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Harris-Bey v. Alcodray

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

July 24, 2017


          Honorable David M. Lawson, Judge


          DAVID M. LAWSON United States District Judge

         The case is before the Court on objections filed by the plaintiff to a report issued by Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford recommending that the defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. The plaintiff, a Michigan prisoner, filed a lawsuit against two prison guards alleging via 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that they violated his constitutional rights by being disrespectful and degrading toward him, firing him from his prison food service position, and filing false misconduct reports as retaliation for constitutionally protected conduct. The Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Stafford to conduct all pretrial proceedings. Thereafter, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies on some of his claims, and the remaining claims should be dismissed as a matter of law. On May 26, 2017, Judge Stafford filed her report recommending that the Court grant the motion and dismiss certain unexhausted claims without prejudice and the remaining claims with prejudice. The plaintiff filed timely objections, and the matter is before the Court for fresh review.


         The facts of the case come from the complaint and the discovery and affidavits summarized in the motion papers. In 2016, plaintiff Curtis Harris-Bey was a prisoner incarcerated in the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility. Defendants John Alcodray and Paul Reasoner were corrections officers there. Harris-Bey alleged in his complaint that beginning on January 20, 2016, Alcodray was “disrespectful” and “degrading” toward him, fired him from his food service job, and retaliated against him by filing false misconduct reports. Harris-Bey asserted that Alcodray called Harris-Bey and other inmates “idiots” for being in prison and did not allow them to speak while working in their food service job. Harris-Bey stated that he informed Alcodray that he could talk and was not being disruptive. He told Alcodray that he was “out of line.” Alcodray responded by firing Harris-Bey from his food service job. Reasoner then sent Harris-Bey back to his cell, where he was confined until the end of his shift.

         According to Harris-Bey, he was told during a call-out assignment to return to work the next day, but when he did, Alcodray told him that he was “laid in” until the misconduct ticket was adjudicated. Alcodray ordered Harris-Bey back to his cell. After returning to his cell, Harris-Bey told Reasoner that Alcodray was abusing his authority. Later that evening, Harris-Bey received a misconduct ticket for disobeying a direct order, that is, not to talk during his work. The report indicated that Harris-Bey had told Alcodray that he “did not have to listen to [Alcodray].” On January 30, 2016, Harris-Bey was found not guilty of the reported misconduct, which he contends was written out of retaliation for returning to work and telling Reasoner that he was abusing his authority.

         On January 22, 2016, Reasoner gave Harris-Bey a second misconduct ticket; Harris-Bey contends that the defendants “collaborated” against him on that charge. The ticket described Harris-Bey returning to work after being “laid in, ” which Reasoner wrote was a “direct contradiction of my order not to report.” Harris-Bey was found guilty and received ten days of lost privileges. Harris-Bey asserted that the second misconduct report also was written out of retaliation.

         On February 8, 2016, Harris-Bey was allowed to return to work, but alleged that Alcodray told him two days later to “get out of the kitchen, no matter what your pass, classification, or any body [sic] says.” After reporting the incident to the warden, Harris-Bey was allowed to return to work. Harris-Bey alleges that on March 3, 2016, Alcodray called him into work and “immediately started threatening and attempted to cause intimidation, telling plaintiff to stop filing grievances on him or he will be a sorry ass.” Harris-Bey asserted that all of these alleged actions constituted retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights.

         On July 13, 2016, Harris-Bey, proceeding pro se, filed his complaint against Alcodray and Reasoner for deprivation of civil rights. The Court referred this case to the magistrate judge for general case management. The defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment. The magistrate judge filed her report and recommendation on May 26, 2017.

         In their motion, the defendants argued that the plaintiff cannot proceed on three of his claims because he did not exhaust his administrative remedies by following the procedures established by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). They point to the claim that Reasoner improperly confined the plaintiff to his cell on January 21, 2016, Alcodray's alleged retaliation, and Reasoner's retaliatory misconduct report of January 22, 2016. They conceded that the remaining claims were exhausted properly, but they argued that they are entitled to qualified immunity on those. The magistrate rejected the exhaustion argument on Alcodray's retaliation, but suggested that the other two claims were not exhausted properly and should be dismissed without prejudice. She also recommended that the rest of the claims failed to establish constitutional violations, so the qualified immunity defense should succeed. She recommended that the properly-exhausted claims be dismissed with prejudice.


         Harris-Bey filed timely objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. Objections to a report and recommendation are reviewed de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). “A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge . . . may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Sixth Circuit has stated that “[o]verly general objections do not satisfy the objection requirement.” Spencer v. Bouchard, 449 F.3d 721, 725 (6th Cir. 2006). “The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995). “‘[O]bjections disput[ing] the correctness of the magistrate's recommendation but fail[ing] to specify the findings . . . believed [to be] in error' are too general.” Spencer, 449 F.3d at 725 (quoting Miller, 50 F.3d at 380).


         The defendants did not object to the report, including the magistrate judge's rejection of their exhaustion defense on the retaliation claim against Alcodray. “[T]he failure to file specific objections to a magistrate's report constitutes a waiver of those ...

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