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Holt v. Lacy

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

December 20, 2017

SANDY HOLT, JR., Plaintiff,
JENNIFER LACY et al., Defendants.


          Janet T. Neff 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 Defendants Lacy, Justian, and Newman for failure to state a claim.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan. His complaint, however, does not relate to the conditions of his confinement at LCF. It relates to the fact of his confinement. Plaintiff sues MDOC Records Office Supervisor Jennifer Lacy, Muskegon County Assistant Prosecutor Charles F. Justian, and Plaintiff's criminal trial counsel Valerie R. Newman. Each of the Defendants played a role in the criminal prosecution that resulted in Plaintiff's incarceration.

         On August 12, 2002, Plaintiff was arrested in the state of Georgia on a warrant for a July 15, 2002, armed robbery in Muskegon, Michigan. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.) Plaintiff's trial began approximately nine months later in the Muskegon County Circuit Court. He was convicted of armed robbery on May 27, 2003, and sentenced to a term of 30 to 90 years' imprisonment on July 1, 2003.

         At the time Plaintiff committed the armed robbery offense he was on parole for breaking and entering convictions. Thus, when Plaintiff returned to Michigan from Georgia, he was held by the Michigan Department of Corrections rather than the Muskegon County Jail.

         The State of Michigan guarantees the right to a speedy trial in every criminal prosecution in its constitution and by statute. Mich. Const. of 1963, Art. I §20; Mich. Comp. Laws § 768.1. For inmates held in MDOC correctional facilities, the guarantee is enforced under Mich. Comp. Laws § 780.131.[1] Under the statute, the inmate must be brought to trial within 180 days after the department of corrections provides written notice, by certified mail, requesting final disposition to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the warrant, indictment, information, or complaint is pending. Id. If the action is not commenced within 180 days, the warrant, indictment, information, or complaint must be dismissed with prejudice. Mich. Comp. Laws § 780.133.

         Plaintiff claims that under the state statutes, his action was not timely commenced and, therefore, the criminal proceeding against him should have been dismissed. At the time Plaintiff was convicted, the statutes at issue were considered inapplicable to an inmate whose sentence on the pending charge would be mandatorily consecutive to the sentence the inmate was already serving. People v. Chavies, 593 N.W.2d 655 (Mich. Ct. App. 1999). Based on that authority, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Plaintiff's argument when he raised it on direct appeal of his conviction, reasoning that Plaintiff's armed robbery sentence would have been mandatorily consecutive to the breaking and entering sentences for which he was on parole when he committed the armed robbery. People v. Holt, No. 250580, 2004 WL 2952291, at *2 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 21, 2004) (“Because defendant was on parole at the time of the alleged offense and therefore, his sentence in this case must be consecutive, the 180-day rule of MCL 780.131(1) and 780.133 does not apply.”).

         While Plaintiff's application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court was pending, the Michigan Supreme Court overruled People v. Chavies in People v. Williams, 716 N.W.2d 208 (Mich. 2006). The Michigan Supreme Court concluded that the “mandatorily consecutive sentence exception” was improperly read into the statute. Id. at 213-14. This change raised for the first time the question of whether the prosecutor had notice of Plaintiff's incarceration with the MDOC.

         In light of the People v. Williams decision, the Michigan Supreme Court invited supplemental briefing on Plaintiff's application for leave to appeal. People v. Holt, 721 N.W.2d 176 (Mich. 2006). Upon the request of the prosecutor, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded for an evidentiary hearing to develop the record with regard to the statutory notice.

         Each of the Defendants played a role in that remand hearing. Defendant Justian participated for the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office. Defendant Newman served as Plaintiff's appointed appellate counsel. Defendant Lacy, on behalf of the MDOC, testified that the certified mail notice contemplated by Mich. Comp. Laws § 780.131 was never sent. Although there was never written notice from the MDOC to the prosecutor by certified mail, there was no question that the prosecutor had actual notice regarding Plaintiff's confinement with the MDOC. The prosecutor placed a “Request for Hold/Notification” for Plaintiff with the MDOC on September 27, 2002. Holt v. Lafler, No. 1:08-cv-295 (W.D. Mich.) (Notice, ECF No. 24-5).[2]

         Under the version of Michigan Court Rule 6.004(D) in existence at the time of Plaintiff's criminal proceedings, the prosecutor's actual notice that a charged person was incarcerated with the MDOC triggered the running of the 180-day period. Williams, 716 N.W.2d at 215-16. In addition to eliminating the “mandatory consecutive sentence” exception, the Williams court also eliminated the “actual notice” trigger, for the same reason. “Actual notice, ” the Williams court found, represented an impermissible deviation from the statutory requirement of written notice by certified mail. Id. at 216-17.

         Because the certified mail notice triggering the 180-day period under the statute was never sent, the Michigan Supreme Court ultimately concluded that the statute did not afford Plaintiff any relief. People v. Holt, 731 N.W.2d 93');">731 N.W.2d 93 (Mich. 2007). The supreme court determined that the statute applied; but, in the ...

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