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Thomas v. Bernstein

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

January 31, 2018

RICHARD BERNSTEIN, et al, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, Michael Ray Thomas, a state inmate who is proceeding without the assistance of counsel, filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for a screen of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed.

         I. Background

         Between May 8, 2016 and December 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed five complaints with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission (“AGC”), accusing a Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor of misconduct.[1] The AGC denied each complaint. In response, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Michigan Supreme Court pursuant to Michigan Court Rule 9.122(a)(2), seeking review of the AGC's decisions. The ACG did not timely answer the complaint and Plaintiff moved for summary judgment. The AGC then filed an untimely answer, which the Michigan Supreme Court failed to strike. On September 12, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint. Two months later, the Court dismissed his motion for reconsideration.

         Plaintiff names as Defendants current and former Michigan Supreme Court Justices Richard Bernstein, Joan Larsen, Stephen Markman, Bridget McCormack, David Viviano, and Brian Zahra, the Attorney Grievance Administrator, the Michigan Supreme Court, the AGC, and Jane Doe. He asserts two causes of action: 1) the AGC violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to Due Process by failing to investigate his claims of attorney misconduct and to timely file an answer; and 2) the Michigan Supreme Court violated his constitutional rights by allowing the AGC to file an untimely answer and by dismissing his complaint. He seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages.

         II. Standard

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 requires federal district courts to screen a prisoner's complaint and to dismiss the complaint or any portion of it if the allegations are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for which relief can be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e); Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1036 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A). “District courts are required to screen all civil cases brought by prisoners, regardless of whether the inmate paid the full filing fee, is a pauper, is pro se, or is represented by counsel, as the statute does not differentiate between civil actions brought by prisoners.” In re Prison Litigation Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir.1997).

         Plaintiff prepaid the filing fee for this action, and courts may not summarily dismiss a prisoner's fee-paid complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) because that section applies only to complaints filed in forma pauperis. Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014, 1015-17 (6th Cir. 1999). Benson, however, does not prohibit federal courts from screening a prisoner's fee-paid civil rights complaint against government officials under §1915A. Hyland v. Clinton, 3 F. App'x 478, 478-79 (6th Cir. 2001). As the Sixth Circuit explains:

The requirements of § 1915(e)(2) overlap the criteria of § 1915A. Section 1915A is restricted to prisoners who sue government entities, officers, or employees. In contrast, § 1915(e)(2) is neither restricted to actions brought by prisoners, nor to cases involving government defendants. Further, § 1915A is applicable at the initial stage of the litigation. Section § 1915(e)(2) is applicable throughout the entire litigation process.

In re Prison Litigation Reform Act, 105 F.3d at 1134. Federal district courts also “may, at any time, sua sponte dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when the allegations of a complaint are totally implausible, attenuated, unsubstantial, frivolous, devoid of merit, or no longer open to discussion.” Apple v. Glenn, 183 F.3d 477, 479 (6th Cir. 1999).

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “A complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim if the allegations, taken as true, show the plaintiff is not entitled to relief.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007).

         The Court holds pro se complaints to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, even in pleadings drafted by pro se parties, ‘“courts should not have to guess at the nature of the claim asserted.”' Frengler v. Gen. Motors, 482 F. App'x 975, 976-77 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989)).

         III. Analysis

         To establish a viable claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that he or she was deprived of a right ‘“secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States' by one acting under color of law.” Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 370 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-56 (1978)). In addition, a plaintiff must make a showing that he or she suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant. Rizzo v. ...

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