United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
CHRISTOPHER T. CURETON, Plaintiff,
PORT HURON POLICE DEPARTMENT, CITY OF PORT HURON PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, OFFICER MOAK, OFFICER PIKE, and CITY OF PORT HURON, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT
M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Michigan parolee Christopher T. Cureton of Port
Huron, Michigan, filed a pro se civil rights
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He named as defendants
the City of Port Huron, Michigan, the City's prosecuting
attorney, the Port Huron Police Department, and two Port
Huron police officers identified only as Officer Moak and
Officer Pike. The complaint alleges that the defendants
deprived the plaintiff of his rights under various sections
of the United States Constitution when they arrested and
prosecuted him for strangling a woman. The plaintiff seeks
money damages and the expungement of all felonies from his
factual premises of the complaint are spare and, in some
instances, difficult to parse. However, the following basic
facts are discernible. On or about March 11, 2014, defendants
Moak and Pike arrested the plaintiff on a charge of
strangling a female on a bus in Port Huron. Subsequently,
after a three-month stay in the “Forensic Center,
” the plaintiff was brought back to court, where he
alleges that he was coerced into pleading guilty to the
strangulation charge in exchange for the dismissal of a
habitual offender notice. The plaintiff contends that he was
unlawfully jailed without evidence, denied the effective
assistance of counsel, threatened for exercising his rights,
and that he was the victim of perjury and a criminal
conspiracy. He claims that the defendants' conduct
transgressed his rights under the First, Second, Fourth,
Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Tenth, Eleventh, Thirteenth, and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and
under various state and federal statutes.
as here, a plaintiff has asked the Court to waive fees and
costs because he cannot afford to pay them, the Court has an
obligation to screen the case for merit and dismiss the case
if it “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A complaint is
frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989);
see also Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32
(1992). “A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or
fact if it . . . is based on legal theories that are
indisputably meritless.” Brown v. Bargery, 207
F.3d 863, 866 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Neitzke, 490
U.S. at 327-28). In addition, Congress mandated in the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) that the Court screen for
colorable merit every prisoner complaint filed against any
state official or government entity. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a) (“The court shall review, before docketing, if
feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after
docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner
seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity.”).
a pro se litigant's complaint must be construed
liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007), “[t]he leniency granted to pro se [litigants] .
. . is not boundless.” Martin v. Overton, 391
F.3d 710, 714 (6th Cir. 2004). The screening mandated by
Congress in section 1915(e)(2) includes the obligation to
dismiss civil complaints filed by prospective pro se filers
if they “fail to state a claim on which relief may be
granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii);
McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir.
1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock,
549 U.S. 199 (2007). To avoid dismissal, a complaint must
include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Court may dismiss
a complaint on its own initiative if the complaint lacks an
arguable basis when filed. Goodell v. Anthony, 157
F.Supp.2d 796, 799 (E.D. Mich. 2001).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
set forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1)
the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under
the color of state law.” Dominguez v. Corr. Med.
Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Sigley v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533
(6th Cir. 2006)). The plaintiff must establish the liability
of each individual defendant by that person's own
conduct. “Because vicarious liability is inapplicable
[in] § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official's own
individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009).
plaintiff's complaint is subject to dismissal under
sections 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b) for several reasons.
First, the plaintiff is challenging an allegedly
false arrest, the ensuring conviction, and a term of
imprisonment from which he evidently has been released on
parole. However, the only proper avenue of attack against a
state court conviction in a federal court is a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411
U.S. 475, 500 (1973). In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477 (1994), the Supreme Court held that a plaintiff seeking
relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 cannot proceed on a claim
when allowing him to do so would call into question the
propriety of a prior criminal conviction that has not been
set aside or expunged by judicial or executive action. The
Court held that, “in order to recover damages for
allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for
other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render
a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff
must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed
on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared
invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such
determination, or called into question by a federal
court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.”
Id. at 486-87. The plaintiff has not alleged, or
even suggested, that his conviction has been set aside,
expunged, or invalidated by any state or federal court, or by
the action of any other government official.
the City prosecutor is absolutely immune from any liability
under § 1983 for conduct “‘intimately
associated with the judicial phase of the criminal
process.'” Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478,
486 (1991) (quoting Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S.
409, 430 (1976)); see also Koubriti v. Convertino,
593 F.3d 459, 467 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that functions
which “serve as an ‘integral part of the judicial
process' or that are ‘intimately associated with
the judicial process' are absolutely immune from civil
suits”). This immunity extends to a prosecutor's
“conduct in ‘initiating a prosecution and in
presenting the State's case.'” Burns,
500 U.S. at 486 (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431).
The prosecutor's conduct in charging and pursuing the
case against the plaintiff indisputably comprises acts that
are an “integral part of the judicial process.”
