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Smith v. Pallas

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

November 17, 2017

D.J. PALLAS et al., Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney 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) (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 against all Defendants, except for Defendants Goulet and Vanderwagen.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Derrick Lee Smith is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Muskegon Correctional Facility (MCF) in Muskegon County, Michigan. In his amended complaint, [1] Plaintiff sues the following employees of the MDOC: Administrative Law Examiner / Hearing Officer D.J. Pallas; Hearing Administrator Richard Russell; Corrections Officers (unknown) Goulet and (unknown) Vanderwagen; General Office Administrator Mail Room Clerks J. Dietz, A. Karel, A. Hall, and S. Payton; Transfer Coordinator Brianna Newton-Newman; Director Heidi Washington; Director of the Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) Shawn Cassidy; and Corrections Facility Administrator Norma Killough. He also sues former MDOC employee Manuela Anna Briki, Nurse Juliette Bird (a former Sheriff's Deputy for the Detroit Police Department), Detective Virginia Wilkinson of the Detroit Police Department, Wayne County Circuit Court Records Office Supervisor Stacy Bernardo, and an individual located in Florida, Tray Hollenbeck.

         A. Substance Abuse Misconduct

         Defendants Goulet and Vanderwagen allegedly lied on November 22, 2016, and December 2, 2016, about finding tobacco products on a “homemade shelf” in an area under Plaintiff's control. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 13, PageID.152.) Plaintiff contends that they planted evidence to support these lies, and their purpose was to retaliate against Plaintiff, because Plaintiff had filed a lawsuit against their co-workers, Farber and Lemaire. Vanderwagen allegedly convinced Goulet to search Plaintiff's cell based on a false pretext, so that they could plant the evidence. Plaintiff also alleges that Goulet and Vanderwagen destroyed his “legal work” when searching his cell. (Id., PageID.158.)

         Apparently, as a result of Goulet and Vanderwagen's actions, Plaintiff was charged with substance abuse. On December 2, 2016, Officer Pallas conducted a misconduct hearing for the charge of substance abuse. At the beginning of the hearing, Pallas told Plaintiff that he was aware of Plaintiff's lawsuits against Pallas' friends, Farber and Lemaire. Pallas allegedly stated that he would find Plaintiff guilty based solely on those lawsuits. Plaintiff asked that Pallas to recuse himself, but Pallas refused to do so. Pallas then found Plaintiff guilty for reasons that Plaintiff contends are false. Pallas told Plaintiff that he would put falsehoods into the reasons for his findings to ensure that Plaintiff would know not to file another lawsuit against one of Pallas' co-workers.

         Plaintiff apparently requested a rehearing and Defendant Russell denied Plaintiff's request. According to Plaintiff, Russell denied the request because “the previous out of place ticket counts as a substance abuse ticket.” (Id., PageID.150.) Plaintiff claims that this is a “false” reason to deny a request for a rehearing. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Russell did not follow state law or procedure.

         Plaintiff sought judicial review of the misconduct decision in state court. In the state-court proceedings, Russell allegedly claimed that he did not sign the decision denying Plaintiff's request for a rehearing, but the state court rejected this argument. Russell also apparently claimed that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies, but the state court rejected this argument as well. The state court eventually denied Plaintiff's appeal for reasons that are not identified in Plaintiff's complaint.

         B. Rejection of Mail

         From December 2015 through May 2016, Defendants Dietz, Karel, Hall, and Payton allegedly rejected issues of the Prison Legal News that were intended for Plaintiff. Defendant Killough allegedly instructed these defendants to do this.

         C. Prison Transfer

         Defendant Newton-Newman allegedly provided false reasons for transferring Plaintiff to another prison on June 25, 2017.

         D. Lies about Plaintiff

         Defendants Briki, Bird, and Wilkinson allegedly committed acts of “character ass[ass]ination” against Plaintiff by lying about him. (Id., PageID.160.) Although the content of their statements is not clear, Defendants apparently accused Plaintiff of kidnapping and rape.

         E. Watch List

         Defendant Washington allegedly allowed Defendants to keep Plaintiff on a “priority 2 watch list” for reasons that are false. (Id., PageID.161.)

         F. MDOC Website

         Defendant Cassidy maintains the MDOC website. Plaintiff's profile on the MDOC's Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) allegedly shows false ...

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