United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Corbett O'Meara United States District Judge.
the court is Defendants Condon, Downard, and McMurtrie's
motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial,
which has been fully briefed. For the reasons explained
below, Defendants' motion is denied.
Randle Griffin filed this action against Defendants Louis
Condon, Gary McMurtrie, and Joseph Doward, alleging that they
violated his First Amendment rights while he was incarcerated
at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan. In
2011, while at Gus Harrison, Plaintiff saw Defendant Condon
assault another inmate, Jeffrey Bryant. The assault was
investigated by Jessica Zimbleman, an investigator from the
Michigan Legislative Corrections Ombudsman's office. In
February 2011, Zimbleman interviewed prisoners at Gus
Harrison, including Plaintiff, in an office next door to
Condon's. See Vol. 1 TR. at 48-50.
time, Plaintiff was a member of the Warden's Forum, which
served to address concerns of the prison population. On March
2, 2011, Plaintiff attended a Warden's Forum meeting,
which ran late. As a result, Plaintiff was late to his job as
a recreational room porter. Plaintiff's start time was
2:30 p.m., but he did not begin his work until sometime after
3 p.m. See Vol. 2 TR at 10-13. Officers McMurtrie
and Downard were present when Plaintiff began his work.
Id. at 12-13. Plaintiff testified that his tardiness
was an “excused absence” because he was at a
Warden's Forum meeting.
Plaintiff finished his assignment, he went to Condon's
office to speak to him about mail delivery. Subsequently,
Condon called Plaintiff back into his office to let him know
that the mail would be delivered as Plaintiff had suggested.
In addition, Plaintiff testified that Condon told him that
“my statement to the ombudsman was going to come back
to bite me in the ass.” Id. at 16.
that day, Plaintiff learned that fellow prisoner Larry
Anthony overheard Condon, McMurtrie, and Downard agreeing to
write false misconduct tickets to “get rid” of
Plaintiff. Id. at 17-18, 126-28. Another prisoner,
Terrance Davis, overheard the same conversation. Vol. 3 TR.
same day (March 2, 2011), Downard issued a misconduct ticket
against Plaintiff for failing to report to work. Vol. 2 TR.
at 20-22. Plaintiff testified that he did not believe the
ticket was justified, because he had come to work late as a
result of the Warden's Forum meeting. Id.
actually received the ticket the next day, March 3, 2011.
When he attempted to report for work, McMurtrie said
“you no longer work for us” and that Plaintiff
was “laid in, ” meaning he had to stay in his
cell until the ticket was resolved. Id. at 22-23.
Plaintiff testified that while he was in his cell that day,
“Officer Downard came past my cell, stopped at my door,
and told me if I didn't like the ticket that was written
on me, do something and they will beat my ass and put me in
the hole until I healed up. And then he called me a rat real
loud, you know, and then walked off.” Id. at
March 4, 2011, Plaintiff received another ticket, written by
McMurtrie. McMurtrie wrote a ticket that Plaintiff was
“out of place” on March 3 because Plaintiff was
not at work. However, McMurtrie had told Plaintiff not to
report to work on March 3 because he was “laid
in.” Id. at 27-28. Plaintiff explained the
situation to the officer on duty, who contacted McMurtrie,
resulting in the dismissal of the ticket.
testified that as a result of the first misconduct ticket, he
lost his job and other privileges and was removed from the
Warden's Forum. At trial, the jury found that each of the
Defendants violated Plaintiff's First Amendment rights
and conspired to violate Plaintiff's First Amendment
rights. The jury awarded Plaintiff a total of $12, 500,
including punitive damages.
Standard of Review
seek judgment in their favor as a matter of law, or a new
trial. In analyzing a motion for judgment as matter of law,
the court does not “weigh the evidence, evaluate the
credibility of witnesses, or substitute [its] judgment for
that of the jury.” Preferred Properties, Inc. v.
Indian River Estates, Inc., 276 F.3d 790, 799
(6th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Instead, the
court views “the evidence in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party and decide[s] if it was sufficient to
raise a genuine issue of material fact for the jury.”
Id. (citation omitted). Granting a motion for
judgment as a matter of law is appropriate ...