United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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) (PLRA), 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 as to the Bureau of Health Care
Services, but will order service on Heidi Washington, the
Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections
is presently incarcerated with the MDOC at Michigan
Reformatory (RMI). Plaintiff sues the MDOC's Bureau of
Health Care Services.
alleges that when he was incarcerated at the Charles Egeler
Reception and Guidance Center in April 2016, a physician
recommended that he have all of his teeth removed due to
periodontal gum disease. Plaintiff had eight of his teeth
pulled at that facility. The physician told him to tell the
physician at the next facility that Plaintiff was
“having stomach problems and having a hard time
eating.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) Plaintiff had
the remainder of his teeth pulled on August 30, 2016, after
he transferred to the Thumb Correctional Facility. A month
later, he sent a kite to Defendant requesting dentures. He
was told that he would have to wait for his two-year routine
checkup. He transferred to RMI on October 28, 2016. Again, he
sent a kite to Defendant and asked about dentures, and again
he was told that he would have to wait for his routine
checkup. He asserts that he should not have to wait two years
for dentures. He wrote a grievance about the issue and it was
denied. According to Plaintiff, the grievance was denied
because of MDOC policy.
indicates that he would like the Court to “solve the
problem” and to “hold them accountable” for
what Defendant has put him through. (Id., PageID.5.)
The Court construes this as a request for damages and for
prospective injunctive relief.
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. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins,
487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
does not state a viable claim against the Bureau of Health
Care Services because it is immune from suit in this Court.
Regardless of the form of relief requested, the states and
their departments, including the MDOC, 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 in federal courts under the Eleventh
Amendment. See, e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F.
App'x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010). As a division of the
MDOC, the Bureau of Health Care Services is also entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Coston v. Corizon,
Inc., No. 1:17-cv-249, 2017 WL 1206263, at *2 (W.D.
Mich. Apr. 3, 2017) (holding that the Bureau of Health Care
Services is immune from suit); Longwish v. Mich.
Dep't of Corr. Bureau of Health Care Servs., No.
12-cv-53, 2012 WL 443023, at *1 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 10, 2012)
addition, because Defendant is a department of the state, it
is not a “person” who may be sued under §
1983 for money damages. See Lapides v. Bd. of
Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002) (holding that a state is
not a person who may be sued for money damages under §
1983, citing Will v. Mich. Dep't of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989)).
the Bureau of Health Care Services is not subject to suit in
this Court, construing Plaintiff's complaint generously,
the Court believes that Plaintiff intended to sue the
individual responsible for implementing MDOC policy.
Plaintiff alleges that he is unable to receive dentures due
to MDOC policy, and he ostensibly claims that this policy is
unconstitutional. In other words, Plaintiff seeks relief
from a MDOC policy that prevents him from receiving dentures
for up to two years because he has to wait for a routine
dental appointment. Other prisoners in the MDOC have
challenged this same policy, arguing in a putative class
action that it violates the Eighth Amendment. See
Johannes v. Washington, No. 14-cv-11691 (E.D.
proper defendant for a challenge to MDOC policy is the
MDOC's policymaker, MDOC Director Heidi Washington. Thus,
the Court will substitute Director Washington as the
defendant in this action. At this stage of the proceedings,
the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff's allegations
suffice to state a claim under § ...