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Dorn v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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

June 6, 2017

JOHN DORN, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff John Dorn was an inmate in the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). During his incarceration, Dorn-an inmate infected with human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”)- engaged in a sexual act with another prisoner, in violation of MDOC policy. As a result, he was placed in administrative segregation. Dorn brings an action alleging violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Dorn seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for the alleged violations. Defendants Pandya, Finco, Stieve, and Heyns are sued in their individual and official capacities. Defendant Schuette is sued in his official capacity. Defendants Finco, Heyns, Pandya, Schuette, and MDOC have filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 16), and Defendant Stieve has also filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 20). Plaintiff has filed a response (ECF No. 22), and Defendants have filed a reply (ECF No. 23). Upon careful review of the record, the Court has decided that the motion can be resolved without oral argument. See W.D. Mich. LCivR 7.3(d). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.


         The MDOC has five security classifications for inmates, which range from Level I, the lowest, to Level V, the highest. Originally, Dorn's security classification was Level I. As a low-security inmate, Dorn enjoyed privileges like a paid work assignment, interaction with other inmates throughout the day, individual or group outdoor recreation, educational and religious programs, communal dining, daily shower, telephone, mail, and law library access, limited-physical-contact visits with family and friends, possession and use of personal property in his dormitory, and full commissary privileges. (Pl.'s Br. 2, ECF No. 22, PageID.159.)

         Michigan law requires placement in administrative segregation when an HIV-positive prisoner engages in specific actions:

If a prisoner receives a positive test result [for HIV] and is subsequently subject to discipline by the [MDOC] for sexual misconduct that could transmit HIV, illegal intravenous use of controlled substances, or assaultive or predatory behavior that could transmit HIV, the department shall house that prisoner in administrative segregation, an impatient health care unit, or a unit separate from the general prisoner population, as determined by the department.

Mich. Comp. Laws § 791.267(3). Likewise, the MDOC has created a policy based on these statutory requirements. This policy seeks to “reduce and control the transmission of serious communicable blood borne infections and diseases[ ]” like HIV. (Am. Compl. ¶ 40, ECF No. 15, PageID.87 (quoting Policy Directive 03.04.120 (OO).) It presumes that “actual or attempted sexual penetration” is behavior that could transmit HIV. (Id. (quoting Policy Directive 03.04.120 (OO).) If a prisoner is found guilty of behavior that could transmit HIV, the “CFA Deputy Director and the Chief Medical Officer shall be informed in writing of the incident and shall review the case to determine if the prisoner should be classified to administrative segregation.” (Id. at PageID.88 (quoting Policy Directive 03.04.120 (PP).) When a prisoner is placed in administrative segregation, he “shall not subsequently be reclassified without prior authorization by the CFA Deputy Director after consultation with the Chief Medical Officer. (Id. (quoting Policy Directive 03.04.120 (PP).)

         On April 20, 2012, two other prisoners allegedly saw Dorn and another inmate engage in oral sex. Dorn alleges that, on the same day, Defendants Pandya, Stieve, and Finco signed a memorandum classifying him to administrative segregation. (Id. at ¶ 24, PageID.83.) After a hearing on May 8, 2012, Dorn was found guilty of engaging in sexual conduct with another inmate. (Id. at ¶ 27, PageID.84.) On May 10, 2012, Dorn had a hearing before the Security Reclassification Committee “where his reclassification to administrative segregation was affirmed indefinitely because of his HIV-positive status” for violating MDOC Policy Directive 03.04.120. (Id. at ¶ 28, PageID.84.) Dorn remained in administrative segregation for nearly a year. (Id. at ¶ 4, PageID.77.) Then, he was placed in a Level V area for approximately ten months until he was transferred to a Level IV area for eight months before being paroled in October 2014. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-37, PageID.85-86.)

         Dorn alleges that his administrative-segregation conditions were extremely restrictive. He also alleges that the conditions in Level V and IV general population were similarly restrictive. Because of his placement in administrative segregation, Dorn argues that he lost all of his Level I privileges, and was confined to his cell for 23 hours per day for five days a week and for the full 24 hours per day for the remaining two days of the week. (Id. at ¶ 30, PageID.84.) In contrast, the other inmate accused of engaging in sexual conduct with Dorn lost privileges for 30 days and remained in the Level I facility. (Id. at ¶ 27, PageID.84.) Dorn also alleges that his sexual act with the other inmate presented “essentially no risk of HIV transmission” because he engaged in “oral sex without ejaculation” and his “undetectable viral load transforms the extremely low risk of transmission via oral sex to merely a theoretical possibility.” (Id. at ¶ 45, PageID.89.)


         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, 335 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Although 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.” Id. 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 now ‘show[n]'- that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court may only consider “the [c]omplaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the [c]omplaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008).


         A. Defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity for the official capacity due process claims

         Dorn seeks relief from Defendants Finco, Heyns, Pandya, Schuette, and Stieve for Defendants' alleged deprivation of due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against a state and its departments or agencies in federal court. “There can be no doubt, however, that suit against the State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit.” Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (citing Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974); Ford Motor Co. v. Dep't of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459 (1945); Worcester Cnty. Trust Co. v. Riley, 302 U.S. 292 (1937)).

         Sovereign immunity also extends to any suit brought by a private party where the payment of liability must be made from the public treasury. Edelman, 415 U.S. at 663; see also Dugan v. Rank, 372 U.S. 609, 620 (1963) (“The general rule is that a suit is against the sovereign if ‘the judgment sought would expend itself on the public treasury or domain, or interfere with the public administration, ' or if the effect of the judgment would be ‘to restrain the Government from acting, or to compel it to act.'” (quoting Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 738 (1947)). “‘[W]hen the action is in essence one for the recovery of money from the state, the state is the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to invoke its sovereign immunity from suit even though individual officials are nominal defendants.'” Id. (quoting Ford Motor Co., 323 U.S. at 464). Because “a suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather a suit against the official's office . . . it is no different from a suit against the State itself.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (internal citations omitted). Sovereign immunity also bars requests for injunctive relief. Cory v. White, 457 U.S. 85, 90-91 (1982); cf. Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908) (noting an exception where the suit seeks prospective injunctive relief against a state official in his or her official capacity).

         But Eleventh Amendment immunity is not absolute. There are two circumstances in which an individual may sue a state: waiver or abrogation. College Sav. Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 670 (1999) (internal citations omitted). First, a state may waive sovereign immunity by consenting to the suit. Clark v. Barnard, 108 U.S. 436, 447-48 (1883). The State has not consented to Dorn's suit, so it has not waived sovereign immunity here. Second, Congress may abrogate sovereign immunity and authorize a suit through its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment-an Amendment enacted after the Eleventh Amendment and specifically designed to alter the federal-state balance. College Sav. Bank, 527 U.S. at 670 (citing Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976)). Although Congress provided for a cause of action for constitutional violations under § 1983, the Supreme Court has explained, “we simply are unwilling to believe . . . that Congress intended by the general language of § 1983 ...

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