The plaintiff implies that the prosecutor suborned perjury,
but prosecutorial immunity extends even to the knowing use of
false testimony, and to allegedly malicious prosecutions.
Spurlock v. Thompson, 330 F.3d 791, 797 (6th Cir.
2003) (citing Imbler, 424 U.S. at 413;
Burns, 500 U.S. at 485 n.4).
the plaintiff's only allegations about Officers Moak and
Pike are that they arrested him. To the extent the plaintiff
seeks to hold Officers Moak and Pike liable for his
subsequent conviction, any such claim is barred by
Heck. The plaintiff contends that he was unlawfully
prosecuted because there was no evidence against him, but in
his complaint he alleges that he was convicted after he
pleaded guilty to the charges against him, and, where the
conviction has not been overturned, Heck plainly
bars any action for malicious-prosecution. Parker v.
Phillips, 27 F. App'x 491, 493 (6th Cir. 2001)
(“[Heck v. Humphrey] applies to bar
Parker's claim, whether construed as one for false
imprisonment or malicious prosecution. The prosecution has
not yet terminated in Parker's favor, [and] [i]f any such
prosecution ends in a conviction, Parker must have the
conviction overturned on direct appeal or via collateral
attack before any claims can accrue.”).
as to the City of Port Huron, certainly
“[m]unicipalities are considered ‘persons'
within the meaning of section 1983, ” Hirmuz v.
City of Madison Heights, 469 F.Supp. 466 484 (E.D. Mich.
2007), and they therefore can be subjected to liability under
section 1983. But municipal entities “are responsible
only for their own illegal acts, ” and a municipality
is “not vicariously liable under § 1983 for [its]
employees' actions.” Connick v. Thompson,
563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011) (citations and quotation marks
omitted). “Instead, a municipality is liable under
§ 1983 only where, ‘through its deliberate
conduct, ' it was the ‘moving force' behind the
injury alleged.” Shehee v. Saginaw Cty., 86
F.Supp.3d 704, 711 (E.D. Mich. 2015) (quoting
D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 386 (6th
Cir. 2014)). In other words, “a municipality cannot be
held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat
superior theory.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). Instead, a plaintiff
asserting a section 1983 claim against a municipal entity
must show that the action alleged to be unconstitutional
implements a municipal policy or custom. Id. at
690-91. The plaintiff has not identified any municipal policy
or custom that he contends led to his arrest and conviction,
nor has he alleged any facts plausibly to suggest that any
municipal custom or policy caused any of the alleged
deprivations of his constitutional rights.
the plaintiff's vague passing reference to a denial of
medical attention while he was incarcerated is bereft of any
illuminating factual details to suggest that any
constitutionally cognizable mistreatment occurred during his
prison stay. Unadorned claims of unspecified constitutional
transgressions lacking any factual support are insufficient
to state a plausible claim for relief under section 1983.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555-57; Terrance v. Northville Reg'l Psychiatric
Hosp., 286 F.3d 834, 842 (6th Cir. 2002). In order to
state a plausible claim, the plaintiff must “provide
detail as to how each defendant allegedly violated his
constitutional rights.” Ridgeway v. Kentucky,
510 F. App'x 412, 413 (6th Cir. 2013). To prevail on an
Eighth Amendment claim for denial of medical attention, the
plaintiff must “prove a ‘sufficiently
serious' medical need, ” and that the defendants
“had a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind,
'” Santiago v. Ringle, 734 F.3d 585, 590
(6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834 (1994)). The plaintiff has not alleged any facts to
establish that he suffered from a serious medical condition,
and he has not described anything that any of the defendants
did or failed to do to deprive him of needed medical
treatment. He also has not alleged any facts plausibly to
suggest that any of the named defendants knew anything about
his medical needs and deliberately chose to ignore them. The
Eighth Amendment claim therefore lacks any plausible factual
the plaintiff also has failed sufficiently to describe any
cognizable claim under the Thirteenth Amendment. The
Thirteenth Amendment states that “[n]either slavery nor
involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime
whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall
exist within the United States, or any place subject to their
jurisdiction.” U.S. Const. Am. XIII, § 1 (emphasis
added). This claim, like the plaintiff's allusion to a
denial of medical treatment, is devoid of any factual detail,
and the plaintiff evidently contends merely that his unlawful
imprisonment constitutes “slavery” or
“involuntary servitude.” However, the Thirteenth
Amendment expressly excludes from its protections those who
are subjected to confinement as punishment for criminal
convictions, and this claim plainly lacks merit. Williams
v. Henagan, 595 F.3d 610, 621 (5th Cir. 2010) ...