United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
HONORABLE PAUL L. MALONEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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 Leece, Horrocks, Laitinen, Viitala, Huss,
and Napel for failure to state a claim.
is presently incarcerated within the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF) in
Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. The events about which he
complains, however, occurred at the Marquette Branch Prison
(MBP) in Marquette, Marquette County, Michigan. Plaintiff
sues Corrections Officer Unknown Leece, Prison Counselor
Becky Horrocks, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Michael T.
Laitinen, Assistant Resident Unit Manager Darrin Viitala,
Deputy Warden of Housing Erica Huss, and Warden Robert Napel.
alleges that on Sunday, March 13, 2016, he was assaulted by
Prisoner Robert Lee Brooks #294879. Plaintiff states that
Prisoner Brooks used a weapon, which caused
“superficial abrasions that needed medical
attention” and left scarring on Plaintiff's body.
Sometime after the assault, Defendant Leece came to
Plaintiff's cell when it was time for yard and asked
Plaintiff why he was wearing shower shoes. Plaintiff stated
that he was not going to yard and only wanted to mail two
items and return to his cell. Defendant Leece told Plaintiff
that if he came out of his cell, he must go to yard, or he
would receive a ticket for being out of place. Defendant
Leece was aware of the fact that Plaintiff had been assaulted
and had been returned from yard for his own protection.
Plaintiff asked Defendant Leece if he would mail his items,
but Defendant Leece refused. Plaintiff claims that this was
his only opportunity to mail his items and that other
officers have allowed him to mail items during yard time and
return to his cell without going to yard. Plaintiff states
that he is a “pre-op transgender” prisoner and
that the scars he received have caused him to suffer
states that Defendant Horrocks conducted an investigation
into the assault and wanted Plaintiff to “lock up for
protection.” Plaintiff refused protective custody
because he did not believe that he should be punished for
being assaulted. Plaintiff alleges that MBP is well known for
locking up gay and transgender prisoners. Defendant Horrocks
recommended that Plaintiff be placed in involuntary
protective segregation. Defendant Laitinen went along with
Plaintiff was in segregation, he had an incident with his
mattress, which was in poor condition. Defendant Laitinen
expected Plaintiff to continue using the mattress, stating
that Plaintiff should be grateful to have a “home away
from home.” Plaintiff filed a grievance and Defendant
Laitinen eventually told corrections officers to swap
Plaintiff's mattress with another, less damaged mattress.
Plaintiff put a plastic bag cover over the mattress because
it was dirty, smelled liked stale / sour body odor, and the
vinyl was ripped open.
states that Defendant Viitala failed to promptly check into
complaints and to cover-up staff misconduct in response to
grievances. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Huss is
supposed to ensure that housing units are in compliance with
MDOC regulations, but that she allows the deputy warden's
staffers to do as they please so long as they do not do it in
front of her. Plaintiff overheard Defendant Huss tell another
prisoner that her job is easy and merely a way to pay her
bills. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Napel allows his
subordinates to do as they please and fails to provide proper
supervision. Plaintiff claims that Defendants' conduct
has caused him permanent psychological scarring.
seeks damages and equitable relief.
Failure to state a claim
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)).
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).
the Court notes that Plaintiff fails to make specific factual
allegations against Defendants Viitala, Huss, and Napel,
other than his claim that they failed to conduct an
investigation in response to his grievances or to properly
supervise their subordinates. Government officials may not be
held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their
subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior or
vicarious liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676;
Monell v. New York City Dep t of Soc. Servs., 436
U.S. 658, 691(1978); Everson v. Leis,556 F.3d 484,
495 (6th Cir. 2009). A claimed constitutional violation must
be based upon active unconstitutional behavior. Grinter
v. Knight,532 F.3d 567, 575-76 (6th Cir. 2008);
Greene v. Barber,310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002).
The acts of one's subordinates are not enough, nor can
supervisory liability be based upon the mere failure to act.
Grinter, 532 F.3d at 576; Greene, 310 F.3d
at 899; Summers v. Leis,368 F.3d 881, 888 (6th Cir.
2004). Moreover, Section 1983 liability may not be imposed
simply because a supervisor denied an administrative
grievance or failed to act based upon information contained
in a grievance. See Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d
295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). A[A] plaintiff must plead that ...