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Roden v. Floyd

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

January 31, 2018

MICHELLE FLOYD, et al., Defendants.

          Victoria A. Roberts, District Judge




         The Court should grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Defendant Beverly Haynes-Love and deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Michelle Floyd and Richard Cady. (DE 44).

         II. REPORT

         A. Background

         1. Factual Background

         Plaintiff, Jonathan Roden, brings this lawsuit against Defendants Michelle Floyd (Deputy Warden), Richard Cady (Resident Unit Manager), and Beverly Haynes-Love (Corrections Officer), alleging that they transferred him to a more restrictive correctional facility and removed him from Jackson College classes because of grievances he filed regarding the education program and treatment of students. (DEs 1, ¶ 27.) He brings a retaliation claim under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and seeks compensatory damages. (Id., Count I.)

         Plaintiff was imprisoned at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility (JCF) during the events relevant to his complaint. According to Plaintiff, he was transferred to JCF in December 2014 in order to attend Jackson College as part of the “Pathways from Prison to Post-Secondary Education project.” (DE 1 at ¶ 9.) Through the Prison Education Initiative (PEI), prisoners at JCF could take college classes through Jackson College and earn credits toward an associate's degree. (DE 48 at 2; DE 51 at 6-7 (Deposition of K. Rose).) Prisoners could take classes via a grant or self-pay for classes. (DE 51 at 7.) Plaintiff enrolled in the PEI program in January 2015, self-paid for his first term of classes, and claims that he intended to complete the program and graduate in the summer of 2016. (DE 48 at 2; DE 51 at 7.) Kevin Rose, the Director of the PEI for Jackson College at JCF, testified that Plaintiff “was a good student, asked lots of questions. Very engaged. Always offering to help[, ]” and that he believed Plaintiff carried a 4.0 grade point average. (DE 51 at 5, 8, 10.)

         Plaintiff asserts he attended classes at night and also worked as a GED tutor during the day. (DE 1 at ¶ 13.) Plaintiff was promoted to an academic tutor for JCF Jackson College students in May 2015. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Dr. David Clark, one of Plaintiff's professors, testified that Plaintiff “did a nice job with the students. He had a good rapport, students got help from him on a need basis.” (DE 50 at 6 (Deposition of D. Clark).) During his time as student and tutor, Plaintiff contends that he advocated for the students in the program, specifically requesting a study hall in order to “avoid the violence of the prison yard[.]” (DE 1 at ¶ 15.) He also asked that all of the students be housed in the same unit and made complaints about the “telephones, inner unit study proposal, and improper conduct of unit staff.” (Id. at ¶ 22.) He filed grievances about these issues in April and May, 2015. (DE 24 at 16, ¶¶ 1-2.) He asserts that, in response to those grievances, the study hall was approved, and additional phones were ordered. (DE 48 at 3-4; DE 24 at 16, ¶¶ 1-2.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on or about June 9, 2015, Defendant Haynes-Love prevented him from attending one of his marketing classes, claiming that he was late and could not leave the building. Plaintiff was issued an “out of place” misconduct for missing class, and he sent a kite to Defendant Floyd complaining of “retaliatory acts.” He subsequently filed a grievance against Defendants Floyd and Haynes-Love and Deputy Warden Artis for preventing him from attending class. (DE 48 at 4-5; DE 24 at 16, ¶ 4; DE 24 at 26-30.) Plaintiff asserts that in late June 2015, Defendant Floyd stopped him outside of his class and “checked” him for writing a grievance, and threatened to transfer him, stating “So you gone [sic] kick the cow that feeds you?” and “If you keep kicking the cow that feeds you, you're going to find yourself eating someplace else.” (DE 24 at 16-17, ¶ 5; DE 48 at 5; DE 49 at 11-12 (Deposition of M. Moore).)

