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Wiggins v. Russell

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

August 21, 2017

RICHARD D. RUSSELL, et al., Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney, United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff's action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Robert Leon Wiggins, a state prisoner currently confined at the Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Hearing Administrator Richard D. Russell, Hearing Officer Thomas O. Morhman, Hearing Investigator R. Mohr, Lieutenant Unknown Maki, Sergeant Unknown Baldini, and Corrections Officer Unknown Kinasz.

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 10, 2016, while he was confined at the Kinross Correctional Facility (KCF), there was a protest in the prison yard. Plaintiff states that he did not participate in the protest and never left his unit. Plaintiff was on his way out of the “cube, ” when the siren blew. The unit officer began his rounds and Plaintiff got back on his bunk. Once the officer finished rounds, Plaintiff walked up the hallway to the officer station, looked at the clock, and then went into the T.V. room.

         Plaintiff states that at some point, prisoners who had been outside at the protest returned to their units and count was taken. After count, there were no call-outs, no yard, and telephone or j-pay use. Later, another count was taken and never cleared, so prisoners continued to be in their cubes. Subsequently, officers left the units and went into the control center. Seconds later, the Emergency Response Team (ERT) emerged and surrounded the units with guns drawn. Prisoners in the cubes were gassed without warning. Prisoners were then ordered to walk backwards with their hands up out of the unit's backdoor.

         Plaintiff was taken to the kitchen, where Defendant Kinasz asked him his name and number. Plaintiff was strip searched in front of other prisoners and numerous officers, including female officers. Plaintiff was then recuffed and shackled and was taken to the Marquette Branch Prison (MBP). Plaintiff arrived at MBP on September 11, 2016, at approximately 3:00 a.m. On September 12, 2016, Plaintiff received an “incite to riot” ticket that had been written by Defendant Maki at KCF. The ticket was dated September 11, 2016, with a time of 1825 hours [6:25 p.m.]. Plaintiff did not receive a review of the ticket within 24 hours as required by MDOC policy. Defendant Mohr gave Plaintiff a form to fill out giving his personal statement of the facts surrounding the misconduct charge. Plaintiff filled out the form and dated it September 13, 2016. He then returned the form to Defendant Mohr. Plaintiff did not receive the documents he requested and was never interviewed by Defendant Mohr.

         On September 19, 2016, Defendant Mohrman conducted a disciplinary hearing, during which Plaintiff was not allowed to hear the witness statements or testimony. Nor was Plaintiff allowed to present witnesses or evidence to verify his story. Plaintiff was found guilty and received 30 days loss of privileges. On September 21, 2016, Plaintiff received a hearing after which he was classified to administrative segregation. Plaintiff's appeal of the misconduct conviction was denied by Defendant Russell.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants' conduct violated his due process rights. Plaintiff seeks costs, compensatory and punitive damages, and equitable relief.


         I. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement, ' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

         Plaintiff claims that the major misconduct charges against him were “false.” A prisoner's ability to challenge a prison misconduct conviction depends on whether the convictions implicated any liberty interest. In the seminal case in this area, Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), the Court prescribed certain minimal procedural safeguards that prison officials must follow before depriving a prisoner of good-time credits on account of alleged misbehavior. The Wolff Court did not create a free-floating right to process that attaches to all prison disciplinary proceedings; rather ...

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