robinson's counsel indicated that, despite the case having been filed in October 2016, he had not yet personally met with his client.[1] On April 7, 2017, Robinson filed his first amended complaint. ECF No. 38. The amended complaint does not provide any additional detail regarding the factual allegations Robinson is making.

         In response to this most recent motion for an extension, the Court ordered Robinson to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. ECF No. 40. That order explained that the amended complaint did not provide a more definite statement and noted that the fact that Plaintiff counsel had not met with his client raised questions regarding whether he reasonably investigated the claims prior to filing the case. On April 21, 2017, Robinson filed a “more definite statement.” ECF No. 47. The filing is untimely and is in narrative form, not pleading form.

         On April 20, 2017, the Defendants who had been served filed a motion to strike the amended complaint, arguing that it did not provide a more definite statement. ECF No. 43. The next day, Robinson filed a motion to extend, for a third time, the deadline to serve Defendant Hoover. ECF No. 46. Robinson requests that the Court allow him to serve Hoover by either sending the summons via certified mail to the Genesee County Sheriff's Department or by allowing for service by publication in accordance with M.C.L. § 2.106. In a separate motion, Robinson alternatively requests that the Court order Genesee County to disclose Hoover's last known address. ECF No. 50. On May 3, 2017, the Defendants renewed their motion to strike the amended complaint, arguing that the more definite statement provided by Robinson was untimely and improperly formatted. ECF No. 52. Defendants also emphasize that Robinson has not formally responded to the Court's order to show cause.


         The allegations in the original complaint were summarized in the March 24, 2017, opinion and order. They are incorporated here as if restated in full. For clarity, the allegations in the “more definite statement” provided by Robinson on April 21, 2017, will be recounted here.

         In the statement, Robinson alleges that he was arrested in 2011 and charged with “larceny, firearms, home invasion, and with the murder of a highly respected retired Genesee County Sheriff Department Lieutenant.” More Def. State. at 2, ECF No. 47. Ultimately, Robinson was convicted of larceny and home invasion, but acquitted of the murder. Id. Robinson's codefendant pleaded guilty to the murder. While awaiting trial, Robinson was incarcerated at the Genesee County Jail from August 2011 to October 28, 2013. He alleges that, during that entire period of incarceration, he was assaulted by guards three to four times a week. He contends that his assailants explicitly referenced the murder of the lieutenant as the reason for the beatings. The assaults usually involved three or four guards. The assailants typically wore black gloves.

         The location of the beatings varied. Sometimes, Robinson was assaulted in his cell. On other occasions, Robinson was beaten in the common area. Sometimes, Robinson would be handcuffed before the assaults. He specifically references one instance where his head was “smashed against the floor by Rainwater's knee.” Id. at 3. He also alleges that he was pepper sprayed during every assault. On at least one occasion, the guards turned off the water to Robinson's cell so he would be unable to clean the pepper spray off his body.

         Robinson provides several descriptions of specific assaults. For example, he alleges that the first assault occurred four days after his arrest. Robinson was accused of throwing a tissue out of his cell by second shift personnel. When third shift personnel came on duty, they removed Robinson's cellmate, handcuffed Robinson, and beat him. The last assault occurred in October 28, 2013, when Robinson was being transferred to Michigan Department of Corrections custody. While processing Robinson, Rainwater allegedly punched him in the right eye.

         After the assaults, Robinson would be either confined to his cell or placed in solitary confinement. He contends that, during his time in the Genesee County Jail, he spent seven months in solitary confinement. Robinson was assaulted on the way to solitary and sometimes while in solitary. He further alleges that he was denied meals and showers. Robinson's hearings after the solitary confinement were delayed by Lieutenant Hunt and, Robinson alleges, the guards interfered with his ability to defend himself at the hearings.

         Robinson alleges that he kept a journal of the beatings. However, the journal was confiscated when he was placed in solitary confinement and he has not recovered it. Robinson also alleges that he phoned a friend after each attack and informed her. He further alleges ...

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