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Clifford v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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

August 22, 2017

JONATHAN CLIFFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.

          OPINION

          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 federal claims will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, and Plaintiff's state claims will be dismissed without prejudice.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Jonathan Clifford presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC). He sues the MDOC and the following IBC officials: Lieutenant (unknown) Moyer; Captain (unknown) McBride; Resident Unit Manager (unknown) Mote; Prisoner Counselor (unknown) Buchin; Deputy Warden (unknown) Davids; and Hearings Officers (unknown) Novak and S. Burke.

         Plaintiff was brought to segregation on a notice of intent (NOI) to conduct a drug analysis issued on December 10, 2016. Plaintiff requested a hearings investigator, together with relevant documents and witnesses. Plaintiff's hearing was scheduled for Monday, December 12, 2016. However, Plaintiff did not receive a hearings investigator, and his hearing did not take place on December 12. Instead, on December 14, 2016, Plaintiff was issued a misconduct ticket, apparently for substance abuse, though the date of the alleged misconduct was listed as December 10, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that prison policy requires that a misconduct ticket be issued and reviewed within 24 hours of the alleged conduct. Plaintiff filed a grievance, which was denied at Step I by Defendant Moyer, in collaboration with Defendant McBride. The grievance response explained the delay in the hearing by “falsely” stating that Plaintiff had been charged with a misconduct the same day his hearing was scheduled, December 12, 2016, rather than on December 14, 2016, as Plaintiff alleges. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.3, 8.) The grievance subsequently was denied at Steps II and III of the grievance process.

         Plaintiff remained in segregation for six months, apparently on a Michigan State Police (MSP) hold, while the police determined whether Plaintiff should be criminally charged for using suboxone.[1] (Compl., ECF No. 1 PageID.13.) Plaintiff alleges that the Security Classification Committee (SCC) kept him in segregation, despite the fact that his misconduct charge should have been dismissed because his hearing was not held in a timely manner. Plaintiff acknowledges that he was convicted of the misconduct charge and he does not dispute that he was guilty of possessing or using suboxone. But he claims that he is not guilty of the misconduct because the charge should have been dropped when MDOC policy was not followed: the misconduct charge was filed too late and he did not receive review on his charge until December 14, rather than December 12, 2016. (Id., PageID.12.)

         Plaintiff contends that Defendants violated his right to due process by failing to follow MDOC policy, failing to conduct a timely hearing under the policy, and failing to process and investigate his grievances appropriately. He also claims that he was kept in segregation too long as a result of racial discrimination, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, because an unidentified white prisoner, who was a “drug dealer, ” was released from segregation after a shorter period of time. (Id., PageID.11.) In addition, he complains that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment rights when he was not given due process within the “180 day rule.” (Id., PageID.9.) Further, he asserts that his placement in segregation is the product of “racial discrimination, under false pretenses of a (MSP) hold . . . .” (Id., PageID.10.) Petitioner also alleges that his treatment violated the Michigan constitution in a variety of ways.[2]

         Plaintiff contends that he has experienced pain and suffering by remaining in segregation without a television, losing his job privileges, and having limited library access, which made it difficult for him to complete his motion for relief from judgment under Mich. Ct. R. 6.502. He asserts that he

is suing all SCC board members, IBC staff and facility, officers Lt. Moyer, Cpt. McBride, hearings officers, Novak, S. Burke, and deputy warden Davids, for all of these lies, perjury within a grievance, due process violation within an [NOI], falsified documentation, false pretenses of an MSP hold, PD. 03.05.115 time limitations to write a major misconduct, violation of 14th Amendment due process, 6th Amendment 180 day rule violation, 4th Amendment right to a fair trial during tribulation, cor[r]upt officials, and covering up material facts to hide their anomalies, in which all caused a major pain and suffering, and psychological damage to the prisoner Clifford.

(Id., PageID.12.)

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks $2.2 million in compensatory damages for the alleged violations. He also seeks an order vacating his misconduct conviction and returning him to confinement at security classification Level II, together with all of the privileges associated with Level II.[3]

         Discussion

         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 ยง 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under ...


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