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Moses v. Finco

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

February 5, 2018

Jamero Moses #231885, William Johnson #235820 Lamont Heard #252329 Plaintiffs,
Thomas Finco, et al., Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action brought by three state prisoners against three Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) employees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1]

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Thomas Finco (MDOC Deputy Director), David Leach (Special Activities Coordinator), and Michael Martin (Special Activities Coordinator) violated their First Amendment rights in various ways.

         On January 2, 2018, United States Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody issued a Report & Recommendation (“R & R”) recommending that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the Plaintiffs' failure to exhaust their administrative remedies. (ECF No. 60.) The matter is before the Court on Plaintiff William Johnson's Objections to the R & R. (ECF No. 61.) No other objections have been filed, and Defendants have not responded to Johnson's objections.

         Legal Framework

         For a dispositive motion, a magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation, rather than an order. After being served with an R & R issued by a magistrate judge, a party has fourteen days to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). A district court judge reviews de novo the portions of the R & R to which objections have been filed. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

         Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) (holding that the district court need not provide de novo review where the objections are frivolous, conclusive or too general because the burden is on the parties to “pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specifically consider”). Failure to file an objection results in a waiver of the issue and the issue cannot be appealed. United States v. Sullivan, 431 F.3d 976, 984 (6th Cir. 2005); see also Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 155 (upholding the Sixth Circuit's practice). The district court judge may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).


         Johnson objects to the R & R for three reasons. First, he says he exhausted his administrative remedies relating to the alleged denial of religious texts against all three Defendants-Finco, Leach, and Martin. Second, he claims that the Defendants failed to raise administrative exhaustion relating to the alleged denial of religious meals because they did not address one grievance in particular (URF 13-10-2819-20e). Finally, Johnson argues that even if Defendants properly raised administrative exhaustion of grievance 13-10-2819-20e, he did exhaust this grievance despite not naming any of the Defendants.

         A. Denial of Religious Texts

         Judge Carmody concluded that Johnson exhausted his administrative remedies on the denial of religious texts only for Defendant Leach. The grievance related to this claim is URF-15-10-3506-20c. (ECF No. 44-6 at PageID.446-50.)

         In the grievance, Johnson stated, “[t]his grievance is on MDOC Dir. Heyns, Dep. Director, A/Special Acts Coor. Leach, MDOC Chaplain and U.R.F. Chaplain Rink.” (Id.) Judge Carmody concluded that, since neither Finco nor Martin's name appeared in the grievance, Johnson had not exhausted claims against them. (ECF No. 60 at PageID.716.)

         Johnson responds that he “specifically designated” Finco and Martin by using “the official titles [he] believed they possessed.” (ECF No. 61 at PageID.730.) As support, he cites Reed-Bey v. Pramstaller and Mattox v. Edelman for the proposition that the ordinary rule- specifying the names of each person responsible for the alleged wrong-does not apply to his claims under relating to this grievance. 851 F.3d 586 (6th Cir. 2017); 603 F.3d 322 (6th Cir 2010). True, prison officials may waive procedural irregularities in a grievance by addressing it on the merits. Mattox, 851 F.3d at 591 (citing Reed-Bey, 603 F.3d at 325.) However, the court also explained that the purpose of the exhaustion requirement “is to allow prison officials ‘a fair opportunity' to address grievances on the merits, to correct prison errors that can and should be corrected and to create an administrative record for those disputes that eventually end up in Court.” Id.

         MDOC officials addressed Johnson's grievance on the merits through Step III, even though he intermixed some named prison officials with some identified only by their position. In certain scenarios, identifying prison officials only by their position may still provide fair notice of the claims being raised by the grievance-if it is readily apparent who the grievance is addressing and the substance of the claim. See, e.g., Mahaffey v. Buskirk, No. 13-14646, 2014 WL 2864099 at n.13 (E.D. Mich. June 24, 2014) ...

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