         A few weeks later, Jackson College held an awards ceremony for Dean's List and Academic Excellence Awards, and Plaintiff was honored by being named to the Dean's List. However, he missed the ceremony because he was “on a visit.” (DE 48 at 5.) Plaintiff asserts that the ceremony was attended by the “Jackson College President, Provost, PEI Director, Professors, Wardens, Program Staff, and Education Staff, ” and that juice and cookies were served as refreshments. (Id.; DE 49 at 13; DE 51 at 11-12.) Plaintiff states that the next day, he gave a hand written thank you card to the Classification Clerk to give to Deputy Floyd, which stated “Thank you for your encouragement and support! But you all could have saved me some cookies. Y'all ate all the cookies.” (DE 48 at 5 (emphasis in original); DE 44-9 at 6-7; DE 49 at 13-14.)

         After receiving the card, on or about July 28, 2015, Defendant Floyd requested that Dr. David Clark, Plaintiff's supervisor, complete a Form 363 report regarding the thank you card incident and request that Plaintiff be terminated from his tutor jobs. (DE 48 at 6; DE 50 at 7-10.) Mr. Clark testified that he completed the Form 363 report, as instructed by Deputy Warden Floyd, and “state[d] the facts as relaid [sic] by Ms. Floyd to [him].” (DE 50 at 10.) Defendant Floyd also brought the thank you card to the attention of Warden Shawn Brewer, and requested that Plaintiff be transferred out of JCF. Warden Brewer agreed that Plaintiff's behavior “presented a security and safety concern and that he could not remain at JCF.” (DEs 44-9 at 3, ¶ 7; 44-11 at 3, ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant Floyd then personally emailed the transfer coordinator on July 28, 2015 and instructed that office to transfer Plaintiff, even though he had an education hold until September 15, 2015, and thus could not be transferred without a misconduct. (DE 48 at 6.)[1]

         On or about August 6, 2015, Plaintiff claims that his school work, consisting of his Final Exam and English Journal, was improperly confiscated by Officer Lamb while he was in class working as a tutor, and that when he returned to the housing unit, he asked Defendant Haynes-Love to call a sergeant about the incident but she refused. Plaintiff asserts that she instead wrote him “a disobeying a direct order misconduct for failing to leave the officer's desk, and sent [him] to segregation.” (DE 48 at 7.) He states he was released from segregation the same night by the sergeant. (Id.) After Plaintiff complained, Inspector Roth returned Plaintiff's materials to him and apologized. (Id.; DE 24 at 32, ¶¶ 9-10.) On or about August 11, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a grievance regarding his “improper termination” from his tutor jobs, and on August 13, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a grievance on Officer Lamb for improperly taking his school work. He states that neither grievance was responded to before he was transferred from JCF. (DE 48 at 8; DE 24 at 32, ¶¶ 11-12; DE 24 at 35-50.)

         At the August 13, 2015 hearing regarding the misconduct ticket written by Defendant Haynes-Love, Plaintiff requested that Defendant Cady recuse himself due to Plaintiff's past grievances against him and Cady's past comment that Haynes-Love was one of his favorites. According to Plaintiff, Cady denied his request and responded, “As to your grievance[, ] who cares, you won't be here long enough to write another grievance, request denied.” (DE 48 at 7-8.) Plaintiff claims that the grievance coordinator contacted “Classification” and Defendant Floyd on August 13, 2015, to inform them that Plaintiff had submitted another grievance, which “sparked another series of emails in which Floyd reiterated the desire to transfer [Plaintiff].” (Id. at 8.)[2] Plaintiff claims that Defendant Floyd lied in the email and stated that Plaintiff was no longer enrolled in Jackson College. (Id.) Warden Brewer states that, on August 13, 2015, Correctional Facilities Administration (CFA) Classification Specialist Haynie approved Plaintiff's transfer back to his previous facility, Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF). (DE 44-11 at 3, ¶ 6.)

