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Goldman v. State

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

September 21, 2017

LANCE ADAM GOLDMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MICHIGAN, Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Lance Adam Goldman presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Parnall Correctional Facility (SMT). Plaintiff sues the State of Michigan and its Department of Corrections, MDOC Director Heidi Washington, SMT Warden Melinda Braman, and SMT Nurse Jim (unknown).

         Plaintiff arrived at SMT on June 26, 2017. He complains that A-Unit of SMT is dirty and mold-infested, and that, because one bathroom is under construction, he is exposed to chemicals and fumes and lacks adequate access to bathroom facilities. He contends that the dirty, damp, dusty, and moldy conditions are dangerous to prisoner health and safety and that Defendants have elected to disregard the unsanitary conditions.

         On August 14, 2017, Plaintiff developed flu-like symptoms. On August 16, 2017, he sought urgent medical care, because he was coughing up “green and yellow phlegm with black specs.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.6.) Defendant Nurse Jim examined him, but merely provided him five packs of Aypanal, a type of acetominophen. Nurse Jim did not schedule a follow-up appointment. Later that day, Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant Washington, complaining about Nurse Jim's “obvious inadequate medical care and treatment.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he continued to be ill as of the filing of his complaint on August 21, 2017, and that he was feverish and coughing up mucus that contained specks of blood.

         Plaintiff also alleges that, beginning on August 1, 2017, he served five days of toplock and 30 days' loss of privileges, after being convicted of a Class-II misconduct. At the end of his toplock period, he allegedly did not receive out-of-cell recreation time, as he should have under the policy. He argues that being kept from out-of-cell exercise for 30 days during his loss-of-privileges sanction amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation.

         Plaintiff acknowledges that he has not exhausted his administrative remedies, noting that he filed his grievance at the same time he filed his complaint. He argues that exhausting the grievance process would be futile, so he seeks immediate relief in this Court. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, together with compensatory and punitive damages.

         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 § 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).

         A. State of Michigan & MDOC

         Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983 action against the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Corrections. Regardless of the form of relief requested, the states and their departments are immune under the Eleventh Amendment from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived immunity or Congress has expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); O'Hara v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and the State of Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986). In numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth Circuit has specifically held that the MDOC is absolutely immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment, regardless of the form of relief requested by the Plaintiff. See, e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App'x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No. 00-1182, 2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In addition, the State of Michigan (acting through the Michigan Department of ...


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