United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Morris Weatherspoon, a prisoner currently incarcerated with
the Michigan Department of Corrections, has sued Defendants,
John Thibault, Michael McDowell, and Kim Esslin, alleging a
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that Defendants violated
Weatherspoon's First Amendment rights by retaliating
against him for filing grievances against Defendants'
co-workers. Weatherspoon alleges that Defendants retaliated
against him by issuing a false misconduct ticket for
possession of a weapon plus some related acts-e.g. being in a
six man cell for 30 minutes. Weatherspoon's claim was
tried to the Court on June 14, 2017. The Court heard
testimony from Weatherspoon and Defendants and received
exhibits from both parties.
Court now issues its findings of fact and conclusions of law.
alleged retaliation occurred at Kinross Correctional
Facility. Weatherspoon arrived at Kinross on September 11,
2012. Weatherspoon had previously been incarcerated at
Chippewa Correctional Facility. On September 16, 2012,
Defendant Thibault conducted a random search of
Weatherspoon's cell at Kinross and found an eight-inch
homemade knife or “shank” in Weatherspoon's
defined area of control. Defendant Thibault confiscated the
shank, secured Weatherspoon's property, and notified
Defendant Esslin. At 1815, or 6:15 p.m., Defendant Thibault
wrote a misconduct report, stating that he found the shank at
1715, or 5:15 p.m. Soon thereafter, Defendant Esslin reviewed
the misconduct ticket, but made a clerical error in writing
the time of the review as 1709, or 5:09 p.m.
the incident, Defendant Esslin made arrangements for
Weatherspoon to be taken to administrative segregation.
Defendant McDowell, who was working in segregation that day,
was identified on the misconduct ticket as the officer who
was notified of Weatherspoon's transfer to segregation.
At the time Weatherspoon was taken to segregation, he
reported thoughts of self-harm to Defendant Esslin. Defendant
Esslin notified healthcare about Weatherspoon's
statements of self-harm.
was placed in a six-man cell in segregation. Weatherspoon was
not housed with any prisoner with a predator/sexual risk
behavior prisoner or, if he was housed with such an inmate,
no Defendant was aware of that fact. Weatherspoon remained in
the six-man cell for about 30 minutes, after which time he
was taken to healthcare and placed in an observation unit.
Weatherspoon remained in the observation unit for about nine
days. Weatherspoon was subsequently returned to segregation
and, eventually, to the general population.
September 25, 2012, a hearing was held on the misconduct
ticket. Weatherspoon attended and pled not guilty. The
hearing officer dismissed the misconduct for the following
There is no showing that the misconduct was reviewed within
24 hour [sic] pursuant to PD 03.03.105 which is required and
the date and time the misconduct was written was 9-16-12 at
1815 hrs and the review time indicates it was done at 9-16-12
at 1720 hrs before the miscondut [sic] was written and there
is no statement as to the correct review time and as a result
the misconduct is dismissed.
(Defs.' Ex. B at 190.) Defendant Esslin was not contacted by
the hearings officer or the hearings investigator about the
time discrepancy on the misconduct report. Had either
individual contacted Esslin for an explanation, Esslin would
have explained the error and the misconduct ticket likely
would not have been dismissed.
did not file any grievance between the date he arrived at
Kinross and September 16, 2012, when Defendant Thibault found
the shank. While at Chippewa, however, Weatherspoon had filed
a substantial number of grievances and, for that reason, was
placed on modified access for grievances. Defendants
Thibault, Esslin, and McDowell were unaware of
Weatherspoon's grievance history at Chippewa or any other
facility when the events of September 16, 2012, occurred.
There is no motive for any Defendant to have retaliated
based upon a prisoner's exercise of his constitutional
rights violates the Constitution. See Thaddeus-X v.
Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 394 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). In
order to establish a First Amendment retaliation claim, a
plaintiff must prove that: (1) he engaged in protected
conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against him that
would deter a person of ordinary firmness from engaging in
that conduct; and (3) the adverse action was motivated, at
least in part, by the protected conduct. Id.
Moreover, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the exercise
of the protected right was a substantial or motivating factor
in the defendant's alleged retaliatory conduct. See
Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1037 (6th Cir. 2001)
(citing Mount Healty City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v.
Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287, 97 S.Ct. 568, 576 (1977)).
retaliation claim fails on the second and third elements.
Although Weatherspoon engaged in protected conduct while at
Chippewa, he has failed to prove that any Defendant took an
adverse action against him. Defendant Thibault did not
“plant” the shank in Weatherspoon's
belongings, but instead found it during a random search.
Defendant Esslin properly reviewed the ticket that Defendant
Thibault wrote and mistakenly wrote the wrong time of the
review on the misconduct ticket. Defendants Thibault and
Esslin did not fabricate the misconduct ticket, and
Weatherspoon may well have been convicted of the misconduct
had Defendant Esslin been asked to explain the ...