         According to Plaintiff, on August 24, 2015, Defendant Cady instructed ARUS Kik to complete the Security Classification Screen for Plaintiff's transfer. On August 26, 2015, Plaintiff was told he was being transferred, and on August 27, 2015, he was transferred-not to “his previous facility, Chippewa Correctional Facility” as claimed by Warden Brewer, but to Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC) in Ionia, Michigan. (DE 48 at 8-9; DE 44-9 at 9; DE 44-11 at 3, ¶ 6.) While the Transfer Order stated that that transfer was to “[m]ake room for T4C prisoner. Prisoner is a JC drop” (DE 44-9 at 9), Mr. Rose, the PEI Director for Jackson College at JCF, testified that Plaintiff was not “dropped” from the program until after he transferred from JCF, around the first week of September 2015. (DE 51 at 13-14.)

         On August 28, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a grievance alleging retaliatory transfer, JCF-15-09-2308-28C. (DE 48 at 8-9; DE 44-3 at 14.) That grievance was rejected at Step 1 for containing “multiple issues, ” and the rejection was upheld through Step III. (DE 44-3 at 12-15.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed his complaint and application to proceed in forma pauperis on April 4, 2016 in the Western District of Michigan. (DE 1.) The Court granted his application and transferred the case to this district. (DE 4.) On September 14, 2016, once service had been perfected and counsel appeared for all Defendants, they filed their motion for summary judgment. (DE 19.) Plaintiff opposed the motion, invoked Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d), and provided an affidavit swearing that he needed discovery, including depositions and interrogatories, in order to respond to Defendants' motion. (DE 22.) On May 31, 2017, the Court granted in part Plaintiff's motion to compel, and ordered that Defendants provide certain documents to Plaintiff, free of charge, and supplement a response to an interrogatory. (DE 39.) That same day, the Court entered a Report and Recommendation to deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment without prejudice to refiling after they have complied with the Court's May 31, 2017 order requiring that they respond to Plaintiff's discovery requests. (DE 40.) The Court adopted that report and recommendation on June 29, 2017. (DE 42.) On June 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed a notice of compliance with the Court's discovery order, stating that he had received the responsive documents. (DE 43.)

         On July 18, 2017, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, again alleging that: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) he did not allege personal involvement of Defendant Haynes-Love in the decision to transfer him; (3) he has not stated a claim for retaliation; and (4) that they are entitled to qualified immunity. (DE 44.) The Court entered an Order on July 19, 2017, requiring Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' motion for summary judgment on or before August 18, 2017. (DE 45.) Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendants' motion, but instead filed a motion to strike Defendants' summary judgment motion, contending it was based on “sham affidavits” that include claims that “contradict Defendant Floyd's interrogatory responses.” (DE 46.) On November 6, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion to strike and ordered Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' motion for summary judgment by November 30, 2017. (DE 47.)

         Plaintiff filed his response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment on November 27, 2017. (DE 48.) In his response, Plaintiff argues that: (1) he has properly exhausted his retaliation claim against Defendants because his grievance was improperly denied as having “multiple issues;” (2) genuine issues of material fact exist as to (a) whether his transfer and loss of college constituted an “adverse action, ” (b) whether the reasons for his transfer are pretextual, and (c) whether Defendants were deemed decisionmakers regarding the transfer; and (3) Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. (Id.)

         B. Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court “views the evidence, all facts, and any inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Pure Tech Sys., Inc. v. Mt. Hawley Ins. Co., 95 F. App'x 132, 135 (6th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted).

         “The moving party has the initial burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists . . . .” Stansberry v. Air Wis. Airlines Corp., 651 F.3d 482, 486 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted); cf. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (e)(2) (providing that if a party “fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact, ” then the court may “consider the fact undisputed for the purposes of the motion.”). “Once the moving party satisfies its burden, ‘the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing a triable issue.'” Wrench LLC v. Taco Bell Corp., 256 F.3d 446, 453 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). The nonmoving party must “make an affirmative showing with proper evidence in order to defeat the motion.” Alexander v. CareSource, 576 F.3d 551, 558 (6th Cir. 2009); see also Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., 432 F. App'x 435, 441 (6th Cir. 2011) (“The nonmovant must, however, do more ...

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