United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
WILLIAM N. LEE, #255126, Plaintiff,
ST. CLAIR CO. DRUG TASK FORCE, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL
HONORABLE LINDA V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 by Michigan prisoner William N. Lee
(“Plaintiff”), who is confined at the Newberry
Correctional Facility in Newberry, Michigan. Plaintiff
alleges that his constitutional rights were violated during
his state criminal proceedings. He asserts that he was
subject to an illegal search, seizure, and arrest,
experienced a delay in arraignment and was unable to contact
his family for 60 hours while confined in jail, and that his
trial counsel was ineffective. (ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 4.) He
names the St. Clair County Drug Task Force, the Major Crime
Unit, the St. Clair County Jail, the City of Port Huron, and
defense attorney Sophia D. Curry as the defendants in this
action. (Id. at Pg ID 1-2.) He sues the defendants
in their personal and official capacities and seeks monetary
damages and injunctive relief. (Id.) Plaintiff has
been granted leave to proceed without prepayment of the fees
for this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).
the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996
(“PLRA”), the Court is required to sua sponte
dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint before service if it
determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court is similarly required to
dismiss a complaint seeking redress against government
entities, officers, and employees which it finds to be
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A. A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an
arguable basis in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint set
forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as well as
“a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), (3). The purpose of this rule is to “give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) and Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). While such notice pleading does not require
detailed factual allegations, it does require more than the
bare assertion of legal conclusions. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555. Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned,
the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
“Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further
factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that (1) he was deprived of a right, privilege, or
immunity secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the
United States; and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person
acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. v.
Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-57 (1978); Harris v.
Circleville, 583 F.3d 356, 364 (6th Cir. 2009). A pro se
civil rights complaint is to be construed liberally.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).
Despite this liberal pleading standard, the Court finds that
the civil rights complaint is subject to summary dismissal.
Plaintiff names attorney Sophia Curry as a defendant in this
action. It is well-settled, however, that appointed and
retained attorneys performing traditional functions as
defense counsel do not act “under color of state
law” and are not state actors subject to suit under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Polk Co. v. Dodson, 454 U.S.
312, 318, 325 (1981); Elrod v. Michigan Supreme Ct.,
104 F. App'x 506, 508 (6th Cir. 2004); see also
Cicchini v. Blackwell, 127 F. App'x 187, 190 (6th
Cir. 2005) (“Lawyers are not, merely by virtue of being
officers of the court, state actors for § 1983
purposes.”). Because attorney Curry is not a state
actor subject to suit under § 1983, Plaintiff's
complaint against her must be dismissed.
Plaintiff names the St. Clair County Drug Task Force, the
Major Crime Unit, and the St. Clair County Jail as defendants
in this action. Those bodies, however, are not entities
subject to suit under § 1983. See Boykin v. Van
Buren Twp., 479 F.3d 444, 450 (6th Cir. 2007) (police
department is an improper defendant in a § 1983 case);
Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir.
1991) (sheriff's department may not be sued under §
1983); Edward v. Jail, Case No. 2:16-CV-11596, 2016
WL 2937146, *2 (E.D. Mich. May 20, 2016) (citing cases and
ruling that county jails, sheriff departments, and other
governmental agencies are not legal entities amenable to suit
under § 1983); Laise v. City of Utica, 970
F.Supp. 605, 608 (E.D. Mich. 1997) (city police department is
an agency of the city and not a proper defendant in a §
1983 action). Plaintiff's claims against the St. Clair
County Drug Task Force, the Major Crime Unit, and the St.
Clair County Jail must be dismissed.
any claims against the City of Port Huron must be dismissed
because Plaintiff fails to allege facts demonstrating the
personal involvement of the City of Port Huron in the events
giving rise to the complaint. It is well-settled that a civil
rights plaintiff must allege the personal involvement of a
defendant to state a claim under § 1983. See Monell
v. Dep't of Social Svs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978)
(Section 1983 liability cannot be based upon a theory of
respondeat superior or vicarious liability); Everson v.
Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009) (same); see
also Taylor v. Michigan Dep't of Corrections, 69
F.3d 716, 727-28 (6th Cir. 1995) (plaintiff must allege facts
showing that the defendant participated, condoned,
encouraged, or knowingly acquiesced in alleged misconduct to
establish liability). Plaintiff makes no such factual
allegations against the City of Port Huron, nor does he
challenge conduct by city employees or cite city policies in
his complaint - and St. Clair County, not the City of Port
Huron, operates the St. Clair County Jail. Conclusory
allegations are insufficient to state a claim under §
1983. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555-57; Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S.
574, 588 (1998); Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578
F.3d 351, 390-91 (6th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted against the City of
to the extent that Plaintiff challenges the validity of his
state criminal proceedings in his complaint, he fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. A claim under § 1983 is an
appropriate remedy for a state prisoner challenging a
condition of his imprisonment, Preiser v. Rodriguez,
411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973), not the validity of continued
confinement. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87
(1994) (holding that a state prisoner does not state a
cognizable civil rights claim challenging his imprisonment if
a ruling on his claim would necessarily render his continuing
confinement invalid, until and unless the reason for his
continued confinement has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal, or called into question by a federal court's
issuance of a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2254). This holds true regardless of the relief sought by the
plaintiff. Id. at 487-89.
and other Supreme Court cases, when “taken together,
indicate that a state prisoner's § 1983 action is
barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter the relief
sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of
the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction
or internal prison proceedings)-if success in that action
would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement
or its duration.” Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544
U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005). The underlying basis for the holding
in Heck is that “civil tort actions are not
appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of
outstanding criminal judgments.” Heck, 512
U.S. at 486. If Plaintiff were to prevail on claims
challenging the validity of his state criminal proceedings,
his convictions would be called into question. Consequently,
any such claims are barred by Heck and must be
reasons stated, the Court concludes that Plaintiff fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted under ...