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Grubbs v. Michigan Parole Board

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

September 28, 2017

JOHNNY GRUBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN PAROLE BOARD, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          GORDON J. QUIST 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, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants Michigan Parole Board, Wilson, Jennings, King, Belk, Brown, Runyan, and Unknown Party for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at Newberry Correctional Facility (NCF) in Newberry, Luce County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred while he was confined at the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco, Gogebic County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the Michigan Parole Board, Parole Board Members Sandra A. Wilson, Melissa K. Jennings, Anthony King, Kevin Belk, and Charles Brown, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Unknown Runyan, and Unknown Party named as John Doe.

         Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that Defendants improperly considered his own misstatement of the facts in a previous parole interview to justify denying Plaintiff parole. Plaintiff states that after his first interview with the parole board, Defendant Runyan spent the next year trying to convince Plaintiff to say that he followed the victim and shot him like a dog in the streets. Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Runyan worked with the parole board to “coerce, intimidate, threaten, ” and admonish Plaintiff into exaggerating the events surrounding his crime during his second interview. Plaintiff states that the parole board has since determined that his retelling of the events of the crime during his second interview were “either inaccurate, incorrect, irrelevant, or inadmissible.” Plaintiff claims that despite this determination, the parole board has based all of its decisions on the second interview. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Runyan told Plaintiff that he would hand deliver Plaintiff's relapse/recidivism prevention plan to the parole board, but that Defendant Runyan failed to deliver the plan. Plaintiff attaches a copy of a December 12, 2016, letter from the Michigan Parole Board, which informed Plaintiff that he had been denied parole for the reasons stated in the Notice of Decision.

         Plaintiff seeks an order for an investigation into Plaintiff's parole proceedings. Plaintiff also seeks to be paroled.

         II. 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); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). 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).

         Initially, the Court notes that Plaintiff's claims against the Michigan Parole Board are barred. The Michigan Parole Board is part of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Mich. Comp. Laws ' 791.231a(1). 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. 1994). 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). Therefore, the Michigan Parole Board, as part of the Michigan Department of Corrections, is immune from injunctive and monetary relief. See Horton v. Martin, 137 F.App'x 773, 775 (6th Cir. 2005) (Michigan Parole Board entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity); Lee v. Mich. Parole Bd., 104 F.App'x 490, 492 (6th Cir. 2004) (same); Fleming v. Martin, 24 F.App'x 258, 259 (6th Cir. 2001) (same).

         Plaintiff appears to be claiming that Defendants violated his due process rights by improperly denying him parole based on a previous parole interview. To establish a procedural due process violation, a plaintiff must prove that (1) he was deprived of a protected liberty or property interest, and (2) such deprivation occurred without the requisite due process of law. Club Italia Soccer & Sports Org., Inc. v. Charter Twp. of Shelby, 470 F.3d 286, 296 (6th Cir. 2006); see also Swihart v. Wilkinson, 209 F.App'x 456, 458 (6th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff fails to raise a claim of constitutional magnitude because he has no liberty interest in being released on parole. There is no constitutional or inherent right to be conditionally released before the expiration of a prison sentence. Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal & Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979). Although a state may establish a parole system, it has no duty to do so; thus, the presence of a parole system by itself does not give rise to a constitutionally protected liberty interest in parole release. Id. at 7, 11; Bd. of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 373 (1987). Rather, a liberty interest is present only if state law entitles an inmate to release on parole. Inmates of Orient Corr. Inst. v. Ohio State Adult Parole Auth., 929 F.2d 233, 235 (6th Cir. 1991).

         In Sweeton v. Brown, 27 F.3d 1162, 1164-65 (6th Cir. 1994) (en banc), the Sixth Circuit, noting ''the broad powers of the Michigan authorities to deny parole, '' held that the Michigan system does not create a liberty interest in parole. The Sixth Circuit reiterated the continuing validity of Sweeton in Crump v. Lafler, 657 F.3d 393, 404 (6th Cir. 2011). In Crump, the court held that the adoption of specific parole guidelines since Sweeton does not lead to the conclusion that parole release is mandated upon reaching a high probability of parole. See id.; see also Carnes v. Engler, 76 F.App'x 79, 80 (6th Cir. 2003). In addition, the Sixth Circuit has rejected the argument that the Due Process Clause is implicated when changes to parole procedures and practices have resulted in incarcerations that exceed the subjective expectation of the sentencing judge. See Foster v. Booker, 595 F.3d 353, 369 (6th Cir. 2010). Finally, the Michigan Supreme Court has recognized that there exists no liberty interest in parole under the Michigan system. Glover v. Mich. Parole Bd., 596 N.W.2d 598, 603-04 (Mich. 1999).

         Until Plaintiff has served his maximum sentence, he has no reasonable expectation of liberty. The discretionary parole system in Michigan holds out ''no more than a mere hope that the benefit will be obtained.'' Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 11. The Michigan Parole Board's failure or refusal to consider Plaintiff for parole, therefore, implicates no federal right. In the ...


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